31 January 2009

What shall we do with a ... huh?

ZUI this article from the BBC:
"Drunken sailors" have been removed from the lyrics of a nursery rhyme in a government-funded books project.

But the Bookstart charity says the re-writing of What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor? has "absolutely nothing to do with political correctness".

The charity says that the shift from drunken sailor to "grumpy pirate" was to make the rhyme fit a pirate theme, rather than censorship.

"Put him in the brig until he's sober," has also been lost in the new version.


"We wanted to find a rhyme which would fit in with this subject and this one has a tune which is instantly recognisable by all," said a statement from Bookstart.

"The inclusion of action lyrics like 'wiggle' and 'tickle' offer parents and small children an opportunity to interact, have fun and enjoy acting out the rhyme together."


This is the latest in a series of disputes over nursery rhymes.

There were complaints in 2006 about pre-school children attending two nurseries in Oxfordshire being taught "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep".


ZUI also this BBC article (dated 23 Jan 08):
A story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale has been turned down by a government agency's awards panel as the subject matter could offend Muslims.

The digital book, re-telling the classic story, was rejected by judges who warned that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues".


The CD-Rom digital version of the traditional story of the three little pigs, called Three Little Cowboy Builders, is aimed at primary school children.

But judges at this year's Bett Award said that they had "concerns about the Asian community and the use of pigs raises cultural issues".


The feedback from the judges explaining why they had rejected the CD-Rom highlighted that they "could not recommend this product to the Muslim community".

They also warned that the story might "alienate parts of the workforce (building trade)".

Here is the BBC's article (dated 7 Mar 06) on the rainbow sheep.


H/T to my old friend JP.

131 SF and fantasy novels everyone must read

Look - another list of books! This one comes from The Guardian, who have been running a series on the "1000 novels everyone must read."* The 131 fantasy/SF books have also been listed separately, in three parts (One, Two and Three).

Here's the SF/fantasy list, in alphabetical order by author (see the links above for comments on each book; Wikipedia also has articles on many of these). As might be expected, considering the source, it is perhaps slanted a bit toward British authors, but.... I've bolded the numbers on the ones I've read.

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979, with four sequels)
2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958; aka Starship)
3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951, with six prequels and sequels)
4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
6. J G Ballard: The Drowned World (1962)
7. J G Ballard: Crash (1973)
8. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
9. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)
10. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
11. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
12. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
13. Greg Bear: Darwin's Radio (1999)
14. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956; aka Tiger, Tiger)
15. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)
16. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
17. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
18. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
19. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
20. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
21. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912, with eleven sequels)
22. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
23. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)
24. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
25. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
26. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)
27. Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
28. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
29. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
30. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
31. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood's End (1953)
32. G K Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
33. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
34. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
35. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)
36. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)
37. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
38. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
39. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
40. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
41. Umberto Eco: Foucault's Pendulum (1988)
42. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
43. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)
44. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
45. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
46. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
47. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
48. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
49. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
50. M John Harrison: Light (2002)
51. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
52. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965, with 14+ sequels and prequels)
53. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)
54. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
55. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)
56. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)
57. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
58. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
59. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
60. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)
61. P D James: The Children of Men (1992)
62. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)
63. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
64. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
65. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
66. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
67. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
68. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
69. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
70. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
71. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
72. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)
73. C S Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia (seven books, 1950-56)
74. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)
75. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
76. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
77. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
78. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
79. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
80. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
81. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)
82. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
83. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960, with one sequel)
84. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
85. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)
86. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)
87. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
88. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
89. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
90. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler's Wife (2003)
91. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970, with three sequels)
92. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
93. Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
94. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)
95. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
96. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)
97. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946, with two sequels)
98. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
99. Terry Pratchett: The Discworld Series (30+ books, 1983- )
100. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
101. Phillip Pullman: His Dark Materials (three books, 1995-2000)
102. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
103. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
104. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
105. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
106. J K Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997, with six sequels; aka Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone)
107. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)
108. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)
109. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)
110. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
111. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)
112. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
113. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
114. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
115. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
116. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
117. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
118. J R R Tolkien: The Hobbit (1937)
119. J R R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings (three books, 1954-55)
120. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)
121. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
122. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
123. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
124. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)
125. H G Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
126. H G Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)
127. T H White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)
128. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (four books, 1980-83)
129. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
130. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
131. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

26, as listed here. I've also read one of the Discworld books (though I'm not sure which - I think it was the first one, The Colour of Magic), and I've read the Classics Illustrated version of The Time Machine. And I've seen the film versions of some, such as The Omega Man (I Am Legend). Several others are on my TBR list, though gods only know if/when I'll ever get to them.

* Here is a simple- straightforward list, without commentary, of all 1000 books.

CPSIA granted one-year stay

ZUI this announcement from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Office of Information and Public Affairs:
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously (2-0) to issue a one year stay of enforcement for certain testing and certification requirements for manufacturers and importers of regulated products, including products intended for children 12 years old and younger. These requirements are part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which added certification and testing requirements for all products subject to CPSC standards or bans.

Significant to makers of children’s products, the vote by the Commission provides limited relief from the testing and certification requirements which go into effect on February 10, 2009 for new total lead content limits (600 ppm), phthalates limits for certain products (1000 ppm), and mandatory toy standards, among other things. Manufacturers and importers – large and small – of children’s products will not need to test or certify to these new requirements, but will need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements.

The decision by the Commission gives the staff more time to finalize four proposed rules which could relieve certain materials and products from lead testing and to issue more guidance on when testing is required and how it is to be conducted.

I really, really hope that the "certain materials and products" will include books. The cost of testing them to verify these standards would pretty much take used-book dealers out of the children's market. (ZUI discussion at Idea Girl, Book Journeys, The Bookroom. ZUI also this letter from the CPSC stating that the testing requirements of the CPSIA do apply to products already in inventory.)

30 January 2009

Get a job

You Are a Cartographer

You have a wide range of knowledge and you're very detail oriented.

You have a photographic memory, and you remember places very well.

Like a middle ages cartographer, you're also very adventurous and curious about the world.

In modern times, you would make a good non-fiction writer or scientist.

The ideal island vacation

Your Ideal Vacation is Prince Edward Island

On an island vacation, you'd really like to immerse yourself and get to know the locals.

You enjoy the idea of spending time in a small, remote locale... especially a beautiful one.

Whether you're sipping tea or enjoying the beautiful countryside, Prince Edward Island is perfect for you.

It's so authentic and homey, you won't mind that you're not in the tropics.

That's actually a good answer - PEI is high on my list of places I'd like to visit. (Malta is another island I'd love to visit.)

28 January 2009

One World – One Day – One Photo

Just wanted to pass along an idea I picked up from Facebook:
One World - One Day - One Photo : Sunday February 15th 2009

This project hopes to gather contributors from ALL OVER THE WORLD in a visual celebration of the world we live in. On SUNDAY FEBRUARY 15th 2009 we encourage EVERYONE to go out and take ONE photo of the world you live in - and send it in to us. Then we will select the best pictures, and collect them in ONE BIG PRINTED BOOK, that will be available for purchase online – also, all pictures will be displayed here, for free. One randomly chosen contributor will WIN one FREE copy of the book!


-The picture MUST be taken on SUNDAY FEBRUARY 15th 2009!!!
-The picture MUST be taken by YOU.
-When sending us the picture, you must write in your email that you give us the right to print your photo in the book.

You can use any sort of device to take the picture: camera, cell phone, webcam … whatever, just keep in mind that the better the picture is - the more interesting it is - the bigger the chance that it will be selected for the book!

Please notice that this is a NON-PROFIT project. Purchase is not a condition for entering, and if you do buy the book, any profit made will be donated to an as-of-yet undetermined charity organization.

Now, SIGN UP, and don’t forget to invite EVERYONE you know.

How GLOBAL are we? Countries signed up so far: Denmark, South Africa, USA, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Hong Kong, Croatia, Australia, UK, Latvia, Singapore, New Zealand, Taiwan, Faroe Islands, Chile, Iceland, Sweden, Egypt, Russia, China, Turkey, France, Japan, Tunisia, Norway, Israel, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Netherlands, Finland, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Greece, Belgium and Barbados (*Pheew* ... that's 36 so far - and there are some 192 countries in the world!)

26 January 2009

Newbery and Caldecott winners announced

The 2009 winner of the John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children is The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman and published by HarperCollins. The Newbery Honor Books (ie, runners-up) are The Underneath, by by Kathi Appelt; The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba, by Margarita Engle; Savvy, by Ingrid Law; and After Tupac & D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have it, of course.*

The Randolph Caldecott Medal, for the most distinguished American picture book for children, was awarded to The House in the Night, illustrated by Beth Krommes, written by Susan Marie Swanson, and published by Houghton Mifflin. The Caldecott Honor Books are A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee; How I learned Geography, written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz; and A River of Words: the Story of William Carlos Williams, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have this one, too.*

(I'll let you do your own searches for the Honor Books.)

The American Library Association (ALA), who give both of the above awards, also announced a few others, including:
The Michael L Printz Award, for excellence in young-adult literature: Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta.

The Coretta Scott King Book Award, recognizing an African-American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: (author) We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and (illustrator) The Blacker the Berry, illustrated by Floyd Cooper and written by Joyce Carol Thomas.

The Pura Belpré Awards, for Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in children's books: (author) The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, by Margarita Engle, and (illustrator) Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book, by Yuyi Morales.

The Margaret A Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, for contribution to writing for teens: Laurie Halse Anderson.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, for the most distinguished book for beginning readers: Are You Ready to Play Outside?, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

The Robert F Sibert Medal, for the most distinguished informational book for children: We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, by Kadir Nelson.

The Mildred L Batchelder Award, for the most outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, by Nahoko Uehashi (translated by Cathy Hirano).

MSNBC has the complete list of awards, winners, and Honor Books here.

* Patronising your local independent bookseller is strongly recommended!

25 January 2009

Victoria Cross: W. A. Savage


Able Seaman, Royal Navy; MGB 314

Born: 30th October 1912, Smethwick, Staffordshire
Died: 28 March 1942, St Nazaire, France

Citation: For great gallantry, skill and devotion to duty as gunlayer of the pom-pom in a Motor Gun Boat in the St Nazaire Raid [on 28 April 1942]. Completely exposed, and under heavy fire, he engaged positions ashore with cool and steady accuracy. On the way out of the harbour he kept up the same vigorous and accurate fire against the attacking ships, until he was killed at his gun. This Victoria Cross is awarded in recognition not only of the gallantry and devotion to duty of Able Seaman Savage but also of the valour shown by many others unnamed in motor launches, motor gun boats and motor torpedo boats who gallantly carried out their duty in entirely exposed positions against enemy fire at very close range.

Medal of Honor: K. Moto


Private First Class, US Army; Company C, 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)

Born: 25 April 1917, Makawao, Territory of Hawai`i
Died: 26 August 1992, Makawao, Hawai`i

Citation: Private First Class Kaoru Moto distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 7 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. While serving as first scout, Private First Class Moto observed a machine gun nest that was hindering his platoon's progress. On his own initiative, he made his way to a point ten paces from the hostile position, and killed the enemy machine gunner. Immediately, the enemy assistant gunner opened fire in the direction of Private First Class Moto. Crawling to the rear of the position, Private First Class Moto surprised the enemy soldier, who quickly surrendered. Taking his prisoner with him, Private First Class Moto took a position a few yards from a house to prevent the enemy from using the building as an observation post. While guarding the house and his prisoner, he observed an enemy machine gun team moving into position. He engaged them, and with deadly fire forced the enemy to withdraw. An enemy sniper located in another house fired at Private First Class Moto, severely wounding him. Applying first aid to his wound, he changed position to elude the sniper fire and to advance. Finally relieved of his position, he made his way to the rear for treatment. Crossing a road, he spotted an enemy machine gun nest. Opening fire, he wounded two of the three soldiers occupying the position. Not satisfied with this accomplishment, he then crawled forward to a better position and ordered the enemy soldier to surrender. Receiving no answer, Private First Class Moto fired at the position, and the soldiers surrendered. Private First Class Moto's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Note: Pfc Moto's MoH was awarded posthumously on 21 Jun 2000.

23 January 2009

Three astronauts elected to Hall of Fame

Left to right: Former astronauts James D Wetherbee (Captain, USN, ret), William M Shepherd (Captain, USN, ret) and George D Nelson PhD

ZUI this article from collectSPACE:
The first American to command five space missions, the first commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and a member of the first repair team to service a satellite on-orbit will be enshrined this May in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

James Wetherbee, William Shepherd and George "Pinky" Nelson were confirmed on Wednesday by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation as comprising the eighth group of space shuttle astronauts to be named to the Hall. A gala and an induction ceremony will be hosted at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, home to the Hall of Fame, on May 1-2, 2009.


In between flying six times to space -- five times as the mission commander -- James D. "Jim" Wetherbee played drums with the all-astronaut band, Max Q.

Making his first flight in 1990, piloting the STS-32 mission that returned from orbit the school bus-size Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), Wetherbee's first command was two years later launching an Italian laser geodynamic satellite on STS-52.


Wetherbee retired from NASA in 2005 after logging more than 65 days in space and serving as deputy director and director of flight crew operations for the Johnson Space Center. Today, Wetherbee works as a safety auditor with BP.


William M. "Bill" Shepherd's fourth and final space flight ended with Jim Wetherbee in command. Shepherd flew home after commanding the International Space Station's first expedition, returning with Wetherbee's fifth mission.

Five months earlier, Expedition One began with Shepherd giving the ISS its unofficial call sign, "Alpha".

A former Navy SEAL [and a] recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, Shepherd left the space agency in 2002 and went on to become a civilian engineer assigned to the staff of the Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, to assist with the development of programs for the SEALs and Special Boat Sailors of Tomorrow.


George D. "Pinky" Nelson also starred in an IMAX film, documenting his work as one of the first spacewalkers to repair a satellite.

As a mission specialist on STS-41C, Nelson, together with James "Ox" van Hoften, repaired the malfunctioning Solar Maximum Satellite during two spacewalks, which were later featured in the IMAX large screen film, "The Dream is Alive." The mission, which flew in April 1984, deployed the same Long Duration Exposure Facility that Wetherbee recovered six years later.


The addition of the three men will bring the Hall's number of enshrined space explorers to 73, which includes all of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab astronauts. The 2009 members were selected by a committee of current Hall of Fame inductees, former NASA officials and flight directors, historians and journalists.

More about the US Astronaut Hall of Fame can be found here and here.


ZUI this article from Forbes.com:
While industry executives and shoppers will remember 2008 as the year the party ended, figure 2009 to be the year of the hangover. Already, Circuit City, Linens 'N Things and Mervyn's stores are going away. Sharper Image is too, though the company will continue to sell some of its high-end gadgets through license agreements with other retailers.


Expect closings and bankruptcies to rattle the likes of Lane Bryant, Gap, and Starbucks. It's the inevitable counterpunch to the days of retailers fighting hand over fist for market share during an era of loose credit and minuscule interest rates.


Retailers at risk in 2009, [Howard Davidowitz, chairman of retail consultant and investment bank Davidowitz & Associates,] thinks, include outerwear specialist Eddie Bauer and teen-apparel-seller Pacific Sunwear, along with Zales, the big jewelry chain. All three shuttered at least 8% of their U.S. stores last year, with many more closings expected. The same is largely true of Charming Shoppes, the owner of Lane Bryant, which closed 150 stores last year. With a mountain of debt and losses totaling over $260 million over the most recent 12-month reporting period, the company will close another 100 locations this year.

Another possible casualty: Sears Holdings, operator of Sears and Kmart stores. A key to hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert's 2005 merger of the two chains was in the underlying real estate. But with those values down 30% or so since then, slumping sales hit even worse.

Yippee. And I see the company for which I work is mentioned in the article....

21 January 2009

RIP: Col James E. Swett, USMCR

James Elms Swett
15 Jun 1920 - 18 Jan 2009

ZUI this article from the Redding (CA) Record-Searchlight:
James Elms Swett of Redding once said that notoriety can at times be a “damn nuisance.”

He got pulled over more times than he could remember by inquisitive California Highway Patrol officers due to the distinctive license plate on his car.

But it had its perks, too.

He rarely got a traffic ticket, and had a lot of autographed photographs from a number of U.S. presidents.

Swett, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II for shooting down seven Japanese bombers within 15 minutes, died Sunday at Mercy Medical Center in Redding after a long illness. He was 88.


Over the course of his World War II service, Swett was credited with more than 15 downed enemy planes and earned eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Purple Hearts and a score of Air Medals.


After leaving active duty in the Marines in 1950, he joined the reserves, where he became a colonel before retiring in 1970.

He also worked in his father’s company in San Francisco, making marine pumps and turbines. In 1960, after his father’s death, Swett took over the company and ran it for 23 years.

He moved to Trinity County with his wife, Loie, in 1983 from Los Altos. She died in 1999 at the age of 75, and Swett remarried in 2007.


He is survived by his wife, Verna, of Redding; two sons, James Jr. of the Seattle area and John of Redwood City, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Col Swett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his first combat mission. His final tally for the war was 15.5 enemy aircraft - the ninth-highest score for a Marine Corps pilot. Wikipedia gives further details, and also has an article on VMF-221.

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


First Lieutenant, US Marine Corps Reserve; Marine Fighter Squadron 221, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

Born: 15 June 1920, Seattle, Washington
Died: 18 January 2009, Redding, California

Citation: For extraordinary heroism and personal valor above and beyond the call of duty, as division leader of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 with Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, in action against enemy Japanese aerial forces in the Solomons Islands area, 7 April 1943. In a daring flight to intercept a wave of 150 Japanese planes, 1st Lt. Swett unhesitatingly hurled his 4-plane division into action against a formation of 15 enemy bombers and personally exploded 3 hostile planes in midair with accurate and deadly fire during his dive. Although separated from his division while clearing the heavy concentration of antiaircraft fire, he boldly attacked 6 enemy bombers, engaged the first 4 in turn and, unaided, shot down all in flames. Exhausting his ammunition as he closed the fifth Japanese bomber, he relentlessly drove his attack against terrific opposition which partially disabled his engine, shattered the windscreen and slashed his face. In spite of this, he brought his battered plane down with skillful precision in the water off Tulagi without further injury. The superb airmanship and tenacious fighting spirit which enabled 1st Lt. Swett to destroy 7 enemy bombers in a single flight were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

A sign of the times


H/T to Tam.

RIP: Bob May

Bob May
4 Sep 1939 - 18 Jan 2009

ZUI this article from CBC News:
Veteran Hollywood actor and stuntman Bob May, best known for playing the Robot in 1960s TV hit Lost in Space, has died at age 69.

He died Sunday in a hospital in Lancaster, Calif., of congestive heart failure, according to his daughter, Deborah.


Though it was announcer Dick Tufeld who ultimately provided Robot's voice — famed for the line "Danger, Will Robinson!") — May still developed a fan following that showed its appreciation when he made appearances at memorabilia shows and conventions.

May is survived by his wife, Judith, two children and four grandchildren.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch has an article here, and May's website can be found here.

I remember watching the first episode of Lost in Space, back in 1965. It was a cliff-hanger - and of course I missed the next episode, picking up again the following week. The robot was my favourite character.

RIP: Beatrice Farve

Beatrice Scarlett Farve
30 Apr 1895 – 19 Jan 2009

ZUI this article from the Macon (GA) Telegraph:
A woman considered to be the second oldest person in the world has died at 113 years old.

Beatrice Farve died Monday in Brunswick, Ga., her daughter, Joan Farve, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. She became the second-oldest person earlier this month with the death of 115-year-old Maria de Jesus of Portugal, said Robert Young, a senior gerontology consultant for the Guinness Book of World Records.


Farve was born Beatrice Scarlett in Camden County, Ga., in 1895. Her family says she sold beauty products until she was 100.

She married Dennis Farve in 1921 and had five children. They are all still living, Joan Farve said, declining to give her own age.

Wikipedia has an article here.

She is the fourth supercentenarian listed by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) to die since the death of Maria de Jesus on 2 January. The other three were Manuela Fernandez-Fojaco of Spain (18 Jun 1895-6 Jan 2009), Myrtle Jones of Australia (18 Apr 1897-12 Jan 2009) and Takashi Hattori of Japan (12 Mar 1898-12 Jan 2009).

The GRG's list of validated living supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday) currently includes 89 people (7 men and 82 women), ranging from Gertrude Baines of California (born 6 Apr 1894) to Romanie Pollet of Belgium (born 21 Dec 1898). According to the GRG, the second-oldest person in the US is now Mary Josephine Ray of New Hampshire (born 17 May 1895), the world's third-oldest person. Besse Cooper (born 26 Aug 1896), the world's 19th-oldest person, is now the oldest resident of Georgia.

18 January 2009

Victoria Cross: Bromley, Stubbs and Grimshaw


Captain (temporary Major), 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers

Born: 19 September 1878, Seaford, Sussex
Died: 13 August 1915, Aegean Sea, aboard HM Troopship Royal Edward


Serjeant, 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers

Born: 12 March 1888, Walworth, London
Died: 25 April 1915, 'W' Beach, Gallipoli, Turkey


Corporal, 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Born: 20 January 1893, Abram, Wigan, Lancashire
Died: 20 July 1980, Isleworth, London

Citation: His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officer and Non-Commissioned Officers of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, in recognition of most conspicuous bravery displayed:–
Capt. (temp Maj.) Cuthbert Bromley (since drowned).
No. 1506 Sjt. Frank Edward Stubbs (since died of wounds).
No. 2609 Cpl. (now Sjt.) John Grimshaw.
On the 25th April, 1915, headquarters and three companies of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by very deadly fire from hidden machine guns, which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.
Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Captain Bromley, Serjeant Stubbs, and Corporal Grimshaw have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.
The above awards of the Victoria Cross are to be read in conjunction with those conferred on the undermentioned for most conspicuous bravery on the same occasion:–
Capt. Richard Raymond Willis, 1st Bn., Lan. Fus.
No. 1293 Sjt. Alfred Richards, 1st Bn., Lan. Fus.
No. 1809 Pte. William Keneally, 1st Bn., Lan. Fus.
See London Gazette, dated 24th August, 1915.
Note.–Consequent on the award of the Victoria Cross the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to No. 2609 Sjt. John Grimshaw, 1st Bn., Lan. Fus., which was published in the London Gazette dated 16th November, 1915, is hereby cancelled.

(London Gazette issue 29985 dated 15 Mar 1917, published 13 Mar 1917.)

Note: Bromley, Stubbs and Grimshaw were elected under Rule 13 of the Royal Warrant of 29 January 1856. For the award to Willis, Richards and Keneally, see here.
Royal Edward was torpedoed by the German UB 14 (Oblt z S Heino von Heimburg).

Medal of Honor: H. H. Hanneken


Sergeant (later Second Lieutenant), US Marine Corps; First Provisional Brigade of Marines (Gendarmerie d'Haiti)

Born: 23 June 1893, St Louis, Missouri
Died: 23 August 1986, LaJolla, California

Citation: For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in actual conflict with the enemy near Grande Riviere, Republic of Haiti, on the night of 31 October-1 November 1919, resulting in the death of Charlemagne Peralte, the supreme bandit chief in the Republic of Haiti, and the killing, capture, and dispersal of about 1,200 of his outlaw followers. 2d Lt. Hanneken not only distinguished himself by his excellent judgment and leadership but also unhesitatingly exposed himself to great personal danger when the slightest error would have forfeited not only his life but the lives of the detachments of gendarmerie under his command. The successful termination of his mission will undoubtedly prove of untold value to the Republic of Haiti.

16 January 2009

Australian VC awarded for Afghan service

Left to right: The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Prime Minister of Australia; Keith Payne VC; Tpr Mark Donaldson VC; Mrs Emma Donaldson and daughter Kaylee; and Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AC, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

ZUI this article from Bloomberg.com:
An Australian special forces soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross, the nation’s highest military honor, for courage during a firefight with Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

Trooper Mark Donaldson deliberately drew enemy fire away from his wounded colleagues and rescued an Afghan interpreter when coalition forces were ambushed in Uruzgan province in September last year, according to the Ministry of Defence.


Donaldson is the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia, which replaced the Imperial Victoria Cross in 1991. It is awarded for “conspicuous gallantry,” acts of valor or self-sacrifice and “extreme devotion to duty.”

The Imperial Victoria Cross was awarded to 96 Australians, most recently in 1969 to Warrant Officer Keith Payne for gallantry during the Vietnam War.

ZUI also this article from the Sydney Morning Herald:
For two hours, bullets and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on Mark Donaldson and his fellow soldiers. The coalition convoy had been attacked as it travelled through Oruzgan Province in Afghanistan, and many men died.

All they could do was shoot back. Trooper Donaldson ran between positions, firing his rifle, launching anti-armour weapons and exposing himself to enemy fire to draw attention away from wounded soldiers.

As coalition vehicles moved away from the ambush, he ran next to them so the injured men could sit inside. But when they reached safety, Trooper Donaldson realised that a badly wounded interpreter had been left behind.

He ran 80 metres back, exposing himself to "intense and accurate" machine-gun fire to rescue the interpreter. He carried him to a vehicle and performed first aid before returning to the fight.


The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said Trooper Donaldson's actions were the stuff of legend. The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, called him an inspiration.

After receiving the award from Ms Bryce at Government House in Canberra, little more than four months after the ambush, the serving soldier said he did not see himself as a hero.

"I see myself as a soldier first and foremost and that's it … I don't wear this just for my action; it's also for my mates that were there and my mates that are also serving now."

And ZUI this media release from the Australian Department of Defence:
The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, today saluted Trooper Mark Donaldson as he became the first Australian in almost forty years to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said the Victoria Cross for Australia was the nation’s highest military honour and was presented only to those who displayed the most conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy.

“Today is a momentous day for the Australian Defence Force and for Trooper Donaldson,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.


Air Chief Marshal Houston said tradition held that even the most senior officer saluted a Victoria Cross recipient as a mark respect for their act of valour.

“It will be my great honour from this day forth to salute Trooper Mark Donaldson, VC,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.

Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, congratulated Trooper Donaldson on behalf of all members of the Australian Army.

An Australian government fact sheet regarding the Victoria Cross for Australia can be found here.
The Victoria Cross for Australia was introduced as part of the Australian honours system in 1991. It replaced the Imperial Victoria Cross. The Imperial Victoria Cross was created by The Queen in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimea War.

Until the Victoria Cross for Australia was created in 1991, Australians were eligible for the Victoria Cross and other awards under the Imperial system of honours. As yet no Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded.

The Imperial Victoria Cross has been awarded to 96 Australians. Ninety received the Victoria Cross while serving with Australian units and six received the award while serving with other units.


The most recent Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross was Warrant Officer Keith Payne VC for gallantry during the Vietnam War (24 May 1969).

In addition to Tpr Donaldson, there are now nine surviving VC holders:
WO Tul Bahadur Pun VC, 6th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1944
Flt Lt John A Cruickshank VC, RAFVR - North Atlantic, 1944
Hav Lachhiman Gurung VC, 8th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1945
Pte Edward Kenna VC, Australian Imperial Force - New Guinea, 1945
Sgt William Speakman VC, The Black Watch - Korea, 1951
Capt Ram Bahadur Limbu VC MVO, 10th Gurkha Rifles - Borneo, 1965
WO Keith Payne VC OAM, Australian Army - Vietnam, 1969
Pte Johnson G Beharry VC, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment - Iraq, 2004
Cpl Bill H Apiata VC, New Zealand SAS - Afghanistan, 2004

Update 1154 23 Jan 09: ZUI also this article from the Canberra Times ("Display of courage: latest VC on show"), this one from the Sydney Morning-Herald ("Grateful nation has a go at killing VC with kindness") and this one from The Age ("Guardians' hearts swell at young man who overcame").

Update 1211 7 Feb 09: ZUI also this article from The Australian:
The war is over for SAS trooper Mark Donaldson. If history is any guide, being awarded the nation's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, is the kiss of death for a career in frontline service.

Donaldson, 29, who last month became Australia's first Victoria Cross recipient in 40 years after saving a wounded army interpreter while under enemy fire in southern Afghanistan in September, has requested a return to the battlefield.

But like his Kiwi counterpart SAS Corporal Willie Apiata, who has worked as an SAS instructor in New Zealand since he was awarded the VC in 2007 for saving a comrade in Afghanistan, his fighting days seem to be over. They are casualties of their unexpected fame as recipients of the venerated decoration.

Former special forces warrant officer Keith Payne, the previous Australian to be awarded the VC, said his request to return to combat operations in Vietnam, after he was awarded the medal for leading 40 wounded soldiers to safety while under heavy enemy fire in 1969, was refused.


Defence also played down any notion of an imminent return to active service for Trooper Donaldson, who, along with Mr Payne, 75, and World War II VC winner Edward Kenna, 89, is one of only three living Australian recipients of the award.

Trooper Donaldson is keen to return to work with the SASR. However, any date for that return is being influenced by the current media and public interest in him being awarded the VC," a spokeswoman said. "Trooper Donaldson's future employment will be managed carefully."

This week, Australia's 97th bearer of the VC was back at regiment headquarters at Swanbourne Barracks in Perth, attempting to resume life as an elite Digger.

Photograph © Commonwealth of Australia 2009. Other photos can be found here.

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


Trooper, Australian Special Air Service

Born: 2 April 1979, Waratah, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Died: TBD

Citation: For most conspicuous acts of gallantry in action in a circumstance of great peril in Afghanistan as part of the Special Operations Task Group during Operation SLIPPER, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
Trooper Mark Gregor Donaldson enlisted into the Australian Army on 18 June 2002. After completing Recruit and Initial and Employment Training he was posted to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. Having successfully completed the Special Air Service Selection Course in April 2004, Trooper Donaldson was posted to Special Air Service Regiment in May 2004.
On 2 September 2008, during the conduct of a fighting patrol, Trooper Donaldson was travelling in a combined Afghan, US and Australian vehicle convoy that was engaged by a numerically superior, entrenched and coordinated enemy ambush. The ambush was initiated by a high volume of sustained machine gun fire coupled with the effective use of rocket propelled grenades. Such was the effect of the initiation that the combined patrol suffered numerous casualties, completely lost the initiative and became immediately suppressed. It was over two hours before the convoy was able to establish a clean break and move to an area free of enemy fire.
In the early stages of the ambush, Trooper Donaldson reacted spontaneously to regain the initiative. He moved rapidly between alternate positions of cover engaging the enemy with 66mm and 84mm anti-armour weapons as well as his M4 rifle. During an early stage of the enemy ambush, he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to draw attention to himself and thus away from wounded soldiers. This selfless act alone bought enough time for those wounded to be moved to relative safety.
As the enemy had employed the tactic of a rolling ambush, the patrol was forced to conduct numerous vehicle manoeuvres, under intense enemy fire, over a distance of approximately four kilometres to extract the convoy from the engagement area. Compounding the extraction was the fact that casualties had consumed all available space within the vehicles. Those who had not been wounded, including Trooper Donaldson, were left with no option but to run beside the vehicles throughout. During the conduct of this vehicle manoeuvre to extract the convoy from the engagement area, a severely wounded coalition force interpreter was inadvertently left behind. Of his own volition and displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Trooper Donaldson moved alone, on foot, across approximately 80 metres of exposed ground to recover the wounded interpreter. His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.
On subsequent occasions during the battle, Trooper Donaldson administered medical care to other wounded soldiers, whilst continually engaging the enemy.
Trooper Donaldson’s acts of exceptional gallantry in the face of accurate and sustained enemy fire ultimately saved the life of a coalition force interpreter and ensured the safety of the other members of the combined Afghan, US and Australian force. Trooper Donaldson’s actions on this day displayed exceptional courage in circumstances of great peril. His actions are of the highest accord and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Special Operations Command, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

Methane detected on Mars

ZUI this NASA press release:
A team of NASA and university scientists has achieved the first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. This discovery indicates the planet is either biologically or geologically active.

The team found methane in the Martian atmosphere by carefully observing the planet throughout several Mars years with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility and the W.M. Keck telescope, both at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The team used spectrometers on the telescopes to spread the light into its component colors, as a prism separates white light into a rainbow. The team detected three spectral features called absorption lines that together are a definitive signature of methane.

"Methane is quickly destroyed in the Martian atmosphere in a variety of ways, so our discovery of substantial plumes of methane in the northern hemisphere of Mars in 2003 indicates some ongoing process is releasing the gas," said Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "At northern mid-summer, methane is released at a rate comparable to that of the massive hydrocarbon seep at Coal Oil Point in Santa Barbara, Calif." Mumma is lead author of a paper describing this research that will appear in Science Express on Thursday.

Methane, four atoms of hydrogen bound to a carbon atom, is the main component of natural gas on Earth. Astrobiologists are interested in these data because organisms release much of Earth's methane as they digest nutrients. However, other purely geological processes, like oxidation of iron, also release methane.

"Right now, we do not have enough information to tell whether biology or geology -- or both -- is producing the methane on Mars," Mumma said. "But it does tell us the planet is still alive, at least in a geologic sense. It is as if Mars is challenging us, saying, 'hey, find out what this means.' "


It is possible a geologic process produced the Martian methane, either now or eons ago. On Earth, the conversion of iron oxide into the serpentine group of minerals creates methane, and on Mars this process could proceed using water, carbon dioxide and the planet's internal heat. Although there is no evidence of active volcanism on Mars today, ancient methane trapped in ice cages called clathrates might be released now.

"We observed and mapped multiple plumes of methane on Mars, one of which released about 19,000 metric tons of methane," said co-author Geronimo Villanueva of the Catholic University of America in Washington. "The plumes were emitted during the warmer seasons, spring and summer, perhaps because ice blocking cracks and fissures vaporized, allowing methane to seep into the Martian air."

According to the team, the plumes were seen over areas that show evidence of ancient ground ice or flowing water. Plumes appeared over the Martian northern hemisphere regions such as east of Arabia Terra, the Nili Fossae region, and the south-east quadrant of Syrtis Major, an ancient volcano about 745 miles across.

Any volunteers to go investigate in person?

Could extinct beasts walk the Earth again?

ZUI this article from New Scientist:
The recipe for making any creature is written in its DNA. So last November, when geneticists published the near-complete DNA sequence of the long-extinct woolly mammoth, there was much speculation about whether we could bring this behemoth back to life.

Creating a living, breathing creature from a genome sequence that exists only in a computer's memory is not possible right now. But someone someday is sure to try it, predicts Stephan Schuster, a molecular biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and a driving force behind the mammoth genome project.

So besides the mammoth, what other extinct beasts might we coax back to life? Well, it is only going to be possible with creatures for which we can retrieve a complete genome sequence. Without one, there is no chance.


The genomes of several extinct species besides the mammoth are already being sequenced, but turning these into living creatures will not be easy (see "Revival recipe"). "It's hard to say that something will never ever be possible," says Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, "but it would require technologies so far removed from what we currently have that I cannot imagine how it would be done."

(Links in the paragraphs quoted above are those provided in the original article.)

The ten* creatures which the article suggests as possibilities for resurrection are:
Sabre-toothed tiger (Smilodon fatalis)
Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis)
Short-faced bear (Arctodus simus)
Tasmanian tiger** (Thylacinus cynocephalus)
Glyptodon (Doedicurus clavicaudatus)
Woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis)
Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)
Giant ground sloth (Megatherium americanum)
Moa (Dinornis robustus)
Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus)
Giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis)

The woolly rhinoceros and the thylacine are listed as having the best chance of suitable DNA preservation, while the Neanderthal and the woolly rhino have the best chance of finding a surrogate mother to bear the first generation.

The gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) is also listed as a possibility - they're not extinct yet, but they're getting there. There are already samples of their DNA being preserved, and chimpanzees would make good surrogates.

Personally, I'd most like to see the mammoths, rhinos, sabre-tooths, short-faced bears and sloths brought back. As for animals not included in this list, I'd really, really like to see a living Titanotylopus nebraskensis.

* According to the article, but eleven by my count.
** Also known as the thylacine and the Tasmanian wolf.

14 January 2009

Been there, done that

Been there, done that

SvalbardSpainUnited States of AmericaAntarcticaSouth GeorgiaFalkland IslandsBoliviaPeruEcuadorColombiaVenezuelaGuyanaSurinameFrench GuianaBrazilParaguayUruguayArgentinaChileGreenlandCanadaUnited States of AmericaUnited States of AmericaIsraelJordanCyprusQatarUnited Arab EmiratesOmanYemenSaudia ArabiaIraqAfghanistanTurkmenistanIranSyriaSingaporeChinaMongoliaPapua New GuineaBruneiIndonesiaMalaysiaMalaysiaTiawanPhilippinesVietnamCambodiaLaosThailandBurmaBangladeshSri LankaIndiaBhutanNepalPakistanAfghanistanTurkmenistanTajikistanKyrgyzstanUzbekistanJapanNorth KoreaSouth KoreaRussiaKazakhstanRussiaMontenegroPortugalAzerbaijanArmeniaGeorgiaUkraineMoldovaBelarusRomaniaBulgariaMacedoniaSerbiaBosonia & HerzegovinaTurkeyGreeceAlbaniaCroatiaHungarySlovakiaSloveniaMaltaSpainPortugalSpainFranceItalyItalyAustriaSwitzerlandBelgiumFranceIrelandUnited KingdomNorwaySwedenFinlandEstoniaLatviaLithuaniaRussiaPolandCzech RepublicGermanyDenmarkThe NetherlandsIcelandEl SalvadorGuatemalaPanamaCosta RicaNicaraguaHondurasBelizeMexicoTrinidad & TobagoPuerto RicoDominican RepublicHaitiJamaicaThe BahamasCubaVanuatuAustraliaSolomon IslandsFijiNew CaledoniaNew ZealandEritreaEthiopiaDjiboutiSomaliaKenyaUgandaTanzaniaRwandaBurundiMadagascarNamibiaBotswanaSouth AfricaLesothoSwazilandZimbabweMozambiqueMalawiZambiaAngolaDemocratic Repbulic of CongoRepublic of CongoGabonEquatorial GuineaCentral African RepublicCameroonNigeriaTogoGhanaBurkina FassuCote d'IvoireLiberiaSierra LeoneGuineaGuinea BissauThe GambiaSenegalMaliMauritaniaNigerWestern SaharaSudanChadEgyptLibyaTunisiaMoroccoAlgeria

Map Legend: 8%, 23 of 263 Territories


USS Olympia (SSN 717) 1983-1989

USS Simon Lake (AS 33) 1989-1992

USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) 1993-1995

USS Providence (SSN 719) 1998-2003

BahrainCanadaEgyptFranceGibraltarGuamGreeceHong KongItalyJapanKorea, SouthNorwayPanamaPortugalPhilippinesPuerto RicoSloveniaSpainUnited Arab EmiratesThailandUnited KingdomUnited StatesVirgin Islands