Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Here's a couple of books I am taking in this week:

The first is entitled The Long Run.
It is the story of Matt Long, a firefighter, bar owner and marathoner who was in a terrible collision with a bus. The book chronicles the accident, the gruesome injuries and his struggles to recover, including a long ordeal at the New York marathon three years after the accident.

The second, Unbroken, is the story of Louie Zamperini, the Olympic runner that became a bombardier on a B-24.
I was familiar with his story, since I have read his Autobiography, Devil at My Heels, chronicling his ordeal and his later decisions to become a missionary to Japan, including his former POW camp guards. But, the new book does an excellent job of filling in many of the gaps and making even more interesting a story about a very interesting fellow.

And, included in the book is a quote by one of Louie's coaches, saying that the only one that could out run him is Seabiscuit. Zamperini must be about 95 now and you can still book him for speaking engagements and maybe even catch him skateboarding, an activity he took up when he was in his 80's.

Both books make for an interesting read, if you need something for your spring reading list, and both will help motivate you to run, if you are training for the next race.

Here is some more info:

The Long Run

Louie Zamperini

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Drilling the Death Drill

On board the troopship SS MENDI in late January of 1917 was more than 800 soldiers of the SANLC. Sometime before dawn, while the ship was navigating the English channel, it was nearly cut in two during a collision with the British Steamship SS DARRO.

Hundreds of men were immediately drowned in the freezing waters. Those that weren't jumped into the water or scrambled to the deck of the vessel as it began to roll over and sink.

In the midst of the chaos, a prominent tribal leader, Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha (You decide how to pronounce that. I have no idea), exhorted the men with the following speech:

"Be quite and calm my countrymen, for what is taking place now is what you came here to do. We are all going to die, and that is what we came for.

Brothers, we are drilling the death drill.

I, a Zulu, say here and now that you are all my brothers... Xhosas, Swazis, Pondos, Basotho and all others, let us die like warriors.

We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries my brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bodies..."

After this, many of these warriors kicked off their boots and stomped out their death dance on the deck of that ship and continued with their death chants after they were flung into the water until they finally silenced by hypothermia.

The book of Hebrews reminds us that each of us has an appointment with death (Hebrews 9:27). We really have no choice about that. But, we do have a choice in how we live and how we face our death.

Will we live and die with the shout of a war cry, or ..... well, or something else?

For more info about the Mendi tragedy, visit this site: SS MENDI History


SANLC - The soldiers of the South African Native Labor Corps. These were men recruited from the warrior tribes of South Africa (including the Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and others) to perform heavy labor in support of the war effort. This labor included essential tasks such as building roads, unloading war supplies and clearing wooded areas.

Assegai - Technically, a spear of javelin. The Zulu's made a short version, with about a 2 foot long shaft and a 1 foot long blade. These were used from behind their shields as an effective stabbing weapon and was later copied by other tribes. Although it was a fairly primitive weapon, it did a number on those it came in contact with, including being used to nearly annihilate a contingency of just over 2,000 British at the battle of Isandlwana in 1879.

Kraal - a rural village in South Africa. usually huts surrounded by a fence. the word originally indicated a corral or livestock pen, which these villages apparently reminded the Boers of when they first saw them .

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Yesterday, Diane and Ethan went with me to a building down by the University campus to pick up the book I won from a drawing I entered at the Festival of Books over the weekend. I remember the people running the drawing giving me kind of odd looks when I explained to them that I usually won these things when I entered them. I don't think they remember me saying that to them.

I may not have the blood of a tiger, but I do have a propensity towards winning this sort of thing.

My family is starting to get annoyed by this. Oh, except for our youngest son who is very upset when he doesn't win any drawings. I try to explain to him that most people usually don't win those things because guys like me always do, but that didn't seem to be any consolation.

I even gave up on signing up for the drawing at the monthly science lectures we often attended. The prizes weren't really all that good anyway and it wasn't worth making him upset over and over again when I kept getting chosen and he did not.

Here are a few other notable prizes I have won:

- The Grand Prize at pretty much every Christmas office party I have been to for every job I have held that has had a Christmas office party.

- An American Girl brand jewelry box that I won for the girls.*

- An all expense paid trip to India with a side trip to Paris thrown in.

There are, of course, rules to winning these sort of drawings. the most important one is that I have to have an inkling that I am going to win. I also have to announce it aloud to someone else. Usually this someone else is my wife Diane, who will roll her eyes and give me that "You've got to be kidding me" look and then ask why I don't win something like the $5,000 Home Depot gift card instead of another dumb book to clutter up our house.

*The jewelry box also irritated the family, even though they were happy to win. Diane and the girls had diligently went to the store that was holding the drawing almost every day to enter the "enter as often as you like" event. The girls really wanted the box. I went in once and came home and announced that I had entered so I would probably win.

A few weeks later, when the big day had come, we received a phone call from the store letting us know that we could come collect the box. The lady who called also made a point of letting everyone know that I was the one who had won. Come to think of it, so did I.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Unusual evenings

I am privileged now to have another job that is, how shall I say.....interesting.

For instance, last night. Without divulging any clandestine details, I spent the evening talking with the family members of new recruits to about what life for them will be like with the academy on the horizon. The rest of the night I spent trying to find some guys wandering around in the desert.

I also get a chance to meet a variety of people. One of the good ones is the gentleman I met last night.

He was a law enforcement officer that was involved in responding to what has become known as the "Norco Bank Robbery", or the "Norco Bank Robbery Shootout".

The bank robbery culminated in what is known as the longest gun battle/pursuit in law enforcement history, killing one officer, wounding eight others and even resulting in a helicopter being forced down from gunfire

The man I met received scars from five bullet wounds, some medals from The Riverside Sheriff's Dept and the gratitude of a hostage in the bank.

The Chinese are credited with coming up with the curse "May you live in interesting times", but meeting interesting people is no a curse at all.

Here is a brief synopsis of the Norco events:

May 9, 1980. Prolonged shootout and chase between police in Norco, California, and five heavily armed bank robbers wearing military-style fatigues and armed with assault rifles, thousands of rounds of hollow-point bullets as well as various explosive and incendiary devices. Police responded to a bank robbery call in Norco. Upon arriving the police were ambushed and outgunned. After unloading over 300 rounds at police cruisers, the officers were forced to retreat behind their cruisers or nearby obstacles, all the while being fired upon. The suspects attempted to escape in their own vehicle. During this attempt, the driver of the suspects was killed by a stray police shot. The suspects then hijacked a nearby vehicle and became involved in a prolonged chase, in which the suspects shot at police and disabled and destroyed 33 police vehicles (as well as civilian cars) with explosives thrown from the back of a truck. The suspects also disabled a police helicopter by shooting at it. Later, the suspects lay in wait for police as they chased them, and ambushed them, resulting in the death of a police officer and wounding 2 others. Heavily outgunned, the police were pinned down until one officer arrived with an AR-15. After the police engaged the suspects with the AR-15, the suspects fled. One of the suspects was killed in the shootout, one during a later standoff with the police the next day, and three were later captured. 8 officers were also wounded during the events.

Here is a page where you can find out more:
The Norco Bank Robbery

Monday, March 7, 2011

Little known local history from far away.

I grew up knowing that the small town I lived in, McCook Nebraska, hosted an Army Air Base during the Second World War. this Base trained the crews of B-24's, B-17's and B-29's before they headed off to action around the world.

We used to head to this abandoned airfield when I was younger to see how fast we could get our cars rolling on the old flight line. I think I may have driven faster there than anywhere else. When I got married, I also learned that my wife's grandmother used to travel many miles to go to dances in McCook, the mecca of the mid-west.

What I didn't know about was some things that happened in another small town just a little north of where I lived. North Platte Nebraska is about 60 miles north of McCook and we would plan trips up there every once in a while to go to the mall(since we didn't have one in our town), to look at some trinkets at the Wild West Souvenir Shop and to visit Buffalo Bill's Guest Ranch, where he lived for a number of years.

During the war, 6 million servicemen passed through North Platte on the train on the way to war. During this time, every train was met by locals who had prepared donuts, cakes, sandwiches, coffee and friendship in the ten minutes they had to what was known as the North Platte Canteen. It became notorious as a place not to be missed for the frightened teenagers that knew they were going to a war they might never come back from.

Hats off to North Platte as they supported our servicemen, and to all those who have served, then and now.

Friday, March 4, 2011


It is hard to find a movie without this in it. And this video only goes up to 1999.