Thursday, June 30, 2016

Linky Links

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

- Interesting Vegas casino heist story

- Heh heh

- Simple recipe for financial well-being

- Fantastic profile of Howie Long from back in 1985

- 70 years later, red seat HR still awes

Gettysburg Remembered

One hundred and fifty-three years ago to this very day Confederate forces under the command of General Robert E. Lee were massed on one side of a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg while Union forces under newly appointed General George Meade were amassed on the other side of the small town. Over the next three days these forces were to fight arguably the most important battle in the history of the United States. Yet today you will hear very little mentioned of the battle in either the newspapers or on TV. 

Why was this the most important battle in the history of the United States? 

General Lee had come North out of Virginia to find the Army of the Potomac and to beat it in open battle. If he was able to accomplish this – then Confederate President Jefferson Davis was to give Abraham Lincoln an offer of peace. 

If Lincoln accepted this offer of peace then the country would have forevermore been divided into two nations. If Lincoln refused the offer of peace (which he would have) – then chances are that Lincoln would have lost his bid for re-election to the Presidency. His opponent General McClellan would have accepted the peace plan if elected and again – the nation would forevermore have been divided. 

Think of the implications: 

· How much longer would slavery had survived? Would it still exist today? 

· Would a Spanish Mexico and an English Canada have taken over what are now the Western States? 

· Would Nazi Germany been stoppable in WWII without a “united” United States? 

· Would Communism have been defeated without a “united” United States? 

Luckily we did not have to find out because Jeb Stuart did not return in time to inform General Lee of the Union’s strength; because General Heth ignored Lee’s order to not engage the enemy on the first day; because General Ewell lost his nerve and did not attack and take the high ground when he had the chance and because Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine made their heroic stand on Little Round Top. 

The North won the battle and went on to win the war. For that – we are thankful. 

Months later after the battle, on November 19, 1863, a somber President Lincoln made the following speech: 
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.
Now it’s a 153 years later and you would be hard pressed to find mention of the battle anywhere. Funny – Lincoln thought we would remember the battle and forget his speech but the opposite has occurred. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The United States has always been a forward-looking nation. We tend to dream of the future instead of dwelling on our past. It is one of our strengths. 

Still - we should remember the sacrifice men made today and the next three days 153 years ago to preserve for us the great Nation we have today. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

Happy 90th birthday to comedy genius Mel Brooks... Heh heh... Watched a Dennis Miller comedy special from 2003 called The Raw Feed last night. Let me just say Miller's comedy doesn't stand up very well... Heh heh... Just a reminder - live every week like it's Shark Week!... Is this a subtle swipe at Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America?...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Books

It's that time of year again for me to break out my well worn copy of Michael Shaara's masterpiece The Killer Angels. The book is a slightly fictionalized account of the Battle of Gettysburg which began June 30, 1863. One of my favorite books of all-time and a I book I think every high school senior should required to read.

Once done with The Killer Angels next up with be Michael Herr's classic Dispatches. Normally I don't read books I have already read back-to-back but with the passing of Michael Herr I feel the need to make an exception. Even if you haven't read Dispatches you may be familiar with Herr's work as one of the screenwriters of Full Metal Jacket.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Linky Links

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

- Some interesting perspective on Brexit from Gary Kasparov

- Heh heh - speaking of Brexit

- An uncertain future for Earth's largest telescope

- This is a problem elected officials should make a priority instead of their hissy fit sit-ins - mental illness and civil liberties. What can you do for a person with obvious mental health issues but who refuses help?

- I LOVE this story! Maine's First Lady gets a summer job as a waitress to help with household income. Good for her (although Maine really should pay their Governor more)

- It's official - Switzerland now has the best coffee shops in the world!

Secrets of Quantum Physics


Recently watched the two-part BBC science documentary The Secrets of Quantum Physics. I highly recommend it. Fascinating - especially the discussion on quantum biology. The show is available on Amazon Prime. Fascinating!

Jim Al-Khalili may just be my favorite science host. 

Custer's Last Stand

Yesterday was the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn also known as Custer's Last Stand.

The lasting image I have when I think of Custer's Last Stand is the comic portrayal of Custer by Richard Mulligan in the greatly underrated movie Little Big Man.

My favorite historical oddity about the Battle of Little Big is the fact that the Battle also marks the death of George Custer's young brother Thomas Custer. What's odd about that? Thomas Custer was one of the few two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winners in US history. Nobody remembers Thomas Custer though.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

What if the drop in the British Pound was not due to the Brexit vote but due to the Led Zeppelin verdict instead?... Heh heh... On this day in 1916 the Battle of the Somme began. Over 1 million shells would be fired... Half Digested Peanuts would be a good name for a fantasy baseball team or band... Another reminder that things are different in Russia... "In the future everyone will be Oakland's Chief of Police for 15 minutes" - Andy Warhol... So does this mean Global Warming is over?...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

John Harvard, Ungutted Mackerel and Goat Dung

You may recognize the name John Harvard as belonging to the man for whom Harvard University was named. Did you know that he had no real connection to the school? He wasn't a founder, he wasn't a teacher, he wasn't even a student.

John Harvard's connection to the fledgling university in Cambridge, Mass. was via Nathaniel Eaton who was Harvard's schoolmate back in England and a friend with whom Harvard had sailed to "the New World". John Harvard died in 1638 of tuberculosis and because he liked what his friend Eaton was doing as the first "master" of the newly formed college in Cambridge - John Harvard bequeathed his library of 400 books and a pretty good sum of money. Because of the size of the gift - the good people of the Bay Colony named their university after him.

If Harvard died a year later - everything might have been different because his friend Eaton was fired.

Nathaniel Eaton was fired in 1639 in part because he was a stern taskmaster who beat his students but he was fired mostly because his wife was a lousy cook.

Like today - students paid for not just an education but also for room and board. Back then all the students and the teachers lived under the same roof and the wife of the master provided the meals. Eaton's wife was a lousy provider.

At the hearing there were allegations that Eaton's wife provided no beef and instead served ungutted mackerel (an allegation she denied) and that there was goat dung in her hasty pudding (another allegation she denied). Personally I think Eaton's wife would have been all set if she just served the students more beer (students haven't changed all that much).

So if Harvard died a year later - would he still have bequeathed the money to the college that fired his friend? Would the school have a different name today? Wouldn't "Ungutted Mackerel" be a good name for a band? Will you be able to think of Harvard's Hasty Pudding Award without thinking of the words "goat dung" from now on? Inquiring minds want to know.