SpaceX Does It!

I just watched the live launch of SpaceX’s second Falcon Heavy mission, this time with an actual commercial payload, Arabsat 6A. And WOW! Both side boosters came down and landed almost simultaneously at Cape Canaveral, and just a few minutes later the center booster managed to successfully land on the unmanned landing platform, “Of Course I Still Love You”! Very nearly dead center, too!

I love to watch these things, and it is especially juicy that this successful hi-tech work is being done by a commercial company, and not by some tax-consuming government agency. I suspect that SpaceX may not be profitable yet, but if they keep this up they ought to become so.

The next SpaceX Falcon Heavy flight is scheduled for June 2019, and the boosters are expected to be the one’s from this flight. Great to get re-use of these expensive items!

Here’s a photo of the first Falcon Heavy rocket sitting on the launch pad:

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The Best a Man Can Get/Be?

In the wake of Gillette’s stupid advertisement/attack ad, I am sorry to report that I will no longer be buying Gillette products.

Just like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, who decided to make a political statement with their product, they have gone from providing useful men’s toiletries/products, to promoting Social Justice™.  “Toxic Masculinity” my foot.

I’m not going to support this kind of thing. So, no more Gillette.

Their razors are too expensive anyway.

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El Chapo

I read today that the Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán, known as “El Chapo”, who is now in US custody in New York, has been denied a Bible, a Spanish-English dictionary (he doesn’t speak English), and is also being denied receipt of letters from his family.  See HERE for more details.  The place where he’s being held, an isolation wing of the Manhattan federal jail, “has been described as ‘worse than Guantanamo’ by inmates who’ve been in both.”

Sounds like he’s not very comfortable. And I’m OK with that.  If he had been involved only with drug smuggling, I’d be a little sympathetic.  It’s a business after all, and even if the product is illegal, it isn’t per se immoral.  However, by all accounts, Guzmán is also a murderer and torturer of multiple persons. He’d kill his own smugglers even for such minor offenses as being late with a shipment.

So when it comes to his confinement in a US prison, I guess I don’t care that he’s not doing well.  Some may say that he’s innocent until proven guilty, and of course, that is true, but he’s been convicted of a lot of heinous crimes in his home country and has served time for them.  In fact, he isn’t finished serving his time there.  I believe that the only reason the Mexican government has allowed him to be extradited to the US to face charges is that they are worried that he would escape from confinement a third time. So if he’s uncomfortable in his New York prison, that’s all well and good.

 

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Las Vegas Shooting

I had a long night last night, after putting my wife on the jet plane heading back to the UK — a separation that will end only by the UK government finally granting me a permanent visa to live there, or April of next year, whichever comes first. And which they are taking forever to decide upon, by the way.  I stayed up until 5 am watching her flight on FlightAware.com, while playing World of Warships as a distraction, just to have some continuing connection with her. With all that, I was blissfully unaware of what happened in Las Vegas that night, until just a few minutes ago.

Well, I thought I was bummed by my wife’s departure, but now it’s far worse. The figure I have heard so far is SIXTY killed!!!  I haven’t delved into further reports at this time because the media is notorious for outputting incorrect information in their initial reports — apparently, they have already reported incorrectly that the shooter was a woman. Anyway, I assume the number of dead will go up before this is over.  I really don’t want to know any more at the moment.  This is horrid.  I’ll wait for the real information to firm up, thanks.  And I better stay away from Facebook for awhile, too. It would just rile me up to no good purpose.

The audio I heard on one report seemed to indicate a fully automatic weapon — something very rare, since civilian ownership of full auto weapons is highly restricted. And of course the usual liberal lefty screams of “gun control!” will be emitted. And like the British with the Dunblane incident and the Aussies with the Port Arthur massacre, the Democratic party is going to go into full tilt Gun Control Mode on this one. Depending upon the circumstances, of course. If this turns out to be a terrorist incident, perhaps it won’t go quite the way I think it will.

And I shall be praying for those who lost friends and family members, as well as those who were injured in this horrific event.

As for the shooter or shooters — may they soon have an appointment with an executioner.

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Fake News is For Sale!

The Scream

While scouting Facebook today, I noticed that one of my FB friends, an Italian surgeon who works in the UK, had posted a photo of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet that features a painting in the background — the famous Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream“.  Here is the post for your delectation:

MayCabinetScreamMarioPost

Ironically, the original poster had this to say: “You couldn’t make it up”. And as it turned out, it was made up.  The actual background painting?

MayCabinetScreamActualBackground

I’ve not been able to work out who the young lady in the painting is supposed to be — at first, I thought it might be Queen Victoria — but this turns out not to be the case.  Not that it matters a great deal.  It turns out that this particular room (presumably in the Parliament building) is commonly used for such group photos, and they vary the painting somewhat.

Now, what has this to do with Fake News being For Sale?

It turns out that I had the idea that there must be a domain named fakenews.com, so I went looking for it.  And yes, it is out there!

http://fakenews.com/

FakeNewsWebsite

I followed some of these links, but I really couldn’t determine if they were fake news or not.  Scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page, I discovered that this domain is actually for sale!  And I’d guess, by appearances at least, that this site has a random set of political links just to demonstrate, uh, something.  I guess what the page might look like if it were something like The Drudge Report?  Anyway, the link at the bottom of the page goes to NameAlpha.com, a company that deals in internet domain names.  And they are asking for a lot of money for this domain. The lowest offer they will accept for consideration is “six figures”, and presuming they are dealing in US Dollars, they want to hear a minimum of $100,000 in offer for the domain.

PurchaseFakeNews

Now, I don’t know how long they have had this domain offered for sale, but I’d guess since it’s been available long enough for me to see it, and since “fake news” has been a “thing” for many months, the demand has not been strong.

But there it is, if you want to buy it!

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Settled Status a “Damp Squib”?

Oh, for crying out loud.

Brexit!  Yes, that’s apparently going to happen eventually.  If you don’t know what that is about, don’t bother reading any further because I’m not going to explain it — try Wikipedia on Brexit.  Then come back and read on.

One of the questions needing resolution is the status of those who are not UK citizens but are European Union citizens living in the UK.  The British government proposes to let those who have been in the UK for at least five years stay in the UK after Brexit takes full effect and proposes to give them “Settled” status.  Those who have been there less than five years will be allowed to stay and will become eligible to apply for “Settled” status after they have been there for five years.  There’s a bit more to it than that (see the official UK government page for a full description of the proposal), but that’s the nutshell.

It seems fair to me!  After all, as the Yank husband of a native-born British citizen, they didn’t just hand me gratis permission to become “Settled”: I’ve had to pay a non-trivial and non-refundable fee to apply for “Settled” status, along with documenting my life in detail, and have been waiting months for them to decide whether or not I’m safe to let into the country on a permanent basis.  All those EU citizen types who are there already are getting a very sweet deal!

But BBC News reports that European Parliament chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt says this proposal is a “damp squib”!  I’m still struggling to figure out what “damp squib” means in this context, but he clearly doesn’t think much of the proposal.  I don’t know why since the proposal seems more than fair to me.

Mr. Verhofstadt has said of the UK proposal:

“It creates a type of second class citizenship for European Citizens in the UK.  We don’t see why their rights should be diminished and that would be the case in the proposal.”

Well, I’ve read the proposal, and I don’t see it.  For one thing, EU citizens in the UK aren’t second-class citizens even now, because they’re not citizens in the first place!  So Verhofstadt’s complaint is a contradiction in its own terms.  I’ve read the British government’s proposal completely, and as far as I can see, no rights at all are proposed to be diminished.  What the EU proposes for UK citizens in the EU seems possibly more generous than the UK’s proposal, but if the EU were to mirror the UK proposal in the EU’s own proposal, I don’t think this would be at all a problem.

This particular teapot tempest reminds one forcibly of why British voters chose to get out of the EU.  Because the EU is a festering pile of bureaucratic nonsense that is only going to get worse over time.  And it’s becoming more clear day after day.

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The Flag in Front of My House

The flag in front of my houseToday is the 4th of July, and in honor of this, I have posted the flag of the United States on my porch.  And why would I do this?  Because of my love for the country which has done so much good for the world.  Yes, I know that the country isn’t perfect, and at all times in its history, it has needed and still needs improvement.  But can you name a country of which this couldn’t be said?  The fact is, this country has become the greatest country upon the face of the earth, and not because it has sought to conquer other lands, but because it has defended the freedom of all men.  Its efforts have not always been successful, and sometimes it has acted incorrectly, but what would the world be like if there had never been a United States?  The answer to this is that the world would have been a much worse place.

In his inauguration speech in 1961, President John F. Kennedy admonished the citizens of this great country, to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country!” For over 150 years my family has been following the principle behind this admonition.

My great-great grandfather Christian Frederick Stoltzman (1839-1901) immigrated to this country from Germany around about 1864, settling in Richview, Illinois.  This was during the US Civil War, and since he had expressed his intent to become a US citizen this made him subject to call-up for military service.  He was subsequently called up for service in the Union Army, as a member of the 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment.  He fought in several battles while his regiment was a part of the XVI Corps of the Army of West Mississippi (commanded at the time by Major General Edward Canby), and participated in the last major battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fort Blakely, Alabama.

My great grandfather John Adams Clark (1868-1947) was born in a United States which treated its aboriginal inhabitants, the “Indians”, quite poorly.  As a half-white, half-Konkow Indian man, he faced prejudice and some disadvantages as a result.  He nevertheless recognized that he was better off here than anywhere else.  In 1898, he was working in his occupation as a mineral prospector in California, when he heard that the United States had declared war on Spain (the Spanish-American War).  He immediately dropped what he was doing, hiked out of the hills to the nearest place of military enlistment, and signed up.  As a private in the 8th California Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Company G), he never faced hostile fire, but he freely put his life into the hands of his country, not for personal advantage but because he loved it.

John named his only son, Canby Adams Clark (1901-1942), after U.S. Army General Edward Canby, who was the only US general officer killed during the Indian Wars.  When a young man, Canby joined the US Navy and served as a Pharmacist’s Mate for six years during the period between the World Wars, serving aboard numerous ships, including the repair ship USS Vestal.  Years after he was honorably discharged from the US Navy, he was working as a well-paid steamfitter when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, an attack which seriously damaged his old ship, the Vestal, which was moored next to the battleship USS Arizona at the time.  In the days after Pearl Harbor, the now 40-year old Canby tried to re-enlist in the Navy but was refused due to his age.  Being thus unable to serve his country directly, like his father before him he left his occupation and took a lesser paying job as a welder at Todd Shipyards in Long Beach, California, helping to build ships for the US Navy.  In May 1942, while engaged in the construction of the USS Ajax, another repair ship, he suffered a heart attack and died.  The Ajax went on to serve the United States in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, once even serving alongside Canby’s old ship, the Vestal, during the Marianas campaign.

Canby’s only child, Donald Lee Clark (1930-1976), was only 12 when his father died, but his father’s and grandfather’s examples led him to seek to serve his country also – and as soon as he could possibly do so, when he finally convinced his mother to give permission for him to join the US Marine Corps at the tender age of 17.  He spent three years of his life as a “Leatherneck”, and his service as a high-speed radio operator (Morse code) saw him sailing with the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.  A few years after his honorable discharge in 1950, Donald again served the country in the US Air Force Reserve, again as a radio operator.

Donald’s two sons, my brother Mark and I, also followed the flag, myself in the US Army for eight years, and Mark in the US Air Force for ten.

The flag in front of my house symbolizes for me the great love which my family has had for this country, and the great blessing which living under its government has been to us.  Long may that flag wave over this great land, and long may the freedoms, which that flag symbolizes, endure upon the earth.

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Cultural Appropriation Boomerangs!

I’ve been too busy (or lazy) to post much over the last few months, but this morning something made me simultaneously disgusted and amused at the same time.  It was a little news item about Chanel (you know, the perfume people) featuring a rather overpriced boomerang on their website.

The HuffPost featured this little gem complaining about “cultural appropriation” over the boomerang, a quote from which is:

The National Museum of Australia credits souvenir boomerangs with helping to solidify the tool’s status as a national symbol. However, appropriation by way of slapping on a Chanel logo and charging an obscene amount of money is just wrong.

And here I am wondering: What’s wrong about it?

As it turns out, the boomerang is not exclusively Australian.  By its generic name, “throwing stick”, it has been used by many ancient cultures over the millennia, as the Wikipedia article on Boomerangs points out:

Though traditionally thought of as Australian, boomerangs are also found in ancient Europe, Egypt, and North America. Hunting sticks discovered in Europe, seem to have formed part of the Stone Age arsenal of weapons. One boomerang that was discovered in Jaskinia Obłazowa in the Carpathian Mountains in Poland was made of mammoth’s tusk and is believed, based on AMS dating of objects found with it, to be about 30,000 years old. In the Netherlands, boomerangs have been found in Vlaardingen and Velsen from the first century BC. King Tutankhamen, the famous Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, who died over 3,300 years ago, owned a collection of boomerangs of both the straight flying (hunting) and returning variety.

No one knows for sure how the returning boomerang was invented, but some modern boomerang makers speculate that it developed from the flattened throwing stick, still used by the Australian Aborigines and other indigenous peoples around the world, including the Navajo in North America. A hunting boomerang is delicately balanced and much harder to make than a returning one. The curving flight characteristic of returning boomerangs was probably first noticed by early hunters trying to “tune” their throwing sticks to fly straight.

In short, complaints that Chanel has “culturally appropriated” something is just plain wrong!

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Hacked Clinton Emails — So What?

In one news source, The Guardian, there appears the following about the leaked Hillary Clinton emails:

The releases were highly damaging to Clinton, and US intelligence officials now believe they were hacked by Russia and passed to WikiLeaks to boost Trump’s bid for the White House. Assange has repeatedly declined to be drawn on the source of the hacked emails he published.

Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative and associate of Trump, said in August that he had been in communication with Assange over an “October surprise” to foil Clinton. WikiLeaks began publishing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the email account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in October.

It is impossible to know how much the email disclosures affected the outcome of the race, but there is little doubt the revelations harmed Clinton’s prospects during the crucial last weeks of the campaign.

Well, boo hoo.  I happen to believe that the emails made no material difference in the final outcome, but what if they had?

What would rather have, an elected President who had come to the office through dealing illegitimately with an opponent, or knowledge that revealed her venality and that contributed to her loss?  The Democrats are whining like nobody’s business over the leaks, and blaming them for the loss, but why the hell are they doing that instead of doing what they should be doing?  Ask yourself if they are more disturbed over their bad behavior, or disturbed that their bad behavior was found out.  Trust me, it’s the latter, not the former.  They are not in the least ashamed of their behavior.

Now go tell me that Trump is deplorable.  At least he has the grace to let it all hang out so that everyone knows what he thinks, warts and all.  Thank goodness nobody has managed to pry his Twitter account out of his hands.

Mind you, I still think that the FBI and CIA or whatever alphabet soup agency is in charge of such things will thoroughly investigate how the Russians managed to hack Clinton’s emails.  And I’d like to know what Roger Stone had been talking to Mr. Assange about, and if he had been involved in the hacking or merely knew about it.  But I can pretty much guarantee you that the reason the Russians could provide the emails to WikiLeaks is because of Clinton’s own nonchalant and incompetent disregard for security in her email servers.  Which is another good reason to regard her as too much of a security risk to be President.

 

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A Devonshire Trip

Wendy and I visited Devonshire over the past weekend, both for me to meet her sister and brother-in-law for the first time, and to have a look at the outstanding natural beauty of that region.  It was quite a trip!

England is a wonder in and of itself, of course.  We spent some of the time driving on highways, of course, but also traveled through the countryside on less-frequented roads.  I do have to say that there are picturesque little villages everywhere one turns.  And every single one of them are hundreds, if not thousands of years old!

We stayed in a nice hotel in Kingsteignton, Devonshire, the Best Western Passage House Hotel.  It is a very comfy facility with an excellent breakfast!  From there we visited Wendy’s sister and brother-in-law, Sally and Ken, and also Dartmoor!  But both the trip to Devon as well as the trip back home were full of adventure!

The Jurassic Coast

On the way to Kingsteignton we stopped in a few picturesque towns on the Jurassic Coast, namely Lyme Regis, Seaton, and Sidmouth.  Sidmouth was particularly impressive due to the red cliffs to its northeast!

CliffsAtSidmouth.JPG

The Teign Estuary

The name of the city of Kingsteignton is a compound name (commonly-seen in England) that consists of the words King, Teign and the word-ending -ton, meaning “town”.  Teign is the name of the river the runs through the town, making this place Teign Town or Teignton, and apparently the town was a regional King’s vill, which would be visited by the King and his court back in the days of the Saxons in the kingdom of Wessex — thus King’s-Teign-ton.

Our hotel-room overlooked the Teign estuary (near the mouth of the Teign), which fills with water periodically as the tide comes in and recedes.  It was really quite lovely having this in our backyard, so to speak.  During the day we could see swans, ducks, and other waterfowl swimming in it.  And from time to time in the hotel’s actual backyard we could see a number of wild rabbits enjoying themselves!

TeignEstuary.JPG

Dartmoor and Hound Tor!

On the second day we drove out to the edge of Dartmoor and visited Hound Tor.  In aid of understanding, a “tor” is a is a large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest.  Dartmoor has a lot of them.

Wendy’s favorite tor out on Dartmoor is Hound Tor.  Apparently, Hound Tor helped inspire Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Wendy has visited this tor a number of times, and it is her favorite.  So we climbed it of course!

HoundTor.JPG

On the way to this tor, we passed by a larger, somewhat more famous tor, Hay Tor:

HayTorTripped.png

Hay Tor has its own visitor center, which was closed by the time we arrived there, since it was nearing dusk.

Wareham and Corfe Castle

We returned home on the third day of the trip, and on the way we passed through the Isle of Purbeck, visiting the ancient Saxon city of Wareham and Corfe Castle.  I should point out that the Isle of Purbeck is not a true island but a peninsula. It is bordered by the English Channel to the south and east, where steep cliffs fall to the sea; and by the marshy lands of the River Frome and Poole Harbour to the north.

Wareham

Wareham is of course still inhabited, and has been for well over a thousand years.  It was a walled town in ancient Saxon times, and a large part of its old protective wall still exists.  It isn’t a stone wall, but is an earthen barrow-type wall that probably sprouted either a stone or wooden palisade on its top.  Wendy and I mounted the wall at the point where the main road enters the city:

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The wall actually still goes all the way around central old Wareham.  On the only side of Wareham not surrounded by the wall, there is the River Frome protecting the eastern side of the town from its enemies!

Another point of interest in Wareham is an old cinema which dates from the 1920’s, and is still in operation!  It has retained some old features in its décor, and Wendy says that the old interior gas lighting is still working!  It’s the Rex Cinema:

RexCinemaInWareham.JPG

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is an old ruined castle standing above a village, likewise named Corfe Castle.  It was the scene of a dastardly murder back in 978 AD, when the English King Edward the Martyr was murdered, possibly at the behest of his step-mother, who wanted to see her own son, Æthelred, take the throne.

The castle itself was built many years after the events of 978, and later destroyed by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.  It’s quite a sight!  Unfortunately, the hour was late and we didn’t have time to explore it.  We briefly visited the city of Swanage, but our intention to cross the bar of Poole Harbour on the ferry was frustrated by the ferry being out of service due to refitting.  Maybe next time!

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A Worthwhile Trip

This was a very pleasurable trip, and I got to see a lot of Olde England!

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