Wednesday, March 30, 2005

NPR : Understanding Birdsong -- and Its Fans

This is from the March 29, 2005, Fresh Air program, hosted by Terry Gross:
...Donald Kroodsma is a renowned specialist in the interpretation of bird songs. His new book, The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong, describes how birds communicate and why. But Kroodsma is also the subject of another book -- about those who listen to birds.

Birdsong, by Don Stap, details the work and passions of people who analyze the sounds of birds. Stap followed Kroodsma from the lab into the field to write his account of the researcher at work....
There are several related links, plus you can listen to the segment.

The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong
The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong

The Singing Life of Birds, by Donald Kroodsma, is an April 2005 hardcover release from Houghton Mifflin, 448 pages, ISBN 0618405682.

Birdsong: A Natural History
Birdsong: A Natural History

Birdsong: A Natural History, by Don Stap, is a March 2005 hardcover release from Scribner, 272 pages, ISBN 0743232747.

The Rockefeller University - To learn to sing, choose a strategy

Betsy Hanson reports at The RU Scientist website:

As a young bird learns to sing, soft burbling gradually gives way to a crisp, distinct song. It's a process that takes weeks of study and practice.

Wan-Chun Liu, a postdoc in Fernando Nottebohm's Rockefeller lab, wants to know just how songbirds learn to chirp, whistle and trill. The birds, he says, may teach us a thing or two about how human infants learn, as well.

"Until now, no one has thought a lot about birds' learning strategies," says Fernando Nottebohm. "How, starting from their earliest food-begging calls, do they piece together a perfect song?"

The answer, according to new research from Nottebohm's laboratory, may depend on the birds' siblings. In the first study to analyze song-learning with birds kept in family groups, rather than isolation chambers, Liu and Nottebohm have found that zebra finch brothers take different approaches to learning the same song. Some finches focus on perfecting individual song "syllables," while others practice longer patterns called motifs. "The siblings try to avoid each other's style of song learning," says Liu....

NASA - Destructive Power of Atomic Oxygen Used to Restore Artwork

NASA research into the damage to satellites caused by atomic oxygen in low Earth orbit has led to a new way to restore damaged artwork...
Art restorers have been experimenting with this new technique for several years now, and it seems to work quite well. It's also being tested for medical applications, such as cleaning artificial hip joints before installation. See article for more.

Happy Seward's Folly Day

All right, so they didn't call it Seward's Folly Day, but from American Memory's Today in History page:

...On March 30, 1867, Secretary of State William H. Seward agreed to purchase Alaska for seven million dollars. Critics attacked Seward for the secrecy surrounding the deal with Russia, which came to be known as "Seward's folly." They mocked his willingness to spend so much on "Seward's icebox" and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden."...

For more from the American Memory project at the Library of Congress, go to "American Memory" in my links list.

Harvard Crimson: Views on Terri Schiavo

The following op-ed pieces appeared on The Harvard Crimson online edition, Friday, March 25, 2005.

FOCUS: TERRI SCHIAVO, by Matthew S. Meisel:

FOCUS: Unique Circumstances, Broad Lessons, by Kathy L. Cerminara:

FOCUS: Bigotry and the Murder of Terri Schiavo, by Joe Ford:

FOCUS: Terri Schiavo: Guilty of Nothing But Life, by Helen V. Renton, Ryan M. McCaffrey and Meghan E. Grizzle: Italy May Have To Pay EUR120 Billion In Business Tax Refunds

Ulrika Lomas, writing for the 30 March 2005, with a dateline of Brussels, says:

The Italian government is facing the very real possibility of reimbursing taxpayers to the tune of EUR120 billion after the publication of a legal opinion by the advocate general of the European Court of Justice concerning the legality of a business levy.

The issue concerns a tax used to fund regional governments, known as Irap, which is levied mainly on small and medium-sized businesses. Advocate general Francis Jacobs has argued that it is too similar to the existing value added tax system, in contravention of the EU’s sixth directive...
Victory dances probably aren't called for just now, because for one thing Italy might yet find a way to wiggle out of this, and for another, Italy might not have the money to actually pay anybody (see article). But it is a nice step, I think, if the high mucky-mucks in Europe are actually willing to tell governments that they can't lay tax upon tax. If this does go through, Germany, France, Hungary and Lithuania are in the crosshairs, because they have similar taxes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Walk Through Time: BBC Education History

All right, so officially these games are for children ages 7 through 9. I must be a kid at heart. I just had an enjoyable time tossing things down the time tunnel to the time period where they belong. (And, ehem, making a few mistakes. How embarrassing.)

Birds of Oregon Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela

Birds of Oregon Field Guide
Birds of Oregon Field Guide

If you don’t want to be bothered with learning the usual categorizations used in birding field guides, the Birds of Oregon Field Guide by Stan Tekiela, c. 2001, Adventure Publications, Cambridge, Minnesota, ISBN 1885061315, is organized in a beginner-friendly ‘sorted by color’ scheme.

In other words, birds that are mostly black, mostly black and white, mostly blue, mostly brown, mostly gray, that have prominent green, prominent orange, prominent red, that are mostly white, or are mostly yellow are grouped together, with the color index along the outside page edge to make rapid look-up easier. Each write-up has color photos, a range map (year-round, migration, summer and winter areas showing up in different colors), descriptions, and notes. The notes have info not necessarily found in other guides, which would make this a good supplemental guide for more advanced birdwatchers. There is also information on nests, eggs, incubation times, the typical time needed before fledgling, migration habits, main food sources, and notes on similar species for comparison.

The book is six inches tall and is just over four and a quarter inches wide, small enough to fit in a larger pocket.

I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven

I Heard the Owl Call My Name
I Heard the Owl Call My Name

Anyone who works in a bookstore will notice fairly early on that there are a handful of books that routinely invite commentary by browsers who are shopping with friends. In my experience, one book that stops people in their tracks on a fairly regular basis is I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven.

Some people stop to sneer at it (often adding comments of having had it crammed down their throats by a loathsome teacher). But most people recommend it to their companions who haven’t read it yet – and if their friend balks at buying it, a surprising number of people buy it themselves and hand it over as a gift on the spot. Very few books inspire people to shell out and hand over like that, but I’ve seen this happen again and again, and involving an astonishing variety of people – all of them feeling it important to share this book, for whatever reason, even if it costs them cold, hard cash.

In my mind, the opposing camps have started sorting themselves out. The people who hate this book tend to see it as simplistic and naïve and maudlin, I think. The people who love this book see it as very deep and only deceptively simple, I think. Some people who like it describe it as a parable. Others just like the story without going off on philosophical tangents.

The storyline is quite simple. A young minister is sent by his superiors to a remote Indian village, and then falls ill. How people respond to his failing health is much of what the book is about.

This title has been printed and reprinted for decades now and so there are many used copies floating about for sale. But it is still in print, if you are the sort who prefers a new copy. The Dell mass market paperback edition has an ISBN of 0440343690.

Book review: Counting Coup, by Larry Colton

Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn

I read Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn as an Advance Reading Copy. I found it a hard slog in places, and yet – even these five years later – bits and pieces have stuck with me. And all this time later, the book that it most resembles in my mind is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

That surely sounds odd if all you have to go on is the title, or the usual publisher’s blurbs, but this book is a sometimes-uncomfortable look at people in a pocket of culture that lives by its own rules, inside our country but to a large degree cut off from the wider world, laced with some dark and destructive crosscurrents. Again and again, I found myself cringing, wondering why these folks were opening up like this to a stranger, why they were in essence making me a peeping tom of sorts. This is a book with its share of bad language, lousy attitudes, despair - and yet it conveys a lot of heart, too, in places. It’s messy, I guess, like life can be messy.

Because of the occasional language issues and some of the subject matter, I wouldn’t ordinarily consider it for mention on this website, but for those of you trying to grip on life on American Indian reservations today, this book might be worth a look – with an understanding that this is about a group of Crows and their white neighbors, living in and around a small Montana town, over the course of one basketball season, and thus qualifies as a snapshot of one small part of a much larger picture. I wish I didn’t have to add the qualifications, but I’ve noticed that many people tend to lump all Indians together. The tribes do have their differences, and the members of those tribes are individuals. The media and the world at large forget that at times, I’m afraid.

As I said, I read this book in an ARC edition a long time ago. The final version might have wound up being an easier read - I haven't seen it and can't say. I found my copy a flawed and sometimes frustrating book, but one that gave me a look at the world that I haven’t found anywhere else, for what that’s worth. In other words, it wasn’t my cup of tea at all, but it was an eye-opener.

Counting Coup, by Larry Colton, is available new in trade paperback from Warner Books, 448 pp, ISBN 0446677558.

From the publisher’s write-up:

"In Native American tradition, "counting coup" meant literally touching one's enemy in battle and living to tell about it. Now it means playing winning hoops and dominating one's opponent. COUNTING COUP is the story of the girls' varsity basketball team of Hardin High School in Crow, Montana. The team is comprised of both Crow Indian and White girls, and is led by Sharon Laforge, a moody, undisciplined, yet talented Native American who hopes to be the first female player from Hardin to earn a basketball scholarship to college. Larry Colton shows readers the hardscrabble existence of a rural small town beset by racism, alcoholism, and domestic violence, and in so doing produces a touching, heartfelt, and beautifully written true story that will leave readers cheering for the girls they have come to know."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Tsu Wong did all right, helped launch Boeing

Life is stranger than fiction. In 1916, the Pacific Aero-Products company tested its first all-original plane. The plane was designed by a Chinese engineer who was, if I understand the linked article correctly, working at this company between a stint studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his return to China.

The Model C naval trainer designed by Tsu Wong led to a military contract for the company, which reincorporated as the Boeing Airplane Company.

And the rest is history, as they say.

But without a certain Chinese man coming to the United States to study, and then helping lay the foundation for our aviation industry, who knows what might have happened?

To see a picture of the Model C, see the title-linked article, "Pacific Aero-Products (later Boeing Airplane Co.) tests its first all-original airplane on November 23, 1916". (It's at, which is a good site for Washington state history in general.)

For more, see "Boeing History: Beginnings - Building a Company" at, and "The Early Years of Boeing, 1916-1930" at

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Today in History

This is from today's American Memory page at the Library of Congress website:

On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Potomac River Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The event celebrated the Japanese government's gift of 3,020 trees to the United States. Trees were planted along the Potomac Tidal Basin near the site of the future Jefferson Memorial, in East Potomac Park, and on the White House grounds.

Fifty three years later, the Japanese government made a second gift of cherry trees. In 1965, Mrs. Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of Ambassador Takeuchi, and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson participated in the ceremonial planting. This time, the trees were planted on the grounds of the Washington Monument...
There's more on the history of D.C., and on how the cherry tree project came about, plus more. The American Memory "Today in History" pages aren't little snippets like at some other sites - and they generally have quite a few links.

And, for anyone who may not know, the First Lady's nickname, which she used in lieu of her real name, was Lady Bird. Therefore, it is correct to call her First Lady Lady Bird, etc. (Just in case you thought it might have been an editing error.) She was very big on beautification projects, and not just in Washington D.C.

The Cherry Blossom Festival for this year is March 26 through April 10. The National Cherry Blossom Parade will be Saturday, April 9. The festival website is at

West Coast Pundits: Discussion with Grandpa: A Future-spective on Terri Schiavo

I came across the title-linked post by The Colonel at West Coast Pundits today and don't want to lose it. I have a feeling I'll want to reread it.

If you can't face it this weekend, I understand. But I want it for my files, so here it is, for future reference.

It's Rude to Point: The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

For anyone who wonders what true love means - or, for that matter, what children learn from watching their elders...

Hat tip: Wittingshire

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Daily Demarche: You're welcome, Mr. Petri.

Manfried Petri celebrated his 50th birthday by buying a full-page ad in the most liberal paper in town. The town is in Germany. The ad thanked America for fifty years of freedom and peace.

The Daily Demarche has more on the story, plus links.

I second Dr. Demarche's "You're welcome," and add a "Thank you, Mr. Petri."

NASA Tests Show Wing Warping Controls Aircraft at High Speeds

This is from a NASA news release from March 16, 2005. Use the title link to view the entire article, which includes a brief overview of the findings:

A NASA flight research project, designed to test a derivative of the Wright Brothers' concept of wing-warping to control aircraft turns, indicates the concept works, even at supersonic speeds.

This high-tech version of century-old technology may have an impact on aircraft design. It may make airplanes more maneuverable at high speeds, enable them to carry heavier payloads or use fuel more efficiently.

The Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) project is located at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The project is evaluating active control of lighter-weight flexible wings for improved maneuverability of high-performance aircraft. The project is jointly sponsored and managed by NASA, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and Boeing's Phantom Works, St. Louis....

Active computerized control of wing flexibility is a step toward the "morphing" concept, where aircraft can change their shape to adapt to differing aerodynamic conditions. The AAW is primarily intended to benefit aircraft that operate in the transonic speed range. The range is approximately 80 to 120 percent of the speed of sound, where traditional control surfaces become minimally effective or ineffective...

Dear Reader,

Hello and welcome. Just in case you might be wondering…

I’m trying to build a blog where almost anyone can come and browse through the archives and find a nice diversion or something to mull. While I do discuss current events, from the beginning I’ve made it a point to add history articles and book reviews and other less time sensitive items to the mix. Consider it an anthology of sorts. I do.

Thanks for stopping by!

A note to parents: It’s a little hard to discuss history and books and current events without occasionally having to send the children outside to play, I’m afraid. I try to keep a high percentage of posts suitable for younger readers, or at least teenagers, but I’m counting on you, as a parent, to vet the site and decide which entries are all right for your children.

Naomi Schaeffer Riley: Faith and the Fifth Grade

The author of God on the Quad warns us to think twice about jumping all over the Cupertino, California, school district that supposedly banned the Declaration of Independence from the classroom.

As the subhead to the above-linked article says: "Did a California school ban the Declaration of Independence? Not quite."

...Religious people nationwide will no doubt be following the case closely, thinking of instances in which public schools have over-interpreted the separation of church and state to mean virtually banning religion from their premises. But should this new lawsuit join that list of excessive vigilance? The parents and principal at Stevens Creek don't seem to have a problem with religion at their school. They do seem to feel that one of their fifth-grade teachers crossed a line. For those who worry about the way faith is treated in our public institutions, Mr. Williams may not be the best candidate for a hero.
If Naomi Schaeffer Riley is right, we might be in danger of unfairly punishing one of the school districts in this country that has, in general, been comfortable teaching the Judeo-Christian aspect of our heritage.

John J. Miller: The Last Cold War Casualty

John J. Miller, writing for the March 24, 2005, tells the story of the death, exactly twenty years ago, of Army Major Arthur D. “Nick” Nicholson in East Germany.

Mr. Miller has written previously about Maj. Nicholson, but this article draws on more recently released documents on the U.S. Military Liaison Mission, the organization Nicholson was serving when he was killed by a Soviet soldier. Miller also brings us up to date on efforts to commemorate Nicholson.

...Relatively few people have heard of Nicholson, even though his killing dominated newspaper headlines around the world for several tense days two decades ago. A handful of people won’t ever forget him: A small band of former comrades gathers at his Arlington National Cemetery each spring. They’re meeting again this Saturday. Today, at the site of his death near Ludwigslust, the Allied Museum will join Nicholson’s widow Karyn and his former commander, Major Gen. Roland Lajoie, in dedicating a memorial stone...
The article has a link to Miller's previous article on Nicholson, plus links to other sites.

Telegraph: 15-year-old daughter of Hempleman-Adams follows in his footsteps

From the February 28, 2005, Telegraph, Elizabeth Grice reported:

Much against her father's better judgment, the 15-year-old daughter of David Hempleman-Adams, the polar explorer and mountaineer, is about to set out on an expedition of her own – to the Arctic wilderness of Baffin Island.

Alicia Hempleman-Adams will be the youngest person to have attempted the magnificent traverse of jagged mountain peaks, steep fjords and glacial ice.

She is a slight girl, with long, thin legs and slender hands. Despite her avowed love of sport and the outdoor life, it is hard to imagine her shouldering a school rucksack without difficulty, let alone skiing and pulling a 60lb sledge 200 miles across remote and dangerous terrain in minus 30 degrees...
The Scotsman, at, has an article today that says Alicia starts her trek tomorrow.

And lest all the headlines and over-dramatic leads lead you into thinking otherwise, the girl is the youngest member of a team. She will not be alone. Her companions are experienced. She heard about someone backing out of a planned expedition, and volunteered to take that person's place. It's still a hazardous (and maybe somewhat crazy) undertaking, but she does have someone watching her back. For whatever reason, some reporters seem to be having fun burying that fact way, way down in their stories.

Streamlining regulations would help reduce gasoline prices

Ben Lieberman, writing in the March 24, 2005, Chicago Sun Times, says:

It's a good bet gasoline in Chicago won't be cheap this summer. The only question is whether Chicagoans will again face the highest prices in the nation....
And then he goes on to say why Chicago is such a rasty gas market.

UPDATE: It just occurred to me that "rasty" is probably a regionalism (that neither my Oxford American Dictionary, Heald Colleges Edition, nor The Penguin English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, has it listed is a pretty good clue, I think.). I suspect it originated as a combination of "rotten" and "nasty", with perhaps a dose of "rascal" thrown in. Its various meanings are something along the lines of rotten, nasty, difficult, exasperating, offensive, mean, ill-tempered, bad. It is perhaps most commonly used to describe a curmudgeon of sorts: as in he sure is a rasty old cuss, isn't he? - Views - China Threatens U.S. Alliances

Dana R. Dillon, a senior policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, writes that while we're focusing on the Middle East, China is putting pressure on Australia. One of the goals seems to be to drive a wedge between Australia and the United States.

File under: China Watch.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Phillip E. Johnson: The Power of Joan

Writing in the March 2005 online issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, Phillip E. Johnson discusses Mark Twain's classic historical novel, Joan of Arc.

The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Hat tip: Insight Scoop,

Utahn snares a big role in a new 'Little House'

Vince Horiuchi of the Salt Lake Tribune writes:

From playing Thing One in "The Cat in the Hat" to Mary Ingalls in the new remake of "Little House on the Prairie," Danielle Ryan Chuchran of Pleasant Grove is on a rocket ride taken by few aspiring actors.

After trying the acting thing for only 2 1/2 years, the 11-year-old Valley View Elementary student already has joked with Mike Myers, hung out with "Crossing Jordan" star Jill Hennessy and crossed the rugged plains of Calgary, Canada....

Now the blonde, round-faced pre-teen is co-starring in a new miniseries, playing Mary Ingalls in "Little House on the Prairie," the same role that turned Melissa Sue Anderson into a TV star.

The new five-part miniseries, "Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie," premieres Saturday...

The Scotsman: UK scientist missing in the jungle eats shoots and lives

John Gillatt, 55, went for a trek in Malaysia, got lost, called his wife in the UK, she sent out a search party - and five days later he was rescued. The above link might require free registration, but it's a great story of survival against the odds.

A shorter article on this can be found here.

George W. Bush's place in American history

George W. Bush’s place in American history
c.2004, 2005 Kathryn Judson

Have you heard about George W. Bush being run out of Oregon because he ran afoul of a pie-in-the-sky social engineering law? Undaunted, he and his faithful companions went to Washington instead.

Or, to be more precise, they went to what would become the state of Washington. This little story happened back in pioneer days.

It’s a true story, or at least it’s based on a true story. This particular George W. Bush really existed, and was one of the founding fathers of Washington state. His legend, on the other hand, has morphed into parallel stories, and that’s where it really gets fun.

This is a longer-than-usual post, by the way, adapted from a background report I wrote a while back for a book series I’m working on. You might want to get yourself a nice cup of tea before you settle down to read or else set this article aside for when you have more time.

In the fall of 1844 a small group of pioneers under the direction of Col. M.T. (Michael) Simmons arrived at Fort Vancouver, a British fort on the Columbia River near the end of the Oregon Trail. There they were told that Americans in the Willamette Valley had set up a provisional government. That was fine as far as it went, but this same provisional government had decided to prohibit free Negroes from living in the territory. And – here was the problem – one of Simmons’s party was a man by the name of George W. Bush, and Bush was a free mulatto with a white wife.

Well! Oregon in 1844 was having none of that!

Well, tough! Simmons and the others weren’t going to have any government tell them who they could have as a neighbor or as a friend. They decided that Bush was worth standing beside. So, what to do? It turned out that the provisional government’s authority extended only as far as the Columbia River. So, for starters, the group set up winter camp on the north side of the river, just out of reach of the government edict.

(No one seems to have recorded whether the little group thumbed their noses to the south from time to time. I would have, I think. But then again, I’m hardly heroic.)

In 1845, Simmons and his fellow Americans forged north to the British-dominated Puget Sound area.

The most popular versions of the story have the whole party going northward in the spring, with Mrs. Simmons giving birth to Christopher Columbus Simmons en route. The more likely version is that Col. Simmons went up alone, scouted out a good place, then went back for the others.

Whenever it was that they went, there was only a foot trail. They hacked down trees and otherwise did whatever it took to get wagons through.

They staked their claims and set up a new community originally named Newmarket or New Market, but later (and currently) called Tumwater. It is said that some of them went north long enough to make a point, and then went to the Willamette Valley anyway. But they stuck together when it mattered, at any rate.

The Treaty of 1846 moved the line between American and British territories to the 49th parallel, and the refugees were under American authority again. This time they prevailed. The government even passed a resolution confirming Bush’s land claim.

That not seeming sufficient, in 1855 Congress passed a special act to secure his title, at the request of the Washington Territorial Legislature. By 1855, you see, there were lots of people who were on board the Bush-deserves-our-support bandwagon, including several people of influence.

Historian Charles H. Carey, in his General History of Oregon (Third Edition, 1971, Binfords & Mort), describes Col. Simmons as “a Kentuckian of strong personality,” which perhaps translates at least in part to ‘not a guy who takes no for an answer’. Certainly he and others openly championed George Bush, and stuck to their guns.

But George Bush appears to be largely responsible for his own success. He and his wife Isabella (or Isabelle – accounts vary) set up a farm, and did well, and established a reputation for helping struggling newcomers.

I can just imagine the culture shock. A person drags himself clear across a continent, likely in large part to get away from the slavery and race issues causing bitterness and bloodshed back east, and is greeted by a mulatto who is prosperous, welcoming, and generous. Just when you think you’ve got your stereotypes lined up properly in a row…

Bully for the Bushes, by the way. Leading by example isn’t easy, but they seem to have been shining examples of both Christian charity and courage, not to mention love.

(Hark! Was that the sound of skittish leftists, clicking away at the mention of religious belief in a historical tale? Pity. The Bushes were reckoned as believers in their own day, and it would be a disservice to geld their views or their reputations now, I think, just to make the tale more manageable for persons who have no experience dealing with such things. I was raised in an agnostic household. Yet I can deal with Christians as human beings. Why can’t you? Some of them are very nice people. But I digress.)

Early versions of the legend tend to have Col. Simmons leading the party, Bush winning support by virtue of his virtues and his obvious humanity (ancestry be hanged), and everything turning out so well largely because this small, ragtag group of people made it happen. They were archetypal Americans. They took on the unknown, they fought government oppression, they outwitted their enemies, they kept at what they were doing until they won. They also went out of their way to help others, even strangers. They were just that kind of people. Like I said, model Americans.

These days, on the City of Tumwater’s website and in various articles, Bush has been promoted to co-leader of the wagon train and has become, instead of a mulatto, a person “of Black descent”. The Bushes, in some references, have become the “First Family of Washington”.

This new take on things cures some problems but runs the risk of becoming patronizing. It’s one thing to follow your leaders, another to make a sacrifice for some ordinary underdog who’s getting a bum deal. It’s one thing to be “of Black descent” in light of modern sensibilities, and another to be of mixed race in 1844.

However you look at it – as I found after several months nosing around in my spare time – the story is more complicated than partisans on either side could want.

For one thing, the 1844 law that excluded the Bush family from Oregon was never seriously enforced.

(In his book Eden Seekers, historian Malcolm Clark, Jr., said that he could only document two cases of exclusion. And one of those was clearly more a case of getting a bad character out of town than of race relations. Of course, Mr. Clark might have missed something, but still...)

Putting the law on the books appears, in large degree, to have been a wild bid to try to avoid the slavery dispute by sidestepping it – not to mention a calculated attempt to speed the process of being named a United States Territory.

Then there is something else that probably ought to be considered. If you want to take Clark’s view of it, the settlers were escapists at heart. Trying to leave behind problems that didn’t seem to have solutions was simply part of the dream. Of course they wanted the slavery issue to go away. Who didn’t? Let’s put the shoes on our own feet. How many moderns have moved to a new place just to get away from local arguments that never seem to stop? It happens.

And, to be fair to the early Oregonians, they didn’t invent this law. The provisional government lifted laws wholesale from existing legal codes, including this one. Amateur lawmakers transferring laws from whatever law books are on hand are bound to transfer some boners. This is not to excuse the exclusionary law, but to say that it was in the air at the time, and not just in Oregon.

For another thing, and for a new complication for people who want their legends to be easily cataloged, this hero is rather unique.

A little more digging shows that at the time of his westward trek Mr. George Washington Bush was a middle-aged, wealthy Quaker who probably knew what he was about.

His generosity was legendary. His prosperity was held almost in awe. There are stories about special floors built into his wagons to carry all his money west. He was said to be charming, handsome, a good singer (baritone, they say), and the sort of man who was good at keeping people’s spirits up. Bush Prairie, where he settled, was said to be a haven of civilization, even graciousness. There’s no pushing this man into a pigeonhole, much less making him stay there.

He reportedly inherited much of his wealth from his father, Matthew Bush, who hailed from India. It seems Matthew inherited most of his wealth from the British shipping merchant who brought him to America just before the American Revolution, and thereafter considered him part of the family.

On the other hand, chronicles indicate that not all of George W.’s wealth was handed down. The man knew how to work, and it sounds like he had brains, not to mention a feel for farming.

Matthew Bush married an Irish maid in the shipping merchant’s household, and she left her stamp on her son. Take most of the George W. Bush stories without reference to his skin color, and you have no trouble thinking of him as Irish. That’s when he’s not being an archetypal American, of course.

Some people, apparently beside themselves to have found a hero “of Black descent,” practically raise Bush to demigod status. On the other hand, it is said that he was human enough to bury his money on his farm and not tell anyone where, not even his wife. (Or so the story goes.) When he died suddenly in 1863, this caused a few problems. (Or so the story further goes.) Oh well, no one’s perfect, right?

He’s the classic American hero – bigger than life, but properly flawed and faced with troubles, the quietly defiant little guy getting the last laugh. The stories have outgrown the probabilities, but that’s all right. Folklore sometimes teaches what history misses.

There are stories of George W. Bush advising generals (General Jackson probably couldn’t have defeated the British at New Orleans without him, for instance). There are more stories about him generally saving people from east to west – with a few dramatic detours, such as getting wounded in the Black Hawk War and doing fur trapping along the Pacific before going home to be married.

Oh, yes, and we mustn’t forget that when an Indian war broke out around Tumwater, the Indians said that no one would be harmed on Bush’s farm. So, of course, he built a fort big enough to house his neighbors, and they rode the troubles out together.

(This adventure, at least, has some reliable eyewitnesses and some documentation.)

I tell you, this guy was remarkable. Think about it. Indians promise to not hurt anyone he takes under his wing? A newly formed Legislature, which could have been excused for placing priorities elsewhere, asks the U.S. Congress to pass a special act just for him? This is not just a case of wanting special legislation, it is a case of demanding it for a person not everyone back in Washington D.C. would likely see as a full person, deserving of respect.

I wish I could have met the man. What kind of man inspires that sort of respect? What is it that made others stick out their own necks for him? At first glance, it’s hard to imagine anyone merits that kind of fierce loyalty.

And yet, think some more. He’s got the sense to build a fort after thanking the Indians for the honor of excluding him from the hostilities. This is no one’s fool.

Nor would he take advantage of anyone else. Bush famously would not gouge anyone, nor sell to anyone he thought might gouge anyone. Even second-hand dishonesty was not to be considered. That counts for something.

There should be movies about this man, done the old way, with panache and sophistication, with a first-rate orchestra providing the background. The George and Isabella Bush story has it all – romance, tragedy and triumph, little guys vs. governments that need to be told what’s what, pioneers, wilderness, grace, honesty versus greediness, valor, loyalty, adventure, bravery, humor, spunk, smarts, territorial disputes, defiance, good luck, bad luck, immigrants making good, faith rewarded – the works. But who these days, besides Mel Gibson perhaps, would dare to treat the man as a remarkable man and not some sort of minority poster child? George W. Bush deserves better than that.

Here’s to his legacy – what can pieced together of it. Doing a search for George W. Bush gets you a lot of stuff on another fellow, currently living. And narrowing the search by adding the word “Washington” just doesn’t seem to help much, as it happens.

Oh, if I may add a slightly funny side note: when I started doing research on this man, he was usually referred to as George W. Bush, with occasional mention of his middle name (at a guess because the name George Washington has significance). On my most recent rounds, I found that some of the Internet references, at least, had magically started calling him George Washington Bush exclusively (at a guess because these days George W. Bush has significance). Not that it matters, really.

I stumbled across Tumwater’s Mr. Bush while researching a time travel adventure book for kids (Trouble Pug, coming out later this year, release date to be announced). I couldn’t fit him into the first book, but the story is too good to pass up. I’d like to use it in a sequel. How fun it would be to have the heroes say they’d like to meet George W. Bush but not asking specifically for the President – and wind up instead in territorial Washington in a fledgling community where one family has kids named George Washington, David Crockett, Frances Marion, MacDonald, and Christopher Columbus, and another family has children named George, America, Martha, and John.

You have to love a place like that. And a people like that. Not that I’d like to be named for a historical figure myself, perish the thought. But I like the spirit of it, anyhow.

And even if my time travelers miss Tumwater, I’ve had fun toying with the story and its people.

For fun, sometimes I like to think of that George W. Bush and his better-known namesake somehow getting together. It makes for some interesting musing.

The pioneer visits the White House? Or maybe better yet, Crawford? If I’m reading correctly between the lines, our hero would be at home either place, I think – or at least would have the poise and dignity to come off as being at home, if that’s the approach he decided to take.

As satisfying as it would be to bring the late George W. Bush forward to see how far things have come, I especially like to imagine taking President Bush back in time to meet his namesake. I can see them out there on Bush Prairie, farmer and rancher, leaning on the fence during a rare work break, swapping suggestions on how to weather difficulties both manmade and natural.

Call me crazy, but I’m beginning to think they’d find they had a lot in common. At any rate, they both seem to have been fated to see both the worst and the best that mankind can throw at a person as an individual.

But then, history for me is a way of comparing what changes and what stays the same, what matters and what doesn’t.

The man who died in 1863 can’t learn from us, but we can learn from him and hold him up as a role model. He could have settled for being merely well off, and might have looked out only for his own.

Instead, he took chances and got ahead, and along the way taught people to look at the content of a man’s character and not the color of his skin. Whatever got in his way, he simply dealt with it. When other people needed help, he dealt with that, too. He was gutsy, but civilized.

At the end of the day, he left his country better off than he found it.

Not a bad legacy. Not bad at all. Here’s to your memory, Mr. Bush.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jewish Dating Advice-Find true love

Despite the fact that we had an oddly-late but impressive snowstorm today, there is no question but that spring has sprung. This post is for those single friends who are showing the typical seasonal symptoms of losing their minds while misplacing their hearts. It's your life - be smart about it, will ya?

The title link is to the Dating section at, a website for traditional Jews. And while some of the advice is Jewish-specific, most of it isn't. And there's a whole lot of good, solid common sense (in my humble, middle-aged, happily-married, female-slanted opinion).

Take the Speed Dating subsection, for an example. Speed Dating Tip #1: Don't Confuse Dating with a Relationship.

Good point. Why didn't anybody tell me that before I went to college?

There are also subsections called Great Dating Wisdom, Navigating the Maze, and more.

For those already past the hurdle of finding a nice husband or wife, there's a Family section with marriage and parenting advice. (OK, you singles can look, too. It pays to look ahead, after all.)

American Memory: James Madison's Ciphers

Never let it be said that the founding fathers of America were overly trusting to kind fate. They took any number of precautions, including the use of code. The Library of Congress has an American Memory article (with links to other articles) that focuses on James Madison's use of codes, etc.:
As a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, while secretary of state, and in his personal correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison feared constantly that unauthorized people would seek to read his private and public correspondence. To deter such intrusions, he resorted to a variety of codes and ciphers....
For a somewhat-related book, there's Spies of the Revolution by Katherine and John Bakeless, Scholastic, 1966. It's aimed at school-age kids, and is based on Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes by John Bakeless, c. 1959. I read Spies of the Revolution several years ago and haven't seen the early days of our country in the same light since. Interesting stuff.

Turncoats, Traitors and Heroes: Espionage in the American Revolution, Da Capo Press, 408 pages, ISBN 0306808439, is still available new.

Turncoats, Traitors, and Heroes: Espionage in the American Revolution
Turncoats, Traitors, and Heroes: Espionage in the American Revolution

Spies of the Revolution is out of print, but it's easy to find a good copy today for less than $4 on the Internet.

Ross King - Penguin Group (USA) Authors

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

This is a quick follow-up to my post on Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King.

I didn't know it, but he's since written another book in the same vein. From the publisher's website:

...His most recent book is Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling, a nonfiction book that Ross describes as a companion piece to Brunelleschi's Dome: "In the same way that Brunelleschi's Dome is about Brunelleschi, but also about Florence at that time," King says, "Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling is about Rome in the years 1508 to 1512—sort of an artisan's-eye view of the Renaissance." Once again it was Vasari who provided the starting-point: "While I discovered that much of what Vasari wrote about Brunelleschi was true, the same can't exactly be said for his account of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. What I wanted to do, therefore, was look through the legend to get a more accurate idea of the process of painting the fresco, and in doing so to bring a number of other characters, such as his assistants, into the picture. Michelangelo's achievement is no less stunning, and the story is, I think, actually more interesting."...
There's more on King and his books at the same site (use the title link).

For my prior post, see: Good Book: Brunelleschi’s Dome, by Ross King

Wittingshire: We Will Die

When I was twenty-one, I had a dear friend who was a sign painter. He was one of those nice guys who'd do anything for anybody, so when a storekeeper saw him working in an adjacent parking lot and asked him to come over and hang her sign, it was perfectly natural for him to agree. He set up his ladder and raised her sign on his long hook. The accident occurred in a split second. He clipped an electrical wire and fell...
Sometimes it is time to 'pull the plug' - but only if the person is really dead. Amanda at Wittingshire says it better than I can. She's been there. She's had friends who died that way, and she's also worked at a hospice.

Use the title link for the rest of what she wrote.

Joe Scarborough: We should protect our most vulnerable citizens

The title link goes to the written version of what I just watched on video (hat tip: Slobokan's Site O' Stuff at The video version is at MSNBC under the title "Joe's Schiavo confession". I thought I'd built up a resistance to what ever else might be said about all this horrible mess. I was wrong.

I'm a techno-rookie, and haven't been able to figure out how to link to the video per se at MSNBC. If you have any trouble there, try at Jackson's Junction here.

Watch it and weep.

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue | Ashley Smith reward ceremony

ATLANTA – Today Governor Sonny Perdue and representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, City of Atlanta, Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police presented Ashley Smith with rewards for assisting in the apprehension of Brian Nichols.

“We’re here today to recognize the heroism of a young woman who faced a dangerous situation with calmness, courage, decency and faith,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “In doing so, Ashley Smith helped apprehend a dangerous felon and ended a tragic situation without further loss of life.”

Smith received a total of $70,000 in reward money during today’s event...

The press release goes on to break down which organization/association gave how much, and who was on hand as official representatives. Mrs. Smith received $2,500 previously from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.


In case you haven't heard of BookCrossing, it's a fun program where members 'release books into the wild' and hear back from people who find them - sort of like dropping a bottle into an ocean with a message inside, or releasing a balloon with a letter attached - only this is organized, with a few safeguards (the finders send their messages to BookCrossing, not you) and it's all about letting other people know about your favorite books. Membership is free. Click the title link for more information.

BookCrossing was launched April 17, 2001. As of post time, it had 340,802 registered members, and 1,847,719 books registered.

William F. Buckley, Jr. - Online Archive - Hillsdale College

When completed, this Website will contain the complete writings of William F. Buckley, Jr. Transcripts from his longrunning TV show, Firing Line are now available at the Hoover Institution.
Right now the categories listed on the above-linked site are columns, articles, book reviews, books, speeches, Firing Line transcripts, obituaries, and other. The folks at Hillsdale seem to be going for the whole enchilada, as we say around here.

File under: author watch, conservatives, wit, language, politics, culture.

I happen to have at hand a copy of The Unmaking of a Mayor, by William F. Buckley, Jr, Bantam, c.1966, this edition published 1967, 387+ pages including index. From the long list of blurbs at the front of the book, there is this one from Time magazine (ellipsis in original):
A spoiler redeemed by a sense of humor about the political grotesqueries of New York - and, happily, about himself as well - Buckley merely set out to give his lumps to all comers... The charm of this book lies in Buckley's unfailing awareness of the absurdities of campaign rhetoric and rigmarole.

One guesses the reviewer was trying to out-Buckley Buckley?

Oh, well. If the publisher was happy with it, I'm happy with it.

I just did a market check, and taking all editions into consideration (Viking hardback, Conservative Book Club edition, paperbacks), today it is relatively easy to get your hands on a used copy of The Unmaking of a Mayor for five dollars or less.

Looking for aeronautical engineering resources

We have a friend who is studying aeronautical engineering at the undergraduate level. My husband is on a mission to dig up good blogs, websites, and books for the fellow.

I'm slightly out of my element here. Help, please.

UPDATE: March 26, 2005. I've found a website run by NASA, which has an "Improving Flight" section, run by the imposing sounding Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. See:

We're still looking for more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Photios: North Korea Kidnaps Japanese - Background

For anyone interested in recent Asian history, Photios has started a series on Japanese nationals who were kidnapped by the North Koreans and forced to train spies in Japanese language and culture. The title link is to the first entry in the series, posted March 5.

File under: Korea watch. - Singh, Woods, Els, Mickelson create Fab Four era

Tom Spousta is another sports writer who sounds very happy that so many top-flight golfers are hitting their stride at the same time.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — They've jockeyed on the money list and world rankings, creating rivalries and causing flashbacks to golf's Sans-A-Belt days of the 1970s, if not the game's storied battles of the '50s and '60s.

Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson — the Big Four, in order, according to this week's Official World Golf Ranking — meet for the second time this season in The Players Championship, the so-called fifth major that offers the PGA Tour's highest purse ($8 million) and largest winner's check ($1.44 million)...
Of course, Mr. Spousta's headline writer is pushing his luck with some people, I'm sure, by using 'Fab Four'. There are some folks who just might have thought that designation was already taken.

Mr. Spousta, it should be noted, calls them the Big Four in his article.

(Note to Mr. Spousta. I wrote for a newspaper for about ten years. Believe me, I know how much fun it can be to live down headlines cooked up by the editors. My condolences.)

Just to be clear, other sports writers I've read lately don't seem as inclined to make a sharp cut at the top four, not with so many other guys nipping at their heels. This is one wild year in golf.

Germany Says it Won't Forget South Asia | Deutsche Welle |

Germany is shifting gears in its tsunami relief efforts, but it looks to be committed to the long haul - and it's assuming that corruption exists and is demanding careful accounting of funds. This is not to mention that it isn't even giving checks to governments, but to specific projects. Just to be on the safe side, I guess.

Three months following the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean, the German government has committed itself to long-term aid in the region. But it will closely follow the funds’ implementation.

The German government is shifting gears in its support for areas devastated by the December tsunami. Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said Germany’s initial acute emergency aid would now increasingly go into reconstruction efforts.

These would focus on Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the hardest-hit countries in the region, she added.

Germany has provided 84.6 million euros ($110.2 million) in emergency aid so far. In the next three to five years, a further 500 million euros will follow.

“We will focus our aid in particular on health care, education, vocational training, housebuilding, as well as the reconstruction of local government and economy,” Wieczorek-Zeul said in Berlin...
The Deutsche Welle article lays things out clearly. Click on the title link for the rest of it.

Hello, Germany? Thanks.

Charles, Camilla choose sons as wedding witnesses

Channel NewsAsia reports:

LONDON : Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles revealed Wednesday that their sons will be witnesses at their civil wedding ceremony next month, which has so far failed to capture much public support...
Sometimes I wish Charles would just give up on becoming King Charles Whatever-Number-It-Would-Be. At a guess, it would make life ever so much easier on his relatives. Not to mention the Dianaphiles who are understandably upset with his choice of second wife.

File this under: continuing British royal wedding kerfuffles.

David Limbaugh: Schiavo Writ Large

David Limbaugh, like many of the rest of us, can't help coming to the conclusion that we are being forced to witness the state sanctioned murder of an innocent and aware woman:

...This case is more and more chilling. I am increasingly convinced that Terri Schiavo is not and has not been in a vegetative state and that we are witnessing the state sanctioned murder of an innocent human being...

...I sometimes think we have come to rely too heavily on a medical community in these situations that might, because of its frequent experience with death, have become a tad too calloused about death itself. Loved ones rely so exclusively on the doctors' advice, I just wonder how many times doctors have advised to "pull the plug" when the patient's condition was not necessarily terminal, but the "quality of life" of the patient was deemed, by the doctor, not to be worth saving.

And now we're removing a feeding tube from a lady who otherwise isn't remotely terminal. How many other people who cannot feed themselves will be in jeopardy after this? Don't pooh pooh this, folks. Tell me what the difference is between, say, an Alzheimer's patient who can't express a desire to live and who can't feed himself versus Terri, who presumably can't express her desire to live...
These excerpts are from one of his blog entries, not one of his regular columns. Use the title link to see the rest.

The Sanity Ranch--Musings of a Philosopher Queen: Florida's finest--AP photo

The AP has a photo of the cops loading a handcuffed boy into a squad car. His crime? Symbolically offering water to Terri Schiavo.

Selena Moffat has succinct commentary. See title-link.

The Scotsman - Business - Stars' backing gives lift to wind farms' cause

SCOTTISH celebrities including pop star Alex Kapranos, the actor Brian Cox, Magnus Magnusson, the broadcaster, and Anna Ryder Richardson, the Changing Rooms designer, have thrown their support behind a campaign to build wind farms.

The celebrity endorsement comes as a poll released yesterday reveals that three-quarters of Scots are prepared to back the development of controversial wind farms to meet the country's energy needs...
The fight for and against wind farms has become very interesting, and not just in Scotland. My guess is that the favorable poll will be countered by the opposition with an unfavorable poll, which will be countered...

There have been wild claims being made on both sides of this for quite some time now. The poor folks in the middle, armed with facts, can't seem to get heard for all the shouting by people for whom this is strangely and obsessively visceral. And I'm not saying that I know what the facts are. I'm quite frankly in something like duck and cover mode, trying not to get caught in the crossfire from the opposing camps. It's unbelievable how nasty some of this has been.

For other alternative energy news, there's "'Hot rocks' answer to power problem" at about an African project, "Heat from the earth will be mine all mine" at about a Lothian project utilizing old mines, and "MPs to cap cost of connecting green energy generators" at about the Scottish electricity market.

And just a plug for an event coming up July 29-31, 2005 in John Day, Oregon. The annual SolWest Fair generally draws a nice international crowd, and there are 'alternatively fueled' vehicle races, too. See for more information. And don't let the name fool you. It started out as a solar energy enthusiasts' rendezvous, but now covers all manner of energy sources and conservation. France backs off 35-hour work week

March 22 (Bloomberg) -- France's parliament voted to effectively rescind the 35-hour work week, raising overtime limits and letting private-sector employees swap time off for more money in a bid to boost employment and incomes.

The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, today gave final approval to a proposal by President Jacques Chirac's administration to overhaul the seven-year old law passed by a Socialist-led government...
While bigger, more dramatic news has taken up most of our attention this week (quite reasonably so), France's government has taken what is seen by many to be an extraordinary step. It has recognized that imposing a 35-hour work week in the hopes of forcing businesses to hire more people didn't work. And it has backed off.

See also:,,13509-1536539,00.html

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Scotsman: Canals floated as an answer to road chaos

More than a century after losing out to the train, Scotland's canals will once again be used to transport thousands of tonnes of freight around the country, ministers announced yesterday.

Inland waterways will play a central role in the Executive's £44 million programme to take lorries off the road and transfer their loads to boats and ships.

Even though canal boats go barely faster than walking pace, ministers believe companies can be persuaded to move bulky, heavy goods by water...

For a related, interesting read, you might check out Our Wherry in Wendish Lands: from Friesland through the Mecklenburg Lakes to Bohemia, by H.M. Doughty, originally published in 1891, and reprinted in 1985 by Ashford Press of the UK, ISBN 090706938X. It's a travel memoir, illustrated by line drawings done by the author's daughters. It's not Scotland, by any stretch, but it is inland waterway travel, and paints quite a picture of late Nineteenth Century Europe and its people.

That's if you can find a copy at a reasonable price. It's out of print and prices are all over the board, from $5 to $95 at the websites I use to check market price, and even in the UK there don't seem to be many copies out there.

John Gibson: The Schiavos' Marriage Is Clearly a Sham

John Gibson, in his My Word segment on The Big Story on Fox News, has an interesting take on the Terri Schiavo case, and highlights a key point.
...I don't think this is so hard. If you recognize reality you will see that as of Friday, when Michael Schiavo ordered the feeding tube removed, they weren't really married. They haven't been since he took the other "wife" and had two kids.

Are the Florida courts saying an ex-husband gets to decide when an ex-wife dies? If so, there is going to be a very long line at the court's front door...

Meghan Cox Gurdon: Screwtape Revisited

This (linked in title) appeared on the March 22, 2005, National Review online, under the title Screwtape Revisited. The subhead is "With gratitude (and apologies) to C.S. Lewis."

My guess is that C.S. Lewis wouldn't accept any apologies for this. Meghan Cox Gurdon has added a chapter for our times to the Screwtape Letters. I don't know whether to say "ouch" or "bravo". But, then, I had that problem when I read the original.

Among other available editions, Harper reissued The Screwtape Letters in February 2001. The trade paperback ISBN is 0060652934, the suggested list price is $10.95, and it is in stock at many bookselling sites. It is also available in audio cassette, compact disc, and hardcover.

It has been in print since 1941, and there are many copies of various editions available used.

If I may borrow from Richard Gilman's introduction in the Mentor mass market paperback edition, 1988, ISBN 0451628217:
On July 20, 1940, during the first wartime summer in England, Clive Staples Lewis wrote to his brother Warren: "I [have been] struck by an idea for a book which I think might be useful and entertaining. It would be called 'As one Devil to another' and would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first 'patient.' The idea would be to give all the psychology of temptation from the other point of view."
And thoughtful readers have been squirming ever since. C.S. Lewis let no one off the hook.

There is a C.S. Lewis Foundation. For a brief history, see:

The diamond range?

While I wasn't looking, Canada developed a $1 billion per year diamond industry. And Minnesota has similar geology, so now there's some serious looking going on there. From an AP story on

A team of University of Minnesota geologists and employees of an Australian mining company are trying to find out if there's something a lot more valuable than taconite somewhere under Minnesota.

They quietly crisscrossed the state last fall gathering soil samples in a search for clues that would lead them to diamonds and other precious minerals. The state-of-the-art labs of WMC Resources Ltd. of Australia are now analyzing the results.

A mother lode of diamonds isn't too far-fetched. Minnesota geology is similar to Canada, which has a $1 billion-a-year diamond industry, and search technology has improved dramatically in recent years.

"Our geology is comparable to Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan or the Northwest Territories, and diamonds have been discovered in every one of those regions," said Harvey Thorleifson, a Canadian who took over the university's geological survey last year and whose reputation as one of the world's best-known diamond geologists helped attract WMC to Minnesota...

I love the name Thorleifson. I've just wasted several minutes looking through the European Phrase Book (All the phrases you need to make yourself understood in 14 European languages. Easy-to-read pronunciation code for each phrase), Berlitz, c. 1974, Spanish ISBN 84-399-6132-4, looking for something wonderful in Norwegian to tie to it. Wonderful I don't have yet, but to ask "Who is this?" is Hvem er det? (vehm aer day, with the ae scrunched into one vowel), and "My name is..." is Mitt navn er... (mit nahvn aer..., same ae vowel).

On a somewhat unrelated subject, I now know that if I go to a Norwegian service station and want to say "Fill her up, please" I would say Full tank, takk (fewl tahnk tahk).

We can't stand by and watch her starve to death

On, March 21, 2005/10 Adar II, 5765, Rabbi Aryeh Spero explains Jewish law as it applies to people like Terri Schiavo:

Long ago Jewish law made a distinction between withholding medication and special treatments from a patient as opposed to withholding food and water. Whereas there comes a time when we are no longer required to proactively employ "heroic" medicines and treatments to keep a non-functioning body operating, it is always necessary to continue feeding a patient...

...While medicating is a conditional decision, not so feeding. Feeding is not a medical question, it is the most basic human need whose purview is not the doctor's or judge's but inalienable. Not to feed one starving in front of you is: "Standing by While the Blood of Your Brother is Spilt."...
And he looks at America today:

...There is a much larger question here that has ramifications beyond the Terri Schiavo situation. There are those in the House, such as Rep. Henry Waxman, and liberal talk-show hosts who are irate and screaming at those wishing to keep her alive. The anger of the presiding judge can be attributed to that of ego —being challenged by elements questioning his reasoning and authority. But what is to be said of those who have no personal stake?...

American Jews have been screaming loud and long about this, but the media has been largely ignoring them, trying to frame this as exclusively right-wing Christian territory, at a guess.

Hat tip:

Bork: Congress' Involvement in Schiavo Case Not Unique -- 03/21/2005

The late hours and mad rush and publicity of what the House and Senate did on behalf of Terri Schiavo might have been unusual, but otherwise they do this sort of thing quite often.

...Robert Bork, a Reagan administration nominee whom the U.S. Senate refused to confirm, called the federal legislation signed by President Bush early Monday morning something that "happens with some regularity."

"[The new law has] given jurisdiction to a federal court to hear, in effect an attack upon a state court outcome, but we do that all the time," said Bork, who authored the 2003 book "Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges" and is currently a distinguished fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute....
In the same article:

...Conservative legal scholar Mark R. Levin said Democratic liberals in Congress are upset because they are not in the position to affect what happens in the courts. "What really offends the Left is Congress asserting its constitutional power over a court, and not in service to the liberal agenda," Levin wrote in a posting on National Review Online on Monday.

Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, also authored "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America."

"The right to live, or more specifically, the right not to be killed, is a fundamental right. And it's a right recognized in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence," Levin wrote.

"Article III specifically empowers Congress to determine the jurisdiction of the federal courts, which is all it did [Monday]. It authorized a federal court to determine whether Terri Schiavo's due process rights and the right not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment were properly protected by a state court," Levin added...
The article counters some of the statements being made by people who opposed the bill.

Yahoo! Groups : TheNewVictorians

I stumbled across this group by accident tonight, and haven't had a chance to check them out. But their invitation looks interesting, overall.

We are a group of discerning Ladies and Gentlemen tired of shoe-box architecture, lunar design, rugged fashion, pop culture, "political correctness", radical feminism, promiscuity, multiculturalism, communism, and all the unfortunate madness which during the last century has been replacing traditional aesthetics and values all over the world....

...We invite writers, architects, designers, artists, journalists, editors, politicians, teachers, actors, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, families and all like-minded people to join and help us build a more traditional, beautiful world where computers and advanced medicine live together with Victorian aesthetics and values, for an even more magnificent new Gilded Age.
Like I said, I can't vouch for them. Let me know if you know. The group was founded July 11, 2004, has 525 members, and conducts discussions in English, according to the Group Info box.

Monday, March 21, 2005

About Red Lake

As I write, the death toll from a student's shooting rampage at Red Lake, Minnesota, is up to ten: eight of those at the high school, the other two the grandparents of the suspect, found dead at their home. Somewhere around a dozen others are said to be wounded, some seriously. The suspect is among the dead.

The stories are still jumbled, as details come in. But has some very good reporting, especially their reports on video. They've sent several reporters around the state (wounded were taken to Fargo, N.D. and Bemidji, Minn., plus reporters are on scene in Red Lake), and so far they've been intelligent and humane in their questioning. I can't provide a link to the video, and I expect it will be updated. If past experience with KSTP is any guide, they'll probably provide solid and professional coverage on this overall.

The title link is to an AP background article on Red Lake, which is on an Indian reservation and has some unusual law enforcement/jurisdiction set-ups.

UPDATE: March 26, 2005. It was not precisely correct to say that the boy killed his grandparents. He killed his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend, in addition to several other people, including himself. The death toll, last time I checked, had stayed at ten. Thank goodness the toll hasn't gone any higher, but not all of the victims are out of danger yet.

Hats off to the teacher who thought to barricade the door to one classroom. Without that action, matters almost surely would have been worse.

And hats off to student Jeff May, who went to the rescue of two girls by attacking the shooter with a pencil. See May was shot in the cheek and neck, and at last report still could not move his left side, but was well enough to write notes to his family. His condition was upgraded from critical to serious on Thursday.

For a general update, see "Support pours into Red Lake", at

A memorial fund has been set up. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank. The Twin Cities Boys and Girls Club is collecting games, toys, books, sporting equipment and cash, to be given to the Red Lake Boys and Girls Club. For contact information, see

Good Book: Brunelleschi’s Dome, by Ross King

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture
Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

The subhead on Brunelleschi’s Dome, by Ross King, is “How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture”, which suited me fine, since I like books on architecture. But it's misleading. Although this book is about architecture, it is also about life and politics and scandals and innovation and ingenuity and legislation and monopolies and class and warfare of Florence of the 1400s.

Think David McCullough type history books. It’s not quite the same, Mr. King having his own style, but it’s similar. You get the big, broad picture, with context.

Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) won a design contest for a dome for Santa Maria del Fiore, a cathedral already under construction for more than a century. The dome was to be, and reportedly still is, the largest dome in the world, at 143 feet in diameter.

The plan was one thing. Building it was impossible using known methods. So:

He engineered the perfect placement of brick and stone, built ingenious hoists and cranes…to carry an estimated seventy million pounds hundreds of feet in the air, and designed the workers’ platforms and routines so carefully that only one man died during the construction – all the while defying those who said the dome would surely collapse.

This drama was played out amid plagues, wars, political feuds…
This is not to mention private feuds. I love how it was thought useful to trade caustic sonnets in those days.

And, just to make it more interesting, Brunelleschi wasn’t even in the building trade beforehand. He was a goldsmith and clock maker, age 41. He would spend 28 years on the dome project.

This book is as lively as a good novel, with lots of history and science and technology, too.

Chapter headings: A More Beautiful and Honourable Temple, The Goldsmith of San Giovanni, The Treasure Hunters, An Ass and a Babbler, The Rivals, Men without Name or Family, Some Unheard-of Machine, The Chain of Stone, The Tale of the Fat Carpenter, The Pointed Fifth, Bricks and Mortar, Circle by Circle, The Monster of the Arno, Debacle at Lucca, From Bad to Worse, Consecration, The Lantern, Magni Ingenii Viri Philippi Brunelleschi, The Nest of Delights.

Brunelleschi’s Dome, by Ross King, c. 2000, published in trade paperback by Penguin, ISBN 0142000159, illustrated b/w, 194+ pages, including index.

For a website with photos and information on the dome in question, see here.

Florida Legislature is Still Able to Help (Update ACTION REQUESTED)

Play fair, speak clearly, but, if you can, contact the Florida legislators who are needed to provide Terri Schiavo a backup Plan Z, or whatever it is that we're up to here.

My guess is that they're pretty frazzled by now. Keep that in mind when you contact them. Remember, we're looking for changes of heart, not the satisfaction of venting our frustration.

The list of who to contact is available at the above link (title link).

Or go to for the original article.

The New York Minute Blog: Rush On, Boys

While we're on the subject of historical trivia, Rebecca over at The New York Minute Blog has this:

American history buffs will know that "Rush on, boys" was the password for the American invasion at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 (it was a crass Anglicanized form of Rochambeau, the French commander sent here to aid in the effort of vive liberte).
Well, actually, I didn't know that. Oh, well.

She uses this as a lead-in to some of what was said on the Rush Limbaugh show today, explaining the constitutional authority that enables Congress to rein in the judiciary when it's really needed.

Guardian Unlimited | Camilla to be queen - but not Queen Camilla

Just in case you need a little diversion, Stephen Bates, writing in the March 22, 2005, The Guardian online, says:

Just when they thought the legal tangles over Prince Charles's wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles on April 8 had been resolved, royal officials were last night confronted with the government's confirmation that she will indeed become queen when her husband succeeds to the throne.

A one word response in the decent obscurity of a Commons written answer gave ministers' official view that the marriage will not be morganatic - a union where the partner of the sovereign does not have royal status....
To change that, all the countries in the Commonwealth would have to pass legislation naming her not queen.

But, some say, now that they really, really take a hard look at the matter, to actually address someone as Queen So-and-so is not a matter of law but of tradition, so if she would prefer to be called princess consort, to spare feelings, well, then...

Charles has his staff busily assuring everyone that she doesn't intend to insist upon being called Queen Camilla.

Time will tell.

And for more British royal trivia:

Quick - which royal family member, born July 4, 1942, had Franklin D. Roosevelt as a godfather?

Answer: Prince Michael of Kent, christened Michael George Charles Franklin. And actually, FDR was only one of his godfathers.

Michael was eighth in line to the throne when he was born. He took himself out of contention when he married a Roman Catholic. His children, brought up in the Church of England, are still in the running, although far back.

Princess Michael (yes, she goes by Princess Michael) is an author, specializing in history books about royalty, with a special interest in mistresses. Hmmm....

Prince Michael maintains a website at He receives no taxpayer funding, so runs a consulting business, according to this site.

Just to be clear about this, there are many Democrats who place a high value on human life, and aren't just sitting around wishing utopian thoughts.

I'm hearing a lot of "Republicans versus Democrats" talk today. Maybe now is a good time to thank the brave folks who are trying to rescue the Democratic Party from within. The title link is to one such group.

For a related story, see, "Democrats for life?" by Paul Greenberg, from the Feb. 24, 2005, online Washington Times.

National Review Online : Too Vigorously Assisted Suicide

Opponents of assisted suicide have good reasons for persisting in efforts to save Terri Schiavo's life. But supporters of assisted suicide may have even better ones...
Note to self: good reference article/editorial all the way around.

Last Visit Narrative

For some people, Terri Schiavo is a friend, someone who laughed with them as recently as last Friday, before the powers-that-got-out-of-control put a lock on the fridge and a guard at the door, so to speak.

The title link is to a report from attorney Barbara Weller, about her March 18, 2005, visit with Terri. Everyone in the room was buoyed. They thought help was already on the way.

The Scotsman - UK - Families claim items from Shipman's jewel hoard

Harold Shipman, a medical doctor in the UK, was found to have killed just at 250 of his patients over three decades.

That's no typo. Two hundred fifty people died at this man's hands. He liked to give drug overdoses.

Now his widow (he hanged himself in jail) wants the police to hand over to her the jewelry they found in the Shipmans' garage at the time of his arrest, never mind that it's almost certainly stolen from his murder victims. To make it worse, many of the pieces are wedding rings, and other are undoubtedly heirlooms. The police, to do them credit, have said that of course under the law they have to hand her whatever doesn't get claimed - but are refusing to do it until they've made one more mighty attempt to find the rightful owners (or their survivors, at any rate).

The Scotman has a large archive of Shipman articles, going back to 2001.

See, for instance:, which gives results from the final report of the Shipman Inquiry. I mean, this guy is thought to have killed 15 people just while he was in training, and never let up from there.

The good news, if any, is that serious efforts are underway to find out how he managed to keep his crimes secret all these years, and some hidebound, circle-the-wagons institutions are having it impressed upon them that looking out for your own is only acceptable up to a point. There are also new rules on signing death certificates, etc.

As it happens, the serial killer wasn't caught until a lady noticed something funny about her mother's will. Shipman was then arrested in September 1998, and charged with the murder of Kathleen Grundy and forging her will. That investigation turned up other fishy deaths, which led to more investigation, which turned up more fishy deaths, and so on.

Up until then:

He was able to stockpile vast amounts of diamorphine - the clinical name for heroin - which he had either falsely prescribed or taken from cancer patients after their deaths.

Nor were there any procedures for detecting that the death rate among Shipman’s elderly patients was three times higher than normal for the area.

Shipman "bullied and bamboozled" relatives of many of his victims into avoiding post mortem examinations which would have revealed traces of morphine and felt safe in the knowledge that cremations would destroy vital evidence.
(excerpt from

Questions and Answers on the Will to Live

There is a lot of talk these days about signing Living Wills. Warning: many so-called Living Wills have some fine print (or even implied meanings!) that would surprise you, and may cost you your life.

A Will to Live document, on the other hand, is designed to let you advise against experimental or "extraordinary" treatment, without running the risk of winding up being starved to death by some doctor who has bought into the 'quality of life' philosophy, and may not have your grit or optimism. (Obviously, he doesn't have as much at stake in the decision, either.)

Sadly, so many people are perplexed about all the fuss over Terri Schiavo precisely because in some medical circles starving people to death has become an accepted procedure and denying treatment to the disabled is commonplace. And the courts in many states are used to backing them up. But we do it all the time, I don't see what the big deal is...

Please check out the Will to Live program at National Right to Life (title link).

ScrappleFace: Right-to-Starve Added to Feminism's Victories

When I was in college, feminists near and far were on a rampage against marriage as an institution, saying it gave a man too much power over a woman. Now that I am happily married (many years now, thanks) I can cheerfully and with authority disagree with that assessment - most of the time.

Michael Schiavo ought to be the poster child for feminism's campaign against the oppression of women by men. I don't get it. They ensemble en masse for tilting at windmills, but give them a genuine, provable case of a man throwing his weight around at his wife's expense, and they can't even saddle a nag or two? This guy is killing a woman who no longer meets his expectations, and they can't at least stand up and politely make the suggestion that he just take a hike?

The courts are taking a man's side simply on his word, and have refused to let the man's wife have legal representation, and NOW isn't screaming bloody murder?

Scott Ott, otherwise known as ScrappleFace, takes aim at this insanity in a satirical piece, linked above. A note to satire novices: satire is sometimes funny, even hysterically so, but the point of satire is to shift the focus and then zero in on something. Sometimes it isn't the least bit humorous. If you're looking for laughs, "Right-to-starve Added to Feminism's Victories" isn't the place to go.

Captain's Quarters: NYT Misrepresents Schiavo Case In News Article

"Captain Ed" steered around the Schiavo case for a long time, but he's got his act together now. He's not letting the New York Times get away with sloppy reporting and falsehoods. Thanks Ed! Facts won't outscore myths unless we all keep swinging, but it's nice to have a home run king at the plate.

Taking a Deep Breath Before Diving Back In

I don't believe Michael Schiavo has held up his end of the bargain, I don’t think the judge upheld the law, and I think to starve anybody (anybody!) to death is barbarism. The only right thing to do under the circumstances, in my opinion, is to get Terri Schiavo out of the hands of people who have treated her badly and want to cause her death. I had to fight for that.

And I don’t think that it’s over yet. So I’ll keep fighting.


This is a plea to fellow fighters to take a deep breath now, and not go running off half-cocked, lumping everybody who opposed us into the same pile, or assuming that they acted out of malice or lack of compassion or some twisted mockery of natural feelings.

The Terri Schiavo case breaks my heart for many reasons, not least because I see good people on both sides fighting for the same things, when it comes right down to it - decency, dignity, respect, autonomy, respect for human life.


Think about it.

Many of the people who sat on the other side of this were undoubtedly spurred by a horror of suffering - more specifically, needless suffering. Count me in on that. But what I see as needless suffering were the years and years that Michael Schiavo has forbidden therapy and flowers and music and visitors. The escape from that is to get her to a different facility, and give her a new guardian. But I understand the horror of feeling like you are being asked to condone needless suffering, and I have to applaud the people who picked up a stick and took a swing at it, even if they were on the other side of this. If I believed the MSM on this, I might have been on the other side.

Many of the people who raged on the other side of this were opposing the intervention of the government into obviously emotional, almost-sacred family affairs. Count me in on that, too. But the government has a duty to protect innocent people from violence and from murder. Admittedly, there have been times when a governing body has told a man he could beat his wife if he didn’t use too stout a stick – but those days are long past, and thank goodness. The only excuse I see for a government to intervene in a husband-wife dispute are those times when life and limb are in danger. If I’d believed the Old Media on this, I might have been on the other side.

And we live in a day and age when medical advances have presented us with dilemmas our grandparents never faced. It is possible now to keep bodies semi-alive for long periods of time. I don’t know anybody who wants to be held in that condition, being stared at and either fussed over or neglected, a pathetic and helpless mockery of what they used to be, and utterly powerless to do or say anything about it. Count me in on those who admit that sometimes it is best to just stop medical treatment. I’m neither Catholic nor an Orthodox Jew, but I agree whole-heartedly with their stances on this: at some point you stop fiddling with things, but you never, ever, cause the death of a patient. So many of those who fight us quite obviously think she is essentially gone and ought to be allowed to leave, for pity’s sake. I can understand that. If I believed the accounts that she was already dead for all intents and purposes, I might have been on the other side of this. But I believe that those who think that she is neither dying nor essentially dead must be given the benefit of the doubt here.

I joined BlogsForTerri early on, and I have profound respect for the dedication of the people heading that effort. The site has been invaluable to me. The access to primary documents and links to other resources and the chance to bounce arguments off each other has been important. But when I pulled the site up this morning, there I was face to face with a Wall of Shame project, designed to go after the Republicans who didn’t vote for the bills needed to give Terri Schiavo a chance.

Count me out. I don’t do Walls of Shame.

I understand the frustration and the anger. The guys running that blogsite have been throwing their whole beings into this. They’re entitled to feel exasperated. But we’re at one of those really awkward moments when a lot has finally gone right but it might be too little, too late. So fellows, please, give yourselves a chance to sleep on it, at least. Let’s not declare war on people who might be our allies in other times, in other ways.

The cold, hard fact about bills is sometimes a politician can’t see his or her way clear to sign them – and not always for the reasons you might think. I’m willing to back off and let the dust settle and then let these guys explain themselves. Sometimes the worst thing a politician can do is sign a bad bill that promises great things – but is still a bad bill, likely to cause all sorts of collateral damage. I seem to remember that President Bush, the current one, wrote in his book “A Charge to Keep” about a bill for insurance reform, I think it was, that reached his desk while he was governor of Texas. He vetoed it. He agreed there was a problem, and he agreed the problem needed to be fixed, but he saw that particular piece of legislation as likely to make things worse instead of better. So he vetoed that bill but assigned someone to find another way to fix the problem. People screamed bloody murder, but a year or two or three down the line, his alternative action had had time to do its thing, and the problem was solved, and it didn’t matter anymore that he’d blocked that one bill. I don’t know what the House and the Senate were hammering out regarding Terri Schiavo. I’ll give them a bit of wiggle room here. Not a lot, but a little bit.

The BlogsForTerri site suggests that we should consider anybody who voted nay last night as “anti-life”. Count me out. Some of them might be, but my wild guess is that they just felt pushed into an impossible corner, and voted accordingly. Maybe, given a chance, they’ll find other ways to fight the euthanasia movement, or push to have Michael Schiavo and his team and Judge Greer and his office investigated properly and thoroughly. Maybe they’ll dig in now and make sure that disabled people have at least as much protection as convicted felons. Maybe not, but I’m voting to give them a chance.

Maybe, like me, they kept hoping (and hoping) that law enforcement would go arrest somebody and end things in a more normal way. Maybe they were working furiously behind the scenes on other ways to get things done. Maybe they just got hoodwinked. Or maybe they are irretrievably opposed. I don’t know. I still can’t figure out why things had to get this crazy in the first place.

What I do know is that I can look around and see people who fought these bills, or some other part of this whole mad rush to save an innocent life no matter what it took – who are good people with big hearts who simply couldn’t see it as I do. I can look around and see that some of my opponents on this were actually fighting for noble things, or at least for abstract ideas that I consider noble. Where we parted company came into focus when Terri’s mother was standing in front of cameras and pleading with people not to use her daughter to make a point.

“Making a point” is a serious American pursuit. Perhaps it is a universal human pursuit.

Sometimes it is even a good thing.

But it is so, so easy to let it blind us to the specifics of any given situation.

This is a plea to fellow fighters to take a deep breath now, and not go running off half-cocked, lumping everybody who has opposed us into the same pile, or assuming that they all acted out of malice or lack of compassion or some twisted mockery of natural feelings or greed or something else very ugly.

The Terri Schiavo case breaks my heart for many reasons, not least of which because I see that there are some good people on both sides fighting for the same things when it comes right down to it - decency, dignity, respect, autonomy, respect for human life, compassion, the hope of a better civilization.

We can fight this battle with facts, not fury; reason, not invective; and with allies, not just followers and friends. Some people are truly our enemies. But I think we're running the risk of creating enemies where none now exist.

Not really.

Think about it.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Wonder Land: Lifting Anchor

Daniel Henninger, writing on, March 18, 2005:

Dan Rather deserves more than a kick in the pants on his way out the door to a fly-fishing stream in West Texas. With Tom Brokaw's retirement just ahead of Rather's, this is the official end of an era, not just in television but in the cultural life of the nation. There was a time when what happened in the United States got defined by three men: Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. If they said an event was big, it became big. If they ignored it, it hardly mattered. With two of the three retiring within months of each other, it's worth a look at what happened over the years to them, to the news--and to us...

It's an interesting essay, from a man who had a front row seat.

Wittenberg Gate: They're Asking the Wrong Question

Dory over at Wittenberg Gate draws the focus of the Terri Schiavo case back to the basics.

I keep hearing on the news the poll question, "Who should decide if Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed?" The choices are the spouse, the parents, the courts, etc. I think this is the wrong question....
It's a quiet, thoughtful piece with a balanced perspective, and well worth a read.

NASA - Robonaut Shows Sensitive Side

File this under: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." NASA was having trouble with electrical 'noise' and excess cable requirements in old robotic systems, so rather than keep banging its head against those problems, it switched over to fiber optic sensing. Voila. I love a good end run.

...When the Robonaut was on the drawing board at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas, developers needed advanced sensors to measure the movements of the human-like hands and forearms they were designing. These "hands" had to be capable of exerting just the right amount of force and control to perform critical jobs. They needed to mirror the skillfulness of a human hand.

For example, when a person reaches out, picks up a foam cup filled with coffee and lifts it to drink, the hand responds automatically. The fingers close around the cup with the right amount of grip to pick it up without crushing the cup or dropping it. To simulate this kind of control in the hands of the Robonaut, Astro Technology Inc. in Houston developed the Fiber-Optic Sensor System.

This system design overcomes some of the limitations of older robotic methods that were more cumbersome. The new fiber-optic sensors use a light source, so they are immune to electrical "noise" and require significantly less cabling to measure the bending of the "fingers" and force of the touch. Add to this the reduced size and weight of the components, and they are ideal for space flight and operation.

This not only is great news for Robonaut, but these NASA-inspired innovations are also paving the way for some important commercial uses for the fiber-optic sensors....