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Thursday, July 19, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. I like the television show REVENGE but the last two episodes seem to badly paste into the story a bunch of new information that didn't really fit the overall arc. Suddenly we have the white-haired man who murdered the original fall guy (and several other victims). Suddenly we hear about the super-secret "Initiative" that is behind everything. Suddenly we hear that daddy Grayson had a wife and kids before Victoria. Didn't they have a plan for Season Two before they started?

2. I waited patiently for the start of the seventh season of ICE ROAD TRUCKERS but -- what the heck -- no girls? Where's Lisa Kelly? Where's that feisty New York chick? Who wants to watch those two fat old Canadians for a seventh year? We need a new show VOLCANO ROAD TRUCKERS with girls in bikinis driving pickups on Kilauea in Hawaii to deliver lunch to the science research station.

3. The oldest military ship in service is the Russian VMF Kommuna, which is used to salvage submarines and to operate smaller submersibles. The 2,500-ton catamaran was built in the Netherlands and entered Russian service in 1915. It still works just fine and the Russians have kept her in service. VMF Kommuna became the official oldest military ship with the retirement of the British light cruiser Caroline, which was built in 1914 and served at Jutland. Caroline had been tied to the dock as a training ship for many years. The oldest US ship is the carrier USS Enterprise, which has served for 48 years. (This doesn't count the two-century-old USS Constitution, which is only in commission in a honorary sense.)

4. Bill Blass, the famous fashion designer, worked during World War II to design new forms of camouflage for the allied armies. I guess if you understand (as he did) how the human eye perceives things, you can use that talent in many ways.

5. Steven Petrick and I have been reading a set of books on D-Day by Balkoski. These are very detailed books with a lot of tactics and doctrine, the kind of history books that pull no punches and point out the mistakes that were made instead of sweeping them away with heroic tales of perseverance. Omaha Beach was very nearly a failure because so many things went wrong. The Germans had moved in a new first-class division three months earlier and the allies did not notice, assuming that the previous static division was still in place. (Part of it still was.) The naval bombardment was too short and the air bombardment missed by miles. The rocket bombardment felt harmlessly into the ocean. Troops who had been told they would walk up on the beach and arrest a few dazed German third-rate troops were pinned down under murderous firepower. The only troops to survive were those who landed in the wrong place! Things went from bad to worse as following waves (told they would walk over an already-cleared beach) were also caught in murderous fire. Engineers who were told "the Germans will be long gone and you can get to work clearing roads and landing lanes" found themselves fighting as infantry against German defenders who were still very much there. The plan (direct assaults on the valleys that formed the only breaks in the cliffs) collapsed when those assaults failed with massive casualties because the bombardment had not neutralized the defenses. But despite all of that, in two hours, the Atlantic Wall had broken and the troops were pouring through the German lines. What happened? Individual leaders, from one old brigadier general to the lowest sergeant, decided that the original plan had failed and that they needed a new plan. Throwing away thousand-page planning documents, they invented new plans on the spot and did what everyone (including the Germans) knew was impossible: they simply climbed the cliffs and got behind the German pillboxes in the valleys.

6. I keep watching DEADLIEST CATCH thinking that I could design for them a collapsible crab pot that would be easier to stack. With lower stacks, things would be a lot easier and lot less dangerous.

7. Should everyone go to college? Ok, it's a nice theory, but some people just aren't interested, and some just aren't college material. Student loans have meant that unqualified students are running up huge debt for useless easy degrees because someone talked them into it or because it sounded more fun or less work than getting a job. Some colleges have had to water down their courses just to keep the students from flunking out (which would off the flow of student loan money to college coffers). About 40% of recent college graduates are working in jobs that never required a degree. They'd be better off with four more years of seniority in those jobs and no student loan debt.

8. There are about 7,000 languages spoken on Earth today, and within a few decades that will drop to 6,000 (as there are at least 1,000 of them, including 100 in the US, that are spoken only by old people). By 2100, the number of languages will drop to 3500. More people mean more communication between isolated groups and the smaller groups learn and then adopt the language of the larger and richer groups. There are about 1000 languages in New Guinea, 3/4 of them in isolated pockets that (due to the dense jungle) are not in regular contact with any other groups.

9. About half of Americans leave the water running while brushing their teeth. Stop doing that, as you're wasting a gallon or two every day.

10. It is estimated that all of us end our lives having left about 50 coins in odd locations. Just the normal activities of life mean that we sometimes pick up a coin (or notice one we dropped or left laying around) and instead of putting it with our other coins we put it somewhere else. (Think about it. Are there really no coins at all in the drawers of your desk at work? Really no coins in the chest of drawers at home? Are there really no coins you left laying around? You got change at the drive-up window and, it being awkward to reach your pocket, you threw the coins in the ash tray.) It might do well to make it a point to grab them when you see them and put them with your other coins. Some of these odd lost coins are foreign coins that showed up in change or came home from trips. If you don't really want them as curiosities, donate them to the church which might send them in packages they send to missionaries.