150

Sunday, 16 August 2015 17:27
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-35)
Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II, and even though words failed me, I still posted a reminder (DW) (LJ). But I also realized:

I had missed the 150th anniversary of the end of the U.S. Civil War.

Partly, that's understandable, given the actual history as noted on Wikipedia -- namely, which end to commemorate:
Initially, Lee did not intend to surrender, but planned to regroup at the village of Appomattox Court House, where supplies were to be waiting, and then continue the war. Grant chased Lee and got in front of him, so that when Lee's army reached Appomattox Court House, they were surrounded. After an initial battle, Lee decided that the fight was now hopeless, and surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at the McLean House.[168] In an untraditional gesture and as a sign of Grant's respect and anticipation of peacefully restoring Confederate states to the Union, Lee was permitted to keep his sword and his horse, Traveller. On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. Lincoln died early the next morning, and Andrew Johnson became the president. Meanwhile, Confederate forces across the South surrendered as news of Lee's surrender reached them.[169] President Johnson officially declared a virtual end to the insurrection on May 9, 1865; Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured the following day.[1] On June 23, 1865, Cherokee leader Stand Watie was the last Confederate General to surrender his forces.[170]
And then there was 2015.

That Confederate flag. Which Confederate flag? What does the flag stand for? What was the Succession all about?

There's been a whole lotta of people decrying History! Honor! Family! Which is one thing. But declaring the Succession wasn't about slavery... That the end of slavery ended the problems for blacks in America...

Yikes.

How short-sighted. How ridiculous. How privileged. How racist. In 2015?

Today's Sunday Doonesbury comic strip on the new revisionist history Texas textbooks -- makes me wonder if the Civil War is really over. If the United States really won the war.

If we, the people, actually won the war.

No wonder I missed the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. It was buried under the mud and filth being shoveled on it.

What date does one choose to commemorate the end of a war which is still going on in the hearts and minds of some of our so-called citizens? Who aren't just about honoring their past, their families, but actively wish to cause pain and terrorize other citizens of this country with a symbol of their oppression.

I don't know.

And it makes me sad.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

70

Sunday, 16 August 2015 17:05
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-48)
Yesterday, the 15th of August, was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the surrender of Japan.

Also this month, the 70th anniversary of the use of the only two nuclear weapons in war.

Despite everything, we have managed not to trot out the nuclear weapons again. And Japan and Germany are our allies now.

The fragile European peace, which morphed into the Cold War after WW II, has also reasonably held, at least in Western Europe.

It is hard in 2015 to fully understand what WW II was. On any side. That hasn't stopped us from trying. Books and movies abound of WW II themes. Many more than of Korea, Vietnam or the Gulf Wars.

Of course, with the anniversary of the end of the war, my first thoughts go to the 1946 The Best Years of Our Lives, which gives serious thought and realism about what happens to the American soldiers after they return home.

And the aftermaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still continue to this day.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

Revolutionary

Sunday, 5 July 2015 01:50
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-13)
Ah, the annual watching of 1776.

The movie version of the terrific musical play is a near perfect thing, with a stellar cast, very quotable lines and wonderful songs. There's some compression of characters, and "stuff", I'm sure. But as a discussion of the sausage making of a country, it is a worthy companion to the brats and potato salad of the day. Frankly, there really aren't many movies about the Revolutionary War, so it's no wonder that the faded single page document isn't better known or understood, let alone the Revolution or the first century of our country.

So, History Channel is doing Sons of Liberty right now. I can't help but think they have sexed up the cast. And the actual passage of the Declaration -- and I've only seen a few minutes of Part 3 of 3, mind -- is shown as less contentious. Or in TV parlance, they sped up the end. So they could cut to Washington reading to his troops. If the movie/play is focused on John Adams, it looks like this production zeroed in on Sam Adams. I suppose it's disingenuous of me to be suspicious of the Samuel Adams beer sponsorship... naw, not in 2015...

The Sons of Liberty might, in fact, be less problematic than my first impression. I'd need to investigate further. How old were these men? Did Patrick Henry address the Continental Congress? I shouldn't -- and have not -- felt that a musical should be considered canon. But History Channel simply can't be thought of an authoritative source these days, which is a terrible shame.

Oh... maybe I shouldn't be so generous. A quick Google search produced a lot of snark, so rather than quote the L.A. Times, I'll go with the more incendiary History Channel Presents Laughably Inaccurate 'Sons of Liberty'. (grin)
Okay, it wasn't quite as bad as "Sam Adams: Vampire Hunter" but it was close. I am referring to the History channel's series "The Sons of Liberty" in which the real life Sam Adams, who was a middle-aged portly guy by the time of the opening scene in 1765, comes off as a young athletic urban ninja hopping up to the rooftops of Boston to evade arrest by British troops. And that was just one of the many laughable inaccuracies of the History channel's presentation of the era leading up to the American Revolution.
And that article precarious other sources who end up calling it worthless.

Great. But, it's not like people today need to know any facts.

Anyway, it's after midnight and we are under mortar bombardment from the neighbors. Damned representative government in Michigan thought pulling most of the restrictions on fireworks in Michigan was a good idea. Hopefully the grasses aren't dry enough that they'll burn the house down.

Viva le Revolution!

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

239

Saturday, 4 July 2015 16:15
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-1776)
First, on this Fourth, is a comment on the Third. Two years ago, I heard about an attempt to create a British holiday, Independence Eve, celebrating the Third of July as the last day of British rule in the Colonies. I am amused by this, but it turns out to be a marketing campaign:
British brands, understandably, don't have much to say around the Fourth of July—until now. Newcastle Brown Ale, among the cheekiest of U.K. marketers, has turned America's most patriotic holiday to its advantage by inventing a new, completely made-up holiday: Independence Eve on July 3. The idea of the tongue-in-cheek campaign, created by Droga5, is to "honor all things British that Americans gave up when they signed the Declaration of Independence," Newcastle says.
I remember mentioning this to someone last year. I may be the only person in America still talking about Independence Eve. Though I will point out that in 2015, the Third of July was a Federal holiday. (grin)

Second, yesterday on Independence Eve, we heard a rebroadcast of a Diane Rehm Show about Danielle Allen: “Our Declaration”:
For the Fourth of July: A fresh reading of the Declaration of Independence, and how ideas of freedom and equality have been interpreted over the years.
One of the points Prof. Allen raised was the addition of a period in some of the printed versions of the Declaration -- and used in the Archives transcript I've been using on this blog for a number of years. The handwritten copies do not have this. Early printers did a lot of editing, just as Adams and Jefferson fought over "inalienable" versus "unalienable" rights -- a point made with some amusement in the movie 1776. (grin) I have made the "correction" as I see fit in the text below, as I think the text flows better without it. The period is removed right after "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". ***

We will have to dig out the DVD of 1776 for its annual viewing tonight. Alas, Netflix doesn't have it listed, which would be easier than looking for where we put the DVD. (grin)

So, without further ado...

_______________________


Meanwhile, in a sweltering hot Philadelphia, a Continental Congress did meet and through rancorous debate and terrible compromises, did finally solemnly swear together, unanimously...

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Button Gwinnett       William Hooper       John Hancock
Lyman Hall            Joseph Hewes         Samuel Chase
George Walton         John Penn            William Paca
                      Edward Rutledge      Thomas Stone
                      Thomas Heyward, Jr.  Charles Carroll of Carrollton
                      Thomas Lynch,Jr.     George Wythe
                      Arthur Middleton     Richard Henry Lee
                                           Thomas Jefferson
                                           Benjamin Harrison
                                           Thomas Nelson, Jr.
                                           Francis Lightfoot Lee
                                           Carter Braxton

Robert Morris         William Floyd        Josiah Bartlett
Benjamin Rush         Philip Livingston    William Whipple
Benjamin Franklin     Francis Lewis        Samuel Adams
John Morton           Lewis Morris         John Adams
George Clymer         Richard Stockton     Robert Treat Paine
James Smith           John Witherspoon     Elbridge Gerry
George Taylor         Francis Hopkinson    Stephen Hopkins
James Wilson          John Hart            William Ellery
George Ross           Abraham Clark        Roger Sherman
Caesar Rodney                              Samuel Huntington
George Read                                William Williams
Thomas McKean                              Oliver Wolcott
                                           Matthew Thornton



The 1823 Stone engraved version of the Declaration of Independence
at the National Archives


*** Last year I noted:
I'm not sure I noticed before that in the first line, "united" is not capitalized. A Ken Burns moment, as he had noted that before the Civil War we said "the United States are..." while after we spoke of "the United States is..."
We can still learn from our history. Happy Birthday US.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (lesbian-wedding-detroit)
So... The Supreme Court of the United States goes 2-2 over the last two days. And gay marriage is now the law of the land.

I am neither gay, nor lesbian -- or other factions beyond the traditional and oversimplified binary choices. But I have friends who are. And it's 2015. Hell, Ireland of all places actually voted for marriage equality, rather than doing it judicially.

But it turns out that I did have skin in this game.

Because one of the arguments against marriage equality is that marriage as an institution is ONLY about procreation. Which means the 31 years of marriage with Mrs. Dr. Phil isn't considered a marriage, because we have no children.

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion actually addressed this -- that there are many married couples who have no children, whether by choice or not, whose marriages are not defined by children. (I don't have the quote in front of me.)

What this decision does NOT do is destroy the sanctity of church marriages.

We were not married in a Catholic Church... because we were not Catholic.

We were not married in a Baptist Church... because we were not Baptist.

We were not married in a synagogue... because we were not Jewish.

There are TWO ways of marriage in this country -- secular and religious. What this ruling does is open up secular marriages to all. If your church doesn't support gay marriage, don't marry gays. But your religion does not get to tell everyone else what to do. That way leads to madness. We do not have a state religion in the United States. Period.

So... congratulations to all whose relationships are now allowed across the country. Gone are the days where you could be married in one state -- and have your marriage denied in another. Gone are the days where you could be married in one state -- and have the voters decide your marriage is invalid, even to the point of refunding your marriage license fee.

This is as much about death as about life. Gone are the legal disasters that will accompany committed people as they age and die, because now they can get spousal rights if they want.

My marriage is stronger today.

11,488 days later.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

40

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:29
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag)
Next week is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the evacuation of Americans and some South Vietnamese, which was the true effective end of the Vietnam War. And next week PBS will be showing a documentary Last Days in Vietnam. Tonight there will be a public screening and a panel discussion at Celebration South cinema, but last night there was a special invitation screening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.


©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The auditorium seats 250 and was not full. But the audience was one of the more mixed ones we've seen at special events. A large number of Vietnam vets were in attendance -- they were asked to stand -- as well as an equal number of Vietnamese evacuees. The setting was particularly appropriate, as not only was Ford president when Saigon fell, but through his Grand Rapids connections many of the first South Vietnamese refugees came here, and the iconic staircase from atop the U.S. embassy in Saigon is located in the museum. The Vietnamese community in Grand Rapids numbers over 10,000.

Last Days in Vietnam is two hours, of which we were shown the first hour. There is amazing footage, including the unscheduled arrival of Huey helicopters at the USS Kirk (DE-1087/FF-1087). What we saw was subtitled -- either in Vietnamese or English, depending on the speaker.


Panel discussion moderated by WGVU's Jennifer Moss, and L to R: Red Cavaney, Hung Vu, Phillip D. Nguyen. Lighting in the auditorium was very dim, there are no enlargements available.
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Red served three tours of duty in Vietnam as an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1965-69. Worked river interdiction duty. Currently President of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. Hung was a 2nd lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Air Force, nominally flying the A-37 (A-37B?) -- but at the war's end they had no fuel and no ammunition. His family spent four years in a reeducation camp before coming to the U.S. as part of a Humanitarian Order in 1990. Phillip serves as the President of Vietnamese-American Communities of West Michigan and grew up in Hue, watching army officers take Jeeps filled with their families and drive them into the sea, rather than get taken by the NVA.


As people were leaving, I was struck by the two flags on the left of the stage -- of course the South Vietnamese flag has been supplanted in the now unified Vietnam.
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Vietnam had a significant impact on my life, but indirectly. In the small upstate New York town I grew up in during the 60s, going off to volunteer in Vietnam was something one did. Canadian TV kept showing a different picture than the American news. Still, I was shocked in 1968 when we moved to White Plains, near New York City, and found my classmates were strongly against American involvement in Southeast Asia. My 9th grade Geometry teacher changed last names in the middle of the year -- Mrs. Miller became Mrs. Rothenberg -- and we found out her first husband had come home from Vietnam in an aluminum box. Somehow it never occurred to us that teachers had lives... And I didn't graduate high school until 1976, and my class was the first who were not required to register for the draft -- and the first to be exempted when Selective Service registration was reinstated some years later -- so I never served.

Last Days in Vietnam will be shown on Tuesday 28 April 2015 on PBS' American Experiences.

Highly Recommended

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

238

Friday, 4 July 2014 09:32
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-13)
Meanwhile, in a sweltering hot Philadelphia, a Continental Congress did meet and through rancorous debate and terrible compromises, did finally solemnly swear together, unanimously...

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, ***

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Button Gwinnett       William Hooper       John Hancock
Lyman Hall            Joseph Hewes         Samuel Chase
George Walton         John Penn            William Paca
                      Edward Rutledge      Thomas Stone
                      Thomas Heyward, Jr.  Charles Carroll of Carrollton
                      Thomas Lynch,Jr.     George Wythe
                      Arthur Middleton     Richard Henry Lee
                                           Thomas Jefferson
                                           Benjamin Harrison
                                           Thomas Nelson, Jr.
                                           Francis Lightfoot Lee
                                           Carter Braxton

Robert Morris         William Floyd        Josiah Bartlett
Benjamin Rush         Philip Livingston    William Whipple
Benjamin Franklin     Francis Lewis        Samuel Adams
John Morton           Lewis Morris         John Adams
George Clymer         Richard Stockton     Robert Treat Paine
James Smith           John Witherspoon     Elbridge Gerry
George Taylor         Francis Hopkinson    Stephen Hopkins
James Wilson          John Hart            William Ellery
George Ross           Abraham Clark        Roger Sherman
Caesar Rodney                              Samuel Huntington
George Read                                William Williams
Thomas McKean                              Oliver Wolcott
                                           Matthew Thornton



*** I'm not sure I noticed before that in the first line, "united" is not capitalized. A Ken Burns moment, as he had noted that before the Civil War we said "the United States are..." while after we spoke of "the United States is..."

We can still learn from our history. Happy Birthday US.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
Announcement

The university's e-newsletter included the following note yesterday:
Thursday, 04 April, 2013

The OpenVMS computing environment (vms.wmich.edu, also known by service names Winnie, Kanga and Pooh) will be removed from general service April 30.

Once there were VMS computer domains on campus named Winnie, Kanga, Roo, Piglet and Pooh. I ended up using Piglet until it was retired, then Kanga after that, until they migrated the university e-mail over to other servers. In the early 90s, I still had FORTRAN programs that I ran on the VMS computers, and I seem to recall that one of the VMS machines ran a Gopher server I used in one of my grad classes when I was working on a 2nd Ph.D. in Science Education for a time.

Before that, of course, we were using Digital Equipment Corporation DEC VAX-11/750 hardware at the Center for Experimental Communication at Michigan Tech. VAX-A was the main machine for Physics when I started there in the Fall of 1984 and had a Floating Point Systems FPS-164MAX array processor attached for doing calculations. The VAX-11/750 was a very nice box, looking like a washer/dryer pair with one of hard drive boxes next to it. I was amused to learn that a couple of CS students bought VAX-B and VAX-C from the university when they were retired for a couple of hundred bucks and had all this network hardware installed in the living room of the house they were renting in Calumet Township. (grin)

Learning VMS in the mid-80s was very handy for when we finally bought our first IBM Personal Computer around 1986, because some of the command structure that PC-DOS/MS-DOS used was derived from VMS. And ten years later when I started doing serious work on Pentium-class PCs, Windows NT4 was developed by some of the same people who made VMS so stable.

In my Northwestern days in the late 70s, there were lots of DEC machines around the EE and CS departments. The CS network lab was a loose assemblage of DEC PDP-8s and PDP/LSI-11s. And around 1979, I think it was, Vogelback Computer Center, which housed the big iron Control Data CDC-6400 and CDC-6600 machines I worked with, decided to buy a pair of those newfangled VAX-11/750s and set them up in a spare room and let anyone who wanted to play with them do whatever they wanted. After all, the VAXen were so much cheaper to buy and operate than the CDC and Cyber machines, that they considered it "free" computing.

My dear friend from ISP days, the late Steve Houdek, adored the VAX and the VMS operating system. He learned all he could at VCC's two pet VAXes and then later worked for a VAX data center.

VMS eventually became OpenVMS. There was once a move to port VMS to the PC architecture, but PC-VMS never even made it to beta level, as far as I ever heard. I would've built a PC-based research computer and run VMS on it, if I could have.

I'm sure I have friends from all those eras who get chills and break out in hives thinking about having to work with VMS, much as when I contemplate working with IBM MVS or IBM VSE with JCL. (shudder) But I found the VAX/VMS combination to be very dependable and a good system to really cut my teeth on serious computing. A few years later, when we started using the Berkeley version of UNIX, I had a much better idea of what I was doing.

It's been years since I had to actually log into a VMS system at WMU -- when I was logging into piglet or kanga, I was using DEC VT-100 or VT-240 terminal emulation in MS-Kermit to do command line processing.

But you know? The VMS-Mail system worked pretty damned well for its day. And I had a lot easier time of managing thousands of old emails that way than the current stupid system. Really.

Enjoy your retirement, OpenVMS. At least for the five or six machine cycles before the power is cut and you're lobotomized forever. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WWII-woman-aircraft-worker)
A Window Into The Past

This link was in my LJ Friends feed for another reason, but these photos from the NYC Municipal Archives are amazing. Kudos to The Atlantic for picking some great examples of the thousands and thousands of available images. The link to the archives itself is here.

Having lived in the New York City area for five years, and also seen it displayed and portrayed in all sorts of TV, books, movies, some of these views are striking because they show bridges being built, train wrecks, homicide photos, street vendors from long ago. This can be a source of stories, or just a source of wonder as you page through these things.

Iconic images. Pedestrian images. This is great stuff. Spend some time in old New York -- you'll be glad you did. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-35)
About That Thirteenth Amendment

So Spielberg's movie Lincoln shows the House voting for the 13th Amendment on 31 January 1865. Remarkably, Illinois was the first state to ratify on February 1st. Rhode Island on the 2nd. Michigan, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia on the 3rd. Virginia (!) was the twelfth state on the 9th. Though it took until December 6th, when Georgia became the 27th of 36 states to complete ratification, I had no idea that half the total states (18 of 36) ratified within the first month. (The 35-star flag above was in use at the end of the Civil War, until 4 July 1865 when the 36th star was added for Nevada's entry in 31 October 1864.)

I really think there should've been some comment about this in the film.

The Death of Lincoln

Ken Burns tells the story of editing The Civil War. They had the script for Our American Cousin, actors reading the parts, a recording of a gunshot. They were editing and came up to the moment... and had to stop for a few minutes. Lincoln still lived, his second term still lay before him. Eventually they continued, because they had to. They knew they couldn't quit for the day and come back to it -- that would've been more painful. But for a brief moment of quiet, they reflected on what might have been, while holding off the awful truth.

[SPOILER]

In Lincoln, we see Lincoln going out for the evening. The film is nearly two hours long, it's April 1865, we know what's coming. Except...

We are about to be punched in the gut. The scene on the stage involves a sword fight. In Our American Cousin? Huh? We cut to the balcony and see not Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, but their young son with a handler. Oh no. When a manager bursts onto the stage to announce that the President has been shot over at Ford's Theater, we are properly horrified. It is as in Apollo 13 when we watched Jim Lovell's older son in class at military school when the reentry blackout exceeded four minutes.

Manipulative? Sure. But it is a way to take the known and make it unknown again.

And I was impressed.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-35)
Our Nation's 19th Century Wounds

The history we learn in school in woefully incomplete. Even large scale documentaries such as Ken Burns' The Civil War have their focus primarily on the war and the division of a nation and of a people and families.

The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution made it law. But those are the results. History is made by people. They squabble, they scheme, they plan. Lincoln is a story of how the 13th Amendment passed the House of Representatives.

And in the afternoon of the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, cold and gray and in the midst of the madness of the weekend shopping throngs, this particular theatre was sold out.

Lincoln [PG-13]
Celebration North Theatre 11, 2:10pm

Brilliant. I had my doubts about Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. But he wears the role with the right combination of homespun humor and gravitas. Tommy Lee Jones' performance is noteworthy. Sally Fields as Mary Todd Lincoln is extraordinary -- we see her pain and her "madness". Many other bearded men play important historical figures. I was impressed with Jared Harris as Grant -- he was Moriarty in the latest Sherlock Holmes film.

If I were to compare this to another movie, I'd have to consider the musical 1776. I think we need to see that the sausage making aspects of creating a new nation or a new amendment is not nice, neat or free of politicking. I don't know that we get a complete recitation of all in the House vote, but we get enough to understand what a close thing it was, just as in the final vote in Philadelphia. Ken Burns' likes to talk about how the Civil War changed us from being the United States to The United States -- one nation rather than an assemblage of states. Here we see how even the peace negotiations are tempered with the distinction between rebels within the U.S. and a war between two nations. And why it mattered.

And can you imagine a current U.S. President on the battlefield hours after its conclusion, while the bodies still lie in the open? Or riding in an open carriage in a city filled with guns today? Or people running across town and into the front door of the White House? For a PG-13 movie, there are some stark wartime realities shown. And Mrs. Dr. Phil wondered how one could live in such dark, smoke filled houses. We are spoiled with our modern electricity.

Of course in a movie about white men making the decision regarding the slaves, there is a background of black men and women, some freeborn. It's a hard thing to decide on their place in this film or the historical rightness of it. In the last election, though, there were a lot of people talking about "the party of Lincoln". I wonder if the right people will see this movie and understand how far the Democratic and Republican parties have come since 1865 -- both for good and for ill on both ends of history.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed John Williams' score. John always does Steven Spielberg's movies. We like to joke that he steals from the best for his themes, including himself. This time there are echoes of Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait in his work.

One shouldn't be so surprised that Steven can produce such drama in addition to his fabulously popular works. He's done it before. This time, we can be pleased and proud that he has taken on this project.

Highly Recommended

Trailers: The Impossible is a new one to me. Set in the 2004 Asian tsunami disaster, it stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as parents on vacation. Seems that it's a Spanish film done in English. The Lone Ranger is a Johnny Depp movie? And we are really looking forward to Bill Murray as FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-13)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (DW).

Remember...

As family and friends gather and picnic, the grills run hot in the heat wave, neighbors threaten to burn down our houses with wild fires started by their fireworks, and we conveniently forget about our fellow citizens without power or serving in faraway lands and seas, it is hard to think about those who toiled to create this nation. Having recently seen The Patriot on TV, we'll probably bring out the DVD of 1776 and marvel at how close it was that America wasn't, and the seeds sowed in Philadelphia 236 years ago which spawned the action in the same colony/state of 149 years and a couple of days ago in Gettysburg -- and not the vampire battle.

A little reflective reading. First SF writer Elizabeth Moon on the disgraceful treatment of an amputee veteran for the sake of politics. Second an interview including Jim Wright, whose blog at Stonekettle Station is must-read material. You don't have to agree with Jim, but he writes reasoned, thoughtful and damned profoundly funny thoughts for adults about where we are and where we're going.

Finally you can click on the link at the top of this post and contemplate all the words I quoted two years ago, not just the sound bite top ten.

There'll be a quiz on this reading in a couple of months. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-33)
A Long Holiday Week

The Fourth of July is on a Wednesday this year, so those Americans who have any meager vacation time available are likely to front load, back load or take the whole damn week off. Mrs. Dr. Phil is taking Monday and Tuesday off, so when she got off work Friday, it was the start of a long weekend.

Mrs. Dr. Phil decided we needed to see a holiday blockbuster movie and what were the showtimes for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Turned out that the last 3D showing at the Holland 7 was at 7:20pm. It was 5:46pm, and we'd need to leave at around 6:20pm. Fortunately our dinner plans were not complex, as we'd planned on a light supper using this season's first local tomato (DW) to make tomato sandwiches (DW).

Having declared that we could have popcorn for dessert, as surely this would be a popcorn movie, Mrs. Dr. Phil showed up with both popcorn and a box of SnoCaps. Interesting experiment -- there's just enough residual heat in brand new fresh popcorn to do a number on the SnoCaps, which are small enough to slip between the kernels and make a yummy gooey chocolate popcorn treat. Not sure we'll do that again, or if we do, very often, but it was fun.

Also we had a private screening. The Holland 7 was swamped with people, and even more crowded when we got out, but they were all going to see Ted or Brave or something. The comfortable widebody seat for two in Theatre 5 is perfectly dead center, and is next to a regular seat which has a cup holder. Win. (grin)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 3D [R]
Holland 7 Theatre 5, 7:20pm, 2×$11.25

Writer Charles Coleman Finlay had posted on Facebook that he liked this movie a lot more than he'd thought, adding that it provided the "only explanation for Pickett's Charge that has ever made any sense." That was enough to pique our interest.

When we first meet the young adult Lincoln, he doesn't seem to be the iconic Lincoln we know. Of course, Lincoln himself wasn't that vision until quite late in his career. Is this actor tall enough? Skinny enough? Too handsome? Perhaps. But then we're talking about an origin vampire hunter movie and not a biopic, so really, find something else to worry about -- the man does a good job as this particular Lincoln. And that's good, because Stephen Douglas gets only a brief outing in this film and Mary Todd Lincoln does not strike me as the MTL of history.

The 3D work is mostly reasonable, although early in the movie there is an out of focus head closer than the main subject which makes the 3D look fake. Otherwise there are spectacular costumes and amusing, if impossible, fight choreography. The Matrix may have invented Bullet Time, Lincoln gives us Swirling Airborne Blood Time. And everything with a blade sings through the air. (grin) Who knew that an axe could be a sexy weapon? Or so versatile and convertible? (double-edged-grin)

There are surely great gaping holes in the "history" being shown here, but if you check your brain at the door, then those little bits of history which have been integrated into the story will tease and delight, rather than leave a sour taste in your mouth. The latter will be reserved for the one true flaw in the movie -- making the slave trade a cover for the vampires' food supply, while a nice trick, has the unfortunate effect of letting the real issues of slavery off the hook. Not only does it dilute what should be an important discussion, hell, it was already done by Anne Rice in Interview With The Vampire.

There are two very impressive bits of CGI work. One is shown in the trailer, in which a flying shot of Washington DC circling the Washington Monument, dissolves to its 1854-77 construction hiatus. The other briefly shows the intense riverboat traffic around New Orleans. This one amuses me, because Saturday night's Midnight Special on WFMT was playing the first disk of the CD Mark Twain: Words & Music, which talks about the traffic on the Mississippi.

A third elaborate CGI scene involving a burning railway trestle bridge lasts for far too long -- it must be the longest bridge in the world -- and suffers from some dreadful Physics.

The movie suffers from some problems, of course. For one thing, there is hardly anyone living or working in the White House, except for the extended family. Allan Pinkerton, whose security for Lincoln later developed into the Secret Service, seems to be absent. Wikipedia mentions that the legislation for the Secret Service was on Lincoln's desk when he went out to the play.

And then there's the canonical vampire issues, such as whether or not silver is going to do you a damned bit of good against a vampire. They throw in some faux lore to make it so, and I have to say that silver cannonballs are rather pretty. (grin)

We hadn't read the book, only heard a bit about it, so other than the obvious and the trailer, didn't go into this movie knowing the story. It's an interesting and amusing summer film. Some of the Civil War set pieces are nicely done -- I'm sure the reenactment crowd contributed. And the vampires confound and confuse, so there's that.

Recommended for Popcorn Fun.

TRAILERS: With Tim Burton involved in Lincoln, it seems like half the movie trailers were also Tim Burton productions. Other than that, the trailers didn't make an impression on me. Or I'd seen them before.

Dr. Phil

Yup -- 49 Stars

Thursday, 14 June 2012 16:06
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag)
Wikipedia Says It Flew From 7-4-1959 to 7-4-1960

In response to a question from a friend, oh yes, there was a 49-star flag. One wonders how rare a real, displayed 49-star flag is?

Of course 7 × 7 = 49 is one of the easier design concepts.

Sources: Wikipedia on The 49- and 50-star unions and illustrations of all the flags.

Dr. Phil

Flag Day

Thursday, 14 June 2012 14:46
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-48)
I've Lived Under Three Flags

Technically. Though the 49-star flag wasn't around for very long. (grin) But I was born before Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union as states, and the current 50-star flag was adopted on 4 July 1960, a couple of months before my second birthday. So the 48-star flag above is "one of mine". I do remember seeing some still being flown into the 1960s, but for the most part the 48-star flag always seems to me to belong to another generation. My generation begat that new-fangled 50-star flag and so far there've been no serious attempts to change that, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Northern California and the Upper Peninsula notwithstanding.

As an American who grew up with the flag, of course it's the flag. I've watched Canada change their flag, and any number of revolutions change the flags of countries 'round the world. But the Stars and Stripes have, with some variety and variation by custom and design, been around for over two hundred years. Having grown up with this flag and seeing it all over the place, it seems "right" to me, but that's a cultural bias and upbringing. I'm sure that those who have served their country, been rescued as Americans abroad, adopted the United States as their new home, been helped -- or hurt -- by the United States abroad, all these people probably have a different and at times more visceral reaction to seeing the American flag.

It still bothers me when I see people displaying the U.S. flag improperly, particularly flags in serious disrepair and distress. But then I've lived most of my life in small towns, where you often find people who think like that. (grin)

If you think about it, this country which has such a history of change, doesn't have a lot of universal symbols. We didn't have a formal national anthem for a long time. Indeed, at times the Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee and God Bless America have all had prominence even in addition to the Star Spangled Banner. But the U.S. flag is very much a representative symbol, even being the subject of our national anthem. And when the country fractured in a serious Civil War, the Confederacy adopted a flag with many of the same symbols.

Any damn fool can wave the flag and proclaim themselves to be a true patriot, but the fact is we all are -- or none of us are. America was founded on division and diversity, but united (not always successfully) in a common purpose.

I cannot fully express what seeing the flag does for me, but it triggers something inside that I recognize each and every time, no matter how large or small or isolated or numerous. It can fill me with pride or it can fill me with annoyance or even disgust when used to promote people and ideals I find disagreeable. But that's not the flag's fault.

The flag is the flag.

This one just happens to be mine.


Folding the U.S. flag -- from Wikipedia.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-48)
A Much Better Day

At the start of 2012 we went to the AMC (former Star) Holland 8 theatre to see War Horse, the weather was not pleasant (DW). January ebbed and February dawned with a bizarre warmish weather pattern. I walked into the theatre today in shirtsleeves, since it was a short walk.

Red Tails [PG-13]
Holland 8 Theatre 8, 2:20pm, 2×$6.75

The title of this post comes as a rebuff to the idiotic quote, prominently featured at the beginning of the movie, that "Negroes are incapable of handling complex machinery." I've been waiting to see this movie since I saw the first trailer. The Tuskegee Airmen are an amazing piece of WWII history. And since this opened while I was off at ConFusion, for the first time since Amistad, there was a movie worth seeing that I wanted to see during Black History Month, some lackluster reviews notwithstanding. With George Lucas involved, I knew it would look fantastic -- I hoped the rest of the movie would work as well.

In 1995 HBO released The Tuskegee Airmen, which looked at the origins of the unit, early North Africa service by the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the formation of the 332nd Fighter Group operating out of Italy. Breaking with a bad habit of many of the comic book superhero movies, Red Tails chose not to do an origin story, instead starting in Italy with the 332nd looking for its place, its mission.

I suspect that it would help if the average viewer knew something of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Or WWII air campaign movies. Or the shocking performance of those German Me-262 jets. There are few As You Know, Bob, conversations.

One side plot involves the courting of an Italian girl, played by Daniela Ruah of NCIS: Lite. I kept waiting for someone to object to this relationship, to try and break it up -- but they chose not to go that route. I am conflicted as to whether this works, but it is sweet. Still, it illustrates the one side of Red Tails, which seems to dwell on characters and tropes out of Central Casting and Central Scripting. There is, to some extent, just one dastardly Nazi German pilot -- nicknamed Pretty Boy. Then there's the Stalag 18 sub-plot, which again pulls on things you should already know. Are they trying to make this just another war movie? Or keep the story from being All About Color All The Time?

Perhaps this odd confluence IS what's needed to make the oh-so-obvious-in-2012 points about the abilities of the Negro/colored/black man to serve, to train, to succeed, to live, to do the same as anyone else.

Look, I loved this movie. In just over two hours they showed some of the Pentagon machinations, terrific leadership roles by Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr., and some nice teases of the hard work by the plane maintainers. Beautiful production values. I'm not sure I recall a WWII movie where the metal mats used to control the mud become almost a minor character -- including their distinctive sound.

Perhaps paired with The Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails makes for an important story arc in WWII stories. Certainly the bombardier who wrote a letter to the Grand Rapids Press last week objected to some of the criticism of the movie. He pointed out that the bomber crews did in fact prefer the 332nd escorts, who stayed and protected the large vulnerable bombers. And that their attempts to thank them were forbidden by the Army, which allowed neither colored airmen on a white base or whites on the colored base.

While nearly seventy years of history haven't erased racism in America, at least some levels of this idiocy have been vanquished. And we need to know about the Tuskegee Airmen and hear more of their stories. Still, I don't know enough to know how this plays outside of WWII film buffs.

Recommended

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (gvsu-logo)
A Reminder To Look At Things Through Different Eyes

It's easy to be myopic in life. Privilege. Cultural superiority. Flat out ignorance. Filtering out the volume of a few billion daily stories to a manageable level. Or just not putting the pieces together -- letting the news flow over you without thinking of consequences and people, rather than dry facts or soundbits.

Sometimes it's useful to ponder how events would look to someone else. To someone who has some (or merely more) skin in the game.

I was struck by this thought in one of today's email feeds from the Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- News of the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi spread quickly among the handful of Libyan students at Grand Valley State University.

"I wish I could be in Libya now. I am sure that all of Libya is happy right now," said Ssalah Hrhor, 36, a graduate student at GVSU. "This is the end of 42 black years for my country."

Hrhor said he received a phone call early this morning from his brother in Libya telling him that his brother's son, who fought with the rebel forces against Gadhafi, had seen Gadhafi's body.

"He saw him with his eyes. He saw him dead," Hrhor said.

Hrhor said this is one of the happiest days of his life.

"I think I going to go out and buy candy and chocolate and give it out to everyone. We are very, very, very happy."

So if you're on the GVSU campus today and a Middle Eastern looking fellow comes up to you offering candy and chocolate -- take them and offer him congratulations. For this is a man who has a chance to regain his homeland again.

Is the story, third-hand, of being an eyewitness true? I have no idea. Will Libya become a more open society and shed decades of dictatorship? Who knows? Am I grateful not to live through such nightmares? You betcha. Am I likely to tag and remember this for future reference in my SF writing? Yes to the first and probably for the second.

But maybe I'll think differently about the protests and revolutions in Libya, Egypt, Syria... and Wall Street and Madison WI... and people.

And have some chocolate -- it's on Gadhafi.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (massive-stars-carina-nebula)
The History of the World in Two Hours
History Channel, Thursday 6 October 2011, 9-11pm EDT

An ambitious project, given all of history in two hours, especially when you start at the Big Bang and spend the first 14 minutes or so doing cosmology and the creation of the world. But part of the logic is that the makeup of the universe in part controls what elements and materials are available and in what scarcity. Copper is three elements past Iron in the Periodic Table. That means that like everything past Iron it cannot be built up in the cores of stars by fusion alone -- it can only be created in the fury of supernova explosions. So advancing from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age not only made stronger materials, but more common ones.

So what is civilization? What does civilization move around the globe from peoples to peoples? Apparently it's dark magenta smoke. (grin) At least they used smoke trails snaking through the Silk Road and crossing the Atlantic, billowing from the sacks on camels, pouring out of smoke stacks, etc. But... all kidding aside, the metaphor is a good one.

I suppose one could criticize the animations of representations of morphing and construction and development, which might give some people the wrong idea. They get shown repeatedly in recapitulations to remind the viewer of their point, probably because they really are trying to create a coherent and complicated weaving together of facts and influences. Images get inlaid and expanded in things like the representation of the Big Bang and expansion -- again, a metaphor rather than literal. And for my tastes the space program and modern communications and computers get short shrift. But given that they don't get to the 20th century until 14 minutes left, there's only so much you can include.

After all 14 minutes was enough to cover the first 10 billion years of history. (double-grin)

So Who's This Good Looking Guy?



This is our friend Craig Benjamin. Transplanted Aussie, professor at Grand Valley State University and the most energetic True Renaissance Man that I know. He teaches, among other things, a History course which covers this whole scope of the Universe sort of thing. And he's one of the talking heads used in this show.

We knew he'd worked on this project, but Mrs. Dr. Phil found out during a noontime water aerobics session today when Craig was in the pool that it was on tonight -- which is why I didn't get a chance to post advance warnings out there. But I think it'll be run again on the History Channel.

It's a cool show. And it's so very cool to know somebody who's in it! Thanks, Craig! I wish we could spend more time talking... about everything.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-13)
Oh Yum

Needed to grab a bite to eat after picking up Mrs. Dr. Phil at work. So we bopped over to Mugshots right in Allendale for a second visit. Gotta love a place that features fried local asparagus. And look on the specials board -- last time we talked to the owner of doing a burger sampler. And there it is. Okay, let's guild the lily and try their onion rings this time.

You know how I judge an onion ring? It needs a great breading and not too much grease hanging around. But the onions themselves have to still be rings, tasty, but able to bite through. Nothing I hate more than trying to bite an onion ring and having the whole damned thing come out of the breading -- or those fake onion rings made with pulverized onions. Had no complaints with these.

Owner stopped by again. They're about to come out with their fall menu. We'll be back.

Benjamin Franklin - Leader Extraordinaire - A Constitution Day Event
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 7pm



Historian Gleaves Whitney of the GVSU Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies gave a talk on that extraordinary British American patriot, Ben Franklin:
America was fortunate that Ben Franklin was one of its founders. Although his origins were humble, ambition and talent carried him far in both the U.S. and Europe. No other middle-class human being has risen to such an array of leadership positions. Franklin led our nation as a best-selling author, businessman, scientist, inventor, educator, philanthropist, statesman, spy, and more. In this talk, we will explore all the ways Franklin helped found our nation -- and continues to inspire us today.

Franklin was a world-famous delegate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and he helped make sure the new frame of government was ratified in the 13 states.
Franklin is such a personal hero of mine. We might have to pop in the DVD of 1776 pretty soon. (grin)

To hear the list of his successes (and failures) is pretty damned impressive. At question time, I asked something along the lines of: "As a rich British entrepreneur, Franklin clearly understood the English money system. But then he came up with the logical and rational decimal coin system for America, which inspired the French revolutionaries to invent the metric system. Could you comment." And Gleaves said that I had pretty much said it all -- which the audience loved. And then he made a few more comments, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping to get some analysis on. (grin) Talking about Franklin's role in the decimal coin system and the metric system is something I do with my introductory classes every year -- I guess I hoped to gain a new story. (double-grin)

Other than a GVSU student reporter, we were practically the youngest people there. Despite the sponsorship with GVSU, I was disappointed that we didn't see the students show up as they do at Loosemore Auditorium just a couple of blocks away. Come on, guys, if you can make it as far as the Burger King, you could go two more blocks to the Ford Museum. For them, a missed opportunity -- for us, a lovely hour.

Dr. Phil

Change

Monday, 12 September 2011 00:36
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag)
9/11 Ten Years Out

This past week and this weekend is filled with 9/11 remembrances. Some concentrate on the technical details. The failures or naivete of security. The extraordinary efforts by first responders. The recovery. The mess. The responses. The wars fought since that fateful day.

People say that everything's changed -- and to some extent that's true. But life also goes on and so life was going to change from 2001 to 2011 anyway.

I've talked here before about 9/11. This isn't about those stories. Instead I want to talk about change.

If you'd had enough 9/11 I won't mind if you go. I hope what follows is coherent.

Reset

On September 11th 2001, I'd just turned 43. Google was still fairly new -- Wikipedia had been up and running for nine months. Homeland Security had a vaguely fascist or Soviet feel to it and would never be the name for a U.S. department. In 2001, the Prius was first marketed beyond Japan -- you might not have known anyone who owned one or soon would. The last GM EV1 had been produced two years before and in two years they would all disappear. So much for electric cars or worrying about fuel.

We weren't expecting much beyond the new school year, the college and NFL seasons. The baseball playoffs. We just weren't thinking about what was going to happen. Building implosions were complicated works of demolition, not in the scope of terrorist attacks -- to be fair, I don't think Osama bin Laden expected both towers to fall. And I didn't even know there'd just been a big renovation of the Pentagon -- closest I'd ever been to the Pentagon was the underground Metro stop, though I guess my father was a secretary there at one point of WWII.

Living In The Future

As point of reference, I didn't get onto Gmail until June 2005. Facebook in November 2008. I got my first Windows XP machine in March 2005 -- and I'm still using it today. Mac users? There was no OS X. No iPhone either. No iPods either, not for another two months. Much of the tech we use every day wasn't in that form in 2001.

Undoing The Cobwebs

Because I learned of 9/11 during my long comute to/from WMU in Kalamazoo, for months afterward I had to have the news on the radio during the drive. No more CDs or Books On Tape. What if something happened?

I didn't write for a while.

And yet... a week after 9/11 a faculty piano recital was held on the campus of GVSU. The professor, a Van Cliburn medalist, was born in Israel. He felt it important for the recital to go on -- but he ditched the virtuoso program and instead gave us an hour of emotion and relief. Yes, life would go on.

Not quite a year later I started sending my stories out. Hiding from harsh reality? Realization life is short? I've talked to a lot of writers -- you can over analyze things and read too much into it. Perhaps it was just time.

What Makes This Different?

The second hit on the WTC happened live on TV and radio. The shutdown of the skies was nationwide. There is so much video.

What many forget is that Tuesday 11 September 2001 was a primary election day in NYC. And yet democracy did not fall that day. (Though there are forces trumpeting patriotism while threatening democracy today.)

We did not make 9/11 a holiday. Thank goodness. Imagine 9/11 Sales -- Don't Let The Terrorists Win! We Have Special Deals On Mattresses, Big Screen TVs And Many Chinese Made Products! -- and 9/11 "celebrated" on whatever Monday is convenient.

Finally, I think what made the difference on that day was United flight 93 -- Americans did not wait for someone to help them. They stopped the last plane themselves. This is what instant communications did.

Indeed, for those worried about overblown and intrusive hype, this may be the last big 9/11 commemoration. Ten years fits our historical sensibilities. The main memorials in New York, Washington and Shanksville have been dedicated. Rebuilding around the WTC site is happening. And some are already exhausted by the endless media coverage.

What Makes A National Event?

What's my point? Nick Mamatas wrote today that, "If you weren't local to the events ten years ago, or didn't have loved ones close to the events, I have to say that I really don't give a shit about your memories."

Of course that fails to realize the scope of the events. We were all affected. While I did not lose anyone directly in my circle, I know people who did and I know people there at the time. I am not about to compare my reactions to those in the direct path. Nor am I going to ignore it either.

Who "should" mourn 9/11? Who should remember? In terms of the entire population of the US, only a relatively few families were directly hurt that day -- and they live with it all the time. It's rather disingenuous to claim that now they have closure after this weekend's dedication. Few of us as a nation serve. The response to 9/11 has not been the national sacrifice of a WWII. And yet it was and still is a national event.

The fascination with 9/11 outside those directly affected isn't just the macabre, the real-life blockbuster movie images, the victims, the heroes. Or even the political, military and economic responses.

The Empire State Building survived being hit by a B-25 bomber in 1945. The WTC was designed to survive being hit by a 707. But by the time they were built, the airlines were flying the 747 and later the large fuel capacity 767 and 757 planes used by the hijackers. Design versus hubris? Are there things that my engineering students can learn here?

I've been avoiding the discussion of the Ground Zero memorial and rebuilding until something tangible was happening. Recently we started catching episodes of TDC's Rising : Rebuilding Ground Zero, which given that I grew up watching the original towers being built thirty miles south of us, has been a really interesting technological discussion.

This piece is already so long I shan't go into the rights and wrongs of the changes in security and law enforcement. Certainly on that morning there was a complacency -- there hadn't been a US hijacking in years.

So my point is that change happened. It was going to anyway. Some of the changes have nothing to do with 9/11 -- and some shouldn't have anything to do with 9/11 but somehow do.

The world has changed. For good, for ill, for reasons that have nothing to do with 9/11.

Tomorrow it will be September 12th. And life will go on. If we're smart.

Dr. Phil

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