Category Archives: History

The Regimental Repp and the POTUS

I seldom wear a tie any longer, but I used to wear them frequently and I have dozens still hanging in my closet. I learned a long time ago that the regimental repp stripe tie originated in England and there is a significant difference between English and American ties of this type.

Very briefly, the history of the designs harks back to when the British realized bright red uniforms were not the best way to engage on a battlefield and they changed to olive drab in order for their soldiers to be a wee tad less conspicuous. In order for the different regiments to distinguish themselves when in dress uniform, they each transferred their regimental colors to their ties.

There is a fundamental difference between ties from England and ties from America. In England, the stripe goes from the left shoulder, over the heart, and toward the right hip. In America they’re the exact opposite. There is a difference in meaning with the use of color as well, in that here in the U.S. the colors don’t mean anything. In England the colors signify either an element of the armed forces or a boarding/prep school.

Over the years I’ve been struck by the fact that our Presidents – at least the last three of them – most frequently wear English ties. This is also true of our PEEOTUS as well. Notably, the two Presidents prior to these four seldom wore regimental repp ties from England. I put the attached graphic together after looking through hundreds of photos of all six of them to illustrate this “discrepancy.”

Last Six Presidents

The Last Six (including the illegitimate one) Presidents

I have no idea why the change and I also have no idea why this is so. Perhaps American manufacturers are now making ties with the stripes going from the left shoulder, but I’ve seen nothing to convince me that’s the case.

I know this is trivial, but it’s been floating in the back of my mind for some time. I’ve found it a taste ironic these men go to great pains to wear American flag pins on their lapels, and I often wonder why they’re wearing ties the symbolism of which evokes merry old England. Where’s their patriotism?

More about these ties at http://bit.ly/2iuQ6nu


The Rise of Homo Avarus

Homo Avarus - Greedy Man

Any Doubt This is How it Will Play Out?

I think it’s time we recognized there is a new species of primate in the neighborhood. We, of course, are quite familiar with our own species, Homo Sapiens (Wise Man), currently recognized as the only non-extinct species of hominid in the genus Homo. However, recent events make it quite clear there is a huge number of so-called humans who are not “wise” at all; they are self-centered and, apparently, lacking in decency and empathy for anyone not exactly like them.

These people just elected the most unqualified, inept, and uniquely hateful man to the highest office in the land, President of the United States. Only a few days after the election, his “victory” is already resulting in a significant uptick in hate crimes and bullying. He is appointing some of the worst people to ever disgrace public office in our country, and he is planning on actions that will set our progress as a people back 50 years.

This is, of course, what was always meant by the slogan “Make America Great Again.” By great, we know the real meaning of that slogan to be “let’s take America back to the 1950s, when people we don’t like (those of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people, and other “others”) were relegated to the background and expected to stay there and quietly accept their positions as second-class citizens . . . or not.

What he has proposed, and what he is no doubt beginning to set into motion will be the greatest reversal of progress on human rights within our country we’ve seen in quite some time. His administration is already preparing legislation that will make it possible to discriminate against people because of their “religious objections” to their lifestyle. He’s floating names of Cabinet posts and department heads that are an absolute nightmare for anyone with a working brain and a conscience; Ben Carson for Secretary of Education, Sarah Palin for Secretary of the Interior. It feels almost hyperbolic to take those appointments as serious and well-reasoned.

I suspect he, and those he will have in his administration, have been emboldened by people who are either reasonably clueless or who are so selfish and incapable of empathy, they just don’t care how much destruction this man will wreak on the most vulnerable. As long as they get back their “sense” of control and privilege, how it affects others is of no consequence.

Although I think this represents a tragic misunderstanding of how interrelated we, as both citizens and non-citizens, are in keeping the economy strong and growing, a singular lack of empathy seems to be the driving force behind his popularity and (what I hope will turn out to be) pyrrhic victory. For these reasons, I suggest we recognize a new species of human, one that is solely concerned with itself and only interested in the well-being of others if it directly affects their safety and comfort. In other words, Homo Avarus; greedy man.

Little do they know they’ve been massively punked, and are about to find out just what kind of carnival barker they’ve put into the most powerful position on Earth. It’s going to get ugly, and it’s little consolation to know that those who enabled this man are going to pay a heavy price as well. Stay strong, my brothers and sisters. I was hopeful we were going to move forward, but that is clearly not the case. We are now faced with what may be the greatest challenge of our lives, certainly of my nearly 70 years on this planet. We need to figure out how not merely organize, but also how to educate and how to teach ourselves and others to sift through the mountain of garbage that passes for information and reporting via the mainstream media and even much of the virtual media we consume via Facebook and Twitter. We have an enormous job facing us, one I don’t expect to see the result of in my lifetime. <sigh>


When The World Almost Ended

 

Drop Drill

Drop Drills Were Part of School Life

 The Cuban Missile Crisis came up in a short conversation I had with my 14-year-old daughter yesterday. She knew little about it but was somewhat aware of the Cold War. 

The conversation, however, reminded me of several things that haven’t crossed my mind in a while. The first memory was of walking to a Dale’s supermarket in Panorama City, California where I lived in the 50s and where one of my best friends continued to live. 

I was 15 and he had turned 16 that year, so we may have driven, though I doubt it. What I do remember is the empty shelves, most all of the food having been scooped up by people expecting the end of the world. It was eerie. 

The other thing that popped into my mind was the frequent drop drills, which I suspect is similar to how kids today are trained to react in case of an earthquake. In retrospect, I find it amusing we were taught that crawling under our desks could protect us from a thermonuclear detonation nearby. Back then, there were lots of targets nearby, not the least of which was Rocketdyne, where I have worked most of the last three decades. 

Finally, I had long forgotten the monthly air raid siren drills. Once a month – as I recall, it was on the third Thursday – at 10:00 am, the sirens would blast for about a minute. Not sure when it ended, but it had to be a long time ago. At this point I’m pretty sure most of my friends have no recollection of these drills, as they never experienced them. 


Connecting From The China Hotel – 2002

This is another email I sent from the Sports Bar in the China Hotel when we were in the People’s Republic of China to adopt our oldest daughter. The time and date say it was at 12:43 AM on September 15, 2002, which means it was mid-morning on September 14 here on the west coast in the States. This was the day we arrived back in Guangzhou after a six-day tour or Beijing. We were still childless, but were flying the next day to Nanning, where we would have Aimee placed in our arms in a small conference room at the Majestic Hotel.

I sent this email to one of the moderators of the Yahoo Group we had joined, which was created for people adopting through the organization U.S. China Affairs (USAA). The Internet in China was pretty squirrelly back then and there was no access in hotel rooms, nor was there such a thing as a smartphone (at least not one that was widely available as a consumer item), so I would have to trudge down to the lobby and this small bar, where there was at least one (don’t remember otherwise) computer I could use for a little while. I was writing mostly for those who had yet to travel. The wait for us had been nearly two years. For others, it would soon get longer, though we didn’t know that at the time. I knew people were hungry for status whenever a group traveled, so I filled that void for a while.

Chinese Babies

In the lobby of the China Hotel, in Guangzhou, some of the 33 children – all girls but one, and a set of twins – adopted by 32 families in our travel group in September 2002. That’s Foosh on the far right, in the red top.

I reiterate. I am posting these in part so my daughters will someday be able to read them and fill in another blank, when they’re ready. They both know they’re adopted and are aware of everything we know (which isn’t all that much) about their lives before they joined our family, but these emails I’m posting run the gamut from mostly informational to fairly emotional and, perhaps, introspective. They’re not ready for that kind of conversation yet. Hopefully, these memories will be available online for them. I could just print them out but I want them to be on my blog as well. Otherwise, why do I have this thing?

Hi Rick:

We’re now in Guangzhou, and I’m in the Sports Bar in the China Hotel. Still can’t access groups, period; not just China33. My interest was more in reading just to see what was going on, but if no one else is communicating with you guys, this email can serve to let you know what’s going on. We’re finally all here; had brunch this morning at a wonderful restaurant which appeared (from the outside) to be located below a sports stadium, and Norman introduced the China team and told us what would be going on. The groups then split into two – one for the folks remaining in Guangzhou to go shopping, and the other for the folks who will be traveling tomorrow to get 70 minute foot massages for 80 RMB. Norman says they are top drawer and include all you can eat and drink. As for myself, I chose to come back to the hotel and relieve myself of a large amount of cash I’ve been carrying around and which Sara was more than happy to take off my hands. I also wanted to get in what I suspect will be some of the last reading I’m going to get for a while.

Tomorrow, Linda and I travel with about 10 other families to Nanning, where we will perform a multiple gotcha at the hotel in the evening. I’d like to say I’m excited, but I don’t believe that word comes close to conveying the range of emotions I’m experiencing right now. No matter how hard I try to imagine what it’s going to be like for this 55 year old, childless man to shift gears – in an instant – so dramatically, I find it impossible to do so. I have chosen to put my faith in my lifelong love of children, my experience with my sister, who is 19 years my junior, and the knowledge that lesser men than me have risen to the challenge, to carry me through. Frankly, I’m not that worried, though perhaps that means I haven’t fully grasped the enormity of the situation.

As for Linda, I can only say she has strong maternal instincts and I’m sure she’ll do fine. Besides, she knows I sleep a lot less than she does, so she’s got a mule in the stable.

Well, that’s it for now. Feel free to post this message, either in its entirety, or edited as you see fit, for the rest of the family on China33.

When we come back from Nanning, no doubt the serious shopping will commence. I will inform you of our progress on the dresses. Take care.

Rick


Commemorating Humanity’s Brave Explorers and Pioneers

Yesterday was a very special anniversary. It marked the 29th year that has passed since OV-099, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicle Challenger, experienced a catastrophic failure (what NASA calls a Crit 1 failure) during launch, which resulted in the loss of the vehicle and its entire crew. The day was also set aside to commemorate the loss of the Apollo 1 Command Module and its three-man crew during a test on January 27, 1967, and the loss of OV-102, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Vehicle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003, experiencing another Crit 1 failure and the deaths of all aboard.

Challenger women astronauts

Judith Resnik and Christa McCauliffe a couple of days prior to the fateful launch of Challenger.

It was a day to commemorate the loss of these fine people; a day to spend a moment of silence reflecting on the sacrifice they made in their quest to advance the knowledge and, I’d like to think, the purpose of the human race. Truthfully, though I became aware of it on my rocket engine company’s website, I completely forgot about it most of the day and was only reminded when I saw the picture I’m sharing in this post. It’s a picture of the two women who were part of the crew we lost with Challenger’s destruction 29 years ago – Judith Resnik and Christa McCauliffe.

I came across the picture because Ms. Magazine posted it with some information about these two very special women. They pointed out they were the first women to die in space flight. Judith Resnik was also the first Jewish woman to go into space as well as the second American woman astronaut. Christa McCauliffe would have been the first teacher in space. The death of these women means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to you as well. They died in pursuit of greater understanding, of advancing science. They also were in pursuit of education for the youth of not just America, but the entire planet, as well as the noble goal of space exploration and the known and unknown treasures it promises for our species.

These two deaths are especially bittersweet for me, as they were the catalyst that launched what would become my first and, apparently, only actual “career”. Almost one year to the day after Challenger exploded, I began working for the organization that designed and built the Space Shuttle Main Engine and on the document that would represent their portion of the Space Shuttle’s return to flight . . . and service to our space program. I don’t believe I would have found that job were it not for the explosion of that vehicle. I am neither an engineer nor a rocket scientist and, had nothing happened, there would likely have been no need for me.Due to the nature of the document they were preparing to justify a safe return to space flight, they needed people who could work with engineers and rocket scientists and help them input the results of their studies into a document that would satisfy NASA’s requirements of scientific rigidity and organizational accuracy.

Due to the nature of the document they were preparing to justify a safe return to space flight, they needed people who could work with engineers and rocket scientists and help them input the results of their studies into a document that would satisfy NASA’s requirements of scientific rigidity and organizational accuracy. I had the appropriate skills (low bar) and mentality (high bar), along with the need to work wherever the hell I could. 🙂

At any rate, I ended up working for what was then Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne Division. It subsequently became a part of The Boeing Company, United Technologies’s Pratt & Whitney Division, and is now GenCorp’s Aerojet Rocketdyne. I worked there for 21 of the next 23 years, temporarily leaving in a somewhat ill-fated, but important, return to a family business before returning until my retirement in May of 2010. After nearly five years, I am back working there and am hopeful I can make a difference.

That my good fortune is somewhat a result of the tragedy that cost these two women, and five other astronauts, their lives does not go unnoticed. I hope I honor their memory each day I do my job. I will never forget their sacrifice, nor will I forget the connection their deaths have with my good fortune. I have few heroes in my life. These two are at the top of the list.


Want Something to Worship? Try This

Instead of attending services — whether in a Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or Temple — watch this. It’s far more powerful than any scripture I’ve ever encountered.


Twenty Years of Blogging – Congrats to Dave Winer

To Blog or Not to Blog

To Blog or Not to Blog

Dave Winer has played, mostly unbeknownst to me, a critical role in the development of blogging and other forms of online communication, including outliners and other types of online authoring and publishing software. I have been blogging for about ten years and I just recently came to realize his role. Actually, ever since I began following him on Facebook and experimenting with his numerous free offerings, e.g. Little Facebook Editor, which currently allows you to post to both Facebook and your WordPress blog, as well as edit and update both simultaneously, Little Card Editor, with which you can upload graphics (with added text) to both Facebook and Twitter, and Fargo, a quite useful outliner I’m using for a couple of things I’m working on.

Today, he posted in celebration of his twenty year anniversary of blogging. It’s an interesting explanation of what he’s been through (not exactly pretty) and what he thinks he’s learned from it. You can read it here. It’s really worth your while, especially if you’re a blogger and you sometimes wonder if it’s worth it.

I occasionally wonder why I’m doing this, as I’ve no intention of making any money off of my efforts but, rather, am merely looking for a way to express myself and, hopefully, reach a few people who like what I have to say. My biggest reason for blogging nowadays is to leave something of myself for my children, who may or may not find anything of value in it. I keep writing, though it’s sometimes a struggle – especially in terms of sharing some of my more personal thoughts, observations, and desires.

Anyway, this is my way of thanking Dave for what he’s done and recognizing his work in making all this possible. If you’re a blogger, you may not realize the role he’s played. Perhaps you should. At the very least, I always find it interesting to learn more about how we got to where we are. It’s frequently not terribly apparent unless you seek it out.

Mazel tov, Dave. Thanks for the ride. I, for one, am deeply appreciative.


I’d Like to Bitchslap McCain and Graham

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which resulted in the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This resolution authorized President Johnson to send in conventional forces and wage open warfare against the North Vietnamese and resulted in the dramatic escalation of the conflict. The coming years will bring us to many more 50th anniversaries of actions and engagements we never should have been involved in.

A side effect of researching the book I’m working on, which will chronicle my and my colleagues’ activities in the peace and justice movement from about 1966 through 1976, is revisiting the anger and frustration I felt at the terrible injustice of that and, really, all war. This video uses quite a few iconic images to good effect accompanying its song.

It also pisses me off to know how many petulant fools we still have as so-called “leaders”. The names John McCain and Lindsey Graham come readily to mind, but there are far too many others to think they’re anything more than the tip of the cold-blooded iceberg. Many of today’s problems can be laid at the feet of these war mongers and their sycophants.


A Subtle Dig From Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut quote

Damn Right!

Thanks to a post I made on Facebook yesterday, I came across this wonderful excerpt from a story by Kurt Vonnegut, “God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian”. I’m thinking it might fit nicely somewhere in my book. Many thanks to my Facebook friend Sam Garrett for pointing me to it.

“This morning, thanks to a controlled near-death experience, I was lucky enough to meet, at the far end of the blue tunnel, a man named Salvatore Biagini. Last July 8th, Mr. Biagini, a retired construction worker, age seventy, suffered a fatal heart attack while rescuing his beloved schnauzer, Teddy, from an assault by an unrestrained pit bull named Chele, in Queens.

“The pit bull, with no previous record of violence against man or beast, jumped a four-foot fence in order to have at Teddy. Mr. Biagini, an unarmed man with a history of heart trouble, grabbed him, allowing the schnauzer to run away. So the pit bull bit Mr. Biagini in several places and then Mr. Biagini’s heart quit beating, never to beat again.

“I asked this heroic pet lover how it felt to have died for a schnauzer named Teddy. Salvador Biagini was philosophical. He said it sure as heck beat dying for absolutely nothing in the Viet Nam War.”

You can substitute Iraq for Vietnam and it works just as well, eh?


We Shouldn’t Even be Discussing This!

I can’t believe we still have to protest this crap!

The sad reality is . . . most white people don’t have a clue what it means to be black in the U.S. Sure, there are prominent and successful black people. We even have a (half) black POTUS. For the vast majority, however, the effects of racism are still stark and very dangerous. Not always deadly, but always dangerous . . . or destructive. Unfortunately, privilege is not something most of us seem to be willing to give up. We don’t wish to accept the weight of responsibility our nation’s past has bequeathed us, but we’re more than happy to enjoy the disparities in treatment and opportunity that comes with it. Maybe speeches are what’s needed more often. Here’s a succinct statement of the real, underlying issue, stated far better than I’m capable of:

 


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