Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Thanks, guys, for the help"


Whatever you do today (if you haven't done so already), you should listen to Captain Tammie Jo Shults as she flies a half-crippled Boeing 737 to a safe landing in Philadelphia. What a pilot! When she first reports an engine fire and the need for an emergency airfield, she sounds less excited than the earthbound flight controller. When she switches to a new frequency, she politely signs off with "Good day." And at the end of all, with the plane safe on the ground, she says, "Thanks, guys, for the help." Captain Shults was one of the first women to enter military flight training, and one of the first to take the controls of a supersonic F/A-18 Navy fighter.

Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Golden Mikaela


I suppose it helps that a victorious young woman is holding it, but to see the American flag displayed with such zest still makes my eyes tingle. I'm also impressed by the way skiers -- American skiers, anyhow -- manage to display the flag while also keeping their sponsor's skis front and center. Do they have a training program for that? (And for the flag, come to think of it. It's not intuitive, to hold an object with the field of stars at the left and top when it's behind one's back!)

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Three cheers for Elon Musk!


No, that's not Mr Musk at the wheel of the red Tesla roadster, but he is certainly taking a victory lap today. His company SpaceX has successfully launched the Falcon Heavy, the largest rocket to hoist a payload beyond the earth's atmosphere since the Saturn of half a century ago. And he did it with private money!

On Twitter (where else?), Mr Musk tells us that the Tesla roadster is heading for the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

The main rocket, alas, crashed upon landing back at Cape Canaveral yesterday. The two boosters however did gracefully return to their designated landing spot. That the rockets should be reusable is an important element of the Space X business plan.

I was curious as to where the names "Elon" and "Musk" come from, so I checked his biography online. He was born in South Africa, and his father has some Afrikaner (i.e. Dutch) in his background, while his mother is Canadian. What a triumph for merit-based immigration!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A pleasant sight


This is a shelf at the Maxwell Air Force Base library. Not only are there five copies of Flying Tigers on offer, but there appears to be a sixth copy that has been checked out. (Thanks to Ward Rogers for the photo!)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Trigger warning: this is a blog. Blogs contain opinions!

Really, this is the trigger warning to end all trigger warnings! (And wouldn't that be a wonderful outcome?)

Ken Burns, who reinvented the documentary with his great Civil War series, has now turned his attention to the Vietnam War. (As Americans call it. The Vietnamese call it the American War.) Wars, of course, involve at least occasional violence, and most of them involve atrocities on one side or the other, or more likely both.

Television and online programming begins on September 17 and continues for the next nine Sundays. But I just got an email from New Hampshire Public Television informing me that for $10 or so I could actually attend a preview in a theater. Not only that, the email promised, but the screening would be accompanied with this bonus:

Screenings will include trained facilitators to ensure a safe, welcoming, and inclusive conversation.
Isn't that the height of 21st Century culture? The Good People have invented war with a safe space! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Texas triumphs


What a great photo! I am generally skeptical of militarizing the police, but Houston yesterday showed us that SWAT teams have other uses than breaking down doors and deploying armored vehicles against civilians. Here Officer Daryl Hudeck rescues Connie Pham and her son from their flooded home. If the photo doesn't win the Pulitzer Prize, there is no justice!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A homicide detective in Hitler's Germany

I don't often buy hardcover novels, but I made an exception for the latest in the fabulous Bernie Gunther series, called Prussian Blue. (Like Lee Child, Philip Kerr favors obscure titles that I am apt to forget.) For one thing, it has caused book reviewers to hyperventilate, and for another it cost me only $14.16, or 17 cents more than the e-book. And, unlike the ebook, I can pass it on! For the ignorant (a group that included me until a couple weeks ago), Bernie is a wise-cracking, left-leaning detective in Berlin of the 1930s. Either trait could land him in a concentration camp, of course, and his dance on the precipice is part of the fun. Alas, time passes, and this particular story begins in France, in the 1950s, with the Nazi era handled in a lengthy flashback. Personally, I prefer to start and finish in the 1930s, when we don't know what will become of Bernie and Nazi Germany. So I suggest that strangers begin with the early thrillers that are bundled as Berlin Noir, three for the price of one. Blue skies! — Dan Ford