In late November, 1899, a British military unit which included an embedded reporter was ambushed by an Afrikaner unit in what is now Natal Province, South Africa. This was during the Anglo-Boer war, which was to be the largest military adventure to date in the history of the United Kingdom. The British had been traveling in an armored battle train, a kind of tank-train hybrid that was being used in that war mostly with poor results. The train was partly derailed, and the British were under fire, their only hope to make a break for it, or to hunker down and wait for reinforcements which may or may not come. Suddenly and without warning one of the British soldiers threw up a white flag and surrendered. This moment of initiative caused confusion among both the Boer and British which in turn resulted in several Boer and British soldiers exposing themselves to each other’s direct fire. It is one thing to volley bullets back and forth and occasionally hit someone, but standing uncovered several feet apart and heavily armed, the soldiers on both sides collectively decided that taking what was now realized by some to have been a false signal as a valid appeal to surrender was a better choice than a massacre. The British Soldiers and the reporter were all taken prisoner. Over the subsequent month, the reporter was (against the standing rules of the time) mixed in with the soldiers, and they were processed and incarcerated in a facility in Pretoria.
On December 22, the reporter effected an escape which is one of the more remarkable stories I’ve ever read. It forms a chapter in his later writing, which I’ve cut down considerably for you to get the gist of the story. Below I’ll provide a link to the complete manuscript. Continue reading From Ladysmith to London: A Harrowing Escape
G is for Galaxy: An Out of This World Alphabet (Alphabet Books) is one of a series of kid’s alphabet books with an interesting twist. The pages have the usual big letter, a picture of something that starts with that letter, and a short sentence or two referring to that word. But on the same page is anywhere from one to a few paragraphs of extra text written at a basic level but seeming targeted to the adult who is reading the book to the kid, providing additional context, background, and details. For instance:
“G is for Galaxy, a big family of stars so bright. Our is called the Milky Way, a small part we see each night.”
Cute little poem.
Then, off to the side on the opposing page…
“A galaxy is a family of stars, but in such a huge family you’d never meet every member. There are billions of stars in one galaxy. Planets are part of a galaxy, too. So are dust and gasses. Gravity keeps the family together. We are in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is a huge galaxy of about 100 billion stars, but astronomers remind us that the Milky Way is just one galaxy out of billions. Galaxies come in different shapes and sizes. Our galaxy has been compared to a big pinwheel”
I think it is a brilliant idea. Huxley was not that impressed but sometimes a specific book will grow on him after a while.
Other books in the series include A is for America, W is for Wind: A Weather Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Alphabets), I is for Idea: An Inventions Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Alphabets), Z Is for Zookeeper: A Zoo Alphabet (Alphabet Books), and T Is for Teacher: A School Alphabet (Alphabet Books).
Two days ago, according to the NCSE, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 which protects the right of citizens to pray and express religious beliefs, which was already the case because of the US Constitution. However, the Amendment will have other effects that were not mentioned at the voting booth. For example, “no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” What do you think THAT is going to lead to?
Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate does little more than changing one aspect of the election dynamic for the Presidency. But it an important change. Continue reading The Worst Political Decision of the Year