Friday, February 23, 2018

Iwo Jima

Today is the anniversary of the iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal of raising of the American flag on Mount Suribashi on Iwo Jima. The fighting on the island actually started four days earlier on February 19th. The story of this battle is something every high school student should have to learn before they are allowed to graduate.

Semper Fidelis.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Do You Believe in Miracles

38-years ago today.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

Congratulations to the USA Women's Hockey Team on their Gold Medal victory last night over Canada. I could watch the game-winning shootout goal over and over (in fact I have)... I think the crisis of faith in the Catholic Church stems from the fact such a big deal is made over First Communion, But second communion not so much. That's when things start to go off the rails... You might think you've had a cool conversation with a friend but you'll never be as cool as Major John Glenn and Captain Ted Williams discussing flying tactics in Korea cool... If you raped Peter Pan could you be charged with statutory rape? Or could you be charged with elder abuse? How old is Peter Pan? Asking for a friend... Heh heh - no lollipop for you Ray Bourque (I bet Ray is a fantastic grandpa)... Red Sox are paying Pablo Sandoval $18 million not to play in Boston this year. The Yankees are paying Jacoby Ellsbury $21 million each year for the next three years to be a pinch runner. Advantage Boston...  So cool - after last night's game someone changed Maddie Rooney's position from Goalie to US Secretary of Defense...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- Illustrated Periodic Table shows how we regularly interact with each element. I still say the Periodic Table is one of science's great achievements.

- Saddened to hear this news about Tiny Archibald.

- If true this is really disappointing on the part of NOAA. Eroding trust in science and government at the same time.

- Who knew?

- Interesting look at how 40-years ago Israel basically changed from being a socialist nation to a capitalist one and how that change has made all the difference.

- One of the most persuasive arguments I ever read FOR taking PED's. Sadly the author Andrew Tilin recently died when he was hit by a car while biking.

- National Geographic's Photo of the Year.

102nd Anniversary of the Battle of Verdun

Today marks the the 102nd anniversary of one of the events that changed the world forever. On February 21st in 1916 - the Battle of Verdun began. The battle was to change the course of Western Civilization. 

The idea for the battle was from German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn. He believed that if he could take-out France with a major set battle and discourage England to a point that Germany could be in a position to negotiate very favorable terms. To accomplish his goals - Falkenhayn proposed unrestricted submarine warfare to starve Britain and a knockout blow against France at Verdun. With this major battle at Verdun, Falkenhayn hoped to "bleed France white".

It was an ambitious plan - an aggressive plan. Falkenhayn knew that to attack at Verdun he'd have to take resources away from the Eastern Front and that unrestricted submarine warfare ran the risk of bringing the U.S. into the war. Falkenhayn reasoned that Russia was on the brink of revolution and internal civil war in Russia would allow them to take those resources from the Eastern Front and that the decisive blow to France would come before the US was dragged into the war. He was right on the former but wrong on the latter.

Verdun seemed the perfect place to attack. It actually jutted out into the German lines - so it could be attacked from three sides. It was also of historical and psychological significance to Frenchmen (somewhat akin to what the Alamo is to Americans).

The job of attacking Verdun fell to German Crown Prince Wilhelm. He planned to assault the town from both side of the surrounding Meuse River but that plan vetoed by Falkenhayn. After coming up with a daring, aggressive plan - Falkenhayn was suddenly cautious. Falkenhayn ordered the attack to be confined to one side of the river. Similar to a poker game, Falkenhayn was beaten on the river. Falkenhayn had pocket Aces of a plan but he failed to put enough chips at risk to drive the other player out. By not being aggressive when he should have he gave France free cards and allowed himself and Germany to literally be beaten on the river.

With so many people who eventually died in the battle, a poker analogy may seem flip but the fact is the Germans had one million troops against 200,000 defenders. They did hold Aces before the battle.

When the attack finally began, the Germans bombarded Verdun with 1,400 guns that rained Verdun with 100,000 shells every hour. The Germans failed to immediately follow up the bombardment with an full-scale infantry attack and what resulted was a stalemate which was to last for months and months.

The dead and wounded from both sides piled up so that both countries were being "bled white". The French begged Britain to open up a diversionary attack elsewhere on the Western Front to drain resources and men away from Verdun on the German side. Thus the Battle of the Somme was born. 

By the time the battle of Verdun ended almost one million casualties had been inflicted in roughly equal numbers for both sides. The Battle of the Somme resulted in about 1.1 million casualties (about 400,000 British, 200,000 French and 500,000 German). The unrestricted submarine warfare resulted in the Americans being dragged into the War (remember that President Woodrow Wilson was elected on a peace platform). The American joined the fight just as both sides were literally exhausted from being "bled white" from Verdun and the Somme and the rest is history (including the harsh terms imposed on Germany that led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Case of the Poison Apple

While reading the book The Strangest Man (The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom) I came across this surprising paragraph;
In the early autumn of 1925, he [Patrick Blackett] tutored Oppenheimer at the laboratory bench, teaching him the craft of experimental physics, for which Oppenheimer had little aptitude, as he well knew. With the peculiar logic of neurosis, Oppenheimer decided to get his own back by anonymously leaving on Blackett's desk an apple poisoned with chemicals from the laboratory. Blackett survived but the authorities were outraged and Oppenheimer avoided expulsion from the university only after his parents  persuaded the university not to press charges but to put him on probation, on the understanding that he would have regular sessions with a psychiatrist. 
Oppenheimer is famous in history for saying "I have become death, destroyer of worlds" after the explosion of the atomic bomb. Who knew that in graduate school at Cambridge he also almost became the evil queen poisoner of apples?

Can you imagine how the history of the 20th century could have been much different if in 1925 J. Robert Oppenheimer was put in jail for attempted murder?

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- I've always fantasized about living in a treehouse (or a sailboat)

- The dirty truth about hand dryers. I hate hand dryers. Bring back paper towels!

- Not all Olympic heroes wear capes

- Bad news for network TV and newspapers - Google and Facebook are dominating the ad business

- Heh heh - Black Panther spoiler

- When the Russians first spoke about American "useful idiots" it is people like Michael Moore they had in mind.

- Austin Carr is a good person

Religious Affiliations of the Super Heroes

I found this very interesting.

Who knew that Batman was a lapsed Catholic who is now an Episcopalian? It was easy to guess that Catholic Girl was Catholic (how come there's no Catholic Avenger? That would be a cool name for the Pope's alter ego and while I'm rambling - who ever heard of Catholic Girl?). But did you know that Ben Grimm (the Thing from the Fantastic Four) is Jewish? Magneto (the X-Men super villian) is also Jewish.

The funniest one I thought was J. Jonah Jameson who is the employer of Peter Parker. His religious affiliation is listed as "hates Spider-man". I just found that amusing.

Here are some of the major super heros / villians and their religious affiliations:

Superman - Methodist 
Spider-Man - Protestant 
Batman - Episcopalian/Catholic (lapsed)
Lex Luthor - Nietzschian atheist (I would have guessed Lutheran)
The Joker - atheist

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bon Scott

On this day back in 1980 Bon Scott died - some say he choked on his own vomit but his death certificate says "death by misadventure" (wouldn't that be a great name for a band?). Anyway - here are what I consider the top 5 AC/DC songs with Bon Scott as frontman.

1. It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)
2. Whole Lotta Rosie
3. Highway to Hell
4. Jailbreak
5. (tie) TNT (tie) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) may be the most perfect hard rock song ever recorded. There is no way to improve on that song. Not many people know this but Bon Scott wasn't even the original lead singer for AC/DC. It was a guy named Dave Evans who Scott replaced after about a year

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- Interesting interview with Dr. Spencer Wells - the man who basically created the commercial market for ancestral DNA testing.

- Not sure if Boston has the requisite number of strip clubs

- Further argument for the legalization of drugs

- What SpaceX means for space exploration. We are looking at a giant step forward.

- Basic mountain bike maintenance

- 12 people you might not have known were Olympians

- Heh heh

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

Used to be a big fan of NBA All-Star weekend. Now I probably won't see one second of the 3-point contest, dunk contest or actual game... I love the idea of Pedro Martinez being more involved and hands-on with the pitchers at Spring Training for the Red Sox... Subterranean Beavers would be a good name for a band... This week I was having lunch at a Japanese restaurant when I notice the movie Pearl Harbor was playing on the TV's in the background. I was amused by that (but also slightly uncomfortable)... It has to be said that the world has really gone to hell since the passing of Abe Vigoda. Was he some sort of sentinel guarding the gates of chaos or something?... I really want one of these trucks... A blonde is a blonde. A brunette is a brunette. A redhead is a redhead. So what do you call a woman with black hair? She's not a "black" and definitely not a "Blackhead". And don't come at me with "raven" because that's a bird or a pro football player from Baltimore... 

Shattered - Eddie Vedder & Jeanne Tripplehorn

This video always makes me smile.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Heroes Who Walk the Earth

Abdullah Shrim has helped free hundreds held by ISIS. You can't help but be full of admiration for this man. A man who risks his life doing what he think is right and what his conscience tells him he MUST do.
"But I think my life is worth nothing compared to a tear from the eye of a 12-year-old girl who has been raped." - Abdullah Shrim
ISIS must and will be destroyed. Our nation also must re-evaluate our relationship with Turkey who either is turning a blind eye to this human slavery or is assisting it.

The United States should be helping people like Abdullah Shrim. And our help MUST be much more tangible than pathetically frowning and holding signs.

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- Skydio R1 - cool technology but I couldn't help but think police might benefit most from the product.

- This is cool! Couldn't help but wonder where the V1 bomb ended up landing though?

- Rob Gronkowski is a good person

- This is true

- Remind me again on why we are in the UN?

- Marc-Andre Fleury is a good person too. Here's the video.

- Who knew? We have a major shrimp trade deficit in the US. Shrimp made up more than 1% of the total US 2017 trade deficit.