Thoughts on John McCain’s funeral

I watched parts of John McCain’s funeral yesterday (Sept. 1) and was pretty moved by his daughter Meghan’s eulogy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth the 17 minutes that she speaks.

Her dad was tough, smart, opinionated and a statesman. I especially love the line that got applause (at a funeral, no less) –

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great…”

Donald Trump did not attend McCain’s funeral. He was playing golf at the time. Vice President Mike Pence did attend. So did most of Washington’s elite, from both parties. The Clintons, the Obamas and the Bushes attended as well. But no Donald Trump, who has had problems and an ongoing feud with McCain for years, with his most famous insult of the former senator being

“He’s not a war hero…He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump said that just a couple of years ago, but here he is in 1999 downplaying McCain’s heroism –

McCain often made veiled jabs at Trump, such as this

“One aspect of the [Vietnam] conflict by the way that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur…That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

But getting back to Meghan McCain. I love that line so much (“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great…”) because it gets to the gist of what is happening right now in America – is America great? Has it had problems (of course) and do we try to deal with those problems (I think eventually we do try) but the current resident of the White House apparently doesn’t think we are ‘great’. He tweeted today, in a believed response to McCain’s skewering of his mantra –

So, does Trump think that we’re NOT great? What constitutes greatness in his eyes? Are we only great if we do what he thinks is great? What does he think is great, anyway? The Cleveland Plains Dealer compiled a list of things he thinks are ‘great’, among them –

  • Himself as a leader
  • Himself as a person
  • His company
  • His hotel in Honolulu
  • His fortune
  • His poll numbers
  • His security cameras

If you don’t agree with the great narcissist Donald Trump, does that make you part of not making America great?

Addendum: After finishing this I went back to the original article that the Twitter screenshot above came from and noticed something else. One of the comments from the article showed a retweet from someone that I do not know –

Jesus wept.

Boba Fett is a Terrible Bounty Hunter

Boba Fett, for all of his cool street cred and name recognition and raspy voice and supposed toughness, is just not very good at his chosen profession. Bounty hunters have to go after the worst of the worst, they’re basically mercenary police officers, and those kind of people have to have something about them that screams, “Look, dude, don’t mess with me, because I am so much more of a bad dude than you are.” Boba Fett has that vibe, that je ne sais quoi that projects intimidation, when, in fact, he is anything but a professional. He is, in fact, the clumsiest luckiest SOB in the whole Star Wars universe.

I’m basing this solely off of the original Star Wars films that Mr. Fett appears in and not any of the expanded universe, expanded editions or prequel stuff that came later. If you read books or watch cartoons based on the expanded universe you learn more about Boba Fett, and how he really is a totally bad dude who can survive falling into the stomach of the Sarlacc, but I’m not focusing on that, because diving into the expanded universe is a never-ending slogfest of links and other characters whose names you don’t know. I’ll be focusing only on the parts of the original trilogy where Boba Fett appears or does something, nothing more.

The first time we see Boba is in The Empire Strikes Back, awaiting orders along with a group of other bounty hunters from Darth Vader. Like Wesley from The Princess Bride, he mutters, “As you wish.” He then looks menacing while standing next to IG-88, a walking coffee maker.

The next time we see him he’s floating away in the garbage cloud that the Millennium Falcon used to escape from the Star Destroyers chasing them in the asteroid field. How did he get his ship, Slave I, into the garbage cloud? It’s not explained, but he follows, heroically pushing some buttons that make his ship’s engines turn on. Also, this is the only scene where we see Boba’s little optometrist scope being used. 1Speaking of the garbage cloud, have you seen the size of some of that stuff? These are like the biggest pieces of garbage known to anyone in the outer rim. Some of them are as big as the Millennium Falcon.

When our heroes get to Cloud City on Bespin, sneaky Boba appears next after Vader has disarmed Han Solo, sidling up next to Darth Vader while Stormtroopers point their blasters at Han, Leia and Chewbacca. He has literally done nothing but follow the Falcon to Bespin, and now he’s standing next to the most powerful Sith lord there is. This tells you that he’s a very tough, quiet individual! Later, after Han is being tortured for fun, Boba tells Vader that Han is “no good to (him) dead.” He then traipses around, holding his rifle while Lando Calrissian prostrates himself before Vader. After that it’s off to the carbon freezing chamber where he once again complains about needing Han alive. He then points his rifle at Chewbacca, who could rip Boba’s arms out of their sockets without even trying. Once again, he’s one tough dude, showing you what he’s made of. After Luke arrives on Cloud City, he shoots at Luke, then runs away like a scaredy cat, then tells a Bespin guard to put Han on board his ship before flying off to Tatooine.

On Tatooine, he comes across in an almost civil fashion when he acknowledges the bargaining prowess of Boushh (Leia), after the “bounty hunter” secures 50000 credits for handing Chewbacca over to Jabba the Hutt. Repeating his placement on Bespin, Boba stands (once again) behind a powerful individual (Jabba the Hutt) while said powerful individual talks to someone (Luke). But all of the supposed toughness and bravado come crashing down on him when Boba ignites his jet pack and flies into battle to recapture Luke, Han and Chewbacca on the desert skiff, only to have Luke slice his blaster in half. He performs the ultimate wimp out move by lassoing Luke (lame!) and getting hit in the jet pack by a blind Han. As his jet pack once again ignites, rocketing him across the desert expanse, he cries out, slams into the side of Jabba’s sail barge, and then plummets to his death in the stomach of the Sarlacc monster.

Why is this man revered? I’ll admit, his outfit is cool, he carries himself with a Harry Calahan-like confidence and speaks only when it’s necessary. He seems like a tough dude, but I think that lying beneath that mask is the face and eyes of someone who knows they’re hiding their fear from everyone and realizing that, deep down, Fett is a charlatan who has to keep up the act before someone finds out that he’s really only good enough to be Sarlacc food.

I Have an Unnatural Aversion to Foods That Are White

The other day the boys wanted to dye Easter eggs. Fine, I said, so we went and got all of our supplies together : Eggs, Paz dye, other artsy implements in case someone was feeling creative were all gathered. We got the water to boiling and carefully dropped the eggs into it, waiting a good amount of time before removing them in case they weren’t completely solid (which is always a bad thing). While letting them cool it hit me like a brick in the face – the smell of those nasty things.

Yuck. I had to leave the kitchen.

Man, I hate the smell of hard boiled eggs, don’t know why, it just smells terrible to me. Like this earthy, wet, warm smell that permeates the entire kitchen. About twenty minutes later, with the aide of a full-torqued celing fan, and the kitchen was no longer a no-man’s-land for my nose.

But this brings up something that I have been dealing with for a long time – my unmitigated hate of white foods.

There is something about the color white, when applied to something someone is eating, that churns my stomach. Milk, eggs, yogurt, marshmallows, when served by themselves, just do a number on my reflexes. When served with something else, though, it’s not so bad. Marshmallows by themselves? Couldn’t look more upappetizing, but when mixed with chocolate and graham crackers, they become something heavenly.

Plain milk? No. Chocolate milk? Oh lord yes.

Popcorn is another issue. I love popcorn, which, in it’s natural state, is mostly white. However, it is delicious and usually buttery/salty, two flavors that I could eat for days together.

Maybe this is really about how I hate hard boiled eggs. Consistency, smell, the shell you have to crack, that nasty looking tennis ball colored yolk in the middle of them. If anybody ever sent me to Guantanamo, all they would have to do was boil some eggs and give me a big glass of milk. “Excuse me, sir, I’ll tell you whatever you want. Just get those things out of here.”

The song “Bells” from “Christmas In The Stars” Proves that Earth Exists in the Star Wars Universe

Even though it existed long ago in a galaxy far, far away, the characters of Star Wars appear to know who Albert Einstein was, the proof being the song “Bells” from the 1980 album “Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album”.1These lyrics appear to not currently exist anywhere on the web, so I’ve transcribed them myself from the original song. The plot:

C-3PO and R2-D2 have been chatting previously about Christmas (from track one, ‘Christmas in the Stars’) and their talk turns to a sound that R2-D2 hasn’t heard before.

*R2-D2 speak*
“What is that? That my silly friend, is the sound of bells.”
*R2-D2 speak*
“What are bells?”

For shame! C-3PO proceeds to berate R2-D2:

I cannot believe the question
It’s like, “what is indigestion?”
Not that bells and indigestion are the same.

I cannot believe the query
That you ask, “what is Einstein’s theory?”
Compared to “what are bells?” seems almost tame.

*R2-D2 speak*
What is indigestion? Who is Einstein?
Before you ask me, “Who is H.G. Wells?”
I will help your education with a simple explanation of bells.

So now we’ve thrown human digestive problems, one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, and a British science fiction writer born in the 19th century into the mix. Continue…

Bockscar, the End of WWII and What Might Have Been

Everybody (well, mostly everybody) knows the name of the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima August 6, 1945 (Enola Gay), but ask almost anybody the name of the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and you’ll get one of two responses –

1) It was the Enola Gay, or
2) A blank stare

Shall we change that? Yes, let’s.

The airplane, a B-29 Superfortress, was called Bockscar and it dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

End of story? Well, it could have been different if only the weather had been different and an accompanying plane had arrived as scheduled.

The mission to drop the second atomic bomb was to be carried out by three planes. Bockscar, the deliverer, was piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney and the crew of another B-29, The Great Artiste. Their original plane (The Great Artiste) was designated to be the observation and instrumentation support plane while a third B-29, dubbed The Big Stink, was to be the photographic aircraft.

On that morning at 3:45 a.m. Bockscar took off from the North Field of the island of Tinian loaded down with its explosive cargo. Sweeney was to rendezvous with the other two planes near Yakushima Island and then proceed to the primary target, Kokura. Bockscar and The Great Artiste circled at the rendezvous point for 15 minutes waiting for The Big Stink. The third plane didn’t arrive after 15 minutes or even thirty minutes, at which time the two planes set out for Kokura, which was thirty minutes away. By the time that Bockscar and The Great Artiste arrived in Kokura weather had become a factor, with clouds covering 70% of the aiming point, making targeting next to impossible. Sweeney stayed and circled the city for the next 50 minutes, with Japanese fighters climbing to intercept the planes near the end of that time. After burning so much fuel Sweeney made the decision to try for the secondary target, Nagasaki.

Clouds also covered Nagasaki, but with the aide of radar and a small opening in the clouds allowed the bombardier to see enough of the city to identify a target. They dropped Fat Man at 11:01 a.m. and it exploded 43 seconds later with a blast yield equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT at an altitude of 1,650 feet (503 meters) above ground, approximately 1.5 miles (2.5 km) northwest of the planned aiming point. 60% of Nagasaki was destroyed and approximately 40,000 people were killed in the explosion. Japan surrendered six days later.

The Big Stink did finally arrive, though. The airplane’s commander, Group Operations Officer Major James I. Hopkins, had ordered Dr. Robert Serber, a scientist working with the Manhattan Project, to leave the plane after he’d forgotten his parachute. The problem was that Serber was the only person on board who knew how to use the high-speed camera that would take photographs of the explosion, so delays mounted until finally Hopkins had to be instructed over the radio how to operate the camera. As photographic history shows, they showed up just in time near Nagasaki.

Of course the crazy thing here are the alternate possibilities a man not forgetting his parachute could have set in motion. Nagasaki never would have been an Atomic Age touchstone and we would have referred to the “two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Kokura”. Crazier things have happened, of course, but 40,000 people would have been alive in Nagasaki if things had been different.

Art Garfunkel

I’ve always felt sorry for Art Garfunkel because its always felt like he’s gotten a raw deal from the music world. While Paul Simon has basked in the limelight for decades, poor Art could probably walk down the street and go completely unnoticed by the majority of Americans. On further examination though you see that he’s lived the typical rock star life, with both ups and downs.

He teams up with his friend from childhood, Paul Simon, and made their first record that went nowhere. So he and Simon broke up, Simon moved to the U.K., and while he was overseas some stations started playing a song, “The Sounds of Silence”, off of their first album, but instead of the way that they’d written it their producer took Bob Dylan’s band and overdubbed it with electric guitars. “The Sounds of Silence” went to #1.

So to capitalize on their success Simon came back to the U.S. and they toured and made a lot of money but it all came crashing down when Garfunkel’s solo efforts (Simon also was doing solo material) didn’t chart as high as Simon’s and he started to drop out of the spotlight. That was followed by more albums that failed to hardly chart and he dropped into fits of depression. Even after teaming back up with Simon he was mixed out of an album that was supposed to be jointly released by the two of them (Simon’s Hearts and Bones) and before long he was scraping for what seemed like Simon’s table scraps.

The worst part about his whole musical career? He never wrote any of the songs he and Paul Simon sang together; he was just a singer, a good one, but not a songwriter. It wasn’t until 2003 that he released his first album of songs that he wrote (Everything Waits to Be Noticed).

He’s tried acting, poetry and he’s gone through the suicides of several people close to him. Probably in spite of all of what’s happened to him we ought to call him a semi-failed Renaissance man, albeit a semi-failed Renaissance man whose made a truckloads of money.

So Art, after all these years I salute you. You’ve never given up. Keep on truckin’.

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Here it is in its entirety, verbatim from the original –

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington





The Blue’s Clues Ability to Skidoo Could Have Astounding Military Applications

On almost every single episode of Blue’s Clues the human character (either Joe or Steve, or in the UK, Kevin) and the dog Blue “skidoo” somewhere, which is an amazingly simple form of teleporting (transporting oneself from one place to another instantly), whether onto the surface of a globe or into the image on a picture or a computer game or into a diorama, but it always involves our human protagonist and Blue being transported to somewhere else that moments ago they weren’t. It seems that other characters on the show can also skidoo, like Mr. Salt when he needs to go to the grocery store.

And skidooing is an important plot point to the show, because while on their skidoo adventures the characters learn things and get to play and also may find a Blue’s Clue, which is  great and all, but you wanna know who else could really use skidooing, especially in these trying economic times?

The military. Could totally help them out.

On top of all of the budget cutting that could be done, getting rid of transport planes/ships that are no longer required, there’s the instantaneous benefits of such a power. Does the president need to insert a highly skilled team of Navy SEALs into Tehran RIGHT NOW to take out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before he does something else crazy? Done! Does South Korea want to finally finish the Korean War once and for all and skidoo into Pyongyang and take on the entire populace of North Korea before they can completely mobilize? It’s doable. Anything could be doable, as long as we have a picture of where we need to put our military and our boys could remember those easy to recite words – “Blue skidoo, we can to.” Maybe end it with a “Sir, yes sir,” too.

If Robert Oppenheimer had been working on a secret skidoo project instead of the Manhattan Project our boys could have ended WWII early and gotten to Berlin even before the Russian army was thinking about moving westward from Stalingrad and we never would have had to invade North Africa or Italy or obliterate the Atlantic Wall. And LBJ could have won the Vietnam War, probably, if we’d been able to skidoo into Hanoi and convince Ho Chi Minh that we really did want him to be in favor of democracy. He (LBJ)  might even have decided to run for reelection and change the course of history.

The major drawback is that our people need a picture on the other end of the skidoo to return the same way. If they lose that picture…well, Mr. Secretary of Defense, order a new transport, since we got rid of them after the budget cuts allowed through skidooing. Enjoy hitchhiking home, soldiers!

But we could get rid of Air Force One, also, just keep that little blue dog with the President whenever he goes on the road.

I think Blue would have to remain non-partisan though. Can’t be favoring one political party over another. He’d also have to have a code name.

Anyway, just an idea. A completely cool idea, but just an idea.

George is a Monkey, and He Can Do Things That You Can’t Do. Ever.

My oldest son loves the Curious George show on PBS. He laughs along with it and afterwards will tell me the intricate plot points that moved the show from point A to Z. He has his favorites and his not-so-favorites, but generally he enjoys all of them, somewhat, even if he doesn’t love all of them.

I think Noah likes the show because it reminds him of himself. George is curious, fairly bright, and always getting into situations that he’d be better off not getting into. He’s smart and funny and cute, just like George, and he probably smells better than George, even though TMWTYH bathes George regularly.

But the show does one thing that, the first time I heard it, I knew immediately what it meant when I heard it.

In between the two CG segments of the show they will cut to kids taking some lesson that George learned and put it to practical real-world use. Kids will make telescopes out of paper towel tubes or trace their shadows and watch the sun move and stuff like that, but they always say the same thing after each cartoon segment: “George is a monkey, and he can do things that you can’t do.”

Really? It’s really come to that? Telling kids that a monkey might be able to climb up telephone poles and swing from power lines without being fried to a crisp? Or that he can knock down an entire dinosaur exhibit and put it back together before some scientists return? What is the meaning of this?

If you’re like me you already know what this is – the legal disclaimer. Yes, George is a monkey, and he can do things that you can’t do, like get kidnapped from his homeland in Africa and be brought to New York City (wait – some people a long time ago did do that), or go up in a rocket and repair a satellite (that’s been done too), or go skiing and rescue a pig (I’m sure someone has done those exact same things on a ski trip before).

Get real, PBS. Kids are just as smart and brave and crafty and mischievous as Curious George, and while the disclaimer could read “George is a monkey, and he can do things that you shouldn’t do without asking your parents first,” all of the things he does are in fact doable, but some little kid might get hurt or die doing what George does on your show.

When I was a kid there was a park near my house and it had great things to play with there. My favorite thing to do there was swing as high as I could on the swings and then jump off the swing at its highest point, flying probably ten feet or so from a height of about nine to ten feet in the air. It was pretty thrilling to do, and I never broke my arm or ankle, and I could have, but it was fun. And Curious George has fun too, but PBS, don’t tell kids they shouldn’t be adventurous. That sometimes takes all the fun out of being a kid, and if that’s the case you might as well just call him Dullard George.

Elijah McCoy, Lewis Latimer and Granville Woods: African-American Inventors of the 19th Century – A Postscript

I got my paper back from Dr. Sullivan the other night. For some reason, as with everything in this class the past semester, I’ve been a tad nervous when receiving something back that has been graded; it’s just a thing with me, I don’t know why I’m apprehensive about it. And when I got my paper back I saw at the top the grade – a 75. Wow. C+. Awesome…for real.

No, it wasn’t awesome. It was kinda sucky.

But then I remembered that Dr. Sullivan has kind of a screwy grading scheme, 100 isn’t always the top score that you can get, so I asked someone, “What was the top score you could get on this paper?” And they replied, “Seventy-five.”

So I got an A+, a 100%, or as I said, “a perfect,” and it only took about two weeks and some furious editing.

And he said –

Excellent paper. I like the way you presented the three inventors in the context of a broader picture of invention – and its influence within the African-American experience.

And I feel good about the paper. Very good.