29 February 2008

This day in history: 29 Feb

1704: French and Indian (Abenaki, Mohawk and Pennacook) forces raided Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 141 people and taking 109 prisoners.

1944: American forces landed in the Japanese-occupied Admiralty Islands, near the eastern end of New Guinea (Operation BREWER).

1956: US President Dwight D Eisenhower announced that he would run for a second term.

Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786-1868) died on this date.

And happy birthday to John Holland (1840–1914), Jimmy Dorsey (1904–1957), Dinah Shore (1916-1994) and Jack Lousma (1936-TBD)

Happy birthday

...to all those folks born on 29 Feb, who actually get to celebrate their birthday on the right day this year.


27 February 2008

Medal of Honor to be awarded for Korean War

ZUI this article from Stars and Stripes:
A Native American soldier who fought in World War II and the Korean War will be posthumously honored with the Medal of Honor next month, White House officials announced Friday.

Retired Master Sgt. Woodrow Keeble, a South Dakota native who died in 1984, will be recognized for actions in North Korea in October 1951. According to Army records, he ignored life-threatening wounds to take out three mountainside enemy pillboxes which had pinned down a U.S. platoon.

Keeble was initially awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for those actions, but members of his state’s congressional delegation have pushed for Medal of Honor recognition for him for years.

ZUI also this article from the Native American Times:
A member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux, Keeble served in two wars and is one of the most decorated soldiers in history, yet he was never considered for the Medal of Honor due to bureaucratic mix-ups. Now, more than 20 years after his death and 50 years after his military service, Keeble will receive the nation's highest military honor.


Born in Waubay, South Dakota, Keeble moved to Wahpeton, North Dakota as a child. When he was old enough, Keeble joined the North Dakota National Guard and, in 1942, shipped out to the South Pacific with the North Dakota 164th Infantry Regiment.

On the island of Guadalcanal, Keeble saw some of the most intense combat of WWII. In late October 1942, Keeble - known by his fellow soldiers as Chief - was wounded in an attempt to rescue his comrades. He was recognized for his actions and awarded his first Bronze Star and the first of his four Purple Hearts.

And this article from the Jamestown (ND) Sun:
At age 34 he went to war again in Korea where he earned the Distinguished Service Cross, three more Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his courage.

The action for which he is now being awarded the Medal of Honor was described by the soldiers in the platoon he was leading. In November 1951 and in December 1951 every surviving member of his company signed a letter recommending Keeble for the Medal of Honor. In both cases, the paperwork was lost somewhere between the battlefield and the Defense Department.

Wikipedia has an article about MSG Keeble here.

Castle for sale

ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Say what you will about his personal habits, but when it comes to spinning gore into gold, Vlad the Impaler, enthusiastic champion of man's inhumanity to man, can be said to have few rivals.

The 15th-century tyrant - the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula - is known to have resided at Bran Castle, near Brasov in Transylvania, as either pampered guest or shackled inmate, according to conflicting reports.

What is indisputable is that the imposing, 14th-century fortress-turned-museum has never baulked from cashing in on its association with bad lad Vlad, whose preferred mode of execution secured his place in history. Today, it is for sale at a spine-chilling £40 million.

Castle Dracula, as it is commonly known, is a failsafe tourist attraction, pulling in 450,000 visitors a year.

Baby, it's cold outside

ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Global warming sceptics are pointing to recent record cold temperatures in parts of North America and Asia and the return of Arctic Sea ice to suggest fears about climate change may be overblown.

According to the US National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the average temperature of the global land surface in January 2008 was below the 20th century mean (-0.02°F/-0.01°C) for the first time since 1982.

Temperatures were also colder than average across large swathes of central Asia, the Middle East, the western US, western Alaska and southeastern China.

The NCDC reported that the cold conditions were associated with "the largest January snow cover extent on record for the Eurasian continent and for the Northern Hemisphere".

In some parts of China and central Asia, snow fell for the first time in living memory, the NCDC noted.

"For the contiguous United States, the average temperature was 30.5°F (-0.83°C) for January, which was 0.3°F (0.2°C) below the 20th century mean and the 49th coolest January on record, based on preliminary data".

Much of North America was also hit by the heaviest snowfall since the 1960s.

Meanwhile, the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre found the January 2008 Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent, while below the 1979-2000 mean, was greater than the previous four years.

And the January 2008 Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent was significantly above the 1979-2000 mean, ranking as the largest sea ice extent in January over the 30-year historical period.


"OK, so one winter does not a climate make. It would be premature to claim an Ice Age is looming just because we have had one of our most brutal winters in decades," writes Lorne Gunter in the National Post.

"But if environmentalists and environment reporters can run around shrieking about the manmade destruction of the natural order every time a robin shows up on Georgian Bay two weeks early, then it is at least fair game to use this winter's weather stories to wonder whether the alarmist are being a tad premature."

He also quotes Kenneth Tapping, of Canada's National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun and is convinced the Earth is destined for a long period of severely cold weather if solar activity does not pick up soon.

"The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850," Gunter writes.

The Lorne Gunter piece mentioned above is here.

RIP: Tsuneyo Toyonaga

Tsuneyo Toyonaga
21 May 1894 - 22 Feb 2008

ZUI this article from the Associated Press:
Japan's oldest person has died at a hospital in southwestern Japan, her nursing home said Saturday. She was 113.

Tsuneyo Toyonaga, who became the country's oldest person last August, died Friday, days after she was transferred to a nearby hospital because she lost her appetite, said Masuko Yamamoto, deputy director of the Yume-no-Sato nursing home in the southern city of Nangoku.


Toyonaga is survived by five children and 10 grandchildren, Kyodo News agency said.

Kaku Yamanaka, born on Dec. 11, 1894, is now Japan's oldest person, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry. She lives in a nursing home in Aichi, central Japan.

(What? No great-grandchildren?)

According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), Mrs Toyonaga was the fifth-oldest person in the world at the time of her death. She is the sixth validated supercentenarian to die since Mary Marques (11 Feb 1896-3 Jan 2008); the others were Miyae Nishiyama of Japan (10 Jan 1896-16 Jan 2008), Louis de Cazenave of France (16 Oct 1897-20 Jan 2008), Suwa Kondou of Japan (15 Nov 1897-22 Jan 2008), Haya Kurogi of Japan (10 Jan 1897-2 Feb 2008) and Harvey Hite of Indiana (15 Nov 1897-16 Feb 2008).

Kaku Yamanaka, now the oldest person in Japan, is the seventh-oldest person in the world. Tomoji Tanabe, born 18 Sep 1895, is the oldest living Japanese man and the third-oldest Japanese (as well as the oldest man, and the 16th-oldest person, in the world).

The GRG's list of validated supercentenarians currently includes 80 people - 69 women and 11 men - ranging from Edna Parker of Indiana (born 20 Apr 1893) to Dr Leila Denmark of Georgia (born 1 Feb 1898). 24 of them live in Japan.

25 February 2008

RIP: Pearl Cornioley

Pearl Witherington Cornioley CBE
24 Jun 1914 - 24 Feb 2008

ZUI this article from Yahoo News:
British wartime secret service agent Pearl Cornioley, who helped the French resistance movement, died on Sunday at a hospital in the French Loire Valley, a family friend said. She was 93.

Cornioley, who in 2006 was honoured by the Royal Air Force for her role as a resistance fighter, died in hospital in Blois, south of Paris.

ZUI also this article (dated 11 Apr 06) from the Beeb:
Pearl Cornioley, formerly Witherington, became the leader of 1,500 French freedom fighters during World War II.

She was recommended for the Military Cross but, as a woman, was not allowed to receive it. She turned down an MBE, saying it was a "civil decoration".


Born to British parents in Paris, Pearl Witherington had already escaped occupied France with her mother and three sisters when she returned under cover of darkness aged 29.

She was parachuted into France from 300ft (91 metres) on the third attempt - regarded as an extremely low jumping point. Other attempts had been abandoned because the situation on the ground was considered too dangerous.

At the time, Mrs Cornioley said, she was "delighted to be in one piece and back on French soil" after finally making the jump.


"It was a complete accident that I ended up leading 1,500 resistance fighters. I was not a military person, I was supposed to be a courier, but I ended up having to use whatever sense I had - but I certainly didn't do this on my own," she said.

They were so effective, the Nazi regime put a 1 million franc (£500,000 today) bounty on her head.

Wikipedia has an article here, and Spartacus Educational has a brief one here. There is also a chapter about her in The Women Who Lived for Danger: The Agents of the Special Operations Executive, by Marcus Binney (available from Amazon here, through Amazon UK here, or from any good public library).

24 February 2008

Victoria Cross: Ishar Singh


Sepoy, 28th Punjabis, Indian Army

Born: 13 December 1895, Nenwan, Hoshiapur District, Punjab
Died: 2 December 1963, Nenwan, Hoshiapur, Punjab, India

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th April, 1921, near Haidari Kach (Waziristan). When the convoy protection troops were attacked, this Sepoy was No. 1 of a Lewis Gun Section. Early in the action he received a very severe gunshot wound in the chest, and fell beside his Lewis gun. Hand-to-hand fighting having commenced, the British officer, Indian officer, and all the Havildars of his company were either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy.
Calling up two other men, he got up, charged the enemy, recovered the Lewis gun, and, although bleeding profusely, again got the gun into action.
When his Jemadar arrived, he took the gun from Sepoy Ishar Singh and ordered him to go back and have his wound dressed. Instead of doing this, the Sepoy went to the medical officer, and was of great assistance in pointing out where the wounded were, and in carrying water to them. He made innumerable journeys to the river and back for this purpose. On one occasion, when the enemy fire was very heavy, he took the rifle of a wounded man and helped to keep down the fire. On another occasion he stood in front of the medical officer who was dressing a wounded man, thus shielding him with his body. It was over three hours before he finally submitted to be evacuated, being then too weak from loss of blood to object.
His gallantry and devotion to duty were beyond praise. His conduct inspired all who saw him.

(London Gazette issue 32530 dated 25 Nov 1921, published 25 Nov 1921.)

Note: Ishar Singh was the first Sikh to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
A sepoy was a private in the Indian Army; a havildar was a sergeant, and a jemadar was a lieutenant.

Medal of Honor: A. L. Eggers and J. C. Latham


Sergeant, US Army; Machine Gun Company, 107th Infantry, 27th Division

Born: Saranac Lake, N.Y.

Citation: Becoming separated from their platoon by a smoke barrage [near Le Catelet, France, on 29 September 1918], Sgt. Eggers, Sgt. John C. Latham and Cpl. Thomas E. O'Shea took cover in a shell hole well within the enemy's lines. Upon hearing a call for help from an American tank, which had become disabled 30 yards from them, the 3 soldiers left their shelter and started toward the tank, under heavy fire from German machineguns and trench mortars. In crossing the fire-swept area Cpl. O'Shea was mortally wounded, but his companions, undeterred, proceeded to the tank, rescued a wounded officer, and assisted 2 wounded soldiers to cover in a sap of a nearby trench. Sgt. Eggers and Sgt. Latham then returned to the tank in the face of the violent fire, dismounted a Hotchkiss gun, and took it back to where the wounded men were, keeping off the enemy all day by effective use of the gun and later bringing it, with the wounded men, back to our lines under cover of darkness.


Sergeant, US Army; Machine Gun Company, 107th Infantry, 27th Division

Born: 3 March 1888, Windemere, England

Citation: Becoming separated from their platoon by a smoke barrage [near Le Catelet, France, on 29 September 1918], Sgt. Latham, Sgt. Alan L. Eggers, and Cpl. Thomas E. O'Shea took cover in a shellhole well within the enemy's lines. Upon hearing a call for help from an American tank which had become disabled 30 yards from them, the 3 soldiers left their shelter and started toward the tank under heavy fire from German machineguns and trench mortars. In crossing the fire-swept area, Cpl. O'Shea was mortally wounded, but his companions, undeterred, proceeded to the tank, rescued a wounded officer, and assisted 2 wounded soldiers to cover in the sap of a nearby trench. Sgts. Latham and Eggers then returned to the tank in the face of the violent fire, dismounted a Hotchkiss gun, and took it back to where the wounded men were keeping off the enemy all day by effective use of the gun and later bringing it with the wounded men back to our lines under cover of darkness.

Note: Corporal O'Shea was also awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for this action.

22 February 2008

Great quote

"It's election years like this that make me wonder why we ever gave up gills, much less left the trees..."
-- Tam, at View from the Porch

Let it snow

Unlike a certain young lady I know in Smalltown, Iowa, who claims to have already gotten over 40 inches of snow this winter, we've hardly gotten any at all. Insterad, according to the paper the other day, we've set a new record this year for February rainfall. We're finally getting some more snow today, though; what we've gotten thus far is actually a healthy percentage of what we'd already gotten since Thanksgiving. My joy was slightly tempered by the fact that there wasn't a cloud in the sky when I got home last night, so I didn't cover my van window*, but that's a small price to pay for the pleasure of snow.

* It's been open about two and a half years now. I got one of those do-it-yourself car-repair books from the library, but all it told me was that car doors are tricky and complicated affairs, and should be left for the professionals. Since the cost of repairing it would probably be about what the van itself is worth....

"Our Worshipful Brother, George Washington"

George Washington (1731/2-1799) was born 11 February 1731 on his father's plantation near present-day Colonial Beach, Virginia.

In 1750, the British Parliament passed the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 ("An Act for regulating the Commencement of the Year, and for correcting the Calendar now in use."). This act changed the first day of the year from 25 March to 1 January, effective the day after 31 December 1751.* It also officially ended the United Kingdom's use of the Julian ("Old Style") calendar, switching the country over to the Gregorian ("New Style") calendar; this change was to take place in September of 1752. By this time the difference between the two calendars was eleven days, the Julian calendar having fallen behind, so the day after Wednesday, 2 September 1752, would be Thursday, 14 September. The combination of these two changes - the day on which the year begins and the calendar in use - mean that the date of Washington's birth changed from 11 Feb 1731 (OS) to the familiar 22 Feb 1732 (NS).

Washington, of course, became the first President of the United States, and in 1880 his birthday - 22 February - became a federal holiday in the District of Columbia. This was expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices nationwide. It continued to be celebrated on 22 February until after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (Public Law 90-363) was passed in 1968. Said act became effective on 1 Jan 1971, and affected several holidays:
Washington's Birthday (traditionally 22 Feb) would be celebrated on the third Monday in February.

Memorial Day (30 May) would be celebrated on the last Monday in May.

Veterans Day (11 Nov) would be celebrated on the fourth Monday in October.**

Additionally, a new federal holiday, Columbus Day (formerly observed on 12 October in some states), would be celebrated on the second Monday in October.

And thus, while the holiday was observed on Monday, the actual 276th birthday of George Washington is today. Happy birthday, George!

On a slightly different subject, Washington was a member of the Freemasons. Most poems I've seen about him refer to his status as President, or as General; here's one I found which views him as a Mason:

Author Unknown

Masonry has many claims
Including presidential names,
And, foremost, when all's said and done
Would have to be George Washington.

He led our troops in many fights
He helped compose our 'Bill of Rights,"
That all his people might be free
Enjoying life and liberty.

Americans still say today
"We're lucky that we live this way,"
For many, how surprised they'd be
To learn it sprang from Masonry.

For Washington, the Masons knew
Masonic principles were true,
And Masons know around this Earth
They came to be before his birth.

With other Masons, so conceived
He simply wrote what he believed,
Those thoughts and words that set us free
Are not unique in Masonry.

But not too many people know
The liberties they treasure so,
Were put into our Constitution
By Masons from the Revolution.

George Washington is praised by all
For answering his country's call,
For being president so wise,
For never telling any lies.

To each American, he's a part
Of what we treasure in our heart,
To love him not, would be like treason
Though each may have his own good reason.

But Masons o'er the years have cared
In knowing principles we've shared,
It's Washington we praise tonigh
He truly shared Masonic Light.

* Which otherwise, as the day following 31 Dec 1751, would have been 1 Jan 1751; with the change, it would be 1 Jan 1752.

** It was changed back to the traditional date in 1978.

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a. (Susan, of Susan Writes, has done a round-up of previous round-ups here.)

21 February 2008

This day in history: 21 Feb

1613: Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov was unanimously elected tsar of Russia (as Mikhail I) by a national assembly. His coronation would be held on 22 July of that year.

1804: Richard Trevithick's steam locomotive successfully carried five waggons, ten tons of iron and 70 men over nine miles through Wales, at an average speed of nearly 5 mph.

1885: The Washington Monument was dedicated.

1916: The Battle of Verdun began. (It would finally end on 18 December.)

1918: Incas, the last surviving Carolina paroquet (Conuropsis carolinensis), died at the Cincinnati Zoo.*

1945: USS Bismarck Sea (CVE 95) was sunk, and USS Saratoga (CV 3) damaged, by Japanese kamikaze planes near Iwo Jima.

1971: The Convention on Psychotropic Substances was signed in Vienna.

1972: The Soviet unmanned spaceship Luna 20, launched on 14 February, landed on the Moon.

1995: Steve Fossett, who had taken off from Seoul, South Korea, on 17 February, landed in Leader, Saskatchewan, thus becoming the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific in a balloon.

James I of Scotland (1394–1437), Tim Horton** (1930-1974) and Murray the K (1922–1982) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794–1876), Jeanne Calment (1875–1997), Andrés Segovia (1893–1987), Sir Douglas Bader CBE DSO* DFC* (1910–1982), Sam Peckinpah (1925–1984), Erma Bombeck (1927–1996), Harald V of Norway (1937-TBD), Anthony Daniels (1946-TBD), Alan Rickman (1946-TBD) and Mary Chapin Carpenter (1958-TBD).

* Incas was a male. The last known female - his mate, Lady Jane - had died a few months earlier. The last known wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County, Florida, in 1904.

** I was rather surprised to find out that Tim Horton was a famous hockey player. I, of course, know him as a doughnut maker.

17 February 2008

Victoria Cross: K. Campbell


Flying Officer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; 22 Squadron, Coastal Command

Born: 21 April 1917, Saltcoats, Ayrshire
Died: 6 April 1941, Brest, France

Citation: This officer was the pilot of a Beaufort aircraft of Coastal Command which was detailed to attack an enemy battle cruiser in Brest Harbour at first light on the morning of 6th April, 1941. The aircraft did not return but it is now known that a torpedo attack was carried out with the utmost daring.
The battle cruiser was secured alongside the wall on the north shore of the harbour, protected by a stone mole bending round it from the west. On rising ground behind the ship stood protective batteries of guns. Other batteries were clustered thickly round the two arms of land which encircle the outer harbour. In this outer harbour near the mole were moored three heavily-armed anti-aircraft ships, guarding the battle cruiser. Even if an aircraft succeeded in penetrating these formidable defences, it would be almost impossible, after delivering a low-level attack, to avoid crashing into the rising ground beyond.
This was well known to Flying Officer Campbell who, despising the heavy odds, went cheerfully and resolutely to the task. He ran the gauntlet of the defences. Coming in almost at sea level, he passed the anti-aircraft ships at less than mast-height in the very mouths of their guns, and skimming over the mole launched a torpedo at point-blank range. The battle cruiser was severely damaged below the water-line and was obliged to return to dock whence she had come only the day before.
By pressing home his attack at close quarters in the face of a withering fire on a course fraught with extreme peril, Flying Officer Campbell displayed valour of the highest order.

(London Gazette Issue 35486 dated 13 Mar 1942, published 10 Mar 1942.)

Note: The battlecruiser Flying Officer Campbell attacked was the Gneisenau.

Medal of Honor: T. E. O'Shea


Corporal, U.S. Army; Machine Gun Company, 107th Infantry, 27th Division

Born: New York, N.Y.

Citation: Becoming separated from their platoon by a smoke barrage, Cpl. O'Shea, with 2 other soldiers, took cover in a shell hole well within the enemy's lines [near Le Catelet, France, on 29 September 1918]. Upon hearing a call for help from an American tank, which had become disabled 30 yards from them, the 3 soldiers left their shelter and started toward the tank under heavy fire from German machineguns and trench mortars. In crossing the fire-swept area Cpl. O'Shea was mortally wounded and died of his wounds shortly afterwards.

Note: The "2 other soldiers" were Sergeants A. L. Eggers and J. C. Latham, both of whom were also awarded the Medal of Honor.

15 February 2008

"Clancy of The Overflow"

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so I suppose a love poem of some sort would be appropriate this week, but I don't know any of those; if you want one, go look up Elizabeth Barrett Browning or something. In the meantime, here's another poem by Australian poet "Banjo" Paterson.

Clancy of The Overflow
A B "Banjo" Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".

(The Bulletin, 21 December 1889.)

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by HipWriterMama. (Susan, of Susan Writes, has done a round-up of previous round-ups here.)

14 February 2008

The Cybils: 2007 winners

As promised, the winners of the 2007 Cybils were announced yesterday. They are:

Fiction Picture Books:
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice N. Harrington; illustrated by Shelley Jackson

Non-Fiction Picture Books:
Lightship, by Brian Floca

Middle Grade Fiction:
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban

Young Adult Fiction:
Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Elementary/Middle Grade):
The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult):
Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale

Graphic Novels (Elementary and Middle Grade):
Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel, written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin; illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna

Graphic Novels (Young Adult):
The Professor's Daughter, written by Joann Sfar; illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert

This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Non-Fiction (Middle Grade and YA):
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood, by Ibtisam Barakat

(The link above includes descriptions of the books.)

I guess I'm out of touch with the world of children's literature, or my tastes are something strange and unusual, because none of my favourite books from last year - Un Lun Dun (China Miéville), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J K Rowling) and Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature (Robin Brande) - even made the short lists. Oh, well....

12 February 2008

Back at the library again....

Had a bit of a snowstorm here Sunday evening. Not a lot of snow - enough to cover abour half of the grass, and about half of the car - but a lot of wind. Somewhere in the middle of it, we lost power, with no warning; just sudden blackness. And a loud sparking noise from the computer, which I was using to check my email at the time. Bugger....

The lights were off for a minute or two, then came back on. A couple minutes later they went out again, but again just for a short time. When they came back on, though, two of the lamps didn't; turned out the bulbs (one of them a brand-new three-way bulb) had blown. And the computer wouldn't turn on, either.

Seems the surge suppressor didn't work, and the computer's power supply was fried. (The lamp with the three-way bulb had been plugged into the surge suppressor, too.) It's going to be a few days before I can get it fixed, so in the meantime I'm using the computers at the public library. Don't expect a lot out of me for the rest of the week. At a minimum.

This day in history: 12 Feb

German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau departed Kiel on 22 January 1941, to attack Allied convoys in the Atlantic (Operation Berlin). They passed through the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland) on 4 February, and after aborting an attack on 9 February due to the presence of a British battleship (HMS Ramillies) scored their first kills on the 22nd - five ships. Another convoy was spotted on 7 March, off the coast of Africa, but once again the escort included a battleship (HMS Malaya), so instead of attacking, the two German ships called in a pair of U-boats, who sank six ships. Scharnhorst sank another ship on 9 March, and on the 15th the two ships sank three tankers and captured three others. Ten more ships were sunk the following day, and then on 18 March the two ships broke off the operation and began a transit to the French port of Brest, arriving on the 22nd.



Ten weeks later, they were joined by heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which had departed Germany on 19 May along with the battleship Bismarck (Operation Rheinübung). After a brief stop in Norway, the two ships proceeded toward the Denmark Strait, where on the 23rd they met up with HM ships Prince of Wales, Hood, Norfolk and Suffolk. Hood was sunk during the ensuing battle; Bismarck and Prince of Wales were both damaged. The two German ships separated the following day, Prinz Eugen continuing out into the Atlantic to look for targets whilst Bismarck headed for the French port of St Nazaire for repairs. Crippled by a torpedo launched by a Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber, Bismarck was sunk late in the morning of the 27th. Prinz Eugen was unsuccessful in finding any targets before being forced by engine trouble to head for Brest, where she arrived on 1 June.

Prinz Eugen

The three ships were doing no good in Brest. They wouldn't be of much more use in a German port, but at least they would be further away from British aircraft (Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell, RAFVR, had been awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for heroism during an air attack on Gneisenau on 6 April), so the decision was made to bring them home. Rather than take the long way round, north of Great Britain, they would make a run up the English Channel (Operation Cerberus) to Wilhelmshaven.

The three German ships departed Brest on 11 February 1942, escorted by an assortment of destroyers and torpedo boats, with 400+ aircraft. The British response was enthusiastic, involving six destroyers, numerous smaller ships, coast artillery batteries and 600+ aircraft, but was poorly coordinated and ineffective. The German ships arrived in Wilhelmshaven on the 13th, the two battlecruisers having suffered minor damage from mines in the North Sea. Other German losses included minor damage to a pair of torpedo boats and 17 aircraft shot down, with 13 killed and two wounded; the British had one destroyer (HMS Worcester) heavily damaged and 42 planes shot down, with the loss of 40 men killed and 21 wounded.

Fairey Swordfish

Among the attackers were six Fairey Swordfish from 825 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, led by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde DSO. Attacking in two groups of three, with no fighter escort, all six were shot down, having scored no hits on the German ships. Only five of the 18 airmen survived. Vice-Admiral Otto Ciliax, commanding the German flotilla, described it as "The mothball attack of a handful of ancient planes, piloted by men whose bravery surpasses any other action by either side that day." Helmuth Giessler, Scharnhorst's navigator, said, "Such bravery was devoted and incredible. One was privileged to witness it."

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


Lieutenant-Commander, Royal Navy; commanding 825 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm

Born: 1 March 1909, Thurgoland, Yorkshire

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the VICTORIA CROSS, for valour and resolution in action against the Enemy, to:
The late Lieutenant-Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde, D.S.O., Royal Navy
On the morning of Thursday, 12th February, 1942, Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, in command of a Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, was told that the German Battle-Cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the Cruiser Prinz Eugen, strongly escorted by some thirty surface craft, were entering the Straits of Dover, and that his Squadron must attack before they reached the sand-banks North East of Calais.
Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde knew well that his enterprise was desperate. Soon after noon he and his squadron of six Swordfish set course for the Enemy, and after ten minutes flight were attacked by a strong force of Enemy fighters. Touch was lost with his fighter escort; and in the action which followed all his aircraft were damaged. He flew on, cool and resolute, serenely challenging hopeless odds, to encounter the deadly fire of the Battle-Cruisers and their Escort, which shattered the port wing of his aircraft. Undismayed, he led his Squadron on, straight through this inferno of fire, in steady flight towards their target. Almost at once he was shot down; but his Squadron went on to launch a gallant attack, in which at least one torpedo is believed to have struck the German Battle-Cruisers, and from which not one of the six aircraft returned.
His high courage and splendid resolution will live in the traditions of the Royal Navy, and remain for many generations a fine and stirring memory.

His Majesty has also been graciously pleased to give orders for the following Appointments to the Distinguished Service Order, and to approve the following awards:

To be companions of the Distinguished Service Order:

Temporary Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A) Brian Westland Rose, R.N.V.R.
who was pilot of one of the Swordfish aircraft sent to attack the German Battle-Cruisers. His aircraft was hit early in the action; but though in great pain from a wound in his back, he held on his course. Another hit burst his petrol tank, and his engine began to fail, but with unshaken resolve he flew on, and came within 2,000 yards of the Enemy before he dropped his torpedo, which was last seen running well towards the target. Then he flew back across the fire of the Enemy escort, and his aircraft, now on fire, came down into the sea just beyond.

Temporary Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A) Edgar Frederick Lee, R.N.V.R.
who was Observer to Sub-Lieutenant Rose. Before the Swordfish had reached the Enemy escort vessels their Air Gunner was killed. Sub-Lieutenant Lee stood up in the cockpit and directed the Pilot so that he could evade the attacking Enemy fighters. He went on doing this until his aircraft came down in flames. Then, although under fierce fire from the Enemy, he got his wounded Pilot, who was very much heavier than he, into his dinghy, and returned to the aircraft, but found it sinking. For an hour and a half he stayed in the flooded dinghy, tending and encouraging his wounded Pilot, and never losing heart, until both were rescued.

Temporary Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A) Charles Major Kingsmill, R.N.V.R.
Temporary Sub-Lieutenant (A) Reginald McCartney Samples, R.N.V.R.
who were Pilot and Observer of a Swordfish that was badly hit early in the action by cannon shells from an Enemy fighter. Both were wounded, but with part of the aircraft shot away, and the engine and upper wing in flames, they flew on undaunted until they had taken aim and fired their torpedo. They then turned and tried to come down near some ships, but these opened fire, so they flew on until their engine stopped, and their aircraft came down into the sea. Soon afterwards they were picked up, still cheerful and dauntless, by one of H.M. Vessels.

The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.

Naval Airman First Class Donald Arthur Bunce, FAA/SFX.631,
who was Air Gunner in the Swordfish Aircraft piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Kingsmill. With his machine on fire, and the engine failing, he stayed steadfast at his gun, engaging the Enemy fighters which beset his aircraft. He is believed to have shot one of them down. Throughout the action his coolness was unshaken.

Mention in Despatches (Posthumous).

Lieutenant (A) John Chute Thompson, Royal Navy.
Sub-Lieutenant (A) Robert Laurens Parkinson, Royal Navy.
Sub-Lieutenant (A) Cecil Ralph Wood, Royal Navy.
Temporary Sub-Lieutenant William Beynon, R.N.V.R.
Temporary Sub-Lieutenant (A) Eric Herbert Fuller-Wright, R.N.V.R.
Temporary Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A) Peter Bligh, R.N.V.R.
Leading Airman Ernest Tapping, FAA/FX.76365.
Temporary Leading Airman William Grenville Smith, FAA/FX.79499.
Temporary Leading Airman Henry Thomas Albert Wheeler, FAA/FX.189404.
The last that was seen of this gallant band, who were astern of the leading flight, is that they were flying steadily towards the Battle-Cruisers, led by Lieutenant Thompson. Their aircraft shattered, undeterred by an inferno of fire, they carried out their orders, which were to attack the target. Not one came back. Theirs was the courage which is beyond praise.

Leading Airman Ambrose Laurence Johnson, D.S.M., FAA/FX.82042,
who, as Air Gunner to Sub-Lieutenant Rose, showed the same dauntless spirit. He was killed early in the action.

Lieutenant William Henry Williams, Royal Navy,
Leading Airman William John Clinton, P/JX.143258,
who, as Observer and Air Gunner to Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, shared his fate in this gallant action, and showed the same high courage.

(London Gazette issue 35474 dated 3 Mar 1942, published 27 Feb 1942.)

Note: Lieut Cmdr Esmonde was the great-nephew of Lt Col Thomas Esmonde VC, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Sebastopol in 1855.
He was a survivor of HMS Courageous, sunk by U 29 on 17 Sep 1939. In 1941, flying off HMS Victorious, he participated in the air attacks on Bismarck; it was for this that he received the DSO.

10 February 2008

Victoria Cross: H. C. Elphinstone


Captain, Royal Engineers

Born: 12 December 1829, Sunzel, Riga, Russia
Died: 8 March 1890, at sea

Citation: For fearless conduct, in having, on [18 June 1855] the night after the unsuccessful attack on the Redan [at Sebastopol], volunteered to command a party of volunteers, who proceeded to search for and bring back the scaling ladders left behind after the repulse; and while successfully performing this task, of rescuing trophies from the Russians, Captain Elphinstone conducted a persevering search, close to the enemy, for wounded men, twenty of whom he rescued and brought back to the Trenches.

(London Gazette issue 22149 dated 4 Jun 1858, published 4 Jun 1858.)

Note: Major General Sir Howard Elphinstone VC KCB CMG CB drowned after being swept overboard by a wave. Some online sources say that this happened in the Bay of Biscay, near Ushant; others say near Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.

Medal of Honor: W. Williams


Landsman, US Navy; USS Lehigh

Born: 1840, Ireland

Citation: On board the [monitor] U.S.S. Lehigh, Charleston Harbor, 16 November 1863, during the hazardous task of freeing the Lehigh, which had been grounded, and was under heavy enemy fire from Fort Moultrie. After several previous attempts had been made, Williams succeeded in passing in a small boat from the Lehigh to the Nahant with a line bent on a hawser. This courageous action while under severe enemy fire enabled the Lehigh to be freed from her helpless position.

Note: Landsman Frank S Gile, Coxswain Thomas Irving, Gunner's Mate George W Leland and Seaman Horatio N Young were also awarded the Medal of Honor for their parts in this incident.

According to Wikipedia, Landsman was the lowest rank for enlisted sailors; one with three years' experience, or who reenlisted, could be promoted to Ordinary Seaman. The rank went away in 1921.

09 February 2008

This day in history: 9 Feb

1825: Acting under the 12th Amendment to the US Constitution, the House of Representatives elected (on the first ballot) John Quincy Adams President of the United States.

1861: The Confederate convention at Montgomery, Alabama, appointed former US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis as Provisional President of the Confederate States of America. Alexander Stephens was selected as Vice President. Later that year, on 6 November, they were elected President and Vice President for a term of six years.

1916: SMS Hedwig von Wissman was sunk by HMS Mimi and Fifi.

1943: The Battle of Guadalcanal ended after the remaining Japanese forces were evacuated from the island.

1945: HM submarine Venturer (Lieut J S Launders DSO DSC*) torpedoed and sank U 864 (Korvkpt Ralf-Reimar Wolfram) off the coast of Norway - the only time in the history of naval warfare that one submarine sank another while both were submerged.

1964: The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

1971: Apollo 14 (commander Alan Shepard, command module pilot Stuart Roosa and lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell), launched from Cape Canaveral on 31 January, returned to Earth following the third manned moon landing.

1975: Soyuz 17 (commander A A Gubarev and flight engineer G M Grechko), launched from Baikonur on 11 January, returned to Earth.

1986: Comet Halley reached perihelion, its closest approach to the sun.

1995: Astronauts Bernard A Harris Jr and Michael Foale exited the space shuttle Discovery (mission STS-63, launched 3 February) to become the first black astronaut and the first Briton, respectively, to perform spacewalks.

2001: USS Greeneville (SSN 772) accidentally rammed and sank the Japanese fishery training vessel Ehime Maru.

Miklós Horthy (1868-1957), "Gabby" Hayes (1885–1969), Sergei Vladimirovich Ilyushin (1894–1977), Bill Haley (1925–1981), Adolf Galland (1912-1996) and HRH The Princess Margaret (1930–2002) died on this date.

And happy birthday to William Henry Harrison (1773–1841), Samuel Tilden (1814–1886), Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith MC AFC (1897-1935), William Darby (1911-1945), Ernest Tubb (1914–1984), Frank Frazetta (1928-TBD), Joe Pesci (1943-TBD), Travis Tritt (1963-TBD) and Irina Slutskaya (1979-TBD).

07 February 2008

Up, up and away

Space shuttle Atlantis (Mission STS-122) departed KSC today at 1445 local. ZUI this NASA press release:
Space shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew lifted off at 2:45 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 7 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center to begin the STS-122 mission to the International Space Station.

During the 11-day flight, Commander Steve Frick and his six crewmates will install the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory on the station. Columbus will expand the research facilities of the station and provide scientists around the world with the ability to conduct a variety of life, physical and materials science experiments. The mission will include three spacewalks, delivery of a new crew member to the station and the return of another astronaut after nearly four months aboard the complex.

Shortly before launch, Frick thanked the teams that helped make the launch possible.

"We're looking forward to a great flight and coming back to see our families in two weeks," Frick said. "It looks like today's a good day, and we're ready to go fly."


During the countdown, a newly-designed connector in the shuttle's fuel sensor system performed normally. The STS-122 mission was twice delayed in December 2007 after false readings occurred in that system while Atlantis' external fuel tank was being filled. Tests revealed that open circuits in the external tank's feed through connector were the most likely cause. A modified connector, designed with pins and sockets soldered together, was installed for the mission. The sensor system is one of several that protects the shuttle's main engines by triggering their shut down if fuel runs unexpectedly low.

With Capt Frick (USN) aboard Atlantis are pilot Capt Alan Poindexter (USN) and mission specialists Leland Melvin, Col Rex Walheim (USAF), Stanley Love and Hans Schlegel. The shuttle is also ferrying Gen Léopold Eyharts (French AF) up to replace Dan Tani, who has been on the ISS since October. Eyharts will return to Earth on shuttle Endeavour, which is currently targeted for launch as mission STS-123 on 11 March.

Left to right: Walheim, Melvin, Frick, Poindexter, Eyharts, Love and Schlegel

Great quote

"You can't get a leopard to change his spots. In fact, now that I come to think of it, you can't really get a leopard to appreciate the notion that it has spots. You can explain it carefully to the leopard, but it will just sit there looking at you, knowing that you are made of meat. After a while it will perhaps kill you."
-- Geoffrey K Pullum, Language Log, 4 Jan 07

Cats and rats and blue-eyed people

Science Daily has had three interesting articles lately. First, cats (Felis silvestris catus), from the 29 January issue:
The Fertile Crescent of the Middle East has long been identified as a "cradle of civilization" for humans. In a new genetic study, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have concluded that all ancestral roads for the modern day domestic cat also lead back to the same locale.

Findings of the study, involving more than 11,000 cats, are reported in the January issue of the journal Genomics.


Earlier archaeological evidence and research on the evolutionary history of cats has suggested that domestication of the cat originated about 5,000 to 8,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a region located today in the Middle East. This is the area around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, stretching from Turkey to northern Africa and eastward to modern day Iraq and Iran. This domestication of the cat occurred as humans transitioned from nomadic herding to raising crops and livestock.


From the DNA analysis, the researchers found that the cats were genetically clustered in four groups that corresponded with the regions of Europe, the Mediterranean basin, east Africa and Asia.

They discovered that randomly bred cats in the Americas were genetically similar to randomly bred cats from Western Europe. They also found that the Maine coone and American shorthair -- two breeds that originated in the United States -- were genetically similar to the seven Western European breeds. This suggests that cats brought to the New World by European settlers have not had sufficient time to develop significant genetic differentiation from their Western European ancestors.

Second, rats (Rattus rattus), from the 6 February issue:
DNA of the common Black Rat has shed light on the ancient spread of rats, people and diseases around the globe. Studying the mitochondrial DNA of 165 Black Rat specimens from 32 countries around the world, an international team of scientists has identified six distinct lineages in the Black Rat’s family tree, each originating from a different part of Asia.


The six different lineages originated in India, East Asia, the Himalayas, Thailand, the Mekong Delta, and Indonesia.

The Indian lineage spread to the Middle-East around 20,000 years ago, then later to Europe. It reached Africa, the Americas and Australia during the Age of Exploration. The East Asian lineage moved from Taiwan to Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia, arriving in Micronesia only 3,500 years ago.

The other four lineages have not become so widespread but they could be set to expand their ranges in the future.

And third, blue-eyed people (Homo sapiens), from the 31 January issue:
New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.


“Originally, we all had brown eyes”, said Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a “switch”, which literally “turned off” the ability to produce brown eyes”. The OCA2 gene codes for the so-called P protein, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The “switch”, which is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 does not, however, turn off the gene entirely, but rather limits its action to reducing the production of melanin in the iris – effectively “diluting” brown eyes to blue. The switch’s effect on OCA2 is very specific therefore. If the OCA2 gene had been completely destroyed or turned off, human beings would be without melanin in their hair, eyes or skin colour – a condition known as albinism.

RIP: Harry Landis

Harry Richard Landis
12 Dec 1899 - 4 Feb 2008

The next-to-last US veteran of World War I has died. ZUI this article from Fox News:
Harry Richard Landis, who enlisted in the Army in 1918 and was one of only two known surviving U.S. veterans of World War I, has died. He was 108.

Landis, who lived at a Sun City Center nursing home, died Monday, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

The remaining U.S. veteran is Frank Buckles, 107, of Charles Town, W.Va., according the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, John Babcock of Spokane, Wash., 107, served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war.

Another World War I vet, Ohioan J. Russell Coffey, died in December at 109. The last known German World War I veteran, Erich Kaestner, died New Year's Day at 107.

Landis trained as a U.S. Army recruit for 60 days at the end of the war and never went overseas. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs counts him among the 4.7 million men and woman who served during the Great War.


He signed up to fight the Germans again in 1941, but at age 42 was rejected as too old.

"I registered, but that's all there was to it," Landis said.

Also, ZUI this article from Talking Proud, which has photos of Messrs Landis, Buckles and Coffey, and of the last few US WWI veterans who have died.

05 February 2008

Upcoming auction

James D Julia Auctioneers, in Fairfield ME, are advertising a firearms auction to be held 10-11 Mar 08. Featured are weapons from the Bruce Stern collection.

The catalogue for the first session is here; there's a link from that page for session two, though nothing has been posted there yet.

I'm not greedy. All I want is the M2 HB, the 1928A1 Thompson and either an MP-38 or an MP-40.

H/T to Tam, at View from the Porch.



04 February 2008

How's your vocabulary?

Your Vocabulary Score: A+

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

H/T to Sheila at Wands and Worlds.

03 February 2008

Victoria Cross: G. Gristock


Warrant Officer Class II (Company Sergeant-Major), The Royal Norfolk Regiment

Born: 14 January 1905, Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Died: 16 June 1940, Brighton, Sussex

Citation: For most conspicuous gallantry on the 21st May 1940, when his company was holding a position on the line of the River Escaut, south of Tournai. After a prolonged attack, the enemy succeeded in breaking through beyond the company's right flank which was consequently threatened. Company Sergeant-Major Gristock having organised a party of eight riflemen from company headquarters, went forward to cover the right flank.
Realising that an enemy machine-gun had moved forward to a position from which it was inflicting heavy casualties on his company, Company Sergeant-Major Gristock went on, with one man as connecting file, to try to put it out of action. Whilst advancing, he came under heavy machine-gun fire from the opposite bank and was severely wounded in both legs, his right knee being badly smashed. He nevertheless gained his fire-position, some twenty yards from the enemy machine-gun post, undetected, and by well-aimed rapid fire killed the machine-gun crew of four and put their gun out of action. He then dragged himself back to the right flank position from which he refused to be evacuated until contact with the battalion on the right had been established and the line once more made good.
By his gallant action, the position of the company was secured, and many casualties prevented. Company Sergeant-Major Gristock has since died of his wounds.

(London Gazette issue 34928 dated 23 Aug 1940, published 20 Aug 1940.)

Medal of Honor: R. Zussman


Second Lieutenant, US Army; 756th Tank Battalion

Born: Hamtramck, Mich.

Citation: On 12 September 1944, 2d Lt. Zussman was in command of 2 tanks operating with an infantry company in the attack on enemy forces occupying the town of Noroy le Bourg, France. At 7 p.m., his command tank bogged down. Throughout the ensuing action, armed only with a carbine, he reconnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and the infantry. Returning only from time to time to designate targets, he directed the action of the tank and turned over to the infantry the numerous German soldiers he had caused to surrender. He located a road block and directed his tanks to destroy it. Fully exposed to fire from enemy positions only 50 yards distant, he stood by his tank directing its fire. Three Germans were killed and 8 surrendered. Again he walked before his tank, leading it against an enemy-held group of houses, machinegun and small arms fire kicking up dust at his feet. The tank fire broke the resistance and 20 enemy surrendered. Going forward again alone he passed an enemy-occupied house from which Germans fired on him and threw grenades in his path. After a brief fire fight, he signaled his tank to come up and fire on the house. Eleven German soldiers were killed and 15 surrendered. Going on alone, he disappeared around a street corner. The fire of his carbine could be heard and in a few minutes he reappeared driving 30 prisoners before him. Under 2d Lt. Zussman's heroic and inspiring leadership, 18 enemy soldiers were killed and 92 captured.

01 February 2008

This is boot camp?

ZUI this article from MoD Defence News:
Recruits at the Regional Army Training Centre at Pirbright in Surrey are to move into the last of seven brand new accommodation blocks following a formal opening ceremony today, Friday 25 January 2008.


They will be occupied by Phase 1 recruits on their initial 14-week basic training – the first stage of the transition from civilian to soldier – required of all entrants to the Regular and Territorial Army.

Each dormitory is partitioned into three separate areas, each with four beds, with individual wardrobes and storage cupboards providing a degree of individual privacy. On each floor there are four dormitories, with dedicated sanitary facilities, utility rooms, baggage stores, and communal and recreation areas. A platoon office and a 'duty of care' en suite bedroom are located on each floor, to ensure good visibility of personnel passing through the communal areas.

"Dormitory"? "Individual wardrobes"? "Individual privacy"? Sure doesn't sound like boot camp as I knew it, and I'm sure it doesn't bear much resemblance to the barracks my high-school friends lived in when they went through BCT. Here's a picture:

Wonder what RN barracks are like....

Ministry of Defence photograph © Crown Copyright/MOD 2008.

Book list - Jan 08

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World - mediaeval history, by Jack Weatherford
The Expansion of Everyday Life, 1860-1876 - US history, by Daniel E Sutherland
Jacob Have I Loved - children's, by Katherine Paterson (Newbery Medal, 1981)
Miss Clare Remembers - fiction, by Miss Read
His Majesty's Dragon - fantasy/historical novel, by Naomi Novik
Among the Hidden - YA, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Among the Impostors - YA, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Among the Betrayed - YA, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Throne of Jade - fantasy/historical novel, by Naomi Novik
Among the Barons - YA, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Wasteland of Flint - SF, by Thomas Harlan

11 books this month, with no rereads. To read 208 books this year I need to read 17.33 per month, so I'm not off to a very good start.

The one Newbery Medal winner brings my total thus far up to 43 of 87.