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Tue Feb 03, 2015 at 12:27 PM PST

Air-Minded: Sabres & Horseshoes

by pwoodford

The F-86 Sabre has been on my mind lately. The Sabre was a pure air-to-air jet fighter with a high-mounted seat and 360-degree visibility, father of the F-15 Eagle, grandfather of the F-22 Raptor.

F-86 gun harmonization (photo credit unknown)

As a boy living at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in the 1950s, I dreamed of someday flying the Sabres I saw flying overhead. Today I'm a volunteer docent at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, which has four F-86s and one FJ-4 naval variant in its collection. I've always loved these clean, purposeful fighters, and when the museum recently set up a Korean War display with a USAF F-86 and a North Korean MiG-15, I was asked to write a fact sheet on the MiG Alley aerial battles between the Sabres and the MiGs.

During my MiG Alley research I came across references to the Gun-Val Project, where heavier guns were installed in test F-86s and evaluated in combat against the MiG. A big problem emerged during the Gun-Val tests, a problem eventually overcome by a miniature horseshoe.

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Sat Jan 31, 2015 at 08:00 AM PST

You Can't Read That!

by pwoodford

You Can't Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news.

Hacked traffic sign in Los Angeles (photo credit: unknown)

YCRT! updates from Tucson, Arizona, where 80 textbooks, along with the entire Mexican-American Studies program, were banned from local high schools in 2012:

More YCRT! below the fold ...
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"Unstuck her in time, day-sleeping in her bedroom. How old was she? Seven, seventeen, twenty-seven? Dusk or dawn? Couldn’t tell by the light outside. Checked her phone. Evening. The house silent, her mother probably asleep. Out through the smell of her grandfather’s fifty years of National Geographic, shelved in the hall." -- William Gibson, The Peripheral

the peripheralThe Peripheral
William Gibson

The Bridge Trilogy novels were my favorite works by William Gibson. The Peripheral has bumped them to second place.

I looked over my earlier Gibson reviews before writing this one and think this is worth repeating:

"Gibson likes complex stories with interrelated events and characters. He's a student of pop culture, and his novels are right on top of current trends. Even more than complexity and hipness, I think, he likes happy endings. Some say he's a sentimentalist, but I don't think hipness has to be dark."

There's a strong strain of intellectual curiosity behind Gibson's near-future stories, which always makes for good science fiction, but what I like best about his story-telling is that he leaves it to the reader to figure things out. He doesn't explain. And when he does, usually through dialog between characters, it's the barest minimum necessary, in context, and natural. In this novel, characters are immersed in what at first seem to be inexplicable events; it's natural they would talk to one another and try to interpret what's happening to them. We're along for the ride with characters we can relate to and understand.

You can't talk about what happens in The Peripheral without giving the store away. Most reviews try to explain the essential idea, so I will too. The novel centers around characters living in two futures: a near future and a more distant one, some 70-80 years beyond that. People in the farther future discover a way to communicate electronically with people in the earlier future; this has been made possible by some unspecified technological development occurring during that earlier future. Eventually, characters on both sides are able to virtually visit one another. Every interaction with the future changes the present, which branches off into "shunts." In this novel, Gibson is concerned with characters living in one particular shunt. Well, enough of that. Gibson makes it real; I can't even.

My favorite character in the Bridge Trilogy novels is Chevette. Chevette's great-grandniece is Flynne, and I fell in love with her too. Brave, smart, unintimidated, rolling with the punches. And of all the little details Gibson creates to make the near future believable ... a totally credible outgrowth of the world you and I live in now ... Hefty Mart is the one that clicks. I'll never pass the Costco snack bar again without thinking of Hefty Mart.

And what I said earlier about happy endings? Yes.

Seriously, I'm like a 14-year-old kid again, back in the Golden Age of science fiction. Gibson is sick, man! The Peripheral is astonishingly good.

More reviews below the squiggle ...

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Tue Jan 06, 2015 at 05:16 PM PST

Air-Minded: the Army & the A-10

by pwoodford

Army A-10s? Not gonna happen, folks.

A-10 Thunderbolt II (photo: Wikimedia Commons)
USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II (photo credit: unknown)

Here's something I posted to Facebook the other day:

People ask me why, if the Air Force no longer wants A-10s, it doesn't just hand them over to the Army. The answer boils down to roles. From the 1960s into the early 1990s, the Army flew an armed observation aircraft called the OV-1 Mohawk. The USAF fought the Mohawk almost every step of the way, even getting DoD to prohibit the Army from flying it with weapons aboard. The Air Force is very protective of its doctrinal role and won't tolerate the Army flying armed fixed-wing aircraft.
That's broad-brushed and doesn't do the subject justice, so I'll expand on it here.
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Sat Jan 03, 2015 at 08:00 AM PST

You Can't Read That!

by pwoodford

You Can't Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.

New York Underground Library, Ourit Ben-Haim
New York Underground Library (photo by Ourit Ben-Haim)

YCRT! News

Banned in Tucson™ author Patricia Williams takes on the rising tide of academic book bannings, firings, and the growing disregard for scholarship in the USA.

More banned book news below the squiggle ...

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Tue Dec 30, 2014 at 11:20 AM PST

Air-Minded: Taildragger Tales

by pwoodford

I found some faded and blurry photos of the Great Lakes biplane I used to fly, and, as old photos always do, they brought back memories.

great lakes_3
Who's that behind those Ray-Bans?

In 1977, while I was an Air Force T-37 instructor pilot at Vance AFB in Enid, Oklahoma, I started a civilian flying training program at the local airport, thinking I might want to fly for the airlines some day. The fixed base operator at Woodring Field, Bill Sellers, ran a well-regarded flight school, and I earned my certified flight instructor rating in one of his airplanes. A month after I became a CFI, Bill added a Great Lakes biplane to his stable and decided to offer a course in aerobatics.

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I published this to my personal blog on 12/15/14. I updated it today, 12/17/14, and decided to cross-post it to Daily Kos.

real thugs

Never mind there should be no debate over torture, any more than there should be a debate over rape or child molestation. There is a debate and it's heading downhill fast, witness this statement by one of the most powerful men in the land:

“I think it is very facile for people to say ‘Oh, torture is terrible,’” he said. “You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people.

“You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?”

Yes, that's Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who knows torture works because he saw it work on TV, even referencing the specific episode of 24 he saw it on. He said this on Friday, days after the release of the Senate report on torture.

Jesus. I can't. Even.

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Sat Dec 13, 2014 at 08:00 AM PST

You Can’t Read That!

by pwoodford

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news roundups.


That's a photo of my grandson Quentin in the Greenspun Middle School library in Henderson, Nevada. While my wife and I were visiting our kids and grandkids during Thanksgiving week, his school hosted a grandparents' day. When we walked by the library I asked if we could go in, and Quentin said sure. I wanted to check the shelves for banned books, and here Quentin is holding up a copy of one of the most frequently challenged and banned books on school reading lists and library shelves. Yay, Greenspun Middle School!

We had a nice chat with the school librarian, Andy S___, who is well aware of which books in his collection have been repeatedly challenged or banned, and who sends kids home with permission slips for parents to sign if, in his judgement, parents might object to their child checking out particular books. It's case by case, not a blanket policy, and that seems sensible to me. Quentin could have checked out To Kill a Mockingbird without a signed permission slip, for example. We tried to talk him into it, but right now his interests lie elsewhere (you may have heard of a computer game called Minecraft). By the way, we're giving him a banned YA book for Christmas ... I won't say which one in case he reads this post, but it's a good one.

YCRT! News Roundup below the orange thingie ...

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Thu Dec 11, 2014 at 10:20 AM PST

Been There, Done That

by pwoodford

People keep saying torture can't be all that bad ... after all, we torture our own aviators and special operations forces at a super-secret training facility so they'll be able to stand up to it if they're ever captured by the enemy .... and you don't hear any of them complaining, do you?

The acronym for this specialized training is SERE: Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. When I went through the training in January 1979, the different services operated their own survival schools, but today it appears an organization called the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency conducts SERE training for all the services at a facility located on Fairchild AFB near Spokane, Washington. It just so happens that's the old USAF survival school I went to, and from all I read, the course of training there hasn't changed significantly from what I experienced.

pow camp
POW camp at the Fairchild AFB SERE training facility
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Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 08:45 PM PST

Air-Minded: PASM Photoblogging

by pwoodford

I think it's time to post another batch of photos from the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, where I volunteer as a walking tour docent. As always, you can click on the individual photos below to see the full sized originals on Flickr, or you can click here to view my entire Flickr Air-Minded photo collection.

I've been waiting for the restoration shop to put our Korean War-vintage North American F-86E Sabre on display, and this week they towed it into Hangar 4, where it now sits beside a MiG-15 in North Korean colors. Looks like I'll have to brush up on my MiG Alley history before I lead new tours of that hangar.

Korea Panorama
Korean War display in Hangar 4 (photo: Paul Woodford)

IMG_1085 copy
F-86E Sabre (photo: Paul Woodford)
IMG_1076 copy
MiG-15 (photo: Paul Woodford)

More below the orange aerobatic contrails ...
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Thu Dec 04, 2014 at 10:04 AM PST

Thursday Bag o' Rage

by pwoodford

rage_troll_bag-r99a0fcc8fd2040dfa4e5620193cfbe4a_v9w6h_8byvr_324It wasn't a date, exactly, but one of the first things Donna and I did together, shortly after we met in 1964, was to help other members of a local chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee pack clothing and food for the freedom riders. We were freshmen at American River College in Sacramento, far from the momentous changes occurring in Mississippi and other southern states, but we were filled with admiration (and anxiety) for the brave young people who went down there to help register black voters.

Last night I watched the beginnings of a new round of mass protests over the killing of an unarmed black man by police, who once again are not being held accountable for their actions. This time it's New York City, and people are in the streets because a grand jury refused to indict the cops who literally murdered an unarmed black man named Eric Garner. This in spite of a clear video of the entire incident, from the initial confrontation with Mr. Garner, to the cops applying the chokehold and wrestling him to the street, to the eleven times Garner managed to gasp out "I can't breathe, I can't breathe" before he lost consciousness on the sidewalk. And at no time did Eric Garner do anything more threatening than raise his voice to the cops.

While I was watching the protests, halfway hoping some protesters would break through the wall of riot police and set fire to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (the annual tree lighting ceremony and the protests were occurring simultaneously), I heard black and white leaders calling for a nationwide march.

My god, I thought, Donna and I might wind up packing food and clothing again, this time for a new batch of brave young men and woman. Fifty fucking years after freedom summer, in 21st century America.

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Sat Nov 29, 2014 at 08:00 AM PST

You Can't Read That!

by pwoodford

You Can't Read That! is a periodic post featuring banned book reviews and news.

Photo © Ruth Orkin

YCRT! News

I mentioned this Arizona story in a previous YCRT! diary. Conservative school board members and parents in Gilbert, a Phoenix-area suburb, decided to cut (literally, with scissors) pages mentioning abortion from an AP biology textbook. In the November elections the conservative school board members were given the boot, but since they remain in office until January 2015 there's still a possibility they'll carry out the snippage. No problem, said Rachel Maddow, we'll put the pages in question on the MSNBC website for anyone to read. Go, Rachel, go.

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