Friday, January 03, 2020

Tulsi at Hampton Beach, January 1, 2020

She's a woman, she's of color, she's a combat veteran, and she went surfing in the Gulf of Maine on New Year's Day. What's not to like? Tulsi 2020!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Happy 2020!

I send out a monthly newsletter to several hundred friends and fans, based largely on the subjects covered in my books, but often ending with a personal note. Yesterday I expressed the pleasure I take when starting a new decade or (less frequently) a new century or millennium. (Among other joys, each century or millennium brings a presidential election, and that's always fun.)

Predictably, I got a complaint that the 2020s won't begin until January 1, 2021. That's based on the "fact" that there was no Year Zero between BC and AD (or between BCE and CE, if your taste runs in that direction). While this is true, in theory, in fact wasn't any BC or AD, either. Did August Caesar have a calendar running from 27 BC to 1 BC, which on December 31, 1 BC, he replaced with a new calendar starting January 1, 1 AD? Nah. For him, those two momentous years were plain old 753 Ab urbe condita and 754 AUC, dating from the theoretical founding of the Roman Empire. The New Year wasn't the start of a decade, or a millennium. It wasn't even the start of a new year by our standards, though I confess that the math is beyond me.

Anyhow! You can celebrate your decade (century, millennium), and I'll celebrate mine. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The British election in one image

Jeremy Corbyn meets the future. (From The Times, with thanks!)

Sunday, December 01, 2019

A $20 Christmas letter

We can send an email around the world at virtually no cost, and have a video conference for pennies a minute. So it's hard for us to understand (or remember, in my case) how slow and expensive it was to exchange information and affection in what my young neighbor calls the Dark Ages. On November 17, 1941, RT Smith of the 3rd Squadron Hell's Angels, stationed at Toungoo airfield north of Rangoon, sent a letter to his mother and father in California. The cost was 3 rupees, 15 annas, and 3 pies -- about one dollar in US currency, when a dollar bill was worth about twenty of today's. $20 to send Christmas greetings to the folks at home! More about this envelope on the Annals of the Flying Tigers

Reviewed for December on the Warbird's Book Club are An Impeccable Spy, the biography of Richard Sorge, Stalin's agent in Tokyo in 1941, and Retreat from Moscow, a new and mostly convincing history of Germany's successful withdrawal in the winter of 1941-1942. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

As China turns 70

Properly Woke Americans like to think of the United States as a racist, misogynist society ruled by a fascist with orange hair. But whenever repression really hits the fan, anywhere in the world, people still wave the Stars and Stripes, as protesters in Hong Kong are doing here.

In 1949, Mao Zedong and the Peoples Liberation Army won the civil war and sent the former Nationalist government fleeing to Taiwan. Seventy years later, both mainland China and its offshore island are prospering, but only Taiwan is free. The people of Hong Kong know that, and they know that the absolute dictator in Bejing is determined that they too will be brought under the heel of his secret police, total surveillance, and "re-education" camps.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The new, new Royal Family

How could any government do better than this? It's not just Meghan, either -- Prince Harry has more joy in his bones than any Royal I've ever seen. Of course it doesn't hurt one's mood to have all that pulchritude in his line of vision!

But yeah, I've got to admit, most nights this year we've watched an episode of Suits on Amazon Prime Video.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Europe discovers the virtues of "English" measure

I've never liked the metric system, one of many bad ideas introduced to France, Europe, and the world by the French Revolution of 1789. I didn't even mind the British notion of the "stone" (I weighed 10 stone at the time; I'm considerably heavier now).

After all, who cares at what temperature water freezes and boils? All I want to know is whether the day is hot or cold, and for that, Fahrenheit is brilliant. Zero is really cold; 100 is really hot. They're also the temps at which human existence becomes a bit dodgy and it pays to pay attention to how you dress and what you're doing.

This is the summer that Europe discovers the virtues of Fahrenheit. Yesterday or the day before, on a trustworthy thermometer, Britain recorded 101 deg, Netherlands 104, Germany 107, and France (where the stupidity of Celsius got its start) 109.

Ah, Robespierre, thou shouldst be living at this hour! The thermometer you inspired may read 42.77778 deg, but in my world it's 109, and it's really, really, hot.