Category Archives: Popular Culture

TV Shows to binge-watch 


On Acorn

Antipodian: New Zealand:

800 Words“,  Suddenly a widower, an Australian writer moves with his kids to the NZ village he spent summers in as a kid. Complications ensue. Great stories, charming characters, excellent writing and acting, several seasons.

Brokenwood Mysteries“,  Brokenwood, a medium size town in NZ, gets a new senior detective, colorful but as it happens, good at his job. Slightly flaky-seeming local Maori guy turns out to know everyone and something about everything. He’s like a benificent Trickster god. Detective Sims, 2nd most senior, is the only actual adult in the plain-clthes part of the station.

Antipodian: Australian:

Rain Shadow“, – a former grain-growing area of South Australia now in drought. Perminently? Story follows a young vet from the big city

Crownies“, – Crown Prosecuturs: Ensemble, very long-form stories, each lawyer has multiple cases moving at different points in the system. 
Janet King”  (sequel to Crownies), Crownies refashioned to center on one lawyer in particular, and with a brilliant freienemy mixed in
Jack Irish“. A winning, low-rent PI, only takes cases he wants…
Mr. and Mrs. Murder” – mostly comedy, two crime-scene cleaners show up after the cops are done, but often discover what really happened. The couple are charming and their neice keeps it in the family. The slightly hapless cop they are consistantly bailing out is at least grateful for the help

My Life Is Murder” – A retired ace detective neglects her baking to come back to the force, from time to time, solving crimes her old boss can’t get cleared by anyone else. Stars Lucy Lawless, formerly Xena, Warrior Princess.

Irish:

Striking Out” lawyer drama, wonderful cast and writing- Brief adult situations. 2 seasons!
Finding Joy“, – a lot of the same cast as Striking Out.. Newspaper copy editor suddenly assigned to local-color TV reporter’s beat. Bungie Jumps, New Age retreats. Serious fish out of water.
The miniseries of Tara French’s In The Woods and The Image. Really, really, dark, but gripping.
Jack Taylor” about a former Guardi working as a private investigator. Noir-ish.

British:

No Offense” – perfect cop comedy drama, funny as hell. But bad bad guys are in earnest, dark stuff happens. Story arcs are season-long but each episode has a point and arc of its own. Inspector Deering leads her squad with if-it-isn’t-true-it-ought-to-be-true verve. Mostly.
Ackley Bridge” – luminous comedy / drama about public school for a mixed stone poor Anglo and stone poor Pakistani imigrant/2nd generation community. Colorful cast of teachers and administrators. Superb writing and acting. We didn’t expect a 3rd season, but there is! and we’re enjoying it. Drop dead funny, and heart-breaking when it gets dramatic. An amazing amount of characters and their lives are stuffed into each episode.
Loch Ness“, the protagonist detective is leading her first murder investigation, on the shore and environs of the famous Loch. Her husband does “Nessie” tours for tourists, and gets a bit of education too.
Agatha Raisin” – former fashonista / publicity person moves to the Cotswalds and starts solving murders. The senior local cop is utterly incompitent, but she can work with the junior, and local worthies. Some of the outfits Agatha gets to wear may perimently damage older TVs…
Murder (Investigation) Squad“,  – London- based squad similar to Vera Stanhope’s Northumberland and City bunch- different people with different skills, one old-school white guy in a coat and tie, Inspector is a short, intense woman, her bagwoman is a taller, quieter Mc(something), not quite as driven. This is a DENSE show- You get more in one hour than some 2 hour or multi-part shows.”Line of Duty“. Anti-corruption/internal affairs procedural, in Northern Ireland. Complex plots.”The Good Karma Hospital” British doctor returns (?) to India, running a clinic with volunteer locals, ex-pats and returning migrants. Engaging stories move around the location of the hospital. 

 

Canadian:

19-2” as good as TV gets, but dark. A country cop with back-story moves to Montreal, teams with a city cop who’s former partner was disabled in a horrific shooting. Each has to prove himself to the other, while meeting their own high personal standards. And avoiding the machinations of the creepy captain. Crimes tend to be smaller and involve less gunfire than US cop shows- sometimes they get called for a fight in a bar, and assualts, property crimes, public safety and the usual sorta-organized illegal stuff you expect in a big city. One story starts with a homeless guy who’s outdoors, that the city cop knows. on a clear night that’s going to freeze. He should be indoors… and there-in lies the tale.

We loved the first episode, and thought, “lets have another, even if they can’t all be *that* good”. But they *are* that good. Each better than the one before. Stories build and interconnect. The characters, and the rest of their station (19th precinct, they have car #2) have stuff going on, and histories. Substance abuse, domestic violence, everyone’s stupid problems and the cops own relationship issues offer a range of situations that don’t go as hoped, or planned. There are losses, and hurts that don’t heal quickly.  Yet, after 4 seasons, and the cruel and senseless challenges that most survive, there’s the matter of an out of season deer carcas that the country cop’s brother arrives with one night. Its cleaned and hanging in the back of the tractor-trailer the brother drives for a living.  The short term solution involves packages wrapped in pink butcher’s paper, but one of the cops at the station has a venison pie recipe… and there’s the happy ending!

Scandinavian:

Rebecka Martinsson” A detective from the forest and lakes part of the country is about to marry a guy from the big city, then things get complex and she has to stay where she grew up and get it all sorted out. Beautiful locations, a smaller town with more rural and less agricultural land than Wallander.

Straight Forward” A second-generation con-artist flees Denmark when her father is killed, going to ground in New Zealand and trying to rescue her daughter…

Megahertz Network / Cable channel 17:

Beck” – Swedish detective squad led by older widower, nearing retirement. Comedic relief by his wacky neighor- guy with orange-tinted glasses who always appears with a neck brace, like he just had whiplash… usually meeting inconveniently in the hallway or out on the balconies of their flats. Beck’s squad has a hot-dog guy who’s cynical but a good shot, a female nerd, normalish plainclothes dudes and one  guy clearly descended from Vikings- wild red hair and beard, He’s the emotional one. Beck has a daughter who’s a uniformed cop. Not as bleak as “Wallander,”

Baantjer“: Dutch detective, older guy, younger team, like “Beck”, or “Wallander” come to think of it.

Inspector Manara“: Groovy Italian detective, has a Zappa poster up in his apartment  and plays solo saxaphone to soothe his soul.

 

Animal shows, In order of best and most soothing staff and animals.

Bronx, NY, Zoo: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-zoo/

Chester, UK, Zoo: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/secret-life-of-the-zoo/

Columbus, OH, Zoo: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/secrets-of-the-zoo/

Want more?

Houston, TX, Vet Clinic: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-vet-life/

San Diego, CA, Zoo: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-zoo-san-diego/

Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Aus. : https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/secrets-of-the-zoo-down-under/

The Georgia Aquarium, GA https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-aquarium/

On HBO:

Big Little Lies“, both seasons. Very dark. Spectacular cast and writing, set in Monterey! Extra intense 2nd season goes past the source book and brings in Meryl Streep!

Six Feet Under” The unexpected death of the owner/father of a family morturary in L.A. leaves his widow, their 3 kids and the partner in the business, mourning, and existentially challenged. The painfully disfunctional family have to pull together,  with the partner, to chart their own course for the business. And as idividuals, to build new lives with or without significant others. It takes 63 episodes, in 5 seasons, to figure it out, with one of the coolest end-of-the-last-episode-endings ever made.

Tremé,” set in the neighborhood of the same name in New Orleans, starting some months after Huricane Katrina. The superb cast and writing show how great TV can be made from stories of normal people trying to make a living and stay relatively honest in tragic times. Great food and music never hurt, even when the apocolypse has come and gone. Death is still in business. Love isn’t always enough. But even a character who seems to only be for themself can find some redemption, doing something for someone else.

The Wire“, further proof that good TV is character and story driven. One season follows one character into his new career as a public school teacher. No superheroics, just seemingly hopeless disfunction only occasionally redeemed by small success. Or rare grace. And yet. Andre Royo, the actor who portrays the recovering heroin adict, “Bubbles”, so intensely inhabited his role that people, in Baltamore, would see him on the street and press money on him, because he *was* that character, and that character needed the help. The good guys are good, the bad guys bad, and like any story it has to end. After far too much death and destruction. Besides its quality as art, the practical tutorial on drugs, crime, poverty, hollowed city centers and race is well worth your time.

On PBS:

Masterpiece detective procedurals:

Vera“, “Shetland“, “Broadchurch“,(UK version), “Foyle’s War

Food!:

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” A gentler, “Parts Unknown”: travel+food

KQED’s “Check Please Bay Area”

On PBS and also on Acorn:

BBC’s venerable: “Doctor Who” The new Doctor had her break-out role in Broadchurch (UK).
Endeavor“, – Inspector Morse prequil. Interesting stuff, but the imagined Morse is a bit of a stretch, the senior Inspector he works with is fun, as is the young officer Strange and young medical examiner.
Inspector Lewis“,
Inspector Morse
Last Tango In Halifax“.
New Tricks“, An active duty detective gets assigned to cold cases and recruits 3 retired detectives as her squad. They’re all characters, the cold cases are a wide range, and the retirees change, and then the lead detective, as the seasons run on. Watch from the beginning if you can.

Recently, at our house, on cable TV:

Last week BBC miniseries “Pride and Predjudice”: (Collin Firth)
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – Fred Rogers’ biopic.
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
“The Best of Enemies” (recent, not David Niven WWII movie)
“Pride and Predjudice”: (2005 Kira Knightley)
“A Star is Born” (most recent version)
at a theatre: “Onward”
Before that: “Parasite”
We enjoyed “The Bridge” (Texas/Mexico) and “The Tunnel”, UK/France, both of which are very, very dark, though also very good

Don’t Forget: (From our DVD collection)

“Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With TIme”
“My Neighbor Totoro”
“A Grand Day Out With Wallace and Gromit”
“Porco Rosso”
“Spirited Away”
“Howl’s Moving Castle”
“Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams”
“Tampopo”
“A Taxing Woman”
“Hidden Fortress”
“Seven Samarai”
“Le Mans” (Steve McQueen, 1970 = sequel to “Ford Vs. Ferrari”, in some ways…)
“Endless Summer” (Bruce Brown, mid 1960s)
“The Kids Are Allright” (The Who’s biopic, ending just before Keith Moon’s death)
“The Way Things Go” (31 minute Rube Goldberg machine made of industrial junk in a dis-used industrial space)

 

Stay safe!

Follow up to Dave Itzkoff’s NYT column about his 4 year old and home video, “Yellow Submarine & Me” .


Follow up to Dave Itzkoff’s NYT column about his 4 year old and home video, “Yellow Submarine & Me”  .

(I posted this as a comment on his greeting on Redit. Never been signed up on Redit before. I couldn’t send a message on Twitter and the letters section for the article was closed. I liked what he wrote, I hope he enjoys this additional info.)

Hi Dave, I’m Bill Abbott and I greatly enjoyed your NYT piece about “Yellow Submarine“. My kid, now 22, was also a big fan at that age. Great stuff! Same kid prefers “Help!” to “Hard Day’s Night”. Admittedly, “Help!” has more tigers, and the four attached home front doors leading to one room, with John’s bed below floor level. How I wanted one of those! Same kid offered a Nina Simone song as “what’s going through my mind now” this afternoon. I have no complaints.

Not long after “Yellow Submarine“, we were lucky enough to have another pre-schooler loan us a copy of “My Neighbor Totoro“. We didn’t know the film, didn’t know Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli. But we learned in a hurry! VERY kid friendly, and (spoiler) their mom is in the hospital but gets better! No Hollywood Movie disease! Totoro? You’ll meet the neighbor. You’ll be happy you did.

Then my brother loaned us a VHS of “The Way Things Go“. Its a 31 minuite Rube Goldberg machine made of industrial and consumer junk, in a disused factory setting. One thing knocks into a second, which tips a third, whick pulls a string, which releases a weight that falls on the end of a folded, partially inflated, vinyl boat, which unfolds, starting a tire rolling up (!) a ladder, which hits a second tire, starting it, and then a third, and a forth… you get the idea. Eventually the rhythms of the events , repetitions and variaions become identifyable, and after that, you start seeing the pauses where they had to reload the camera, every 3 minutes to 3:30 or so. I’ve probably seen it 100 times by now. When it ends, the delighted child says, “Again!” So always leave enough time to watch it twice.

Around age 5 or so, the family across the street loaned us a copy of “Spy Kids 2“. There were 3 “Spy Kids” movies, by Robert Rodriguez, and now there’s a fourth. We started with “Spy Kids 2”, because that’s what our neighbors loaned us, and they were right! Like “Night At The Museum 2“, “Spy Kids 2” explains nothing. There are characters. They have relationships. It will be come clear as it goes along. And there aren’t 30 seconds wasted in either film. “Spy Kids 2” has the great cast (Alan Cumming, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Tony Shalhoub.) of the first film, adding Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor as the Kids grandparents, on their mother’s side, a second Spy family, mom, dad, sister, brother, and Steve Beucimi as the mad scientist hiding in the volcano on the invisible island because he’s afraid of the creatures he’s created. Half to himself, he wonders “…if God hides in Heaven because He’s Afraid of what He created.”

“Spy Kids” explains everything, how the Kids parents (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino) work for the OSS, and the kid’s Uncle Machete built the tree house next to their house. You get more explanation about the Cumming and Shalhoub characters. Then truey odd stuff happens, big adventures, and it winds up ok. Takes a while, but OK. That’s nice but its not the one to start with.

Spy Kids 3” involves video games and Sylvester Stalone, not as successful in my opinion. ßtart with “2”, then watch “1”. Be happy.

If you liked “Totoro” then “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is a good second helping.

If you like “The Way Things Go“, there are two follow-ups, “Rendezvous“, “C’était un rendez-vous”, by Claude LeLouch, offers an 8 and a half minute, completely illegal, drive through Paris starting at about 5:30 am, so a man can meet his wife at Sacré-Cœur Basilica A “rendezvous”. They embrace in the headlights of his car. The whole thing is one shot, from the front of the car. What you see is the streets. The stop lights (they are red, the driver doesn’t even lift their right foot). Pidgeons. An early dog-walker, a trash truck. The route includes the courtyard of the Louve, because you used to be able to drive through it.

A second follow-up to “The Way Things Go” is “Rivers and Tides. Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time“. It starts with Goldsworthy up before the sun, in Newfoundland. He has a little cup of water and some icicles, which he breaks into short pieces with angled ends. He is using the water to glue them to a rock, then build a loop that goes out, curves, and returns to the rock. With one loop in place, he goes to the other end of the rock and makes tne next loop, higher. And back and forth. When he’s done, he steps back to take a photograph, and thats when the sun rises. The whole icicle “sewn” back and forth “through” the rock lights up like a Neon lamp. Like Steve Martin’s gag “arrow through the head”.

I had admired Goldsworthy’s work on exhibit around the Bay Area, and in books like “Hand To Earth”, but in the movie, you see an imperinant, temporal side of what he does. He builds something between the low tide and high tide mark, and the water rises and inundates it. He pins together bracken with thorns, and the little puffs of a light wind wrench it appart. All the rest of the film consists of wathching Goldsworthy go out into the wild world, make something with what he finds, take a picture, and leave it. And film of projects he did in the past. He narrates everything. Not every project succeeds. There’s a pinecone-ish shape he likes to build with stones, and he’s trying on a rocky shingle beach, and he hasn’t figured out how to use the rock. It keeps falling. Be talks about it while he works.

Another project is just jaw dropping. He’s drawn to the meandering shape of an old river on a nearly level plain, big loops that will be come oxbows, etc. He draws one in light snow on a frozen stream. He is offered a  wall in a gallery, and he builds a meander on it, using a soft, porus, material, and soaks it with water. Then he covers the whole wall with mud. So its a uniform, hand-smoothed, wall, entirely made of mud. And he lets it dry. Well, part of it dries quickly, there’s no water source under it. But part dries slowly, stays dark, and when it does, eventually dry, its immediately aparent where the meander is because the mud  that dried quickly has one characteristic set of cracking and the mud that dried slowly has a different looking cracking, and the two couldn’t be clearer in their difference. Although both are dried mud, the same dried mud. You can see the shape he wanted to show. How cool is that?

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler / Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater


Thanks to my friend Eric Lindberg, I can report that the content of the 45 rpm “The Ballad of Ronald McDonald“, can be found at “https://beta.prx.org/stories/14394“, from 16:00 to 19:15 or so.

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler

His face painted gayly, young Ronald did ride

All with his soldiers, 2 Shakes and Large Fries

Big Mac he rode with him, and Mayor McCheese

To fight Colonel Sanders, his worst enemy

 

While in the White Castle fair Wendy did stay

She watched all a-tremble her lord ride away

She loved not Lord Ronald, though she was his McBride

Another clown had the franchise on her pride

 

All in the moonlight Jack’s onion rings shone 

To court this fair damsel he’d come all alone

The Taco Bell struck the young lover’s McDoom

As Ronald McDonald stepped into the room.

 

“My burgers are bitter!” young Ronald he cried

as he wiped a McTear from his orange McEye

“I blew-up your boxes, Jack, outsold you too”

“And Wendy, oh Wendy, I did it all for you!”

 

It was not Colonel Mustard in the hall with a knife

That parted the lovers away from their lives

But Ronald McDonald killed them and himself

Crying, “No need to go-o-o anywhere else!”

 

The Burger King found them on the sanitized floor

The blood thick as catsup, it grieved him full sore

He said, “Millions consumed your fast food while they roamed!”

“Now your arches have fallen, we’ll eat burgers at home”

 

This was a single put out by Mr. Kessler but also performed as part of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre shows. He was a member of that comedy troupe. I have the 45 rpm disc, autographed, somewhere, I hope. I meant to keep it.

This song was written and performed by Merle Kessler, and he holds the copyright to it. This publication of the lyrics is intended to keep knowledge of the song alive, and provide a reference for discussion. I assert that this is “fair use” under current law.

The rhythm is 10 syllables, 1,2,3; 12, 3; 12, 3; 1; : da da da, da-da  da, da-da  da,  da

It looks like 4 bars, or  6 groups of notes, per line, repeated 4 times per verse.

 

11/9/18 – add *what* struck the McDoom, then follow Eric’s note and get the rest! Thank you!

11/8/18  – add McDoom line & one after

*Fortunate* Motorcyclist survives driving off cliff


http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/08/11/motorcycle-plunges-off-cliff-santa-monica-mountains-california-orig-trnd-lab.cnn/video/playlists/caught-on-camera/

My comments to CNN:

Cliff-diving motorcyclist Matthew Murray, 27, passes a “25 MPH” advisory sign in the 12th second of CNN’s video clip. This is in the 2nd run through of the crash video. In the 15th second he’s going 68 MPH as he starts to lean into the turn. He’s still going more than 50 MPH as he slides off the pavement and onto the dirt. Text on the screen says something to the effect that he “was following the turn when he thinks his steering locked up”. The video shows no such thing. He was going too fast, and could not turn sharply enough to follow the turn. He started at more than 2.5 times the advised speed. He left the pavement at 2 times the advised speed. His speed “locked” his path, not his steering.

Get the an accurate map of the curve, the size and tread pattern of the motorcycle tires and a description of the motorcycle (make, model, horsepower, brakes,weight-as-crashed) and rider (weight). Give to “Mythbusters”. Have them duplicate the failure, during deceleration, then do a binary search for the steady speed at which a motorcycle on those tires, at that weight, could follow that turn. Braking uses traction, does that change maximum speed?. Find the entry speed, before braking, that would allow the bike to make the turn. Put a GoPro on the bike for comparison pictures, and a second one showing where the front tire touches the road.

Trending up: Windows7, Agile Methodologies, Scrum, Python. Everything else? Down!


Linked-in are now listing ala-carte qualifications which one can endorse one’s acquaintances on, or be endorsed by them. No surprise, 20 people say I’m good at “hardware”, which is my highest endorsement. What I want to draw your attention to here is that if you hover your pointer over each of the possible qualifications, Linked-in will show you a working definition and the year-to-year trend on people who say they do-have-know-practice-are-qualified-in the specific item.

Not so surprising, people saying they know ‘hardware’ are down year on year… also C, C++, software engineering, Perforce, customer support, regression test, unit test, and so forth. VMware is 0% – neither up nor down over last year.

Agile Methodologies are up, Windows 7 is way-up, Python is up, Scrum is up. The other 44 categories, on my list, not including VMware at 0 and Windows 8 which doesn’t have a year on year trend, are down.

So, among people who list qualifications similar to mine, the majority and growth area are Python users, on Windows 7, employing Scrum and Agile project management methods.

Your choice whether that’s:

a) what everyone wants;

b) what people looking for work think they need;

c) some cross section of professionals on Linked-in.

I think its worth noting in passing, but not worth a lot of study. But it is a curiosity.

An example that pleased me: The difference between an abstract class and an interface, in Java:


Here’s the punch line:

In Java, Prussia can extend (“be a”) one of the super-classes, Holy, Roman or  Empire, but only one. Prussia can implement the other two as interfaces, but only with methods and fields uniquely its own. If Prussia is to be Holy, be Roman and be an Empire, the strictly hierarchical relationship of those three super-classes has to be worked out separately and in detail, in advance. I can only imagine Herr von Bismark would approve.

 

And the whole magilla:
1) What is the difference between an interface and an abstract class?

An abstract class defines data (fields) and member functions but may not, itself, be instantiated. Usually, some of the methods of an abstract class are abstract and expected to be supplied by a sub-class, but some of the methods are defined.  Unless they are final, they can be overridden, and they can always be overloaded. Private parts of an abstract super class, for example, data, are not available to a subclass, so access methods (public or protected) must be used by the subclass. An abstract superclass is “extended” by a subclass. A given subclass may only extend one super-class, but a super-class may extend another super-class, in a hierarchy. (This avoids the complexities/difficulties of multiple inheritance in C++)

An interface is a proper subset of an abstract class, but has a different scope and use. An interface has ONLY abstract member functions and static, final, fields, aka constants. Any subclass has to provide all the variable fields and code which implements an interface. The implementing class cannot override the interface’s member signatures – the signatures are what the interface *is*. It is possible to overload an interface’s signatures, adding or subtracting variables, changing return or variable types, but the overloads do not satisfy the requirements of the interface. The implementing class(s) must contain actual member functions to satisfy all of the signatures in the interface, because there is no default, no code in the interface.  As used above, a given class ‘implements’ an interface, it does not ‘extend’ it. These limitations to an interface allow a given class to implement more than one, which retains most of the utility of multiple inheritance without, as it were, opening Plethora’s bag. (grin)

For example: In Java, Prussia can extend (“be a”) one of the super-classes, Holy, Roman or  Empire, but only one. Prussia can implement the other two as interfaces with methods and fields uniquely its own. If Prussia is to be Holy, be Roman and be an Empire, the strictly hierarchical relationship of those three super-classes has to be worked out separately and in detail, in advance. I can only imagine Herr von Bismark would approve.

Lego Album Cover Art: More questions than answers!


First, have a look. If you are in the cultural group that recognizes these symbols, you may get a giggle:

href=”http://blog.flickr.net/en/2011/07/02/lego-album-covers/

Second, remember (or remember hearing about) all the tiresome discussions of

whether song lyrics were poetry, or could be;

whether album covers were art, or could be;

whether representations of real things were art, or could be;

whether non-representational collections of colors, textures, objects and lighting effects were art, or could be?

blah blah, blah blah blah, (Don’t forget gender, gender-role, ethnicity, class and other forms of differentiation…)

Well, faghedaboutit, ok? This is fun, not work!

And my hearty thanks to the makers of this work. And what it represents, imperfectly.

Cheers!
Bill

The Story of Mel


If you’ve never had the pleasure, or would like to enjoy it again, you can find this delightful, hacked-into-free-verse, ode to Real Programmers and their mysterious ways:

http://www.cs.utah.edu/~elb/folklore/mel.html

Besides Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul of a New Machine”, this is the only work of art that I know of to capture a big piece of the joy, sorrow, transcendence and goofy humor of engineering as a profession. “The Cuckoo’s Egg” by Cliff Stoll touches on some of these, but its not about engineering, in the small sense. Not about hand-assembling machine language so that each instruction was physically located just a bit further along on the drum memory, (instruction skew, not simply sector skew…). Well, I’ll let Mr. Ed Nather tell the story: see above link.

Corrected captions for the Denver Post’s Plog of WWII in the Pacific.


Have a look at the well chosen pictures at the Denver Post’s Photo Blog or Plog. http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/03/18/captured-blog-the-pacific-and-adjacent-theaters/1547/

Sadly, the captions seem to have been either the intentionally uninformative wartime stuff, or edited to reduce meaning. I ended up with strong feelings about a bunch of the captions and sent them back the following suggestions. You may snicker knowingly if you please. I stopped after photo #19, and I tried to hit the meaningful stuff, and wound up sending them the following as comments. In each case I’ve put the photo caption and then my comment:

“2: December 7, 1941: This picture, taken by a Japanese photographer, shows how American ships are clustered together before the surprise Japanese aerial attack on Pear Harbor, Hawaii, on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Minutes later the full impact of the assault was felt and Pearl Harbor became a flaming target. (AP Photo)”

Not to quibble but shore installations (Hickam Field) are already aflame, bombs have clearly gone off in the water of the harbor, torpedo tracks are visible and an explosion appears to be illuminating the third ship from the left, front row, the USS West Virginia. This photo is seconds, not minutes, from the full impact being felt. It is credited “Photo #: NH 50931” by the National Archives.

“4: December 7, 1941: The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ship sank with more than 80 percent of its 1,500-man crew. The attack, which left 2,343 Americans dead and 916 missing, broke the backbone of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and forced America out of a policy of isolationism. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that it was “a date which will live in infamy” and Congress declared war on Japan the morning after. (AP Photo)”

The battleship USS Arizona had already sunk, on an even keel, as she still lies today, before this photograph was taken. Note the forward main gun turret and gun barrel, in the lower left. The forward mast collapsed, as shown, into the void left by the explosion of the forward magazine, which sank the ship. The flames are from burning fuel oil. The fires were not extinguished until December 8, so this picture may have been taken on the Day of Infamy, of the day after. Compare to official U. S. Navy photo Photo #: 80-G-1021538, taken on the 9th of December, after the fires were out, showing the forward mast in the same shape.

“9: April 18, 1942: A B-25 Mitchell bomber takes off from the USS Hornet’s flight deck for the initial air raid on Tokyo, Japan, a secret military mission U.S. President Roosevelt referred to as Shangri-La. (AP Photo)”

When asked where the US bombers that struck Japan on April 18, 1942 had flown from, President Roosevelt replied (humorously) “Shangra La”, an imaginary paradise invented by novelist James Hilton. He showed shrewd tactical sense, the imaginary location was placed on the Asian mainland, opposite the direction the B-25s had actually came from. The U. S. Navy later had an air craft carrier named the “USS Shangra-la”, making it the only US ship named after an imaginary place, work of fiction, or a presidential joke, your choice.

(not shared with the Denver Post – I built a model of one of the Doolittle raiders and posted this writeup about it: https://billabbott.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/building-itale…olittle-raider/)

“10: June 1942: The USS Lexington, U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, explodes after being bombed by Japanese planes in the Battle of the Coral Sea in the South Pacific during World War II. (AP Photo)”

The Battle of the Coral Sea is usually dated May 4–8, 1942, not June, 1942. This photograph must have been taken after 1500 (3:00pm) on May 8, and may be seconds after the “great explosion” recorded at 1727, 5:27pm. It is Official U. S. Navy Photo #: 80-G-16651. The USS Lexington was scuttled by US destroyer torpedos and sank about 2000, 8pm, that day.

“17: June 1942: Crewmen picking their way along the sloping flight deck of the aircraft carrier Yorktown as the ship listed, head for damaged sections to see if they can patch up the crippled ship. Later, they had to abandon the carrier and two strikes from a Japanese submarine’s torpedoes sent the ship down to the sea floor after the battle of Midway. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)”

Belongs directly after Photo 11, showing the damaged and listing USS Yorktown. The two photos were taken the same day, after the second Japanese air attack on the Yorktown, after noon, June 4, 1942. This is official US Navy Photograph #: 80-G-14384.

“18: Oct. 29, 1942: U.S. Marines man a .75 MM gun on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands during World War II. (AP Photo)”

75mm gun, not .75 (100 times bigger!). 75mm is slightly less than 3 inches. .75 would be slightly less than .030 inches, 1/10 the size of a “30 caliber” aka 0.30″ rife bullet. Given the short barrel, light construction and high elevation, its probably a howitzer and not a gun. “Artillery piece” might be more constructively ambiguous.

“19: October 16, 1942: Six U.S. Navy scout planes are seen in flight above their carrier.”

SB2U Vindicators were withdrawn from all carriers by September, 1942. Marine SB2U-3s operated until September, 1943, but only from land. The photo may have been released or dated October 16, 1942, but is unlikely to have been taken on that date.

(I’ve edited the original captions in for reference here – what I sent didn’t quote the captions, except for #18. I rebel at mumbojumbo like .75mm or .20mm, conflating the common “.(something)” inch dimensions for inch dimension ammunition with the dimension “mm”.

Generally “0.(something)” is the recommended format for dimensions, but “50 caliber”, “.50 caliber”, “.45-“, “30-” etc., clearly intersect with 75mm, 20mm or 9mm and produce a muddle in the mind of writers and editors…)

If the NRA really cared about educating people, they’d work on this issue.

Burning Korans on 9/11… None dare call it treason!


Plans to burn copies of the Koran this Saturday, in an event staged by Dr. Terry and Sylvia Jones, pastors of (the seemingly mis-named) Dove World Outreach Center, in Florida, are going forward. What part of Christianity this has any connection with is a mystery. I just read the announcement and their list of 10 “reasons” to do this on their web site. It’s at the same level of idiocy as the Middle Eastern and South Asian idiots who burn our flag and chant “Death To America”. Now we’ve got the facts. Both the Christian and Muslim faiths contain bigoted, bloody-minded trouble makers who would rather start a fight than bring any life to the teachings they claim are their inspiration. This transcends any one religion…. but there’s little comfort in it.

I don’t forget that burning the Koran is completely legal, protected, “speech”, as are maintaining idiotic views. Only incitement to immediate violence, and hate speech, are illegal. How close these bozos come to crossing either of those lines may be decided in court. But, as a general rule, burning some inanimate object that represents what you don’t like is as American as apple pie, and dates from before our nation was founded. Burning pictures, effigies, flags, books, records, CDs, periodicals, articles of clothing and government publications are time honored traditions. Long may they wave. Burning religious books is less common than burning non-religious works that are alleged to contain religious content.

Burning holy books of other people’s religions, for example, Korans, seems like a singularly poor plan. At its most fundamental, confusing the 19 9/11 suicide terrorists and their nut-job associates, enablers and guys who still live in caves, with the vast majority of Muslims, only gives aid and comfort to the nut jobs. More than anything, more than their hate and animosity toward us, bin-Laden and the rest want to be the arbitrators of what is Muslim and what is not. Their highest aspiration is to throw out the “liberals” that we know of as the Saudi royal family and put in some “old time religion”, as they define it. Particularly at Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. When someone tells the whole world that these losers are the true face of Islam, it is their dream come true. It’s what they want. And it’s what they use to recruit the pious, alienated and depressed to their cause.

To the second half of my headline, this building up of the al Qaeda viewpoint as the dominant force in Islam puts our men and women in uniform at risk much more than any of the spirited debate in this country about going to war in Iraq, . No-one can’t say how many jihadi’s were motivated by Code Pink or myself or Senator Obama arguing against the war in Iraq. (“Many in the United States oppose the war in Iraq and even in Afghanistan… would you like to become a suicide bomber?” is not a strong argument…) How stupid to you have to be to think burning Korans isn’t many, many, MANY times worse? Why is it our right wing goofballs seem to make common cause with jihadi right wing goofballs? Is the cock and bull patriotism they spout just so much hot air, and it’s really pan-national conservatism that they pledge their allegiance to ?

Does anyone else remember, in the days after 9/11/01, Patrick Buchanan and his ilk (Pat Robertson?) talking about how it was really the liberal’s fault that al Qaeda attacked us? After all, its the liberals, with their emphasis on women’s rights, multiculturalism, acceptance of gay, lesbian and trans-gender persons. and acceptance and support for religious and cultural minorities, that really made bin Laden and al Qaeda angry. If Buchanan, et al, has been able to institute a stiff, conservative, male dominated, alcohol-free, religiously schooled, GLT people back in the closet, state, with modest clothes, strong penalties for women having sex outside of marriage, civil society segregated by sex and no wild and immoral music, films, books or TV, well, obviously al Qaeda wouldn’t have attacked us,,, If we were just like the Taliban in Afghanistan!

Other reasons to not burn Korans:

Outside of the Southern and religious parts of the USA, book burning is most strongly associated with the Nazis, and to a lesser extent the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Neither exactly role models for our nation.

In the Southern and religious parts of the USA, book burning, record burning, etc, have a long history, with no notable accomplishments or benefits. Why reinforce failure?

The Dove World Outreach Center note that these are the ‘end times’ on their web site. Are public demonstrations by people who want the world to end in a conflagration which starts in the Middle East acting the best interests of our whole nation?

These tit-for-tat things never end well, whether its two siblings in the back seat on a long road trip, small nations weakening each other with ‘prestige’ wars, until an empire outside the neighborhood conquers them all, trade wars or vandalism inspired by school sports rivalry.

The essence of Christianity, we were taught as Catholics, is that Jesus Christ died for us, so that sins could be forgiven. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Vengance is mine, sayeth the Lord” are well known parts of the Christian New Testament, along with “Turning the other cheek” and the story of “The good Samaritan”. If Jesus had been big on burning books, we’d have heard about it. Love, forgiveness and compassion are the strengths of Christianity.

There is no more good in a Christian burning Korans than in some Muslim wacko burning Bibles; Hindu wackos burning the Sikh texts; Buddhist wackos burning the Hindu Bagivad Gita; Shinto wackos burning Buddhist texts; or Protestant “Orangemen” wackos marching through predominantly Catholic neighborhoods in Belfast or Derry. Its provocation, and unhelpful.