Thanksgiving 2012 – Fly your flag today!

November 22, 2012

Fly  your flag on Thanksgiving — it’s one of about a score of dates Congress designated specially to fly the flag, in the U.S. flag code.

Americans load up this particular holiday with significance, often for no particular reason.  As a holiday, it is really rather uniquely American.  There were feasts of thanksgiving from time to time throughout recorded history, but most often they were one-shot affairs, after a particular event.

In America, Americans eagerly seized on the idea of one day set aside “to give thanks,” both with the religious overtones some wanted to see, and with the commercial overtones others wanted, especially during the Great Depression.  In our 236th year since the Declaration of Independence, the 223rd year since the Constitution was enacted, we come to Thanksgiving as a major period of travel to old family homesteads, to Thanksgiving as a period of genuine thanks to American troops fighting in foreign lands half a world away, and as a commercial celebration that sucks the sobriety and spirituality out of all but the most dedicated of profiteers, or bargain hunters.

Vintage Thanksgiving greeting card, from HubPages

In the early 20th century, some people sent greeting cards for Thanksgiving; this is a tradition overtaken by Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years cards, today. (Image from HubPages, unknown year — credit for cards, “Images courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

Thanksgiving often stumbled into controversy.  George Washington issued proclamations calling for a day of thanks, but struck out all references to Christianity.  Some president’s issued similar proclamations up to the Civil War, When Abraham Lincoln used the holiday as a time to remind  Americans that they had a lot to be thankful for, partly as a means to keep Americans focused on the war to be won, and keep supporting troops in the field.  During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt juggled dates for Thanksgiving, moving it earlier in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season, hoping to stimulate sales, and thereby push America further out of the Depression.

In 2001 George W. Bush urged Americans to go shopping so terrorists would know America was not defeated by the attack on the World Trade Center, knowing that a stimulus to the economy would help garner support for other policies.

Vintage thanksgiving card, Boy riding turkey with American flag, from HubPages, original date unknown

Children riding large turkeys, waving American flags, made popular images in several years of the early 20th century.

2012 saw controversy over Big Box stores and other major, national retailers pushing their post- Thanksgiving, Christmas sales, into Thanksgiving day itself.  Is this fair to employees?  Is this too much emphasis on purchasing, and too little emphasis on family and giving thanks?

You can be sure of one thing:  It’s probably safe to fly your American flag on Thanksgiving, as Congress suggested.  It won’t make your turkey more moist  or your pumpkin pie taste any better.  It won’t boost your sales, if you’re a retailer, nor find you a bargain, if you’re a shopper.

If you have the flag, it costs nothing.  Flying the flag makes no particular religious statement, supports no particular political party, supports no one’s favorite football team.  Flying the flag earns you nothing, usually.

But as a free act of patriotism, support for our nation, and our troops, and a demonstration that even after a divisive election, we’re all one nation, it’s a pretty good deal.

Fly your flag today.

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Dallas honors assassin’s second victim, policeman J. D. Tippit

November 21, 2012

Forty-nine years.

That’s how long it took people in Dallas to get around to erecting a memorial for police officer J. D. Tippit, killed in the line of duty on November 22, 1963.

07-27-2011 Colo Bend to 6th Floor, Pentax K-10 158 - 10th & Patton in Oak Cliff, where J. D. Tippitt died

Residential street in Oak Cliff, a section of Dallas, Texas, where police officer J. D. Tippit died on November 22, 1963; photo from July 27, 2011.  Officer Tippit was discovered about the location of the Crime Watch sign.

For the first 20 years, most people probably thought the idea too raw, to mark the place where Officer Tippit died.  More recently people complained that there was no other memorial to Tippit, whose actions may well have smoked out the assassin of President John F. Kennedy that day.

With pressure from the Dallas Police Department, and assists from the Dallas Independent School District, the marker was installed on school property at the intersection, across the street from the spot where Tippit was shot.

Tippit died near the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Street, in Oak Cliff, a section of Dallas across the Trinity River from downtown.

Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit's patrol car, on E. 10th St, in Dallas, on November 22, 1963

Wikipedia caption to Warren Commission photo: Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit’s patrol car, on E. 10th St, in Dallas, on November 22, 1963 – now via Mary Farrell Foundation.

Dallas ISD’s Adamson High School is about two blocks away, to the northwest; the campus has been expanded to come within a block of the site.  The marker sits next to tennis courts recently installed by the district, in a small park cut out from the athletic complex.  Dallas ISD acquired many of the residences in the area.  Renovations in the past two years included closing part of 10th Street west of Patton.

A brighter though still-somber mood pervaded the marker’s dedication on November 20, 2012.  About 200 people gathered for the ceremony, including a lot of police officers and school officials.

Roy Appleton described it at a blog of the Dallas Morning News:

Brad Watson, a reporter for WFAA-TV, Channel 8, questioned the lack of recognition for Tippit in a broadcast two years ago. Michael Amonett, then president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, took up the cause, with help from Farris Rookstool III, a Kennedy assassination historian.

The school district provided the land. And the Texas Historical Foundation donated $5,000 to the project.

The crowd of about 200 people Tuesday included Tippit’s widow Marie; his children, Allan, Brenda and Curtis Tippit; his sister Joyce DeBord; other family members; and police officers past and present.

Standing and sitting under a cloudless sky, they watched members of the Adamson ROTC present the colors, heard the Dallas police choir sing God Bless America and listened while speakers praised the slain officer and his family.

Watson covered the ceremony for his station.  The ceremony might be noted for its lack of higher dignitaries; it was a working cop’s ceremony, with Dallas Police Chief David Brown being the top rank present.

2012-11-20 Tippitt Memorial 013  Marie Tippit answers questions, dedication of marker to her late husband, J. D. Tippit - photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

Marie Tippit, officer Tippit’s widow, answered questions from a reporter Tuesday at the dedication of the marker to her husband. Photos by Ed Darrell except where noted.

2013 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in Dallas.  Proponents wanted to get the tribute to Officer Tippit installed in time for the anniversary year.  Particularly with the aid of scholars at the 6th Floor Museum, tourists and historians have been retracing routes taken that day 50 years ago, the parade route of President Kennedy from Love Field, with the emergency reroute to Parkland, and the route Oswald is thought to have used to flee after the shooting, from the Texas School Book Depository, through the bus station, across the Trinity River to his boarding house in Oak Cliff, and from there to the Texas Theater where he was captured.

2012-11-20 Tippitt Memorial 017 plaque honoring J. D. Tippit, photo by Ed Darrell

Plaque from the Texas Historical Commission explaining the history of the spot in Oak Cliff where Officer Tippit confronted suspected assassin Lee Oswald.

Particular striking in this history is the role played by ordinary citizens — Officer Tippit on his rounds, witnesses in the surrounding homes and the people who used Tippit’s radio to notify Dallas Police of Tippit’s shooting (in an era before cell phones, and probably before most local phone lines even had Touch Tone™ dialing), the alert salesman at the now-defunct Hardy’s shoe store, and the ticket seller at the Texas Theater who phoned police after Oswald stiffed the theater on a ticket price.

2012-11-20 Home and Tippitt Memorial 036 Street sign at 10th and Patton, site of confrontation between Lee Oswald and Officer Tippit - photo by Ed Darrell

Even the street signs and stop signs have been updated at 10th and Patton, the site of the new historical marker.

Hardy’s Shoe Store was a Quinceanera dress shop in 2011 and may have gone through other incarnations since 1963.   Assassination histories note that students playing hooky from W. H. Adamson or Sunset High Schools were in the Texas Theater when Oswald was arrested, though most of them ran out to avoid being questioned by police and outed for having skipped school.  Adamson’s campus is greatly expanded recently.

But for the intervention of ordinary citizens along the path, it is entirely conceivable that the assassin of the president of the United States might have gone undetected long enough to dispose of evidence that linked him to the crime, or escaped from the country.

My students over the past five years, all residents of Oak Cliff, knew very little about the Kennedy assassination, nor especially the links to Oak Cliff.  We need to do a better job as parents, teachers, newspapers, broadcast organizations, community associations and municipal government, in preserving and commemorating our local histories.

2012-11-20 Tippitt Memorial 019 Marie Tippit next to the memorial plaque to her husband, Officer J. D. Tippit

Marie Tippit standing next to the historical marker for her husband, J. D. Tippit, at the marker’s dedication, November 20, 2012.

2012-11-20 Tippitt Memorial 030 crowd devoid of dignitaries - Brad Watson at right

Other than the police chief and a couple of Dallas ISD board members, the crowd was pleasantly devoid of dignitaries; it’s a monument to a working man doing his job. WFAA Channel 8 reporter Brad Watson is the tallest man on the right; his reports several months ago spurred the action to carve out the memorial site from Dallas ISD-acquired land, greatly boosting the work to get a marker put up.

2012-11-20 Tippitt Memorial 037 Dallas Police cruiser 2012, at site of 1963 shooting - photo by Ed Darrell

History of technology: Compare this photograph of two Dallas police with the photo of Officer Tippit’s car earlier in this post. This squad car comes equipped with full-time dash-mounted cameras, instant radio and computer links; police also carry their own personal communication devices, such as the pink smartphone being used to photograph another officer. The car itself carries the phone number for emergency calls, and some carry the URL of the Dallas Police website. The traditional lights atop the car in Dallas have been updated to LEDs, which did not exist in 1963. How many other significant changes in technology can be found in these photos?

2012-11-20 Tippitt Memorial 039 10th St at Patton, Oak Cliff, Texas, at Tippit ceremony 11-20-2012 - photo by Ed Darrell

Dallas school district construction changed much of the neighborhood over the past five years; note the absence of trees shading the street that were present in 1963; they may have been elms struck down by blight decades ago.  Compare this photo with the first photo in this post, taken about 16 months earlier.

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Americans love George Washington’s nose

November 19, 2012

Looked at a lot of statues and busts in the past year.  One of the things that intrigues me is the way people interact with sculpture, particularly the ways and places people touch sculpture.

At Mount Vernon, Americans have a fondness for George Washington’s nose:

06-23-2012 TAH Mt Vernon 094 George's nose, Avard Fairbanks bust, photo copyright by Ed Darrell

Avard Fairbanks‘ very large bust of George Washington invites touching by visitors at the Mount Vernon Visitors Center; people touch his nose.  Photo by Ed Darrell; use allowed with attribution, some rights reserved.

Other copies of the bust exist around the country, by Utah sculptor Avard Fairbanks.  If I’m correct on the provenance, this one was placed at Salt Lake International Airport for the nation’s bicentennial, then was obtained by George Washington University (one of my alma maters, by the way), and was loaned by GWU to the Ladies of Mount Vernon. (No wonder the thing looked so familiar to me . . . it’s been following me around for years.  I wonder when it gets to Texas, or upstate New York.)

A bust of George Washington on the campus of G...

Bust of George Washington on the campus of George Washington University — same one? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Displayed at the main entrance to the visitors center at Mt. Vernon, the bust is at a level that people can touch it, and they do.

It’s fun to watch people who stop to look at the bust.  Almost inevitably they look a bit awed by it.  Then, if they take a minute, they look it up and down, and put out their hand to touch George’s nose.

Almost as if they consider George Washington a good luck charm, and a touch of his nose might rub some luck off onto them.  It’s rubbing the nose shiny, an interesting way Americans pay tribute to our first president.

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06-23-2012 TAH Mt Vernon 093 Avard Fairbanks bust, George Washington - photo by Ed Darrell, use with attribution encouraged

The bust is quite imposing; people who pause to study it, however, overcome their reticence, and reach out to touch the First President.


Watching the Leonid meteor shower 2012

November 17, 2012

Faithful stargazers may already have spotted a few shooting stars from this year’s Leonid shower.  Best estimates are that the peak will come the night of Saturday, November 17.

Meteor from 2009 Leonid shower, Wikimedia Commons

A meteor streaks across the sky during the 2009 Leonid meteor shower. (Navicore / Wikimedia Commons via Los Angeles Times)

Ready?

One of our best sources on viewing meteors is the StarDate website.  Their advice for tonight:

The next meteor shower is the Leonids on the night of November 17

The best viewing for this year’s Leonid meteor shower will be several hours before dawn on November 17. The shower should produce perhaps a dozen or so “shooting stars” per hour. The best view comes in the wee hours of the morning, as your part of Earth turns most directly into the meteor stream.

*     *     *     *     *

What is a meteor shower?

A meteor shower is a spike in the number of meteors or “shooting stars” that streak through the night sky.

Most meteor showers are spawned by comets. As a comet orbits the Sun it sheds an icy, dusty debris stream along its orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Although the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, if you trace their paths, the meteors in each shower appear to “rain” into the sky from the same region.

Meteor showers are named for the constellation that coincides with this region in the sky, a spot known as the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.

What are shooting stars?

“Shooting stars” and “falling stars” are both names that describe meteors — streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids vaporizing high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Traveling at tens of thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite from the searing friction with the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.

When a meteor appears, it seems to “shoot” quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star. If you’re lucky enough to spot a meteorite (a meteor that makes it all the way to the ground), and see where it hits, it’s easy to think you just saw a star “fall.”

How can I best view a meteor shower?

Get away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate.

For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to “rain” into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.

After you’ve escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites.

Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.

How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors?

If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have “dark adapted,” and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors.

What should I pack for meteor watching?

Treat meteor watching like you would the 4th of July fireworks. Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.

StarDate offers a wealth of resources on meteor showers, and clips from their radio programming on specific events.

Here’s a map of where to look in the sky (also from StarDate, though that’s not where I found it!):

Starmap, where to look for Leonids, StarDate via NBC

Where should you look for Leonid meteors? Orient this map, and look to the east – courtesy of StarDate via NBC

Next up:  The Geminids shower, about December 13, 2012.

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Reich’s right, again: Budget deficits are NOT the problem

November 16, 2012

Robert Reich‘s so good he can dispense wisdom in four 140-character Tweets:

His three following Tweets:

1. The real issue is ratio of deficit to total economy. If economy grows, deficit shrinks in proportion. That’s why austerity dangerous.

2. Public investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D should be made regardless, if public return is greater than their cost.

3. Biggest driver of future deficits rising healthcare costs (Medicare & Medcaid) but they’re slowing, so deficit projections exaggerated.

Three simple points.

Robert Reich speaks at the World Affairs Council

Robert Reich speaks at the World Affairs Council (Photo credit: tharpo)

To get more people to understand those points, Reich and his friends want to put out a film — but they need cash to finish it off, and they ask for your contribution

Alas, I can’t embed the proprietary video format here on WordPress. So you’ll have to go to the KickStarter site to see the trailer and money plea. Please do.

Print it out on a 3 x 5 card for your boss, if you’re the secretary to a Member of Congress, eh?

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Utah’s Mount Timpanogos, no PhotoShop needed

November 16, 2012

Here’s a good demonstration of why you don’t need PhotoShop, but a decent camera and a steady hand instead.

Utah's Mt. Timpanogos in snow, by Craig Clyde, 2012

Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos in snow, by Craig Clyde, 2012 (rights probably reserved).  Click for larger version.

Craig Clyde took this photo of Utah Valley‘s Mt. Timpanogos, probably from Saratoga Springs, on the west side of Utah Lake, after one of the first snows of 2012.  (This area had a few farm fields when I grew up there.)  It’s a great photo for several reasons.

It’s a formerly unusual view, there being so few people on the west side of the lake until recent development.  It pictures all of Timpanogos, with American Fork Canyon on the left, Mahogany Mountain, Big Baldy, and Provo Canyon on the right.  It’s an afternoon shot, you can tell from the angle of the sun (the mountain runs on a north-south axis), and the darkness on the lower mountains may be caused by the Sun’s setting behind the mountain range on the west side of  the lake.  Timpanogos in white, in the afternoon sunshine, is one of the greatest images of a mountain you’ll ever see.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Craig Clyde.  Mr. Clyde and I attended high school together — haven’t seen him in more than 30 years; not sure, but I don’t think he’s the same Craig Clyde in the movie business.

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Gilding lilies with PhotoShop – Mount Fuji and cloud version

November 16, 2012

Take a photo of amazing stuff:

Lenticular cloud over Mt. Fuji, 2003 (?)

Lenticular cloud over Mt. Fuji, 2003 (?)

Then mess it up with PhotoShop:

Photoshopped version of a 2003 photo of Mt. Fuji

Photoshopped version of a 2003 photo of Mt. Fuji

Why?  It’s the old question of why do we need fairies in the garden — isn’t the garden itself enough?

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy called attention to other fantastic lenticular clouds near Mt. Fuji — are those fantastic formations not enough?

Did the PhotoShopper add anything of value to the picture?  Of what use is a gilded lily?

(Please help — the original photo is identified as an award winner in 2003 — do you know the original photographer?  We should give credit appropriately; I’ve not found the person’s name, yet.)

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English: This is the final slide to Phil's pre...

Final slide to Phil’s presentation at the JREF’s TAM6 The Amazing Meeting convention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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