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April 2017
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The Barter Economy

Last month my friend Ed rode to Bike Week in Daytona, Florida. He goes every year, and since it’s a long ride there and back, things can and do happen. This year’s thing was a medical emergency: a detached retina. Ed started seeing floaters in one eye after arriving at Daytona. The floaters gradually congealed into a circular blind spot, forcing him to stop and find a doctor. He was in the Panhandle at that point, 300 miles into the first day of the ride home. His riding companion was another Paul, a mutual friend and Goldwing owner (also my barber). Paul rented a U-Haul and drove Ed and the two Goldwings straight through to Tucson, a 36-hour trip, and Ed had surgery the next day.


Ed & Sue picking up our trailer

Ed’s recovering now, but he’s grounded for a month or two, unable to ride or drive. Before the Daytona trip he’d started looking for a newer Goldwing to replace his old one, and yesterday he found one. It’s in Portland, Oregon, a 2010 model with less than 4,000 miles, essentially brand new.

Problem: the seller’s skittish about bank transfers and Ed has to go there in person to hand the man cash. And Ed can’t drive. Solution: I have a motorcycle trailer Ed can use, and he has a nephew who’s willing to go with him and do the driving. This morning Ed and his wife Sue came over for the trailer; he and his nephew leave tomorrow. I almost wish I could take the nephew’s place.

I plan to use the trailer myself later in May. I’m going to haul my Goldwing to Las Vegas, then head out on a five-day ride through Nevada and California with our son Greg, who’s renting a new Goldwing for the trip. Some day, maybe in a year or two, I might use the trailer the same way Ed’s using it now, driving hundreds or thousands of miles to pick up a newer Goldwing for myself. Mine’s a 2001, and the ride in May will put it over 100,000 miles. Not much for a Goldwing, but it would be nice to upgrade a newer one.

Since my son’s renting a Goldwing for our ride in May, he asked if I still had the highway pegs that used to be on mine (rental bikes never come with accessories like that). I’d given those pegs to Ed in trade for a different kind a couple of years ago, but Ed still had them and brought them by this morning. I’ll take them with me to Vegas so Greg can bolt them on for the trip, then bring them back to Ed afterward.

There’s a lot of borrowing and trading going on here, but it’s all between friends and family. Speaking of which, Netflix’s rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer expired and they pulled the series, leaving me high and dry. I’m new to the show, only a few episodes in, and slapping myself for not watching it 20 years ago when it was new. I mentioned how upset I was on Facebook, and two different friends offered to lend me their complete Buffy DVD sets. Seriously, whatever they want to borrow from me, it’s theirs.


Air-Minded: Props & Jets (Updated)

Props and jets on the same aircraft, that is. Last year, when I visited the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California, I discovered a US Navy Ryan FR Fireball tucked away in a hangar. I knew there had a been a few mixed-power fighters in the early years of the jet age, but this was the first one I’d ever seen with my own eyes.


Sole surviving Ryan FR Fireball at Planes of Fame (photo: Paul Woodford)

By “mixed-power” aircraft I mean aircraft designed to fly with a combination of prop and jet power, not the military prop-powered patrol, cargo, bomber, and tanker aircraft of the Korean War era to which supplementary jet engines were later added, aircraft like the US Navy P2 Neptune or the US Air Force C-119, B-36, KB-50, and KC-97. The aircraft I’ll describe here were designed from the ground up to fly with both piston (or turboprop) and jet engines.

Back to the Ryan FR Fireball, which was powered by a Wright Cyclone radial piston engine in the nose and a General Electric turbojet in the tail (in the above photo you can see the jet intake in the wing root). When Ryan began developing this aircraft during WWII, jet engines suffered from sluggish acceleration and US Navy leadership didn’t consider them safe for carrier operations. Adding a jet engine to a prop fighter, however, would increase its speed and ceiling, so at the time mixed power made sense.

The Fireball, first flown in June 1944, is one of only two mixed-power aircraft produced in numbers and put into operational service. All told, Ryan built 71; 66 entered operational service in 1945, the last year of WWII, although they did not see combat. The Fireball was flown by a single carrier-based squadron, VF-66 (later redesignated VF-41 and then VF-1E) from 1945 to 1947, when it was retired from service.


Ryan FR Fireball in flight (photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

Another mixed-power fighter, designed for the Navy but never put into service, was the Curtiss XF15C. This aircraft, powered by a Pratt & Whitney radial in the nose and an Allis-Chalmers turbojet in the belly, never made it past the prototype stage. Its first flight was in February 1945, but by October 1946 the Navy was ready to proceed with pure jet-powered fighters like McDonnell’s FH Phantom and F2H Banshee, and the Curtiss contract was cancelled after only three prototypes had been built.


Curtiss XF15C (photo: US Navy)

After producing the Fireball, Ryan Aeronautical proposed a more advanced version, the XF2R Dark Shark. This fighter was powered by a General Electric turboprop in the nose and a GE turbojet in the tail. The prototype flew in November 1946, and although the turboprop/turbojet combination gave it greater speed and a higher ceiling than the Fireball, the Navy as previously noted was moving on to pure jet-powered fighters and only one Dark Shark was built.


Ryan XF2R Dark Shark (photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)

The second production mixed-power aircraft to see operational service was the US Navy’s Martin P4M Mercator, a long-range land-based electronic reconnaissance aircraft. The Mercator, first flown in October 1946, was powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major radials and two Allison turbojets built into the rear of the engine nacelles. The jet engines were used for takeoff and also to increase dash speed in combat, and, as with the jet in Ryan’s Fireball, ran on the same aviation fuel used by the piston engines. Between 1950 and 1960, at least 18 Mercators equipped two fleet air reconnaissance squadrons, flying classified night electronic signals intelligence missions near or over Vietnam, China, North Korea, and the eastern Soviet Union. At least three Mercators were attacked by enemy air forces, two shot down with the loss of all crew members.


Martin P4M Mercator (photo: US Navy)

The Navy was not alone in experimenting with mixed-power aircraft. From the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the US Air Force was also in the game.

The USAF’s first was the Consolidated Vultee XP-81 (later known as the Convair XF-81), a proposed long-range escort fighter powered by a General Electric turboprop and turbojet. First flown in February 1945 with a Merlin engine in place of the turboprop (which was not yet ready for testing), it was later refitted with the turboprop and tested along with a second prototype. The turboprop was a disappointment, producing not much more power than the piston Merlin. Moreover, the capture of Guam and Saipan removed the need for long-range fighters to escort American bombers on missions to Japan, and although the two prototypes continued to be tested past the end of the war, the USAF no longer had plans to put the airplane into production. The XF-81s ended their days in 1947 as targets on a bombing range.

Convair XF-81

Consolidated Vultee/Convair XF-81 (photo: USAF)

The USAF tested another turboprop/jet combination fighter in the mid-1950s, not because it still wanted a mixed-power fighter, but because it was interested in a high-speed propeller, one that could power turboprop aircraft to speeds in the Mach 0.9 range while using less fuel than a conventional turbojet engine.

This aircraft was McDonnell’s XF-88B, a modified version of McDonnell’s experimental XF-88 Voodoo, powered by two afterburning Westinghouse turbojets and one nose-mounted Allison turboprop outfitted with an experimental 4-bladed prop (and later a shorter 3-bladed prop). During testing, conducted between 1953 and 1958, one of the two XF-88Bs achieved supersonic flight, although reading between the lines of test reports, it did so with the thrust of its afterburning jet engines, not the prop (which was likely feathered).

McDonnell XF-88B

McDonnell XF-88B landing with feathered prop (photo: USAF)

As an aside, the USAF and Republic Aircraft conducted follow-on testing of the high-speed prop concept on an experimental fighter nicknamed the Thunderscreech. The Republic XF-84H, which was not a mixed-power design, was a modified version of the F-84F Thunderstreak powered by a single large turboprop engine mounted aft of the cockpit, connected to the nose-mounted propeller by a long driveshaft. The two test aircraft successfully proved their capability to generate noise, but were otherwise failures. Testing started in 1955, but by 1956 the USAF realized the future of economical high-speed flight lay in improved turbojet design and the development of turbofan engines, and the project was terminated.


Republic_XF-84H “Thunderscreech” (photo: USAF)

The US was not the only nation to experiment with mixed-power aircraft. Germany arguably designed the first, although no flying prototype was ever built. This was the Blohm & Voss P.194, a tactical bomber proposed to the Luftwaffe in February 1944. The piston engine was to be mounted in the nose of an offset fuselage, with the crew compartment and a turbojet engine in a separate offset nacelle. The Luftwaffe decided on the pure-jet Me-262 instead, and the Blohm & Voss P.194 was consigned to “Nazi Secret Weapons of WWII” websites and forums.

The Russians designed and flew mixed-power fighters during WWII, though they were never operational and did not see combat. The first was the Sukhoi Su-5; the second was the Mikoyan-Gurevich I-250. The lone prototype Su-5 flew in April 1945. Twelve I-250s were built and tested, but never put into service. Interestingly, the jet engines in both Russian designs were “motorjets,” rudimentary jet engines with compressors driven by the Klimov V-12s up front.


B & V P.194 (model)


Sukhoi Su-5

MiG I-250

MiG I-250

In 1951 the French Navy tested a prototype mixed-power carrier-based attack aircraft, the Breguet Vultur, a hybrid powered by turboprop and turbojet engines. Testing of the Vultur led to development and fielding of the Breguet Alizé, the carrier-based anti-submarine warfare aircraft operated by France and other countries from the late 1950s to 2000. The Alizé, unlike the Vultur, was not a mixed-power aircraft, and was driven by a single Rolls-Royce turboprop engine.

There’s just one more I’m aware of, and it is the only civil aircraft in this category. It’s another American, a hybrid turboprop/turbofan-powered executive transport called the Gulfstream American Hustler, developed in 1978. Only a single prototype was built and flown, going through several design and powerplant reconfigurations until the project was abandoned with the onset of an early-1980s recession in the general aviation market.


Breguet Vultur

hustler 500

Gulfstream American Hustler

There is yet another category of mixed-power aircraft, the combination jet- and rocket-powered experimental interceptors tested by several nations in the 1950s and 1960s. These are beyond the scope of what I set out to explore today, but may feature in a future Air-Minded article.

“One turning and one burning.” I wonder if any of the test pilots who flew these mixed-power aircraft ever uttered those words. I sincerely hope so!

Update (3/31/17): Missed one! The Douglas XBTD-2 Destroyer, a mixed-power (piston/turbojet) variant of the production BTD-1 torpedo/dive bomber. Prototype only, two built, first flown in May 1944 (pre-dating the Ryan FR Fireball by one month). The downward slant of the jet tailpipe negated the jet engine’s ability to increase aircraft speed, and the project was discontinued in 1945. Sorry, this is the only photo I can find:

Douglas XBTD-2 Destroyer

Douglas XBTD-2 Destroyer (photo: unknown)


.999 Fine Copper

Dude laid a tip on me after my tram tour at the air museum. He walked up, said “Thank you for your service,” and stuck his hand out. I shook back and felt a coin pressing against my palm. I glanced down to see what looked like a gold Rand and immediately thought to myself “Suck it, air museum, I’m keeping this one!” But then other visitors started asking me questions and I forgot about it until I got home and emptied my pockets. Here’s what it turned out to be:

IMG_3015 IMG_3016

Oh, well. I’ll keep it as a souvenir. Not sure where that fellow got the idea I was a fellow traveler; I keep politics out of my narration. Perhaps he just assumed, as many do, that all military personnel, active and retired, are conservative. Many are, but almost as many aren’t.

Last night a friend posted a fake news article to Facebook and I reported it as such. I was going to share it with you here, but it’s gone—Facebook took it down. How about that? Somebody at Facebook is listening!

Turns out Snopes is on it, too, so it may not have been me Facebook was listening to. Either way, I’m happy there’s one less bullshit story on Facebook.

I wanted to start writing after gym this morning, but Donna was on hold with the state tax office at one end of the house and Polly was at the other end holding for a car insurance rep. Both had their phones on speaker, cranked up loud. Telephone Muzak is the worst Muzak! I went out back and worked on the pool until they were done. I used to listen to news and music on the radio while I worked. Not any more. It’s distracting.

This BBC article about the ways we’ve described human sexuality through history is interesting. Things we once regarded as taboo are now discussed openly, and there’s been a huge expansion in the words and labels used to describe different orientations, sexual proclivities, even gender. I suppose it’s a good thing we can talk about this stuff now, but when I grew up, sex was “normal,” “weird,” or “OMG.”

Speaking of words, I had my first encounter with “Latinx” the other day. It’s a somewhat strained attempt to avoid the gender-specific nouns Latino and Latina, and after discussing it with a friend I’ve decided the attempt is wrong-headed. Unless Latinx originated with Spanish-speaking people—and I’m willing to bet it did not—it’s pretty damn presumptuous of English-speaking do-gooders to graft politically-correct terminology onto another language and culture.

With the last two paragraphs, I see a bit of conservative slip peeking out the bottom of my skirt. Maybe the guy with the copper coin had me pegged after all.


Sunday Bag o’ Tools

Friday morning Donna said she needed a magnetized bowl to keep sewing machine screws and needles in. You get those at Harbor Freight, and since I love tools I went along. I came home with a breaker bar and 19mm socket to carry in one of the Goldwing’s saddlebags, in case I ever have to change a rear tire on the road (in which case I’m really in trouble, unless there’s a friend nearby who can bring me a fresh tire already mounted on a replacement wheel).

I bought a few additional tools to replace lost and loaned items (essentially one & the same), and that gave me an excuse to clean up the storage area and workbench in the garage.


I didn’t do a first-class job, but at least now I can see the surface of the workbench, and if only I can remember where everything is I’m in business. Before you start picturing me as any kind of handyman, though, check this out:


That’s Donna holding a broken faucet. The shadow is me taking a photo for the plumber. After working in the garage I decided to unwrap the outdoor pipes and reattach the garden hoses. When I started to tighten this hose, the faucet snapped off the pipe. There was no shutoff valve so I had to turn off water to the entire house. Luckily for us the third plumber we called said he could come that day, and we had running water just in time for dinner. It’s always nice to have running water when you’re cooking.

Tool-related, sort of: I read an article about fancy wristwatches in The New Yorker. One of my prizes is the Breitling Chronomat I bought in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, my fighter pilot watch. I wore it every day for years, but now take it out only on special occasions. A couple of years ago Donna bought me a self-winding Seiko for daily wear, though I confess my real daily watch is a cheap Casio digital (digitals are so easy: they never need winding and they keep nearly perfect time, unlike even the most expensive mechanical watches).


From the article I learned Seiko makes a high-end mechanical called the Grand Seiko. In price, it’s right up there with Breitling and Junghans, though not quite in Rolex territory. My Seiko is not one of those, but it’s a handsome piece, and I decided to take it out and wear it daily for a while. There’s something about a mechanical watch that just appeals to me. Schatzi too.

Speaking of tools, I’ve been thinking about our “leaders” and the corporate interests they serve. Many of us are celebrating this past week’s healthcare news, but I can’t work up much enthusiasm. Trump said he was done with healthcare for now, but he’s already backtracking, and you’re crazy if you think Republicans in Congress are going to quit going after Obama’s Affordable Care Act. If they thought they could get away with it they’d repeal Obamacare with no replacement, and Trump would probably go along.

At least we know public pressure works. That’s one thing we can celebrate. Speaking out to our representatives—in letters and phone calls and town hall meetings—has been effective in terms of scaring them away from the idea of repeal alone. They know they have to come up with something to replace Obamacare. Factional fighting in the Republican Party makes that impossible for now, so the status quo prevails.

Not that the status quo is all that great. Obamacare is at best a half-step toward affordable health care, at worst a giveaway to the American Medical Association, drug manufacturers, and the insurance industry. Worse still, at some point soon we’ll need to increase taxes to pay for it. I can’t see a Republican-majority Congress ever being willing to do that. Can you? Trump and his minions say Obamacare will “explode.” I think “starve to death” is what they actually have in mind for it.

A friend sent me a link to this New York Times “Granny was a Nazi” story. Two lines seem especially relevant to our current reality:

  • My grandmother would shrug and answer something like, “He said a lot of things—I didn’t listen to all of them.”
  • My grandmother heard what she wanted from a leader who promised simple answers to complicated questions. She chose not to hear and see the monstrous sum those answers added up to.

Yeah, I know … but Godwin’s Law was written before we had Steve Bannon, an actual anti-Semite and white nationalist, in the White House, serving as the president’s senior adviser.

I’ll close with a hot take from G.K. Chesterson: “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”


You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book news and reviews.


Display for the times at San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore

YCRT! News

A Texas congressman says “Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” A San Antonio PBS talk show host records a rebuttal but the station CEO pulls it, citing fears of retribution through cuts to federal funding. Turns out the CEO has ties to the congressman. Although the rebuttal eventually airs, self-censorship by public media is a huge concern under the current administration.

At last, a new Philip Pullman trilogy is in the works (I’ve already pre-ordered the first book, due out in October). Pullman’s infamous His Dark Materials trilogy consistently ranks high on the American Library Association’s annual list of banned & challenged books.

“At Colby College, a student was reported for saying ‘on the other hand,’ which was perceived as ableist by another student.” This has to be The Onion, right? Sadly, no.

The hyperbolic headline says “Read these 10 Books Before They’re Banned in the U.S.” Well, no, but they’re certainly the kind of books that will be challenged, should any high school teacher dare to assign them.

Diversity posters have been taken down by Maryland school administers because, apparently, celebrating diversity is an anti-Trump political stance. It probably didn’t help that the artist, Shephard Fairey, created the Obama “Hope” poster from 2008.

Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple,” Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” and Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” have been removed from a Nome, Alaska high school substitute reading list after a group of parents complained about “large amounts of profanity, sex, violence, abuse, rape, and incest.” As if any of these parents have actually read these books, and not gotten their information from Christianist book-banning sites.

Google alerts me to stories of book challenges and bannings. These links often lead to religious and anti-abortion sites complaining about libraries refusing to stock religious, racist, and anti-semitic tracts. Such organizations call their pamphlets literature in order to make specious claims about “liberal book-banning.” Sometimes, though, claims are more nuanced: in this case, a university library pulling a biography of Winston Churchill from public display because the author is a Holocaust denier.

When young adult books with racially and sexually diverse characters are assigned as student reading, parental challenges are sure to follow. But if you want to publish a truly subversive novel, have a main character who’s fat.

Speaking of diversity in YA literature, here’s an author who went along with a request to self-censor a talk to students and wishes she hadn’t. I wish she hadn’t, too.

You can bet I clicked on this story: Florida Fire Started by Book Burning Destroys at Least 10 Homes.

Uh oh. “Much like Virginia, the state of Florida now has its own set of ‘zombie bills’ that have returned to the legislature for the second year running, in an attempt to weaken education standards and allow any taxpayer—not just parents—to raise objections to instructional materials.”

Shortly after historian Howard Zinn’s death in 2010, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wrote: “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away. The obits and commentaries mentioned his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

Now it is 2017, and an Arkansas state legislator has introduced a bill to “halt the use of any book or other material authored by Zinn between the years of 1959 and 2010 in public schools and open-enrollment public charter schools.”

With this new attempt to ban Howard Zinn’s works from public schools, I think it’s time to repost my 2014 review of his most controversial work.

YCRT! Banned Book Review

peoples historyA People’s History of the United States
Howard Zinn

Read a representative sample of reviews on Goodreads and you’ll appreciate how polarizing “A People’s History of the United States” is. Readers tend to fall into two exclusionary camps: violent opposition or adulatory praise. Zinn’s history has been the target of censors and book banners from its publication in 1980 to the present day. The ongoing controversy over “A People’s History” is what motivated me to read it.

As a child I believed my country was exceptional. That’s what I was taught; that’s what the adults I looked up to believed. Victory in WWII was still fresh and the economy was booming under Eisenhower, at least for families like mine. When I was still very young my father joined the US Air Force. We began to move around the country. I came to realize that many Americans were not like the white families I saw on TV, and that their experience of America was quite different from mine. At an age when I was politically aware enough to know segregation was wrong and could not last, my father was stationed in Virginia and I had to attend a whites-only school. I gave up believing in fairy tales and god. I started reading on my own, a habit I never successfully broke. I protested our early involvement in Vietnam, packed clothes and food for the Freedom Riders, helped a friend obtain conscientious objector status, and became a member of SNCC. American history, to me, had begun to look not all that different from the history of any other country.

Which is to explain that I knew at least some of the untaught history of the USA before I ever picked up Howard Zinn’s book. Nevertheless, the factual information collected here is shocking. Even for an old cynic like me, the accumulation of sordid details is depressing. On and on Howard Zinn goes, relentlessly rubbing our noses in American history as it was experienced by the Indians, indentured servants, black slaves and freemen, the poor, the landless, the unprivileged, women, child laborers, the bottom 50%. Zinn is frank in stating that this was his express purpose in researching and writing “A People’s History”; if you accept his premise—that it is just as important to study history from the point of view of the oppressed as it is from the point of view of the oppressors—then everything he relates in this book follows. But damn, it’s depressing to try to digest it all at once, even if you appreciate the importance of what Zinn was trying to accomplish.

It’s no wonder an entire political camp—the American right—rejects Zinn’s book. The history it recounts, starting with the very first chapter (“Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress,” a chapter so shocking and disturbing I suspect few conservative readers ever progress beyond it) is incompatible with a belief in American exceptionalism. Or fairies. Nor is it a wonder many on the American right would attempt to suppress this book, purge it from schools and colleges, and call for it to be banned outright. The attack on Zinn and his book follows familiar lines: the author is an America-hater and a Marxist; “A People’s History” is praised by Hollywood celebrities, championed by leftists, and taught by subversives; Zinn’s interpretation of history is meant to weaken American minds and pave the way for implementation of United Nations Agenda 21.

In 2009 at North Safford High School in Virginia, “A People’s History of the United States” was challenged as “un-American, leftist propaganda,“ even though it was not the primary textbook in that school’s AP history class and was taught alongside an article titled “Howard Zinn’s Disappointing History of the United States,” critical of Zinn’s book.

When Howard Zinn died in 2010, Indiana’s then-Governor Mitch Daniels emailed the state’s top education official. “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away,” he began. He went on to demand that “A People’s History” be hunted down in Indiana schools and suppressed: “It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?” In 2013, Daniels, now president of Purdue University, defended his earlier attempt to ban Zinn’s book from Indiana schools: “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools.”

In 2012, the Tucson Unified School District banned several books from local high schools. Prominent on the list of banned textbooks (still banned as I write this review) is “A People’s History.”

Just this year, in 2014, conservative school board members in Jefferson County, Colorado, proposed sweeping changes to the AP history curriculum. I do not know if Zinn’s book, or parts of it, is being studied by AP history students in Jefferson County, but the statements of the conservative school board members make me think Zinn’s book is on their target list: “Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials, and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority, and respect for individual rights,” reads the proposal, presented by conservative board member Julie Williams. “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

Needless to say, I do not adhere to the conservative camp when it comes to the suppression of thought or the denial of historical fact. Zinn’s history helps fill in the gaps in our education and gives us a necessary insight on American exceptionalism as it was experienced by the people we’d just as soon forget. I think it makes the thoughtful student a better and more patriotic American, able to appreciate how much we have actually done to wrest control of our country, and our history, from the one percent who would otherwise be totally in charge. But that’s just me.

With all that said, Zinn’s history, though well-written and researched, is a tough one to read, and might overwhelm people reading about the less savory parts of our nation’s history for the first time. It’s hard not to say to yourself, once or twice per chapter, “Gee, Zinn, would you lighten up a little?”

Here are a few links relevant to the banning and suppression of “A People’s History of the United States”:


Tuesday Whiff o’ Putin

25365537839_1c9f80851e_zFrom a blog post I wrote on November 15th, one week after the election:

“To the conspiracy theorists: I never thought I’d join you, but something about this election stinks. Along with GOP redistricting, gerrymandering, and voter suppression, there’s more than a whiff of Russian manipulation of electronic vote results in a few key states. I’m not saying Putin had his thumb on the scale, but I can’t help thinking he might have. I’ll just leave that there for now.”

Okay, I was wrong about electronic vote manipulation, but I was right about Putin. Russian involvement has grown from a worrisome whiff to an overpowering stench.

With confirmation that the FBI is investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians (and has been since at least last summer), this election is irrevocably tainted. Trump will never be a real president. At best, he’s the wrongfully-elected and temporary occupant of the White House … the more temporary the better. At worst, he’s a traitor.

And the people who knew better but voted for him anyway? I’m still struggling with the fact that people I care about voted for this smirking Elmer Gantry, this utter fraud.

Speaking of the FBI and Director James Comey’s testimony, I watched some of it on the news last night and was struck by the similarity between Comey’s smile and and that of the Stan Beeman character on The Americans, also an FBI man. This is not good, because it makes me want to like Comey, a snake in the grass if ever there was one, the man who torpedoed Hillary Clinton a few days before the election (while saying nothing about the ongoing and far more serious investigation of her rival).

IMG_2981Here’s another selfie for you, taken yesterday at Pima Air & Space Museum.

The backdrop is a postage stamp commemorating the US Air Force’s 50th anniversary in 1997. For that anniversary, rather than have several base open houses and air shows around the country, the USAF decided to have one big blowout at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, where I was then stationed. One of my last active duty assignments was to help organize the event; I retired a couple of weeks after it was over.

And damn, I turn around and here it is 2017, and the USAF will soon be celebrating its 70th. Another sobering thought: the entire lifetime of the Air Force fits inside mine: I’m one year older. We all can rest assured, though, that it’ll still be around after I’m gone.

Let’s hope the current occupant of the White House is not.


Saturday Bag o’ Road Trip

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 11.21.47 AMDonna and I are once again scheduling separate spring vacations. She’s going to California in April to visit aunts & uncles, attend the annual Giustina family reunion, and see some friends. Her destinations are all in northern California, from the Bay Area north to Chico. Meanwhile I’m planning a May motorcycle trip with our son Gregory. We were originally going to ride from Las Vegas to South Lake Tahoe and back. But I want to see friends in the Sacramento area, which is just downhill from Lake Tahoe, and Gregory thinks he can do some work with one of his casino accounts near Coulterville, so now we’re planning to hit NorCal too. Heading back to Las Vegas from Coulterville gives us an opportunity to cross the Sierras through Yosemite National Park, something we’ve both long wanted to do (weather permitting … late May can still surprise).

Donna and I have lots of friends in California, south and north, friends we’d like to visit as a couple, not separately. I’m thinking it’ll soon be time for another long car vacation together, later this year or maybe in the spring of 2018. Our kitchen counters are going fast and the house needs repainting and repair, so financing a road trip on top of home maintenance might get tricky. Will be tricky. Might be too hard to do. So no promises on when we’re coming, friends!

Back to the here & now: the issue of the day is dog diarrhea. Poor Schatzi has the runs. I’m looking up home remedies and will try those first. Tell you what, weekly poop patrol is an order of magnitude more unpleasant when you’re faced with raking up loosies.

So let’s move on. Both our kids were born in March, Gregory in 1966 and Polly in 1975. He turned 51 on the 10th and Polly turned 42 on the 16th. Damn, where does the time go? Polly came over on her birthday and we took a selfie under the palo verde tree out front.


She looks much younger, I think. I too look younger than I am, or so everyone says. Donna and Gregory as well. Sometimes I’m shocked to learn some of the really-old-looking people we meet are our own age, or even a few years younger. We need to learn to count our blessings.

The exterminator was here yesterday, poisoning ground squirrel burrows and pack rat nests. At this moment a healthy-looking ground squirrel is sitting on its haunches just outside our home office window. Maybe it’s a slow-acting poison? Normally I’d say live and let live, but ground squirrels chew the siding on our house and a few years ago pack rats gnawed through all the wiring under the hood of our old T-bird. Too bad we can’t all just get along, though.

I can hardly believe it myself, but I watched the first episode of Iron Fist on Netflix and liked it. I like Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, too, and I have a hard time saying why. I’m not a comic book or superhero fan, but the writers of these shows inject enough real life to make them interesting. Polly was asking me what else we watch on streaming TV; when I mentioned how much I’m enjoying Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I missed when it was first on TV, she said no wonder, Joss Whedon produced it … I hadn’t made that connection before, but she’s right. Not saying he has anything to do with the Marvel shows, but someone with similar sensibilities must be involved in those.

Well, I needed a Trump break and I hope you did too. Saturday chores beckon. More soon.


Erin Go Drygh

photoI quit drinking ten years ago this month. I wasn’t convinced I really meant it or how long it would last, so I didn’t mark the calendar. Every year I pull an anniversary date out of the air and tell myself not to celebrate until then. This year I picked the 17th, at the time not noticing it was also Saint Patrick’s Day. Is that ironic or what?

Anyway, whatever the exact date, I’ve arrived at the ten-year mark. If I was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous I’d be pinning on my ten year chip. Tee effing total. How dry I am. On the wagon so long my butt’s molded to the seat.

And I don’t miss it. I love waking up feeling good and being clear-headed. I like myself better; I’m better to be around. There’s no need to avoid bars and parties; hasn’t been since the first year. Once the temptation’s gone the presence of alcohol isn’t a problem. That scene in Flight where Denzel Washington empties the mini-bar in the unlocked hotel room next to his? That wouldn’t be a problem with me. Unless the mini-bar was stocked with chocolate.

Being around drunks is another thing, though. Not drinkers, drunks. I stay away from that scene, not because drunks are contagious (quite the opposite) but because they remind me of a former self, one I’m ashamed of. I stay away from the kind of activities where people intentionally get wasted. One of the benefits of getting older is that most people my age drink far less than they used to, and some, like me, don’t drink at all any more. These are the people I hang with, mostly.

Yeah, I know my transition to sobriety has been comparatively easy, and for that I’m thankful. I’ve been around drinkers all my life and know first-hand how hard it can be to quit. I’m also aware that drinkers don’t like it when non-drinkers start going on and on, and I’ve gone on way too long already.

Corned beef and cabbage tonight, and maybe a good movie on Netflix. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone!