Pinocchio Nose’s reply to those who would let dead dictators be

One of the more intriguing aspects of blogging is the comments one receives. Most posts, at least on this blog, receive no more than a handful of replies, but they tend to be thoughtful, articulate and often complimentary, for which I’m appreciative.

There is of course, the occasional anti-Semitic rant, which seems to be nothing more than boilerplate rubbish sent out on a semi-regular basis to posts that, say, identify the Nazis for what they were: A genocidal regime led by a ruthless tyrant and an array of sycophants. These mindless rants are easy enough to identify and delete, however.

Sometimes, though, one gets a comment that is both odd and intriguing.

I recently received a comment on a story that I posted back in November 2011 regarding then-ongoing debate about what Spain should do regarding the resting place of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

At the time, there was discussion about whether Franco’s body should be removed from Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, a sensitive historical site near Madrid, and reburied elsewhere.

The Valley of the Fallen is a Catholic basilica and memorial conceived to honor those who fell during the Spanish Civil War. It contains the remains of nearly 34,000 individuals.

Despite the fact that my post contained no commentary either way on whether Franco, who died in 1975, nearly 40 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, should be buried among the victims of the brutal conflict, someone, albeit rather late, took umbrage with the fact that I deigned to touch on the controversy.

“Mind your own business and we shall mind ours; don’t poke your Pinocchio nose into everything,” they wrote, although I did take the liberty of cleaning up the comment to make it easier on the eyes. (The original can be seen in the comments section here.)

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Designer dorm rooms: Another trend we can do without

My first reaction when I saw the Washington Post’s story on “designer dorm rooms” was that the piece underscored a trend that did not exist. It’s not unheard of for big-time newspapers such as the Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times to take unusual occurrences and blow them up in to full-fledged trends, in a bid to get ahead of the curve.

Alas, after reading the story, and hearing and seeing repeated examples of increasingly large numbers of materialistic minded high school- and college-age youth, fed by cues from their parents, I have no doubt the story is all too true.

According to the Post, one of the latest (obnoxious) trends is hiring a professional decorator to transform dorm rooms into “cozy retreats.”

“The average dorm room — even at some of the most elite colleges and universities — is not only tiny but also ugly: white paint, standard-issue furniture, fluorescent lighting and nothing that requires nails in the walls,” according to the publication. “It’s a challenge for many millennials who have never shared a bedroom or bath and aren’t accustomed to roommates or going without.

“Helicopter parents are not inclined to drop their darlings at the dorm entrance with two suitcases and cheerfully wave goodbye,” the Post added. “Instead, they’re turning to their own interior designers or professional organizers …”

Two thoughts come to mind: When I left for college, I loaded up my 1963 Chevy pickup, which was 20 years old at the time, and I drove myself to college four hours away. My dad bought me a good set of craftsman tools, my parents wished me good luck and that was it.

When I transferred to a school across the country two years later, I drove the same pickup more than 3,000 miles by myself. After a week on the road, I called them from Kalamazoo, Mich., to let them know I was fine. I contacted them when I made it to my final destination. They couldn’t have been any less “helicopter-ish,” for which I’m eternally grateful.

Point No 2: If my parents had come in and redecorated my room with some outlandishly expensive decor, I would have been the laughingstock of the dorm, and rightfully so.

Of course, I arrived at college with little more than a few beer posters, a couple of baseball pennants and a clock radio. That I, a guy, had a dearth of items to “decorate” my dorm room wasn’t surprising then, nor would it be today, apparently.

According to the Post, the upscale dorm room trend appears to almost entirely a female phenomenon, “fueled by social media and increasingly sophisticated marketing to college students.”

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California sunflowers take root in Carolina

sunflowers 010

The staple crop of the family ranch in California has long been canning tomatoes but to keep the soil from being depleted, other crops are rotated in on a regular basis, including wheat, lima beans, alfalfa and sunflowers.

The above example of Helianthus annuus was grown from seeds raised at the family ranch, but planted by yours truly in South Carolina.

It’s only about half the size of the sunflowers raised at the California reach, partly because I didn’t plant it until early July, and partly because the soil at my home has too much clay and isn’t nearly as good as that found in the Sacramento Valley.

Still, I figured I had a pretty good chance of getting plants to come up no matter the quality of the soil given that the sunflowers raised in California are grown for seed, to be sold and planted in Europe.

Note the bumblebee on the lower part of the flower. I’ve seen hundreds of sunflowers up close and most all, at least before they darken and die, will have a bumblebee or three on or around them. I can’t remember ever seeing a honeybee on or near a sunflower, however.

The three Canadian heroes who hailed from a single street

During the past century and a half, fewer than 100 Canadian soldiers have earned the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded to members of that country’s military. Of those, the vast majority, 71, earned the award for action during World War I.

Amazingly, three recipients lived on the same street in the city of Winnipeg.

Cpl. Leo Beaumaurice Clarke, Sgt.-Major Frederick William Hall and Lt. Robert Shankland were separately awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of valor, or “valour.” as our Canadian friends spell it, during World War I, which Canada entered 100 years ago this month.

The three men all lived on Pine Street in Winnipeg, which was renamed Valour Road in the 1920s to honor the trio. The name reflects the inscription on the Victoria Cross: “For Valour.”

The medals, now the property of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, have been loaned to the Manitoba Museum, which is commemorating the beginning of the Great War with a display of the three medals. This marks the first time all three Victoria Crosses have appeared together in Winnipeg, according to Global News.

The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories.

Clarke and Hall died during the war, while Shankland survived. In all, 30 of Canada’s 71 World War I Victoria Cross recipients died during the 1914-18 conflict, which claimed the lives of approximately 67,000 Canadian soldiers, or nearly 1 percent of the nation’s population.

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Researchers unlock mystery behind Terracotta Army

 

terracotta army

China’s Terracotta Army has fascinated millions since its discovery 40 years ago, near present-day Xi’an. Built by Qin Shihuang, China’s first emperor, the Terracotta Army was massed below ground, to protect a spectacular underground palace complex that was based on Qin’s imperial capital.

To create his Terracotta Army, Qin “issued instructions that his imperial guard be replicated, down to the finest details, in red-brown terracotta clay, poised to do battle,” according to Science China Press.

When the army was uncovered in 1974, thousands of these imperial guards were initially discovered, with some containing patches of pigment that had survived 22 centuries buried underground, along with minute remnants of binding media that had aided in the creation of this polychrome Terracotta Army, the publication added.

Since then, efforts to conserve these figures from China’s First Empire have been hindered by scientists’ inability to discover the binding material used in applying pigments to Qin Shihuang’s underground army.

However, recent research has revealed “the surfaces of the terracotta warriors were initially covered with one or two layers of an East Asian lacquer … obtained from lacquer trees,” according to Hongtao Yan and Jingjing An, scientists at the College of Chemistry and Materials Science, Northwest University, in Xi’an.

“This lacquer was used as a base-coat for the polychrome layers, with one layer of polychrome being placed on top of the lacquer in the majority of cases,” according to an article co-authored by Tie Zhou, Yin Xia and Bo Rong, scholars at the Key Scientific Research Base of Ancient Polychrome Pottery Conservation, the State Administration for Cultural Heritage, which is connected with the Museum of Emperor Qin Shihuang‘s Terracotta Army.

Qin (260-210 BC) united China in 221 BC and ruled as the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty from 220 to 210 BC. The approximately 8,000 terracotta warriors found in Qin’s underground palace were to protect the emperor in the afterlife.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization described the site in glowing terms more than a quarter century ago: “Qin … is buried, surrounded by the famous terracotta warriors, at the center of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the capital, Xianyang. The small figures are all different; with their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and also of great historical interest.”

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Asked to risk lives overseas, many veterans can’t get help at home

No matter what one’s opinion of US involvement in the Middle East it would seem a no-brainer that the men and women called upon to serve their nation in danger zones deserve competent medical treatment once they’re back home.

As numerous reports have shown, that’s not the case.

A 2012 Suicide Data report estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. Thousands more suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder which leaves many unable to handle the basics of everyday life.

Unfortunately, it appears the Veterans Administration and US Department of Defense are often exacerbating soldiers’ problems, rather than alleviating them.

Last month during a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing, a panel of parents asserted that failures in the VA and the Department of Defense contributed to the mental pressures that led their sons to kill themselves.

Jean and Dr. Howard Somers, the parents of Army Sgt. Daniel Somers, detailed their son’s experience navigating the VA system in Phoenix, according to a report by ABC News.

“He presented there in crisis, he said he needed to be admitted to the hospital,” Jean Somers said, having to finish for his wife who had started the story but broke into tears. “He was told by their mental health department that they had no beds, and he was told there were no beds in the emergency department.

“The fact is that he went in to the corner. He lay down on the floor. He was crying. But he was told you can stay here and when you feel better you can drive yourself home.”

Daniel, 30, had largely condemned his experience with the system in his suicide letter published by Gawker 12 days after his death.

“Thus, I am left with basically nothing,” wrote Somers, 30. “Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out – and thus deserve better.”

Also at the hearing was Peggy Portwine, the mother of deceased Army veteran Brian Portwine. She blamed the VA and Department of Defense for clearing her son for redeployment after multiple traumatic combat experiences, ABC News reported.

“Upon returning from the second deployment in 2010, Brian was diagnosed with PTSD, TBI (traumatic brain injury), depression and anxiety,” Portwine said. “I never knew of his conditions. He deteriorated quickly from December 2010 to May 2011 when he took his life. If the DOD and VA assessed Brian for high suicide risk, it was their duty to treat him, but he received nothing.”

This blog doesn’t normally post music videos, but the above clip by the group Five Fingered Death Punch, titled “Wrong Side of Heaven,” includes a number of staggering statistics regarding veterans: 300,000 are homeless, 1.4 million are at risk of becoming homeless, an estimated 460,000 veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 5,000 commit suicide each year.

Also included at the end are the names of several military-support organizations the band supports. The group has also launched the website www.5fdp4Vets.com where more contact information for veterans with PTSD can find support.

(HT: North Carolina Union Volunteers; Jitterbugging for Jesus)

Remembering the Miracle Braves and the 1914 World Series

This Saturday’s Atlanta Braves-Oakland Athletics game will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1914 World Series, in which the Braves and Athletics met in one of the more improbable championship matchups in Major League baseball history.

The game, to be played at Atlanta’s Turner Field, will include a tribute to the 1914 Miracle Braves, who were then based in Boston, and feature both clubs wearing retro 1914 uniforms.

In the 1914 World Series, the Braves shocked the sporting world by sweeping the vaunted Philadelphia Athletics (they wouldn’t land in Oakland until 1968, by way of Kansas City).

By mid-season of that year, however, the Braves appeared en route to a dismal finish. On July 15 they were in last place, 11-12 games behind the New York Giants. They caught fire as the summer went on, though, and won the National League pennant by 10-12 games.

The Athletics, on the other hand, were defending champions, having won the World Series in 1913, and also in 1911 and 1910. Philadelphia had four of the last five American League pennants and was heavily favored.

The Braves didn’t even have a home field to call its own; they had forsaken aging South End Grounds in August 1914, instead choosing to rent Fenway Park from the Boston Red Sox while awaiting construction of Braves Field, which would open the next season.

On paper, the Braves would seem to have been no match for the Athletics. The latter had three future Hall of Fame pitchers in Chief Bender, Eddie Plank and Herb Pennock, along with second baseman Eddie Collins, third baseman Frank “Home Run” Baker and Manager Connie Mack.

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