27 November 2007

Top 100 mystery novels of all time

Whilst looking for something else this afternoon, I came across this list, which was created (I know not when) by polling the active members of the Mystery Writers of America (MWA).

As usual with lists of this sort, I've bolded the titles of the ones I've read. *

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle (Included in this are The Hound of the Baskervilles, A Study in Scarlet, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Sign of Four, each of which garned a lot of votes on its own.)
2. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edgar Allen Poe (Includes "The Gold Bug" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue," which also received a lot of individual votes.)
4. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
5. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow
6. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John le Carré
7. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins
8. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
9. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
10. And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians or Ten Little Niggers), by Agatha Christie
11. Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver
12. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie
13. The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler
14. The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M Cain
15. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
16. The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
17. A Coffin for Dimitrios, by Eric Ambler
18. Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L Sayers
19. Witness for the Prosecution, by Agatha Christie
20. The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth
21. Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler
22. The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan
23. The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
24. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
25. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett
26. Rumpole of the Bailey, by John Mortimer
27. Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris
28. The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L Sayers
29. Fletch, by Gregory Mcdonald
30. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré
31. The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett
32. The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
33. Trent's Last Case, by E C Bentley
34. Double Indemnity, by James M Cain
35. Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith
36. Strong Poison, by Dorothy L Sayers
37. Dance Hall of the Dead, by Tony Hillerman
38. The Hot Rock, by Donald E Westlake
39. Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
40. The Circular Staircase, by Mary Roberts Rinehart
41. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
42. The Firm, by John Grisham
43. The Ipcress File, by Len Deighton
44. Laura, by Vera Caspary
45. I, the Jury, by Mickey Spillane
46. The Laughing Policeman, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
47. Bank Shot, by Donald E Westlake
48. The Third Man, by Graham Greene
49. The Killer Inside Me, by Jim Thompson
50. Where Are the Children?, by Mary Higgins Clark
51. "A" Is for Alibi, by Sue Grafton
52. The First Deadly Sin, by Lawrence Sanders
53. A Thief of Time, by Tony Hillerman
54. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
55. Rogue Male, by Geoffrey Household
56. Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy L Sayers
57. The Innocence of Father Brown, by G K Chesterton
58. Smiley's People, by John le Carré
59. The Lady in the Lake, by Raymond Chandler
60. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
61. Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene
62. The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens
63. Wobble to Death, by Peter Lovesey
64. Ashenden, by W Somerset Maugham
65. The Seven Per-Cent Solution, by Nicholas Meyer
66. The Doorbell Rang, by Rex Stout
67. Stick, by Elmore Leonard
68. The Little Drummer Girl, by John le Carré
69. Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene
70. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
71. The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
72. The Moving Toyshop, by Edmund Crispin
73. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
74. Last Seen Wearing, by Hillary Waugh
75. Little Caesar, by W R Burnett
76. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by John V Higgins
77. Clouds of Witness, by Dorothy L Sayers
78. From Russia, with Love, by Ian Fleming
79. Beast in View, by Margaret Millar
80. Smallbone Deceased, by Michael Gilbert
81. The Franchise Affair, by Josephine Tey
82. Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters
83. Shroud for a Nightingale, by P D James
84. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
85. Chinaman's Chance, by Ross Thomas
86. The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad
87. The Dreadful Lemon Sky, by John D MacDonald
88. The Glass Key, by Dashiell Hammett
89. Judgment in Stone, by Ruth Rendell
90. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
91. The Chill, by Ross Macdonald
92. Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
93. The Choirboys, by Joseph Wambaugh
94. God Save the Mark, by Donald E Westlake
95. Home Sweet Homicide, by Craig Rice
96. The Three Coffins (aka The Hollow Man), by John Dickson Carr
97. Prizzi's Honor, by Richard Condon
98. The Steam Pig, by James McClure
99. Time and Again, by Jack Finney
100. A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters, tied with Rosemary's Baby, by Ira Levin

Hmmmm. Nothing by Lawrence Block or Thomas Perry, though my favourite book from the Nero Wolfe series (The Doorbell Rang), is there.

I recognise most of these titles as classics, even though I've never read them, but some of the books, and some of the authors, I've never even heard of. Beast in View? Vera Caspary? Some of the better-known authors are well represented, though - I count five by Dorothy L Sayers, and four each by Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and John le Carré. (I tried reading one book by le Carré - no idea which one - but found it incredibly boring.)

* 22 of them, though there should be a couple more - it's been 35+ years since I read anything by Dorothy L Sayers, so I'm not sure which ones of those I've read. And I've probably read most, if not all, of the stories in the Poe collection.

Car 57, where are you?

Got me a 56 today.

56 what? Not 56 anything - just a 56. On a licence plate.

There's a game I've been playing. I started in July of '92 when I spotted a licence plate with a 1 on it. Then I found a 2, then a 3, &c. It went fairly quickly up through 13 - about seven months - but then it took over two years to find a 14 (during which time I drove from CT out to IL and back, and then down to VA, without success). In the meantime, I saw a 0, so I started over again and worked my way back up to 13 before finally spotting the 14 I needed. The game continued, in fits and starts, but then I got stuck on 50; it took three years to finally find one, but then I got a 51 the very next day. It took another three years to spot a 52, but when I did (in Slovenia!), I again found my next number the following day (in Italy!). A couple years after that, I actually got a 54 and a 55 on the same afternoon, less than a minute apart. (Luckily, the two fire trucks passed me in the correct order, or I'd have been really aggravated....) And now, two and a half years later, I have a 56.

Rules? Of course there are rules - and of course they make things harder, or it wouldn't have taken me 15+ years to get as far as I have.
1. Any kind of official licence plate counts: car, truck, motorcycle, trailer, whatever.

2. You have to use the complete number. IKN 214 can't be used as a 4 or a 14; it can only be counted as a 214. (Good luck getting that far.) The friend who taught me this game was looking for a 43 at the time; I remember her husband's laughing as he pointed out a car with the number 4343.

3. The group has to consist of just the number, without anything else. If you live in one of those states that have licence plates like 23B J15, you might as well not bother. The most elegant plate I've seen was my 6, which was just that: 6. Nothing else. (Not long afterwards, the state of CT decided that taxis should have plates with numbers beginning and ending with T, so that cab got retagged as T6T. A shame.)

4. If the plate has two numbers, you have to use the one on the right. 101 783 can only be used as a 783, not as a 101.

5. As in maths, leading zeroes don't count. 0014 = 014 = 14.

Now if only the 57 I used to see at work every day were still there....

Update 2244 17 Oct 11: Edited to fix a spelling error. And almost four years after originally posting this, I'm now looking for a 62....

26 November 2007

Brit Army bagpipe school gets new practise room

ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh opened a new, state-of-the-art practise room and Single Living Accommodation yesterday, Wednesday 21 November 2007.


The School previously had dormitories for 20 men at a time and no facilities for pipers and drummers to practice in the evenings after classes[.]


The School teaches all levels of piping and drumming, from novice to Pipe Major and Drum Major courses, to the Royal Regiment of Scotland, the Scots Guards, the Irish Guards, the Royal Irish Regiment, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, The Royal Tank Regiment, the Royal Artillery and The Royal Corps of Signals.

25 November 2007

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. During the battle, First Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur Jr, 24th Wisconsin Infantry, seized the colors of his regiment at a critical moment and planted them on the captured works on the crest of the ridge. MacArthur and 14 others were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions this day.

1876: A Cheyenne village at Bates Creek, near the Powder River, was attacked and destroyed by US forces under Col Ranald Mackenzie. First Sergeant Thomas H Forsyth, M Troop, 4th US Cavalry, though dangerously wounded, held his position with a small party against a largely superior force, and rescued his wounded commanding officer and another trooper from the enemy. Forsyth was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1940: The De Havilland DH98 Mosquito prototype made its first flight.

1941: Battleship HMS Barham (Capt Geoffrey C Cooke) sank off the North African coast after being hit by three torpedoes from U 331 (Kptlt Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen). 841 men were lost, out of some 1250 on board.

That same day, near Tobruk, Captain James J B Jackman, commanding a motorised machine-gun company of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, led his company to ease the situation on the British right flank. Then, standing up in his vehicle, he led the trucks across the front - between the opposing tanks - into action on the left flank. He was killed in action the following day, but was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

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

In addition to William (1104-1120), Andrea Doria (1468-1560), Theobald Boehm (1794-1881), Hazel Ying Lee (1912-1944), 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).

Victoria Cross: I. J. McKay


Sergeant, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment

Born: 7 May 1953, Wortley, Sheffield, Yorkshire

Citation: During the night of 11th/12th June 1982, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment mounted a silent night attack on an enemy battalion position on Mount Longdon, an important objective in the battle for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Sergeant McKay was platoon sergeant of 4 Platoon, B Company, which, after the initial objective had been secured, was ordered to clear the Northern side of the long East/West ridge feature, held by the enemy in depth, with strong, mutually-supporting positions. By now the enemy were fully alert, and resisting fiercely. As 4 Platoon's advance continued it came under increasingly heavy fire from a number of well-sited enemy machine gun positions on the ridge, and received casualties. Realising that no further advance was possible the Platoon Commander ordered the Platoon to move from its exposed position to seek shelter among the rocks of the ridge itself. Here it met up with part of 5 Platoon.
The enemy fire was still both heavy and accurate, and the position of the platoons was becoming increasingly hazardous. Taking Sergeant McKay, a Corporal and a few others, and covered by supporting machine gun fire, the Platoon Commander moved forward to reconnoitre the enemy positions but was hit by a bullet in the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay.
It was clear that instant action was needed if the advance was not to falter and increasing casualties to ensue. Sergeant McKay decided to convert this reconnaissance into an attack in order to eliminate the enemy positions. He was in no doubt of the strength and deployment of the enemy as he undertook this attack. He issued orders, and taking three men with him, broke cover and charged the enemy position.
The assault was met by a hail of fire. The Corporal was seriously wounded, a Private killed and another wounded. Despite these losses Sergeant McKay, with complete disregard for his own safety, continued to charge the enemy position alone. On reaching it he despatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the position of beleagured [sic] 4 and 5 Platoons, who were now able to redeploy with relative safety. Sergeant McKay, however, was killed at the moment of victory, his body falling on the bunker.
Without doubt Sergeant McKay's action retrieved a most dangerous situation and was instrumental in ensuring the success of the attack. His was a coolly calculated act, the dangers of which must have been too apparent to him beforehand. Undeterred he performed with outstanding selflessness, perseverance and courage. With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.

(London Gazette Issue 49134 dated 11 Oct 1982, published 8 Oct 1982.)

Medal of Honor: H. E. Wilson


Technical Sergeant, US Marine Corps Reserve; Company G, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced)

Born: 5 December 1921, Birmingham, Ala.

Citation: For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as platoon sergeant of a rifle platoon attached to Company G, in action against enemy aggressor forces [in Korea] on the night of 23-24 April 1951. When the company outpost was overrun by the enemy while his platoon, firing from hastily constructed foxholes, was engaged in resisting the brunt of a fierce mortar, machine gun, grenade, and small-arms attack launched by hostile forces from high ground under cover of darkness, T/Sgt. Wilson braved intense fire to assist the survivors back into the line and to direct the treatment of casualties. Although twice wounded by gunfire, in the right arm and the left leg, he refused medical aid for himself and continued to move about among his men, shouting words of encouragement. After receiving further wounds in the head and shoulder as the attack increased in intensity, he again insisted upon remaining with his unit. Unable to use either arm to fire, and with mounting casualties among our forces, he resupplied his men with rifles and ammunition taken from the wounded. Personally reporting to his company commander on several occasions, he requested and received additional assistance when the enemy attack became even more fierce and, after placing the reinforcements in strategic positions in the line, directed effective fire until blown off his feet by the bursting of a hostile mortar round in his face. Dazed and suffering from concussion, he still refused medical aid and, despite weakness from loss of blood, moved from foxhole to foxhole, directing fire, resupplying ammunition, rendering first aid, and encouraging his men. By his heroic actions in the face of almost certain death, when the unit's ability to hold the disadvantageous position was doubtful, he instilled confidence in his troops, inspiring them to rally repeatedly and turn back the furious assaults. At dawn, after the final attack had been repulsed, he personally accounted for each man in his platoon before walking unassisted l/2 mile to the aid station where he submitted to treatment. His outstanding courage, initiative, and skilled leadership in the face of overwhelming odds were contributing factors in the success of his company's mission and reflect the highest credit upon T/Sgt. Wilson and the U.S. Naval Service.

24 November 2007

STS-126 crew change

ZUI this press release, dated 21 Nov 07, from NASA:
NASA has replaced a crew member assigned to space shuttle mission STS-126. Astronaut Donald R. Pettit will take the place of astronaut Joan E. Higginbotham, who has left NASA to accept a position in the private sector. The mission is targeted to launch in September 2008 and will deliver equipment to the International Space Station enabling larger crews to reside aboard the complex.

Higginbotham flew as a mission specialist on STS-116 in December 2006. She began her career at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in 1987, contributing to 53 space shuttle launches. She was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

"Joan has done a tremendous job as an astronaut during the past 11 years," said Steve Lindsey, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. "She contributed her expertise to nearly every space shuttle and International Space Station mission. She will be missed, but we wish her the very best in her future endeavors."

The STS-126 mission will be Pettit's second spaceflight. Pettit will serve as a mission specialist aboard shuttle Endeavour. He joins previously named crew members Commander Christopher J. Ferguson, Pilot Eric A. Boe and mission specialists Stephen G. Bowen, Robert S. Kimbrough and Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper.

Pettit first flew as a crew member of Expedition 6, logging more than 161 days in space, including more than 13 hours during two spacewalks. He launched to the station aboard shuttle mission STS-113 in November 2002 and returned to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft in May 2003. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

The Cybils: 2007 long lists

Nominations are now closed for the 2007 Cybils (Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards). The plan is that the finalists (five books in each category) will be announced on 1 Jan 08, and the winners, on 14 Feb 08.

The categories, with links to lists of nominees, are:
Fiction Picture Books: 117 books
Non-Fiction Picture Books: 45 books
Middle Grade Fiction: 75 books
Young Adult Fiction: 123 books
Middle Grade and YA Non-Fiction: 45 books
Fantasy and Science Fiction: 94 books
Graphic Novels: 33 books
Poetry: 41 books

Reviews of some of the books nominated can be found at the Cybils website.

H/T to Liz B for the Cybils widget at right, done by the folks at JacketFlap. Each time you refresh this page, or go to a different page on this blog, it will showcase a different Cybils nominee.

RIP: Col Jefferson DeBlanc, USMCR (ret)

Jefferson J DeBlanc Sr
15 Feb 1921 - 22 Nov 2007

ZUI this article from the Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate:
Retired Marine Col. Jefferson DeBlanc Sr. of St. Martinville, an ace fighter pilot in World War II and winner of the Medal of Honor, died at age 86 Thursday at Lafayette General Medical Center.

DeBlanc was decorated several times for his service in the war before and after the feat that won him the Medal of Honor.

That action occurred on Jan. 31, 1943, according to the citation, when DeBlanc — then a lieutenant — led a six-plane escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes over Japenese-held Kolombangara Island in the Solomon Islands.

During the course of the mission, DeBlanc shot down five Japanese warplanes before the damage his plane took became so severe he had to bail out.

And this article from the Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser:
The St. Martinville teacher and administrator had received the nation's highest military honor in 1946 for his courage under fire in 1943 as a fighter pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II.

"He was a very unassuming person, very quiet," said Naval Reserve Capt. Gordon J. Delcambre Jr., a St. Martinville native who is on active duty in Washington, D.C. DeBlanc was a friend of Delcambre's family.

"You would never have identified him as being a Marine aviator during the war. He was just a very quiet man," Delcambre said.

A Wikipedia article can be found here.

******* ******* *******


Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve; Marine Fighting Squadron 112

Born: 15 February 1921, Lockport, La.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a section of 6 fighter planes in Marine Fighting Squadron 112, during aerial operations against enemy Japanese forces off Kolombangara Island in the Solomons group, 31 January 1943. Taking off with his section as escort for a strike force of dive bombers and torpedo planes ordered to attack Japanese surface vessels, 1st Lt. DeBlanc led his flight directly to the target area where, at 14,000 feet, our strike force encountered a large number of Japanese Zeros protecting the enemy's surface craft. In company with the other fighters, 1st Lt. DeBlanc instantly engaged the hostile planes and aggressively countered their repeated attempts to drive off our bombers, persevering in his efforts to protect the diving planes and waging fierce combat until, picking up a call for assistance from the dive bombers, under attack by enemy float planes at 1,000 feet, he broke off his engagement with the Zeros, plunged into the formation of float planes and disrupted the savage attack, enabling our dive bombers and torpedo planes to complete their runs on the Japanese surface disposition and withdraw without further incident. Although his escort mission was fulfilled upon the safe retirement of the bombers, 1st Lt. DeBlanc courageously remained on the scene despite a rapidly diminishing fuel supply and, boldly challenging the enemy's superior number of float planes, fought a valiant battle against terrific odds, seizing the tactical advantage and striking repeatedly to destroy 3 of the hostile aircraft and to disperse the remainder. Prepared to maneuver his damaged plane back to base, he had climbed aloft and set his course when he discovered 2 Zeros closing in behind. Undaunted, he opened fire and blasted both Zeros from the sky in a short, bitterly fought action which resulted in such hopeless damage to his own plane that he was forced to bail out at a perilously low altitude atop the trees on enemy-held Kolombangara. A gallant officer, a superb airman, and an indomitable fighter, 1st Lt. DeBlanc had rendered decisive assistance during a critical stage of operations, and his unwavering fortitude in the face of overwhelming opposition reflects the highest credit upon himself and adds new luster to the traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

22 November 2007


Younger Daughter (nine-almost-ten) had the part of Polichinelle in the local figure-skating club's 10th annual Nutcracker last weekend.

This was her fifth time in the show, and the first time that she had a solo in addition to being part of a group. (She was one of the soldiers fighting with the Nutcracker against the Mouse King.)

20 November 2007

This day in history: 20 Nov

1789: New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.

1820: A sperm whale (Physeter catodon) attacked and sank the Nantucket whaler Essex 2000 miles off the western coast of South America - one of the events which inspired Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

1883: Screw sloop-of-war USS Lancaster was making a port call in Marseille, France, when a local youth fell into the water astern of the ship. Ordinary Seaman Apprentice John F Auer and Boatswain's Mate Matthew Gillick jumped into the water and rescued the boy. Auer and Gillick were awarded the Medal of Honor.*

1917: The Battle of Cambrai began. This day saw the first successful use of massed tanks in combat, with almost 400 tanks spearheading the attack by Byng's Third Army. Captain Richard W L Wain, A Battalion the Tank Corps, was badly injured when his tank was knocked out by a direct hit from a German strongpoint near Mercoing. He refused medical assistance, and successfully charged the enemy position with a Lewis Gun, capturing the strongpoint and taking prisoner about half the garrison. He then continued to attack with a rifle until killed by a sniper. Wain was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1943: US forces landed on Makin (27th Infantry Division) and Tarawa (2nd Marine Division) atolls in the Gilbert Islands (Operation GALVANIC).

1944: USS Mississinewa (AO 59) was sunk at Ulithi by a Japanese kaiten (suicide submarine) - the first successful attack by one of these vessels. 60 crewmen died, along with the operator of the kaiten.

That same day, Staff Sergeant Herschel F Briles, 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion, was leading a platoon of tank destroyers across an exposed slope near Scherpenseel, Germany, when they came under heavy enemy artillery fire. A direct hit was scored on one of the vehicles, setting it afire. With a comrade, Briles left the cover of his own armor and raced through incoming fire to rescue the crew of the damaged vehicle. Briles lowered himself into the burning turret, removed two wounded men, and then extinguished the fire. For this and for his actions the following day, Briles was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1947: HRH The Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN, were married at Westminster Abbey in London.

1998: The first module of the International Space Station, Zarya (the Functional Cargo Block), was launched from Baikonur.

Queen Alexandra (1844–1925) and Francisco Franco (1892-1975) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Peregrine White (1620-1704), Tippu Sultan (1753–1799), Chester Gould (1900–1985), Robert F Kennedy (1925–1968), Richard Dawson (1932-TBD) and Dickie Smothers (1939-TBD).

* The Medal of Honor has not always been a combat award. There are several cases of the medal's being awarded for lifesaving in this fashion.

RIP: Dick Wilson

Dick Wilson
30 Jul 1916 - 19 Nov 2007

ZUI this press release from Procter & Gamble:
Long-time Charmin bath tissue pitchman Dick Wilson -- known to millions as Mr. Whipple -- died Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA. He was 91.

Wilson's career spanned nearly 70 years with roles in radio, television, film and theater. In his most famous role, Wilson portrayed grocer Mr. Whipple and made "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" a household phrase. Wilson appeared as Mr. Whipple in more than 500 spots for Charmin from 1964 through 1985. After a 14-year hiatus, Wilson reprised the role in 1999 to introduce a new version of Charmin. In 2001, Procter & Gamble, maker of Charmin, presented Wilson with a lifetime achievement award to commemorate his contribution to the brand.

And this from the New York Times:
Born in Preston, England, on July 30, 1916, Mr. Wilson grew up in Ontario, the son of a vaudeville entertainer and a singer. He soon followed his parents into show business. He worked for a local radio station as a teenager; was part of the Whiz Bang Revue, a local group that did shows for servicemen; and went on to work in both film and theater. During World War II he served in the Canadian Air Force.

In the 1950s and ’60s, he appeared on numerous American television series, including “Wagon Train,” “The Untouchables,” “My Favorite Martian” and “Hogan’s Heroes.” He had something of a recurring cameo on the sitcom “Bewitched,” appearing in about 18 episodes as a drunk man who sees the main character, played by Elizabeth Montgomery, perform some feat of witchcraft, and then immediately swears off alcohol.

18 November 2007

Victoria Cross: D. S. A. Lord


Flight-Lieutenant, Royal Air Force; 271 Squadron

Born: 18 October 1913, Cork, Ireland

Citation: Flight Lieutenant Lord was pilot and captain of a Dakota aircraft detailed to drop supplies at Arnhem on the afternoon of the 19th September, 1944. Our airborne troops had been surrounded and were being pressed into a small area defended by a large number of anti-aircraft guns. Air crews were warned that intense opposition would be met over the dropping zone. To ensure accuracy they were ordered to fly at 900 feet when dropping their containers.
While flying at 1,500 feet near Arnhem the starboard wing of Flight Lieutenant Lord's aircraft was twice hit by anti-aircraft fire. The starboard engine was set on fire. He would have been justified in leaving the main stream of supply aircraft and continuing at the same height or even abandoning his aircraft. But on learning that his crew were uninjured and that the dropping zone would be reached in three minutes he said he would complete his mission, as the troops were in dire need of supplies.
By now the starboard engine was burning furiously. Flight Lieutenant Lord came down to 900 feet, where he was singled out for the concentrated fire of all the anti-aircraft guns. On reaching the dropping zone he kept the aircraft on a straight and level course while supplies were dropped. At the end of the run, he was told that two containers remained.
Although he must have known that the collapse of the starboard wing could not be long delayed, Flight Lieutenant Lord circled, rejoined the stream of aircraft and made a second run to drop the remaining supplies. These manoeuvres took eight minutes in all, the aircraft being continuously under heavy anti-aircraft fire.
His task completed, Flight Lieutenant Lord ordered his crew to abandon the Dakota, making no attempt himself to leave the aircraft, which was down to 500 feet. A few seconds later, the starboard wing collapsed and the aircraft fell in flames. There was only one survivor, who was flung out while assisting other members of the crew to put on their parachutes.
By continuing his mission in a damaged and burning aircraft, descending to drop the supplies accurately, returning to the dropping zone a second time and, finally, remaining at the controls to give his crew a chance of escape, Flight Lieutenant Lord displayed supreme valour and self-sacrifice.

(London Gazette Issue 37347 dated 13 Nov 1945, published 9 Nov 1945.)

Medal of Honor: E. G. Gibson


Technician Fifth Grade, US Army; 3d Infantry Division

Born: Nysund, Sweden

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On 28 January 1944, near Isola Bella, Italy, Tech. 5th Grade Gibson, company cook, led a squad of replacements through their initial baptism of fire, destroyed four enemy positions, killed 5 and captured 2 German soldiers, and secured the left flank of his company during an attack on a strongpoint. Placing himself 50 yards in front of his new men, Gibson advanced down the wide stream ditch known as the Fossa Femminamorta, keeping pace with the advance of his company. An enemy soldier allowed Tech. 5th Grade Gibson to come within 20 yards of his concealed position and then opened fire on him with a machine pistol. Despite the stream of automatic fire which barely missed him, Gibson charged the position, firing his submachine gun every few steps. Reaching the position, Gibson fired pointblank at his opponent, killing him. An artillery concentration fell in and around the ditch; the concussion from one shell knocked him flat. As he got to his feet Gibson was fired on by two soldiers armed with a machine pistol and a rifle from a position only 75 yards distant. Gibson immediately raced toward the foe. Halfway to the position a machinegun opened fire on him. Bullets came within inches of his body, yet Gibson never paused in his forward movement. He killed one and captured the other soldier. Shortly after, when he was fired upon by a heavy machinegun 200 yards down the ditch, Gibson crawled back to his squad and ordered it to lay down a base of fire while he flanked the emplacement. Despite all warning, Gibson crawled 125 yards through an artillery concentration and the cross fire of 2 machineguns which showered dirt over his body, threw 2 hand grenades into the emplacement and charged it with his submachine gun, killing 2 of the enemy and capturing a third. Before leading his men around a bend in the stream ditch, Gibson went forward alone to reconnoiter. Hearing an exchange of machine pistol and submachine gun fire, Gibson's squad went forward to find that its leader had run 35 yards toward an outpost, killed the machine pistol man, and had himself been killed while firing at the Germans.

15 November 2007

Which Discworld character...?

Which Discworld Character are you like (with pics)
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as The Librarian

You're the Librarian! Once a wizard, now an Orang-utan (due to an unfortunate magical accident), you refuse to be turned back for a few reasons: In this form, it's easier to reach the shelves and hold more books; having the strength of five men makes people return their books on time; life's great philosophical questions boil down to "when do I get my next banana?" You say "ook" but are usually understood well enough.

The Librarian






Commander Samuel Vimes


Esmerelda (Granny) Weatherwax


Gytha (Nanny) Ogg


Cohen The Barbarian


Carrot Ironfounderson


Lord Havelock Vetinari




RIP: Bertha Fry

Bertha Fry
1 Dec 1893 - 14 Nov 2007

ZUI this article from the Indianapolis (IN) Star:
She could no longer see or hear well, but supercentenarian Bertha Fry remained mentally sharp until the end.

Fry, 113, was the world's third-oldest documented person. She died Wednesday at Ball Memorial Hospital.


Fry was born in Switzerland County [Indiana] in 1893 (the same year actress Mae West was born), attended Hanover College, taught in a one-room school house in southern Indiana and lived in Indianapolis before moving to Muncie to be in the same town as her daughter.

Mrs Fry was listed as the third-oldest person in the world, behind Edna Parker (born 20 Apr 1893), also of Indiana, and Maria de Jesus (born 10 Sep 1893), of Portugal.

With Mrs Fry gone, the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) now has 75 people - 67 females and 8 males - on its list of validated supercentenarians, the youngest being Ruth Meyers Lincoln (born 30 Sep 1897), or Arkansas. 31 of them live in the United States.

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).

That same day, the Heinkel He 219 night fighter made its first flight.

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 (James Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin) landed after a four-day mission which included the first fully successful space walk (by Aldrin).

1967: Major Michael J Adams, USAF, was killed when his North American X-15 broke apart in mid-air - the only fatality of the X-15 programme.

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 (mission STS-38) was launched from Cape Canaveral. On board were commander Richard O Covey, pilot Frank L Culbertson Jr, and mission specialists Robert C Springer, Carl J Meade and Charles D Gemar.

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 Sir William Herschel FRS KH (1738-1822), Erwin Rommel (1891-1944), Claus Graf von Stauffenberg (1907-1944), Sir David Stirling DSO OBE (1915-1990), C W McCall (1928-TBD), Petula Clark CBE (1932-TBD), Sam Waterston (1940-TBD), Daniel Barenboim (1942-TBD) and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (1945-TBD).

14 November 2007

WWII fighter found on Welsh beach

ZUI this article from Yahoo! News:
Sixty-five years after an American P-38 fighter plane ran out of gas and crash-landed on a beach in Wales, the long-forgotten World War II relic has emerged from the surf and sand where it lay buried.

Beach strollers, sunbathers and swimmers often frolicked within a few yards of the aircraft, unaware of its existence until last summer, when unusual weather caused the sand to shift and erode.


Based on its serial number and other records, "the fighter is arguably the oldest P-38 in existence, and the oldest surviving 8th Air Force combat aircraft of any type," said Ric Gillespie, who heads a U.S.-based nonprofit group dedicated to preserving historic aircraft. "In that respect it's a major find, of exceptional interest to British and American aviation historians."

And this from the Daily Mail:
The U.S. aircraft - with its distinctive "twinboom" design - was discovered on the North Wales coast, but the location is being kept secret in case it is targeted by looters.

Its remains were spotted by a family in July, but it was thought to be an unmanned drone used for aerial target practice from the 1950s.

However, a local aviation enthusiast recognised it from a newspaper photo and contacted a group of U.S. aircraft historians.

This day in history: 14 Nov

1889: Pioneer woman journalist Nellie Bly began a successful attempt to travel around the world in less than 80 days.

1910: Eugene Ely performed the first take-off from a ship, in Hampton Roads, Virginia. He took off from a makeshift flight deck on light cruiser USS Birmingham (later CL 2), flying a Curtiss Model D pusher biplane.

1940: Coventry Cathedral (St Michael's) was almost completely destroyed when the city of Coventry was heavily bombed by German Luftwaffe bombers.

1941: Aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal sank after being torpedoed by U 81 (Kptlt Friedrich Guggenberger) the previous day.

1965: The Battle of the Ia Drang - the first major engagement between regular American and North Vietnamese forces - began when the first elements of 1/7th Cavalry touched down at LZ X-Ray. Maj Bruce P Crandall, Capt Ed W Freeman and 2nd Lt Walter J Marm were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions this day.

1969: Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the Moon, was launched from Cape Canaveral. On board were commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, command module pilot Richard F Gordon Jr and lunar module pilot Alan Bean.

1971: Mariner 9, launched from Cape Canaveral on 30 May, reached Mars, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet.

2003: Asteroid 90377 Sedna was discovered by Michael Brown (Caltech), Chad Trujillo (Gemini Observatory) and David Rabinowitz (Yale).

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737–1832), Booker T Washington (1856–1915) and Johnny Mack Brown (1904–1974) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Robert Fulton (1765-1815), Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, KT (1797–1875), Claude Monet (1840–1926), Aaron Copland (1900–1990), J O E Vandeleur DSO (1903-1988), Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002), Sherwood Schwartz (1916-TBD), Veronica Lake (1919–1973), Brian Keith (1921–1997), Edward H White II (1930–1967) and HRH the Prince of Wales (1948-TBD).

12 November 2007

Trains, planes and automobiles

Kim du Toit started it, with a request for lists of the five most beautiful cars ever made. I submitted these:

1. 1931 Duesenberg J dual-cowl phaeton

2. 1929 Duesenberg J torpedo phaeton

3. 1938 Mercedes 540K

4. 1929 Mercedes SSK

5. 1939 Jaguar 100

(What I really wanted was a picture of a dual-cowl phaeton with its top down, to display its dual-cowlness, but I couldn't find one. Had to settle for this one instead.)

Then NRAhab asked for lists of five favourite airplanes. Here are mine (in no particular order):

Junkers Ju 87G-2 - The Ju 87 Stuka (short for Sturzkampfflugzeug, meaning "dive bomber") became famous during the German invasion of Poland in 1939. The standard (B and D) models were equipped with two forward-firing 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns and a single (B) or twin (D) rear-firing 7.92mm. The G-1 and G-2 variants added a pair of 37mm BK 37 anti-tank guns, one under each wing. Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew one of these "tankbuster" Stukas on the Eastern Front.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G - In the 109G the 7.9mm machine guns of the older models were replaced by a pair of 13mm MGs. There was also a 2cm cannon firing through the propellor hub, and some added a pair of 2cm cannons under the wings.

Boeing B-17G - The B-17 Flying Fortress was an incredibly tough bomber - some of the pictures make you wonder how the thing even managed to stay airbourne, let alone make it all the way back to England and then make a safe landing. Early models were armed with eleven .50-calibre machine guns; the G model added two more, in a chin turret.

Fokker Dr.I - "Dr" in this case stands for Dreidecker, or triplane. The Dr.I is usually found painted red, as with this replica (no original WWI-vintage aircraft remain), because this was the plane flown by Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen.

Messerschmitt Me 262 - The world's first operational jet fighter. And a really nice-looking one, in my opinion.

(Yes, these are all old. My interest in military history expanded to a love of history in general around the time I left high school, and I quit reading as much military stuff as I used to. The latest warplane I'm really familiar with is the F-4 Phantom II. Planes that I considered, but which didn't quite make my top-five list, include the P-40, Spitfire, Snipe, P-47, B-58, SB2C, Boeing 314 and - just because its so bizarre - BV 141.)

And just to round it off, here are my five favourite locomotives:

Canadian Pacific 4-6-4 Royal Hudson

London and North Eastern 4-6-2 A3
"Flying Scotsman"

Union Pacific 4-6-6-4 Challenger

Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 Class J

Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 Big Boy

H/T to Tam.

Update 29 Nov: Kim du Toit has the results of his poll (ie, the five cars that got the most votes), along with his own top-five list, here (with additional commentary here, here and here). He also posted his own list of favourite planes.

This day in history: 12 Nov

1857: Lieutenant Hugh H Gough, 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry, charged across a swamp at Alumbagh, India. His horse was wounded twice, and Gough received several sword cuts through his turban, but he succeeded in capturing two well-guarded enemy guns. Gough was awarded the Victoria Cross for this and for his actions at Jellalabad on 25 Feb 1858.

1912: The bodies of Capt Robert Falcon Scott, Dr Edward Wilson and Lt Henry Bowers, who had died on 29 Mar 1912, were found on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

1944: Technical Sergeant Forrest E Everhart, 359th Infantry, 90th Infantry Division, was a platoon leader when German forces attacked his position near Kerling, France, before dawn. When German armour penetrated his left flank and infantry threatened to overrun the remaining machine gun in that section, he ran 400 yards through woods, under intense artillery and mortar fire, to strengthen the defence. With the remaining gunner, he directed fire into the advancing troops until they came close. He then left the gun, charged the attackers and, after a 15-minute exchange of hand grenades, forced them to withdraw, leaving 30 dead behind. He then re-crossed the fire-swept terrain to his threatened right flank and directed fire from the single machine gun at that position. He again closed with the enemy in a hand-grenade duel and, after a 30-minute battle, forced the Germans to withdraw, leaving another 20 dead. Everhart was awarded the Medal of Honor.

That same day, Lancaster bombers from 617 and 9 Squadrons, RAF, sank the German battleship Tirpitz in Tromsö fjord.

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.

1981: Space Shuttle Columbia (mission STS-2) was launched from Cape Canaveral. On board were commander Joseph H. Engle and pilot Richard H Truly. This was the first spaceflight for both Engle* and Truly, and the second for Columbia - the first manned spacecraft to make a second flight.

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), Percival Lowell (1855–1916) 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).

* Though Engle had earlier made three X-15 flights which carried him above 50 miles, the altitude at which astronaut wings are earned.

11 November 2007


11 November 1918

Victoria Cross: Walker, Rolland and Gough


Captain, 4th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army; attached Bikanir Camel Corps

Born: 28 May 1863, Naini Tal, India


Captain, 1st Bombay Grenadiers, Indian Army; attached Berbera Bohotle Flying Column

Born: 12 May 1869, Wellington, India

Joint Citation: During the return of Major Gough's column to Danop [British Somaliland] on the 22nd April last [1903], after the action at Daratoleh, the rear-guard got considerably in rear of the column, owing to the thick bush, and to having to hold their ground while wounded men were being placed on camels. At this time Captain Bruce was shot through the body from a distance of about 20 yards, and fell on the path unable to move.
Captains Walker and Rolland, two men of the 2nd Battalion King's African Rifles, one Sikh and one Somali of the Camel Corps were with him when he fell.
In the meantime the column being unaware of what had happened were getting further away. Captain Rolland then ran back some 500 yards and returned with assistance to bring off Captain Bruce, while Captain Walker and the men remained with that Officer, endeavouring to keep off the enemy, who were all round in the thick bush. This they succeeded in doing, though not before Captain Bruce was hit a second time, and the Sikh wounded. But for the gallant conduct displayed by these Officers and men, Captain Bruce must have fallen into the hands of the enemy.

(London Gazette Issue 27584 dated 7 Aug 1903, published 7 Aug 1903.)

Note: The same issue of the Gazette contained the following:
The KING has also been pleased to approve of the grant of the Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field to the undermentioned Soldiers in recognition of their gallant conduct in assisting Captains Walker and Rolland to save Captain Bruce from falling into the enemy's hands:–
66 Sergeant Nderamani, 2nd Battalion King's African Rifles.
87 Corporal Surmoni, 2nd Battalion King's African Rifles.
Sowar Umar Ismail, Somali Camel Corps, 6th Battalion King's African Rifles.

The services of the Sikh, Lance-Naik Maieya Singh, 24th Beluchistan Regiment, Indian Contingent, British Central Africa (who also assisted), have been brought to the notice of the Government of India.


Captain (Brevet Major), The Rifle Brigade

Born: 25 October 1871, Muree, India

Citation: During the action at Daratoleh, on 22nd April last, Major Gough assisted Captains Walker and Rolland in carrying back the late Captain Bruce (who had been mortally wounded) and preventing that Officer from falling into the hands of the enemy.
Captains Walker and Rolland have already been awarded the Victoria Cross for their gallantry on this occasion, but Major Gough (who was in command of the column) made no mention of his own conduct, which has only recently been brought to notice.

(London Gazette Issue 27636 dated 15 Jan 1904, published 15 Jan 1904.)

Note: The same issue of the Gazette also reported that Major Gough was being promoted to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. Gough (eventually Brigadier General Sir John Gough VC KCB CMG) was the son of General Sir Charles Gough VC GCB and the nephew of General Sir Hugh Gough VC GCB, who had both been awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during the Indian Mutiny.

Medal of Honor: L. Joel


Specialist Sixth Class (then Sp5c), US Army; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade

Born: 22 February 1928, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty [on 8 November 1965]. Sp6c. Joel demonstrated indomitable courage, determination, and professional skill when a numerically superior and well-concealed Viet Cong element launched a vicious attack which wounded or killed nearly every man in the lead squad of the company. After treating the men wounded by the initial burst of gunfire, he bravely moved forward to assist others who were wounded while proceeding to their objective. While moving from man to man, he was struck in the right leg by machine gun fire. Although painfully wounded his desire to aid his fellow soldiers transcended all personal feeling. He bandaged his own wound and self-administered morphine to deaden the pain enabling him to continue his dangerous undertaking. Through this period of time, he constantly shouted words of encouragement to all around him. Then, completely ignoring the warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his search for wounded, exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as bullets dug up the dirt around him, he held plasma bottles high while kneeling completely engrossed in his life saving mission. Then, after being struck a second time and with a bullet lodged in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies ran out. Displaying resourcefulness, he saved the life of 1 man by placing a plastic bag over a severe chest wound to congeal the blood. As 1 of the platoons pursued the Viet Cong, an insurgent force in concealed positions opened fire on the platoon and wounded many more soldiers. With a new stock of medical supplies, Sp6c. Joel again shouted words of encouragement as he crawled through an intense hail of gunfire to the wounded men. After the 24 hour battle subsided and the Viet Cong dead numbered 410, snipers continued to harass the company. Throughout the long battle, Sp6c. Joel never lost sight of his mission as a medical aidman and continued to comfort and treat the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered. His meticulous attention to duty saved a large number of lives and his unselfish, daring example under most adverse conditions was an inspiration to all. Sp6c. Joel's profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.