Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fascinating news (if true) for warbird enthusiasts

It's reported that fifty Focke-Wulf FW-190A3 fighters dating back to World War II might have been found buried in Turkey.

Fifty of 72 warplanes that went missing 70 years ago have reportedly been found buried under the former airport of the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri.

A German Focke-Wulf Fw 190A3
after landing in the UK by mistake in June 1942
(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - click it for a larger view)

Cooperation between Turkey and Germany continued after World War I and paved the way for production cooperation with German aircraft manufacturer Junkers. Afterward, Turkey’s first plane factory was founded, producing [Junkers] A-20 model planes.

To continue mutual production, a trade deal was signed between Turkey and Nazi Germany in 1941 following the efforts of former Chancellor Franz von Papen. Turkey sold iron and chrome ore to Germany and, in exchange, acquired 72 FW-190A3 warplanes.

The planes, whose pieces were produced in Anatolia, were brought to Turkey in 1943. The planes made their first flight on July 10, 1943, and were distributed to five provinces. A total of 50 of the planes were sent to Kayseri before disappearing in 1947.

According to newly surfaced documents, the U.S. wanted Turkey to destroy all German FW-190A3 warplanes in order to sell its planes that had remained unsold after World War II. As a result of lengthy talks with Ankara, the planes were never seen again.

There's more at the link.

If this report is true, it's likely to ignite a firestorm of interest in the warbird community.  If the aircraft can be excavated in even remotely restorable condition, I'm sure there'll be individuals and organizations falling over themselves to bid for them.  There are very few original FW-190's still in existence, and most of them are not airworthy, exhibited in museums.

I've not found any confirmation of this report from other sources, but here's hoping!


Your feel-good story of the week

Sometimes miracles happen.  Sometimes, if you're very lucky indeed, it's a double miracle.

It was pure chance that [Chris] Dempsey came into [Heather] Krueger’s life.

The code-enforcement officer in Frankfort, Ill., overheard one of his co-workers talk about a cousin who was dying of cancer and desperately needed a liver transplant.

Dempsey readily agreed to get tested to see if he was a match.

“I spent four years in the Marine Corps and learned there never to run away from anything,” he explained to CBS News. “So I just said to myself, ‘Hey, if I can help, I’m going to help.’ ”

He turned out to be a match.

“I got off the phone and ran down the hallway, and my mother and I were both crying our eyes out in disbelief,” Krueger said on “Today.” “I had never even met this man before.”

The pair finally met over lunch to discuss the surgery, and then found themselves becoming friends as the operation loomed nearer.

. . .

Krueger and Dempsey went in for the eight-hour procedure at the University of Illinois Hospital on March 16, 2015.

The surgery was a success — and the pair became even closer in its aftermath. They soon realized they’d fallen in love.

Last December, Dempsey took Krueger to the top of the Hancock Building in Chicago, and then proposed to her after a carriage ride.

There's more at the link.  Here's a video report that provides more details.

That's the best feel-good story I've heard for a very long time.  Congratulations to both of them, and best wishes for a long, happy and fruitful life together.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Someone should have warned the fire department . . .

There's a Norwegian TV program that seems to be something like Discovery Channel's Mythbusters.  It conducts weird experiments and films the results, which are sometimes rather spectacular.

Here's what happened when they tried combining potassium iodide with hydrogen peroxide . . . and adding flame. Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

Why did no-one warn the fire department not to go charging in there?  Oops . . .


The composer of the world's shortest opera has died

I've just learned that Peter Reynolds, composer of the world's shortest opera, 'Sands of Time', died recently.  The Telegraph reports:

The work, Sands of Time, “a tempestuous tale of boiling eggs and boiling tempers”, was written to last precisely three minutes and 34 seconds, the time it takes to boil an egg (though it sometimes lasted a little over four minutes).

“The intention was to create a piece which bore the same relationship to opera as a miniature does to a full-length portrait,” Reynolds told the Guardian in 2004. He also hoped to slash the existing shortest opera record set in 1928 by Darius Milhaud with Deliverance of Theseus, which ran for a comparatively flabby seven minutes and 27 seconds.

Reynolds and his librettist, Simon Rees, created a suburban domestic scenario of a couple, Flo and Stan, having an argument at breakfast, starting with the egg timer being turned on and ending with the egg coming out of the saucepan.

At the height of the argument representatives from the soccer pools arrive to tell them they have won a large amount of money, and peace is restored.

There's more at the link.

For those interested, here's the entire opera.

An opera timed to boil an egg?  Verily, the musical mind doth boggle . . .


Would you like to get 'killed' for charity?

My long-standing buddy in meatspace and cyberspace, bestselling author Larry Correia, has issued another 'Charity Red Shirt' challenge.  His first such challenge raised enough money to pay for a young man's dialysis treatments until he could receive a kidney transplant.  It's taken him from then until now to use all the names of people who donated - hence the delay until this, his second Red Shirt challenge.

It is Charity Red Shirt time again!

That is where if you donate enough money to a specific cause, I will use your name in a book. Details are below.

This time we are helping my friend Mitch with his medical bills. I’ve known him for about 20 years. Mitch suffers from spina bifida and has gone through a bunch of surgeries. This is to help him climb out of the hole. Here is the link.

Let me tell you a little bit about Mitch...

. . .

He’s a good guy who has spent his life helping others, and now I want to do something nice for him. Medical bills are expensive and Mitch has been through the wringer for years. Our mutual friend Dave set this up when he found out how far in the hole Mitch is.

This is not tax deductible. This isn’t through a 501c3. It is just a couple of guys raising money for their buddy.

. . .

If you donate $150, or you donate less but win the raffle, then I will use your name in an upcoming novel. (You can donate more too if you like, because Mitch will just use it to pay off bills).

There's much more at the link.  As for what 'Red Shirt' implies, see here.

Larry's got one of the biggest hearts in the world, both literally (the man's a giant!) and morally.  I respect the heck out of him, and I thought his first Charity Red Shirt challenge was a wonderful idea.  You can bet your boots I'll be joining this second one, not to get my name in his books (I've already been used as the inspiration for a character in his first, breakout novel, 'Monster Hunter International' - those of you who've read it probably know whom I mean), but because he picks really good, deserving causes and follows through on his promises.  Not many charities do that today.

I strongly recommend Larry's latest Charity Red Shirt challenge to all my readers.  If you can afford to give something, no matter how small an amount, please consider it.


Monday, October 24, 2016

You don't say!

Received via e-mail, origin unknown:

Never mind preaching to the choir - how about to the driver?


Art is where you find it, I guess

It seems 'street art' is alive and well in Melbourne, Australia.

An abandoned car in North Fitzroy has been completely painted in gold to the delight of many local residents.

The crumpled Toyota Camry had been sitting in North Fitzroy, near the intersection of McKean Street and Michael Street, for a couple of weeks before getting the makeover.

One local said that whoever crashed the car into the tree probably took off in a hurry, as the driver's side window was left down and the keys were still in the ignition.

In proof that just about anything can become a piece of street art, the installation has become an overnight landmark.

There's more at the link.

Clearly, the artist got Camry'd away . . .


So much for the opinion polls

I'm sure that by now, most of my readers have learned about the incriminating e-mail sent by the Clinton campaign as long ago as 2008, and just revealed by Wikileaks.  In case you missed it, here's the salient excerpt.

I also want to get your Atlas folks to recommend oversamples for our polling before we start in February. By market, regions, etc. I want to get this all compiled into one set of recommendations so we can maximize what we get out of our media polling.

There's more at the link.

Zero Hedge points out:

The email even includes a handy, 37-page guide with the following poll-rigging recommendations.  In Arizona, over sampling of Hispanics and Native Americans is highly recommended: 
Research, microtargeting & polling projects
  • Over-sample Hispanics
  • Use Spanish language interviewing (Monolingual Spanish-speaking voters are among the lowest turnout Democratic targets)
  • Over-sample the Native American population
For Florida, the report recommends "consistently monitoring" samples to makes sure they're "not too old" and "has enough African American and Hispanic voters."  Meanwhile, "independent" voters in Tampa and Orlando are apparently more dem friendly so the report suggests filling up independent quotas in those cities first.
  • Consistently monitor the sample to ensure it is not too old, and that it has enough African American and Hispanic voters to reflect the state.
  • On Independents: Tampa and Orlando are better persuasion targets than north or south Florida (check your polls before concluding this). If there are budget questions or oversamples, make sure that Tampa and Orlando are included first.
Meanwhile, it's suggested that national polls over sample "key districts / regions" and "ethnic" groups "as needed."
  • General election benchmark, 800 sample, with potential over samples in key districts/regions
  • Benchmark polling in targeted races, with ethnic over samples as needed
  • Targeting tracking polls in key races, with ethnic over samples as needed

Again, more at the link.

This absolutely confirms the recent revelation that the Clinton campaign was up to shady tricks (to put it mildly) in major media polling of potential voters.  They've been doing it for years - don't forget that the e-mail quoted above dates back to 2008!

It also explains recent triumphalist claims by the Clinton Campaign, for example:  'Hillary Clinton is so far ahead of Donald Trump in the race for the presidency that she no longer even feels the need to pay attention to the Republican nominee.'  As is now clear, she's mainly ahead in polls that have been deliberately skewed in this way, so as to portray her as so far ahead that the election is effectively a 'done deal'.  I suppose that's to try to persuade potential Trump and Republican voters not to bother to cast their vote, as there won't be any point.  Instead, they should stay home on election day and let events take their presumably inevitable course.

Thing is, of course, they're not inevitable.  Other polls (for example, this one) portray the race as much, much closer.  All of us have a voice, and every voice (and every vote) counts.  It's up to us to use them.


Travels in the Panhandle

In company with Old NFO and Lawdog, I headed for the Texas Panhandle this weekend, to do some research into an area that will be prominent in at least two more Walt Ames novels.  We met up with Alma Boykin on arrival, and she acted as our tour guide for the weekend.

We began at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon.  It's one of the nicest small-to-medium-sized museums I've ever seen (and I've visited many of them, on three different continents).  It's very well laid out, with an excellent collection of exhibits.  It covers the prehistoric geology, biology and zoology of the area, its importance to several Native American tribes, the arrival of white settlers and the cattle industry, the development of the oil industry, and all sorts of ancillary topics.  There's a very nice collection of regional art (several examples of which I was sorely tempted to 'borrow' for the walls of my home), and a clothing and textile section that we didn't visit, but mentally noted as a place to bring the lovely Phlegm in future (she's very into that sort of thing).

Not surprisingly to readers who know our proclivities, the firearms collection occupied much of our time.  Of course, being who and what we are, we identified two mislabeled exhibits;  Lawdog spotted a Colt M1877 revolver that was labeled as the Lightning model, but was in reality the larger Thunderer, while I spotted a Winchester 1873 carbine model that was mislabeled as a full-length rifle.  Alma, who's researched at least two of her books in the museum's archives and knows everyone there, noted the details and handed them to a member of the staff before we left.  Apparently they have a lot more guns in storage than those on exhibition, so we're hoping that one of these days, we may be able to arrange a behind-the-scenes visit to look at the rest of their firearms collection.  I'm betting we'll be able to find several more errors in cataloging!

After a late lunch, I put my head down for a nap while Lawdog and NFO visited a few other local museums;  then Alma took us to Trail Boss, a local barbecue restaurant, for supper.  The food was delicious, and made the visit worthwhile on its own merits.  We'll be visiting there again.  (I tried to look innocent while suggesting to Lawdog that he try their 'Ghost Riders In The Sky Cheeseburger';  but unfortunately he noticed, just in time, that it included two slices of ghost pepper cheese.  He gave me one of those looks, and very rapidly chose a different dish!)

After supper, Alma took us back to her family's home to meet her father.  Inevitably, he and Old NFO had both been based on the same Pacific island at various times during their respective periods of military service, so the conversation rapidly degenerated into "Do you remember?" and "Was that like this when you were there?" and "What about old so-and-so?"  I get the feeling NFO's been everywhere, done everything and met everyone.  It's a lot of fun to eavesdrop on his conversations.

Sunday morning was spent at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  It really tugged at my heartstrings - the terrain and vegetation there are so like parts of Africa, where I grew up, that I literally couldn't tell them apart visually.  I felt right at home.  I reckon I could take any of my local friends, drop them into parts of Africa, and defy them to realize that they'd left the US at all.  Also, the place is almost oozing with memories . . . if I were the superstitious type, I'd say it was haunted.  There's so much history in that canyon that you can almost hear the spirits calling to each other.  It's a remarkable place.  (Click the image below for a larger view.)

Among other things, we visited the general area where the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon took place in 1874.  Again, one can almost hear the ghosts whispering there.  The deliberate slaughter of so many of their horses broke the spirit (and the resistance) of the Comanche tribe, which retreated on foot to its reservation in the Indian Territories (today part of Oklahoma).  According to Alma, the Comanche have from time to time held memorial services in the canyon to commemorate what was, for them, a national tragedy, with permanent spiritual as well as practical implications.

After lunch at a tourist stop in the Canyon, it was time to head for home.  We said our goodbyes to Alma, with promises to visit again soon.  We were greatly amused by Lawdog's comment that we were 'heading back east' - which for NFO and I usually means the far side of the Mississippi river!  Lawdog's stamping grounds are in west Texas, which is very different from east Texas, so I can see what he was getting at.  On our way through one of the towns where he'd served as a deputy sheriff, he entertained us by pointing out the locations of some of his adventures.  ("That's where I shot Santa... and that's the joint where Pearl stole the steaks.")  We wheedled some more details out of him here and there.  He'll be describing those incidents and more in his forthcoming book.

I learned a lot, and I'll be using the information in future Westerns.  We'll be heading back to the Panhandle soon for more research (and more good food and company!).


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Home again

I'm back from my weekend trip to research aspects of my next Western novel.  I'll tell you more about it tomorrow, after I've caught up on some sleep and persuaded Ashbutt to stop trying to help me compose a blog post by walking across the keyboard and batting at my fingers.



Trump as the flashing red light of destiny?

In a gloomy, but penetrating analysis of world prospects, Raúl Ilargi Meijer makes some sobering points about the wider implications of the current US election campaign.

It’s over! The entire model our societies have been based on for at least as long as we ourselves have lived, is over! That’s why there’s Trump.

There is no growth. There hasn’t been any real growth for years. All there is left are empty hollow sunshiny S&P stock market numbers propped up with ultra cheap debt and buybacks, and employment figures that hide untold millions hiding from the labor force. And most of all there’s debt, public as well as private, that has served to keep an illusion of growth alive and now increasingly no longer can.

These false growth numbers have one purpose only: for the public to keep the incumbent powers that be in their plush seats. But they could always ever only pull the curtain of Oz over people’s eyes for so long, and it’s no longer so long.

. . .

‘Leaders’ such as Trump and Le Pen can only be seen as intermediate figures necessary for nations, and indeed the world, to adapt to an entirely different paradigm. One that is at best based on consolidation, on trying not to lose too much, instead of trying to conquer the world.

But also one that is likely to lead to warfare and mayhem, because nobody’s been willing to address even the possibility of no more growth, and therefore everyone will be looking to squeeze growth out of any available place, starting with their neighbors, and the globe’s weakest. It’s the Roman empire all over again, where the core strangled the periphery ever harder until the Barbarians and the Visigoths decided it was enough and then some.

That is the meaning of Donald Trump, and of Brexit. You’re not going to understand these things without taking a few steps back, and without looking at history, and especially without acknowledging the possibility that, in economics, perpetual growth may indeed be what physics has always said it was: an impossible pipedream.

Trump has a role to play in this whether he wins the election or not. He’s the big red flashing American warning sign that the increase in poverty that has so far been felt only among those who it has hit, will shake the familiar political landscape on its foundations, and that this landscape will never return.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.


Beirut, 1983

Let us never forget the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, on this date in 1983.

In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team - BLT 1/8), the death toll were 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II's Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens in general prior to the September 11 attacks, and the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens overseas.  Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died.  An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast.  The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.

There's much more at the link.

In the immortal words of Robert Laurence Binyon:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

"This land is our land" - somewhat speeded up

This video from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is kicking up a certain amount of angst in the Middle East and among Palestinian supporters and activists.  You can read all about it at Legal Insurrection.  Me . . . I'm just laughing at it, and enjoying it.

I think I could have done a much better British Civil Servant accent than that actor . . . and since my father once served as escort commander on the Cairo to Haifa Railway during one of his journeys in World War II, I daresay I've a hereditary claim on the office, dammit!  Mine! - or should I say, Mine too!


On the road for a couple of days

I'll be heading out on a research trip for my next Western this weekend.  Blogging will be very light, unless I have Internet access on Saturday evening, in which case I'll try to put up a post or two.  Meanwhile, please amuse yourselves with those on my blogrolls in the sidebar.

Normal blogging will resume on Monday morning.