A blast from the aviation past

With the ease of travel and trade between China and the USA today, it’s salutary to remember the years when such contacts were slow, laborious and very expensive.  Pan Am‘s China Clipper air service flew between San Francisco and Canton – today known as Guangzhou – in the 1930’s.  The journey took a week (weather permitting), and stopped at Hawaii, Midway, Wake Island, Guam, Manila, Macao and Hong Kong. 1930’s China Clipper timetable (image courtesy of Wikipedia) Here’s a 1930’s dramatized film report about the journey.  We’ve covered the China Clipper flying boats in these pages before, so those who

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A modern version of Chesty Puller?

I note with some sadness that General James N. Mattis retired from the US Marine Corps earlier this month.  It’s been rumored in various reports that he was ‘let go’ by the Obama administration because he too frequently challenged politicians and bureaucrats over the consequences of their actions, and wouldn’t let them avoid or evade their responsibilities.  More fools them for getting rid of such a man!  The ‘yes-men’ won’t alert them to the crocodiles waiting in the swamps ahead. I particularly enjoyed the Washington Free Beacon’s selection of sixteen quotes by General Mattis as a retirement tribute.  Here are

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Interesting facts from the ‘Winter War’

As part of my ongoing research for a couple of forthcoming Weekend Wings articles, I’ve been reading ‘A Frozen Hell‘ by William R. Trotter.  It’s a history of the so-called ‘Winter War‘ between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-40.  In the light of my own (regrettably all too extensive) experience with military inefficiency, foul-ups and mistakes, I was amused to read the following about the Soviets’ so-called ‘ski troops’. Just before their departure for the Suomussalmi campaign, the soldiers of the Soviet Forty-Fourth Division were issued thousands of brand new manuals on the subject of ski warfare.  What good

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Well, who’da thunk it?

Guess what? A list of companies and politicians that had loans written off by banks at the heart of Cyprus’ bailout crisis has been published in Greece. There is already anger on the island that loans with the Bank of Cyprus, Laiki Bank and Hellenic Bank often running into the hundreds of thousands – and, in one case, millions of euros – have allegedly been wiped out. The list, reported in Friday’s Ethnos newspaper and which has been handed to the Cypriot parliament’s ethics committee, includes the names of politicians from Cyprus’ biggest parties (excluding the socialist EDEK and the

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Amanda Palmer on the freedom of asking

Amanda Palmer is one of the most uninhibited and least conventional musical entertainers out there.  She recently spoke to the 2013 TED conference about how she stopped charging for her music, and started giving it away for free.  She merely asks her listeners and fans to give her what they think the music is worth to them.  It’s a pretty interesting tale. You can read more about her presentation at the TED blog. I can’t say I particularly enjoy Ms. Palmer’s music, but then I’m a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, musically speaking.  Now, if I could get her to cover

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A pepper ‘arms race’?

It seems boys and their toys have returned to agriculture.  The Wall Street Journal reports: “Please don’t try this at home—we are fully trained idiots.” So went the disclaimer back in October 2010 as British pepper aficionado Leo Scott and his friend Lok Chi uploaded a video of themselves eating a new variety, the Naga Viper, developed by fellow grower Gerald Fowler. The warning was warranted as the two very experienced chiliheads sweated, writhed in pain and briefly lost the ability to speak after each chewing and swallowing one of the bright-red capsicums. A month later, the Guinness Book of

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A bleg for Chris, Melody and Christopher

Readers will recall our earlier mention of Chris Byrne, who’s fighting a particularly nasty thyroid cancer and the related health issues it’s inflicted on him.  He underwent major surgery last August, which left him looking like a man with a second smile.  Since then he’s been battling to get his body chemistry back in balance, and recently announced he’d lost 100 pounds since the surgery – a huge step forward.  He’s still pretty sick, though, and has a long way to go.  His wife Melody has been a tower of strength for him through it all, but it’s taken its

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Calvin would have loved this critter!

I’m sure many readers are familiar with the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes‘.  The protagonist, Calvin, has a peculiar relationship with nasal fluids, particularly boogers.  I think he’d have absolutely loved this report from Discovery News. Sea hares possess a weapon that even the best comic book writers couldn’t have dreamed up: an inky mucus-like substance that, when squirted at enemies, prevents them from smelling. The discovery, reported in The Journal of Experimental Biology, reveals how complex and effective some natural chemical defenses can be. Sea hares are a type of sea slug that has head appendages resembling rabbit ears

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The other side of the disability numbers

There’s a lot of talk in the news media at the moment about the rise in the number of those drawing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.  This four-part series at NPR gives detailed information about the problem.  It appears incontrovertible that many have turned to the SSDI program on the expiration of their welfare and/or unemployment benefits, because they see no other way of making ends meet.  I’m willing to accept that fraud is rampant in this program, based on my own experience of medical disability. However, I’m very concerned that all SSDI recipients may be unfairly tarred with

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