Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book Review: Attack on Pearl Harbor: World War II Strikes Home in the USA

Attack on Pearl Harbor: World War II Strikes Home in the USA, by Steve Dougherty, Scholastic, New York, 2012.
I love to read of Pearl Harbor, even books written for children.  This book tells the stories of two airmen, Kenneth Taylor and George Welch.  These two were able to get to a remote airfield, Haleiwa, where their planes were stored, Most of the American planes were destroyed through strafing and bombing runs.  However these two were able to get into the air and engaged the Japanese in air battles despite be outnumbered.  It also relates the story of Dorie Miller, who as African American served in the mess and was not allowed to shoot.  He was allowed to feed ammunition however.  When the gunner took a bullet, Miller took over the fun.  He had observed, but never fired.  However he was able to stand and fight from the deck of the USS West Virginia (which had taken 7 bombs) amid bombs and fires and bullets.  He is credited with down a few planes and received the Navy Cross for his heroics.  He would later be killed on another ship. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Book Review: Thurgood Marshall and Civil Rights

Thurgood Marshall and Civil Rights by Jerome Foster, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2005.

Thurgood Marshall was the first African American on the Supreme Court.  This appointment was the result of years as an appellate judge, and then as the Solicitor General of the United States.  However, his greatest triumphs came before he served on a federal level.  He worked with the NAACP on several landmark Supreme Court cases.  This included Marshall vs Bd of Education.  This is the landmark decision which ended segregation.  He also argued a key voter rights act case, Smith v Allwright.  Marshall himself could not decide which decision was the most significant. However together they changed the lay of the land, and as a country we were able to move against oppressive voting discrimination as well as segregation in schools. 
Thurgood Marshall, with good reason, was been called Mr. Civil Rights. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Documentary Review: I Hate Christian Laettner

I Hate Christian Laettner, directed by Rory Karpf, ESPN 30 for 30, 2015
This is a fascinating look at the rise of Duke basketball, and the man who was the NCAA basketball player of the year his senior year, 1992.  I remember watching some of the games presented, and how Laettner seemed to always come through.  even when he played against the likes of Shaquille O'Neal.  Duke went to the final four in the tournament each year Laettner was at Duke, and Laettner holds the record for most points in the NCAA tournament.  Of course Laettner wasn't the only player, but he was the player who consistently came through at the end of games and carried the team.  Other players included Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill and Thomas Hill.  However for some reason, people loved to hate Laettner.
There was one game when he stepped on another player out of frustration, and wasn't ejected, and then made the last second shot.  But the venom expressed towards Laettner was not deserved.  This movie postulates on what.  Perhaps it was Laettner's good looks, and that women seemed to adore him.  Perhaps his hard-nosed play.  At one point people threw homosexual slurs at him.  He thrived in this environment, and talked with his play.
The part I like best about this show, is the end, when it shows his family.  Laettner is a family man, and this seems to be his most important role; and I like that.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Documentary Review: The Price of Gold: ESPN Documentary 2014

The Price of Gold, ESPN: 30 for 30 2014.
This tells the story of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, who competed in women's figure skating at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.  Just a few weeks previous, Nancy Kerrigan was brutally hit in the knee by an unknown assailant with a metal bar.  Turns out this attack was initiated by Tonya Harding's ex husband, Jeff Gillooly.  Although Harding, appears to have not known about the attack before hand, the question is when did she know.  She was allowed to compete in the Olympics that year, and the scene of here and the broken lace took place.  She did not place.  On the other hand, nancy Kerrigan took silver.  She had to rehab her knee, and work hard, and overcame the diversity.
After the event, Tonya Harding was banned from the sport.  She plead guilty to a conspiring to hinder prosecution.  There is still controversy over how much she knew.  For some the Olympics are more than sport.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Spirit of 1943: Pennsylvania Railroad

Found this poster at the train museum in Santa Clara.  It talks about the use of railroads during the war, and promotes buying War Bonds.  It appears to be a reprint from Saturday Evening Post.

Book Review: Mighty Ironclads and Other Amazements: Civil War

Mighty Ironclads and Other Amazements by Alison Wells, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2005

The first Ironclads are amazing enough, but this booklet talks of other advances and how they effected the Civil War.  Improvements in photography brought the war to people.  Pictures of the dead were often taken and sent to home states.  Mathew Brady sponsored a crew of photographers, who documented much of the war.  However, the first battle, Manassas or Bull Run has no surviving photographs.  In the Union retreat, the wagon of Brady was upset, and the pictures were ruined.  There of course were other photographers.  Newspapers did not always purchase pictures, and they were wold directly to the public.  Also soldiers also wanted their image taken in case they did not make it home.
The telegraph was also a major advance.  Information could travel the speed of light.  No longer were there long delays in disseminating information.  The advance of Morse Code gave a method for exchanging information.  It was not unheard to have telegraph wires lined to the battle front.  Along with the telegraph, was the use of balloons for spying on military formations of the enemy.  Telegraph wires were also wired right to the balloon.
The telegraph wire did have it drawback.  The enemy could intercept messages, or worse could fake messages.  However, telegraph operators were familiar with the patterns of those with whom they communicated frequently.  They often could tell the difference between fake and real messages. 
The Virginia against the fleet blockading Richmond was a pivotal moment in history.  The Virginia was the Confederate conversion of the ship Merrimac, a steam powered ship.  It had been lined with steel.  There was some difficulty getting enough, and in some cases rails were used, having been melted and formed into plates.  These were attached to the ship.  This ship was 263 feet long.  In addition to cannon, it was armed with a battering ram.  The first day on Hampton Roads, the ocean waterway where the James River drains, the Virginia had great success.  Cannon fire from the ships did not affect the Virginia, and it was able to ram and sink the Cumberland, one of two ships (of about fifteen Union ships) that had cannon large enough to do any damage to the Virginia.  The other ship, Congress, it had badly damaged and ran aground.  Another ship had been sunk, and two more run aground.  At the end of the day, it withdrew, with the expectation of retuning to finish the job the next day. 
The Union had heard of the Confederate plans for an armored vessel, and had made their own.  When they heard of the battle in Washington, the USS Monitor, a flat vessel with a turret had been floated to the area.  The trip had been rough.  The USS Monitor almost sunk in the high seas.  However it was there waiting the next morning, and thus the first ironclad battle took place.  The USS Monitor was smaller, but its turret made a difficult target.  It was also better able to steer because of the smaller size.  The ships battled for four hours with no clear winner.  The Virginia withdrew and steamed upriver.  The blockade held. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Mormon Inventors

This is gleaned from an article in LDS Living entitled "Pure Genius: 14 Things You Didn't Know Mormons Invented by Jannalee Rosner and published May/June 2016.
The inventor I am most familiar with is Philo T. Farnsworth as he is from Rigby, Idaho, where my father grew up.  He had an interest in mechanical television, and came up with his own idea which he felt would improve all existing attempts, making the picture clearer.  He was able to transmit television at age 21 from his lab in San Francisco.  RCA offered to purchase his invention, and in fact treaded upon his patents.  Farnsworth later would file law suit against RCA and they would pay him a million dollars to use his design.
Many have heard the story of William Clayton and Appleton Milo Harmon and their efforts to measure distances on the Westward trek with Brigham Young.  This resulted in advances in the odometer, and their design is the father of the modern odometer.
Jonathan Browning, from Quincy, Illinois and Nauvoo, and his son John Moses Browning both made significant advances in fire arms.  Jonathan Browning worked on rifling ideas, and also a breach loading rifle.  However his son, working out of Ogden, invented many modern weapons of war, including the automatic gas-powered machine gun.  Other semiautomatic weapons are part of his list of inventions. 
Alvin McBurney was a pioneer in electric guitars.  He invented the first electric guitar, but his real love was pedal steel guitars.
Development in artificial heart was pioneered by Dr. William DeVries from University of Utah, and resulted in the first artificial heart transplant into the patient Barney Clark.  Clark lived 112 days after the surgery.  However this furthered this pioneer work.
The first modern (somewhat, it had to be manualy controlled.) traffic light was at the corner of 200 South and Main in Salt Lake City.  Although vandalized frequently, and often ignored, with improvements the traffic light has made its way into modern usage.  This was the work of police officer Lester Wire.  He neglected to patent his device, and other cities picked up on the idea.
Mormon inventors were key in developing digital sound and movies.  Thomas Stockham was a pioneer.  He was mentor to Robert B Ingebretsen, and together they received a joint Oscar for their efforts.  They are credited with pioneer the digital sound movement.  Ingebretsen with Ed Catmull made the first digital movie.
Harvey Fletcher from BYU and Provo is credited with developing the hearing aid, and other sound improvements, including stereophonic sound.  He worked with Thomas Edison.
Industrial artificial diamonds were pioneered by Howard Tracy Hall, from Ogden.
John Aldous Dixon also from Ogden, was a pioneer in using lasers in surgery.  Lasers are  now used in most surgeries to stop bleeding.
Wayne Quentin, again from Rigby, Idaho, a bioengineer, made contributions in two areas.  His work with Belding Scribner helped develop a kidney dialysis shunt, which makes it easier to reconnect to a dialysis machine.  He also developed a light-weight treadmill, which design has lead the industry and many of his are in hospitals for cardiac tests, as well as in exercise gyms. 
Gore-Tex, a light weight, waterproof fabric was developed by Robert W. Gore, from Salt Lake City.
Homer R. Warner has been a pioneer in using computers in medicine.  This has included program to diagnosis heart disease, as well as many research studies, using family history records.