Thursday, November 30, 2017
More Letters From Paradise
Each kit will be filled with a "comfort letter," and photos of family and nonperishable food. Donations of cases of bottled water, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, and Clorox wipes are needed.
These kits are for elementary school children, to be used incase of a nuclear attack from North Korea. Hawaii will do its best to be prepared for such an event. When the attack siren sounds you have only 12 minutes to find a place to shelter. But Hawaii has no public shelters. We have been told to" shelter in place."
Kids at Kaimuki Middle School were told to get to certain classrooms, close the windows, and turn off the air conditioning. They had also been told about the "pee buckets" they would be using. A directive was sent to teachers to use plastic sheeting, wet cloth and duct tape to seal windows to minimize air contamination.
All of this reminds me too much of the Cold War. Imagine a young teacher trying to tell her students about something you cannot taste,touch,see,or smell. And the temperature outside is 85 degrees,and inside the sealed classroom it would be unbearable
At the beginning of each month a siren sounds, testing the Tsunami Alert System. This coming Friday, December 1st a wailing tone will be added.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
More Letters From Paradise
Remember Wake Island
Living here in Hawaii we are constantly reminded of the attack on Pearl Harbor. But how many under the age of fifty, remember the battle for Wake Island? Five hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wake Island also underwent an attack by the Japanese.
Wake Island is located in the far-Western part of the Pacific. Over 2000 miles due west of Honolulu. The island became important because Pan American Airway developed it as a refueling and rest stop for its wealthy clients. The aircrafts were huge flying boats, landing and taking off on water. Pan American built a hotel for their wealthy guests.
The American military also had plans for the island. Fearing the increasing friction between the U.S. and Japan, contractors were busy building an air strip, hospital, and other buildings. Over 1,100 civilian construction workers were trapped on Wake when the war broke out.
Wake Island is an atoll made- up of three small islands grouped around a shallow lagoon that was once the crater of extinct volcano. Wake,the largest of the three, is separated by narrow channels from Wilkes and Peale islands, just to the west. Together they form a rough horseshoe shape. The islands had swarms of rats, but no fresh water. The interior of the islands contained masses of trees and brush. Wake was next in importance to Midway as a base for aircraft, submarines, land-based forces, and fleet facilities. And it was not far from Japan.
Wake was garrisoned by a force of 510 Marines equipped with three three-inch antiaircraft batteries of four guns each, three five-inch shore batteries of two guns each, two dozen .50 caliber machine guns, and two dozen .30 caliber machine guns. Also, a few old Springfield rifles. And that was all. The arrival of twelve brand-new Grumman F4F Wildcatfighter planes were a welcome addition to the island's defense.
The attack began with a flight of eighteen bombers which destroyed eight of the Wildcats. When they had finished, the only thing left intact was the runway itself.
Many of the visible structures were in ruins. There were only three flyable planes left.
In spite of bombs from the air, strafing runs, and two landings, this handful of Marines with some of the construction workers, lasted two days longer than did the defenders of the Alamo.
Back in Pearl Harbor Admiral Kimmel dispatched a relief fleet to Wake, but the fleet was ordered back to Pearl as there was a change of command. In other words, the defenders of Wake were screwed. No help would be sent to them.
The commanding officer of Wake Island was Commander Winfield Scott Cunningham USN, and Major James Devereux was commander of the Marine detachment.
During the fourteen day siege the Marines sank one major Japanese ship, heavily damaged several others, and repelled a Japanese invasion. Commander Cunningham, realizing that there was little hope left, ordered a surrender. The Marines were mad as hell.
The Japanese were so angry having lost so many men, and that there were no women to rape. The captives were harshly treated, and then taken aboard a ship which would carry them to both Japan and China. Some few civilians were kept to rebuild, and then were executed. On the ship five men were selected, blindfolded, and beheaded as a symbolic revenge for having killed so many Japanese soldiers.
The prisoners were to spend the next three and a half years as prisoners and slave laborers. It all came to an end with the Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrender.
The construction company that had hired these civilians, paid wages to those who had managed to survive. Commander Cunningham and Major Devereaux were both promoted. Each man later wrote books about their experience.
Wake Island today maintains the airstrip, but there are no commercial flights and it is simply there for emergencies. The population today is 120 civilians. They have a nine hole golf course, cocktail bar, and nice housing. Visitors to the island just have government authorization. They are geologists, oceanographers, bureaucrats, film makers, and some of the survivors of the battle. Marine and Navy retirees may travel there free of charge on military aircraft.
What I have written is from the most excellent "Given Up for Dead," by Bill Sloan. Bantam hardcover edition published 2003.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
More Letters From Paradise
Out of this World
Information is easily available about the time and direction of the International Space Station, and where it can be seen. We have seen it from our lanai several times.
I recently purchased a new book "Endurance,A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery," by Scott Kelly. In his book he tells all about life while floating in space. His companions were from Russia,Japan and other European countries.
One of the many problems is physical exercise. It was mandatory to exercise on a treadmill six days a week and at least a couple hours every day. Bone loss is about one per cent per month. Spacemen returning to earth often had broken hip bones.
Another more urgent problem was to keep the two "Seedra" machines working. These machines soak up the CO 2 given off by the crew. If the CO2 levels reach too high, it results in the difficulty of performing many tasks, and making bad choices. Better to breathe clean air. These machines were often broken, needing repair.
Hand holds are located throughout the station, when a person wants to remain in place. A foot placed around a hand hold, while eating or drinking coffee with a straw from a plastic bag. Scott writes that sleeping while floating is very nice indeed. And all the urine collected is processed, and becomes drinking water.
The American Space Shuttle was retired some time ago due to a lack of funding. The vehicle taking a three man crew to the space station is aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. This has been safely used many times. The craft has no extra room for anything else. Supplies to the station are carried by a ship called a "Dragon,"built by an American company called "Space X." A single trip would carry 4,300 lbs.of supplies. Fresh fruit and vegetables (which go bad more quickly than on earth.) Oxygen,spare parts, health care products,experiments, items from home, and so forth.
It is nice to read how everyone all got along. They shared food, celebrate birthdays and holidays while in space. So far over 200 people have visited the space station.
A couple of other things that need to be mentioned. The most dangerous task is a walk in space. A leak-proof clumsy space suit, with gloves like a baseball mitt, requiring delicate working space while traveling at a speed of 17,500 mph. Hand holds required, and a tether to the station. Hours are spent just preparing for the space walk.
Then there is the problem of docking the supply ship to the station requiring the use of a long arm developed by a Canadian company. Have we become so blasé about space travel? Have we forgotten the moon landing, and the lives that were lost in that historic quest? The International Space Station is working on problems faced by a trip to the planet Mars.
In the nineteen sixties a book "Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth, written by Buckminster Fuller, University of Illinois, created quite a stir. He warned that our planet is a spaceship with limited supplies of food and water. How we used these supplies would determine our fate.
And recently Dr. Stephen Hawking remarked that we may have to travel to Mars, because we are ruining our planet.
Some dark night look up in the sky and you may find something different from all the surrounding stars,shining brightly, it is the International Space Station.
More Letters From Paradise
For more years than I care to count, I have been a huge fan of the American writer Henry David Thoreau. While I was in the Navy I went with a friend from our ship to try and find the site of Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond. I returned many years later with my youngest daughter Jessica, to find that a replica of his cabin had been built.
Every American literature book has a section devoted to this writer. Much attention is paid to his book "Walden," which contains his essay on "Civil Disobedience." Both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King read and were greatly influenced by this essay. But what I feel is often overlooked is Thoreau's contribution to understanding nature, and his work for the abolition of slavery. He understood ecology before the word was invented. He kept many journals which were left unpublished until now. He was friends of Emerson,Hawthorne,Louisa May Alcott, and William Lloyd Garrison,publisher of the anti-slavery paper "The Liberator." He was also friends with the ex-slave Frederick Douglas, and John Brown. And he met Walt Whitman while he was doing some survey work in New York.
American literature began with these writers in and around Concord, Massachusetts.This small town was also a hot bed of abolitionists. Thoreau delivered a plea to a large crowd,in support of John Brown,following his attack on Harper's Ferry. Thoreau had helped drive one of the the men involved in the attack, to escape into Canada. Also, when the government passed the Fugitive Slave Act, Thoreau's family hid and helped runaway slaves to escape to Canada.
Thoreau graduated from Harvard with understanding of both ancient Greek and Latin. I don't think it did much for him in his study of Botany. Few know that his father had a pencil making factory, and that Thoreau made his living after Harvard by surveying. He also made paid lecture tours. He tried his hand at teaching, but quit after refusing to cane students.
A new book "Thoreau, a life " written by Laura Dassow Walls, published 2017 by The University of Chicago Press, is most excellent. I think this is the book for people who really want to know more about Thoreau. The author provides us with a complete picture of the man. Thoreau died in 1862, at the age of 44, never having seen the end of slavery.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
More Letters From Paradise
They Were All Young Girls
Most Americans know that women served as nurses in WWI and WWII. But few people know that during WWII, Soviet girls served in all branches of the military. When Hitler's army invaded Russia in 1941, every patriotic Russian quickly ran to recruiting offices. This included girls as young as 16 years of age. Many lied about their age and were accepted. A whole trainload of girls came from faraway Siberia.
Their introduction into military life was swift, and sometimes brutal. Russian girls all wore their hair in long braids. These were cut off and replaced by a short man's haircut. Shirts,pants, coats, hats, long men's underwear, and American-made boots way too large. Size 10 for a girl's foot requiring a size 5. No feminine products either.
After a few months of training, they became drivers of trucks and tanks, Some became nurse aids and snipers. During the four years of war, many girls were killed in combat. One 17 year girl received the "Florence Nightingale " award for dragging 147 wounded men to safety. Another young girl sniper was awarded the "Red Star" for having killed 75 Germans.
Tank girls wore canvas pants with padded knees and a helmet. When a tank was hit, the crew was most often on fire, and the girls pulled them out of the burning tank.
When victory came at long last, the men who had fought, received all the credit. The role played by the female fighters was forgotten. Young girls returning home had a tough time. Young men refused to date them as they had soiled themselves by living with men. They were seen as having lost their feminism charm. They were often called whores.
Things began to change when a book The "Unwomanly Face of War," by Svetlana Alexievich was published in 1985. She went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015. She spent years with her tape recorder talking with the old women who were once young girls. The book was translated into English and published in 2017. Many women had waited years to tell their stories. Others had tried to forget. Many women refused to either wear or have the color red in their homes. It reminded them of so much blood. Some few married younger men, while others lived alone in apartment houses.
The Russians suffered greatly in WWII. One out of every eight people died in the war. See the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad for examples. How did these young girls find the strength and courage to fight as they did? We may never know the answer.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
More Letters From Paradise
I Like Hats
I like wearing a hat, and that is not just because I am now bald. The sun here in Hawaii can cause skin cancer. I grew up in Northern Michigan where wearing a hat was necessary in winter, covering your ears too. In summer the hat worn, was a baseball hat. You could shape the bill to a curve of your liking. And this leads me to the fact that I firmly believe that only welders,umpires, and catchers should wear their hat backwards. Otherwise for others to do so, there must be a connection with low I Q.
Here in Hawaii hats are sold having a flat plastic bill. Stupid looking and again I suspect low IQ.
As an enlisted man in the Navy we all(except Chief Petty Officers) wore round white hats. These hats could be shaped by sailors to suit their individual tastes. It bothers me when actors in plays such as "South Pacific," wear their hats simply round and stupid looking. The last hat from my years in the Navy, was eaten by Lake Erie during an afternoon sail.
I mentioned to Teena that I would like to have a soft hat that would protect my ears, and could be rolled up and carried in a pocket. The visiting men and women from Australia who have come to our club to bowl, have just that kind of hat. And low and behold, she returned home recently with just such a hat. The hat also has a lanyard with a wood toggle to help keep it on in the sometimes brisk Trade Winds. She warned me that I should not be wearing it when meeting anybody important.
In Dearborn Michigan there was a small supper club called "Toppers." The club featured good food and a small dance floor with a trio of musicians. The walls were all covered with pictures of people wearing hats. Some famous people and others not at all famous. Alas,"Toppers" was bought by some rich hockey player and the pictures were all replaced by mirrors. Teena and I have fond memories of the place.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
More Letters From Paradise
Rat Lungworm Disease
There are a host of diseases found in this part of the Pacific. The most recent disease being talked about is rat lungworm disease. State-wide there are l7 cases so far. It is very hard to diagnose. The symptoms are : severe headache, stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feeling in the skin or extremities, fever, nausea and vomiting,temporary paralysis of the face, and sensitivity to light.
The disease is carried by rats, snails, and slugs. When larvae carried by slugs and snails get into a person's system, they travel to the brain and form worms that shed antigens, or toxins according to the Hawaii Health Department. When it molts, it sheds antigens and that go into the spinal fluid. There is no known cure. The farmer here who contracted the disease reported that an MRI showed that chunks of his brain had been eaten. He is currently living on painkillers and anti seizure medications.
According to John McHugh, of the Department of Agriculture's Plant Industry Division,
" Rats are the main host for this thing, and the state doesn't have enough resources to control rats throughout the entire state. They are are everywhere on these islands."
People are told to not eat freshwater shrimp, land crabs, frogs, or undercooked snails. Inspect and rinse produce, especially leafy greens in potable water. Boil snails, prawns, crabs and frogs for at least three to five minutes.
I feel that it is also very important to choose eating in a restaurant where the lettuce has been carefully washed. Or better yet, avoid eating salads when dining out. As for me, I am being very careful.
All the above information I stole from our local paper "Star Advertiser" Sunday 10/8/17