Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

“…let us march on, til victory is won.”

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"...let us march on, til victory is won."

Monday – 28 February 2011
Another week of workin’ begins. This one includes some high, hazy clouds, but the sun is out and it’s supposed to be a nominally warm day, so, in the words of Curtis Mayfield: “It’s Alright.”

Last night, we went up to SaraRules!’ parents’ for dinner: Baked fish (both cajun seasoned and parmesan)  with rice pilaf and broccoli. After dinner, we watched The Long Kiss Goodnight. Long-time readers will recognize this movie as the top end of the “Cool WorldLong Kiss Goodnight” scale, my metering for bad movies. It’s a one-dart movie, but it also had some amusing dialogue and some lovely over-the-top scenes. And, more to the point: My in-laws love a good, campy action flick, so it was a perfect choice.

After dinner and the movie, SaraRules! and I headed home. I’d gotten her Fables Vol. 14: Witches, so she curled up with that while I surfed the Interwebs. I’ve also discovered that Triscuits (Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil) with string cheese make a tasty pre-bed snack.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
This year’s final Black History Month item is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or N.A.A.C.P (1, 2, 3).

Founded February 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP, is one of the oldest and most influential civil rights organizations in the United States. Its mission is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination”. Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, is one of the last surviving uses of the term colored people.

The NAACP’s headquarters are in Baltimore, Maryland, with additional regional offices in California, New York, Michigan, Colorado, Georgia, Texas and Maryland. Each regional office is responsible for coordinating the efforts of state conferences in the states included in that region. Local, youth, and college chapters organize activities for individual members. The NAACP is run nationally by a 64-member board led by a chair. The board elects one person as the President and one as chief executive officer for the organization; Benjamin Jealous is its most recent (and youngest) President.

In 1905, a group of 32 prominent, outspoken African Americans met to discuss the challenges facing “people of color” (a term used to describe people who were not white) and possible strategies and solutions. Because hotels in the U.S. were segregated, the men convened under the leadership of Harvard scholar W. E. B. Du Bois at a hotel (Fort Erie Hotel) on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in Fort Erie, Ontario. As a result, the group came to be known as the Niagara Movement. A year later, three whites joined the group: journalist William E. Walling, social worker Mary White Ovington, and social worker Henry Moskowitz, then Associate Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

The Race Riot of 1908 in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois had highlighted the urgent need for an effective civil rights organization in the U.S. This event is often cited as the catalyst for the formation of the NAACP. Mary White Ovington, journalist William English Walling and Henry Moskowitz met in New York City in January 1909 and the NAACP was born. Solicitations for support went out to more than 60 prominent Americans, and a meeting date was set for February 12, 1909. This was intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated enslaved African Americans. While the meeting did not take place until three months later, this date is often cited as the founding date of the organization.

The NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909 by a diverse group composed of Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling (the last son of a former slave-holding family), and Florence Kelley, a social reformer and friend of Du Bois.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was disproportionately disastrous for African Americans, the NAACP began to focus on economic justice. After years of tension with white labor unions, the Association cooperated with the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations in an effort to win jobs for black Americans. Walter White, a friend and adviser to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, met with her often in attempts to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to outlaw job discrimination in the armed forces, defense industries and the agencies spawned by Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation.

Throughout the 1940s the NAACP saw enormous growth in membership, recording roughly 600,000 members by 1946. It continued to act as a legislative and legal advocate, pushing for a federal anti-lynching law and for an end to state-mandated segregation. By the 1950s the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, headed by Marshall, secured the last of these goals through Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed segregation in public schools. The NAACP’s Washington, D.C., bureau, led by lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., helped advance not only integration of the armed forces in 1948 but also passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Heading into the 21st century, the NAACP is focused on disparities in economics, health care, education, voter empowerment and the criminal justice system while also continuing its role as legal advocate for civil rights issues. Yet the real story of the nation’s most significant civil rights organization lies in the hearts and minds of the people who would not stand idly by while the rights of America’s darker citizens were denied.

While much of NAACP history is chronicled in books, articles, pamphlets and magazines, the true movement lies in the faces—black, white, yellow, red, and brown—united to awaken the consciousness of a people and a nation. The NAACP will remain vigilant in its mission until the promise of America is made real for all Americans.

Stray Toasters


Another quiet and lazy Sunday…

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Another quiet and lazy Sunday...

Sunday – 27 February 2011
This morning started off as a grey, drab-looking day… but the sun has  put in an appearance. I’m good with that. After a quiet start to the day, we’ve done a little errand-running and shopping.

Yesterday was a low-key and fairly quiet day. We did a little errand-running in the late afternoon/early evening. I also put in a stop at The Train Shoppe; I picked up some more Superstreets. I have no idea where I’m going to use all of it, at this point, but I have it. I also fixed dinner last night: Baked teriyaki-marinated chicken and homemade macaroni-and-cheese, with a side salad. After that, we watched some shows on DIY and Food Networks and cleared a few more things off the DVR.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s item is The Apollo Theater (1, 2, 3)

The world famous Apollo Theater is so much more than a historic landmark – it is a source of pride and a symbol of the brilliance of American artistic accomplishment. With its rich history and continued significance, the Apollo Theater, considered the bastion of African-American culture and achievement, is one of the most fascinating chronicles in American history. It is one of the most famous music halls in the United States, and the most famous club associated almost exclusively with Negro performers. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and was the home of Showtime at the Apollo, a nationally syndicated television variety show consisting of new talent.

An Apollo Hall was founded in the mid-19th century by former Civil War General Edward Ferrero as a dance hall and ballroom. Upon the expiration of his lease in 1872, the building was converted to a theater, which closed shortly before the turn of the 20th century.

However, the name “Apollo Theater” lived on. In 1913 or 1914, a new building, designed by the architect George Keister, opened at 253 West 125th Street as Hurtig and Seamon’s New (Burlesque) Theater. In 1933 Fiorello La Guardia, who would later become New York City’s Mayor, began a campaign against burlesque.  Hurtig & Seamon’s was one of many theaters that would close down. Sidney Cohen reopened the building as the 125th Street Apollo Theatre in 1934 with his partner, Morris Sussman serving as manager. Cohen and Sussman changed the format of the shows from burlesque to variety revues and redirected their marketing attention to the growing African-American community in Harlem.

Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut at 17 at the Apollo, on November 21, 1934. Fitzgerald’s performances pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its “Amateur Nights”. She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead.

The Apollo grew to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance of the pre-World War II years. In 1934, it introduced its regular Amateur Night shows hosted by Ralph Cooper. Billing itself as a place “where stars are born and legends are made,” the Apollo became famous for launching the careers of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, and Sarah Vaughan. The Apollo also featured the performances of old-time vaudeville favorites like Tim Moore, Stepin Fetchit, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, Clinton “Dusty” Fletcher, John “Spider Bruce” Mason, and Johnny Lee, as well as younger comics like Godfrey Cambridge. One unique feature of the Apollo was “the executioner” a man with a broom who would sweep performers off the stage if the highly vocal and opinionated audiences began to call for their removal. Jimi Hendrix won the first place prize in an amateur musician contest at the Apollo in 1964. The Jazz Foundation of America has celebrated its annual benefit concert, “A Great Night in Harlem”, at the Apollo Theater every year since 2001.

The club fell into decline in the 1960s and 1970s, and was converted into a movie theater in 1975. The Apollo was revived in 1983, when Inner City Broadcasting, a firm owned by former Manhattan borough president Percy E. Sutton purchased the building. It obtained federal, state, and city landmark status, and fully reopened in 1985. In 1991, the Apollo was purchased by the State of New York.

On December 15, 2005, the Apollo Theater launched the first phase of its refurbishment, costing an estimated $65 million. The first phase included the facade and the new light-emitting diode (LED) marquee. Attendees and speakers at the launch event included President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons.

As of 2009 it is run by the nonprofit Apollo Theater Foundation Inc., and draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors annually.

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“Do you know where you’re going to…?”

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"Do you know where you're going to...?"

Saturday – 26 February 2011
I woke up this morning to find it snowing. Not a problem, as I hadn’t really planned on doing much today.

I slept in (until about 0900) and then headed downstairs to watch some TV and surf. HGTV provided a good episode of House Crashers, in which the target couple had a kitchen remodel done. It looked pretty amazing when all the dust settled. After that I remembered that I still had an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold on the DVR, “The Knights of Tomorrow!”

Something that I had completely forgotten: It was co-written by my friend, Jake Black. The story nicely blended elements of the Golden, Silver and Modern Ages, including:

  • Golden Age:
    • Batman, in his Golden Age costume
    • The introduction of Robin (Dick Grayson)
  • Silver Age:
    • The wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (Catwoman)
  • Modern Age
    • The “graduation” of Robin into his Nightwing persona
    • The passing of the Batman mantle from Bruce Wayne to Dick Grayson
    • The introduction of Damian Wayne (the current Robin)

It was a well-told story and was quite fun to watch.

After SaraRules! woke up, we headed to Millcreek Cafe and Eggworks for brunch. We tried their coffee cake, which was good – it seems as though they use a spice cake base (as opposed to yellow cake). As always, the food was good.

After we got back home, SaraRules!’ parents came over for a few. Her dad is going to help us finish the last 40% of the basement. Today, we started the ball rolling on what will be the new bathroom. We went through a few ideas and came up with something that we think will be really good.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s item is Motown (1, 2, 3), a record label that was originally founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, on April 14, 1960.

Motown played an important role in the racial integration of popular music, as it was the first record label owned by an African American even if it was not the first to feature primarily African-American artists. Motown achieved a crossover success. In the 1960s, Motown and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence.

In 1959, Billy Davis and Berry Gordy’s sisters Gwen and Anna started Anna Records. Davis and Gwen Gordy wanted Berry to be the company president, but Berry wanted to strike out on his own. On January 12, 1959, he started Tamla Records, with an $800 loan from his family. Gordy originally wanted to name the label “Tammy” Records, after the popular song by Debbie Reynolds. When he found the name was already in use, he decided on Tamla instead. Tamla’s first release was Marv Johnson’s “Come to Me” in 1959. Its first hit was Barrett Strong‘s “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959), which made it to #2 on the Billboard R&B charts.

Gordy’s first signed act was The Matadors, a group he had written and produced songs for, who changed their name to The Miracles when Tamla signed them; their first release was “Bad Girl”. Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson became the vice president of the company.

From 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 top 10 hits, and artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Jackson 5, were all signed to Motown labels. The company operated several labels in addition to the Tamla and Motown imprints. A third label, which Gordy named after himself (though it was originally called “Miracle”) featured The Temptations, The Contours, and Martha and the Vandellas. A fourth, V.I.P., released recordings by The Velvelettes, The Spinners and Chris Clark. A fifth label, Soul, featured Jr. Walker & the All Stars, Jimmy Ruffin, Shorty Long, and Gladys Knight & the Pips. Many more Motown-owned labels released recordings in other genres, including Workshop Jazz (jazz), Mel-o-dy (country, although it was originally an R&B label), and Rare Earth (rock). Under the slogan “The Sound of Young America”, Motown’s acts were enjoying widespread popularity among black and white audiences alike.

In 1967, Berry Gordy purchased what is now known as Motown Mansion in Detroit’s Boston-Edison Historic District as his home. In 1968, Gordy purchased the Donovan building on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Interstate 75, and moved Motown’s Detroit offices there. Motown had established branch offices in both New York City and Los Angeles during the mid-1960s, and by 1969 had begun gradually moving more of its operations to Los Angeles. The company moved all of its operations to Los Angeles in June 1972, with a number of artists, among them Martha Reeves, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band, either staying behind in Detroit or leaving the company for other reasons. The main objective of Motown’s relocation was to branch out into the motion picture industry, and Motown Productions got its start in film by turning out two hit vehicles for Diana Ross: the Billie Holliday biographical film Lady Sings the Blues (1972), and Mahogany (1975). Other Motown films would include Thank God It’s Friday (1978), The Wiz (1978) and Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985).

By the mid-1980s, Motown was losing money, and Berry Gordy sold his ownership in Motown to MCA Records and Boston Ventures in June 1988 for $61 million. In 1989, Gordy sold the Motown Productions TV/film operations to Motown executive Suzanne de Passe, who renamed the company de Passe Entertainment and runs it to this day.

By 1998, Motown had added stars such as 702, Brian McKnight, and Erykah Badu to its roster. In December 1998, PolyGram was acquired by Seagram, and Motown was absorbed into the Universal Music Group.

Stray Toasters


“Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I…”

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"Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I..."

Friday – 25 February 2011
It’s Friday. Amen. Aside from the whole “end of the work week” thing, it also means that it’s only a week until the Hostler’s Train Show in Ogden.

Last night, I made dinner: Teriyaki chicken stir-fry over rice. It turned out pretty well. SaraRules and I caught up on NCIS over dinner; now, we just need to do the same for NCIS: Los Angeles. We also caught a bit of Dawn of the Dead, by Zach Snyder. I am very curious as to how his new vision for Superman shapes up.

After that, I spent a little time in Gotham City, chasing down Harley Quinn – saving Robin in the process – and beating on some of Bane’s thugs.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Bessie Coleman (1, 2, 3)

Elizabeth Coleman was an American civil aviator. She was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first person of African American descent to hold an international pilot license.

Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, the tenth of thirteen children to sharecroppers George and Susan Coleman. Coleman began school at age six and had to walk four miles each day to her all-black, one-room school. Despite sometimes lacking such materials as chalk and pencils, Coleman was an excellent student. She loved to read and established herself as an outstanding math student.

When she turned eighteen, Coleman took all of her savings and enrolled in the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now called Langston University) in Langston, Oklahoma. She completed only one term before she ran out of money and was forced to return home. Coleman knew there was no future for her in her home town, so she went to live with two of her brothers in Chicago while she looked for a job.

In 1915, Coleman moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she lived with her brothers and worked at the White Sox Barber Shop as a manicurist. There she heard tales of the world from pilots who were returning home from World War I. They told stories about flying in the war, and Coleman started to fantasize about being a pilot. She could not gain admission to American flight schools because she was black and a woman. No black U.S. aviator would train her either. Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, encouraged her to study abroad. Coleman received financial backing from Jesse Binga (a banker) and the Defender, which capitalized on her flamboyant personality and her beauty to promote the newspaper, and to promote her cause.

Coleman attended the well-known Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. There she learned to fly using French Nieuport airplanes. On June 15, 1921, Coleman obtained her pilot’s license from Federation Aeronautique Internationale after only seven months. She was the first black woman in the world to earn an aviator’s license. After some additional training in Paris, Coleman returned to the United States in September 1921.

Coleman’s main goals when she returned to America were to make a living flying and to establish the first African American flight school. Because of her color and gender, however, she was somewhat limited in her first goal. Barnstorming seemed to be the only way for her to make money, but to become an aerial daredevil, Coleman needed more training. Once again, Bessie applied to American flight schools, and once again they rejected her. So in February 1922, she returned to Europe. After learning most of the standard barnstorming tricks, Coleman returned to the United States.

When Bessie returned to the United States to pursue her new flying career, she knew she must have publicity to attract paying audiences. She created an exciting image of herself with a military style uniform and an eloquence that belied her background. Her first appearance was in an air show on September 3, 1922 at Curtiss Field near New York City. The show, sponsored by Robert Abbott and the Chicago Defender, billed Bessie as “the world’s greatest woman flyer.” More shows followed around the country including Memphis and Chicago. On June 19, 1925, Bessie made her flying debut in Texas at a Houston auto racetrack renamed Houston Aerial Transport Field in honor of the occasion.

In the time between her 1922 flying debut in New York and her 1925 Texas debut, Bessie never lost sight of her goal of opening a school for aviators. She flirted briefly with a movie career, traveled to California to earn money for a plane of her own, crashed that plane once she bought it and then returned to Chicago to formulate a new plan. It was another two years before she finally succeeded in lining up a series of lectures and exhibition flights in Texas. Once there, she defied not only racial barriers but gender barriers as well. She appeared in San Antonio, Richmond, Waxahachie, Wharton,Dallas and numerous unreported small towns and fields. At Love Field in Dallas, she made a down payment on a plane from the Curtiss Southwestern Airplane and Motor Company.

Coleman’s aviation career ended tragically in 1926. On April 30, she died while preparing for a show in Jacksonville, Florida. Coleman was riding in the passenger seat of her “Jenny” airplane while her mechanic William Wills was piloting the aircraft. Bessie was not wearing her seat belt at the time so that she could lean over the edge of the cockpit and scout potential parachute landing spots (she had recently added parachute-jumping to her repetorie and was planning to perform the feat the next day). But while Bessie was scouting from the back seat, the plane suddenly dropped into a steep nosedive and then flipped over and catapulted her to her death. Wills, who was still strapped into his seat, struggled to regain control of the aircraft, but died when he crashed in a nearby field. After the accident, investigators discovered that Wills, who was Coleman’s mechanic, had lost control of the aircraft because a loose wrench had jammed the plane’s instruments.

Over the years, recognition of Coleman’s accomplishments has grown. Coleman’s impact on aviation history, and particularly African Americans in aviation, quickly became apparent following her death. In 1927, Bessie Coleman Aero Clubs sprang up throughout the country. In 1989, First Flight Society inducted Coleman into their shrine that honors those individuals and groups that have achieved significant “firsts” in aviation’s development. A second-floor conference room at the Federal Aviation Administration, Washington, DC, is named after Coleman. In 1990, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley renamed Old Mannheim Road at O’Hare International Airport “Bessie Coleman Drive.” In 1992, he proclaimed May 2 “Bessie Coleman Day in Chicago.”

Mae Jemison, physician and former NASA astronaut, wrote in the book, Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator (1993): “I point to Bessie Coleman and say without hesitation that here is a woman, a being, who exemplifies and serves as a model to all humanity: the very definition of strength, dignity, courage, integrity, and beauty. It looks like a good day for flying.”

Stray Toasters


“Lit up with anticipation, we arrive at the launching site…”

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"Lit up with anticipation, we arrive at the launching site..."

Thursday – 24 February 2011
Let’s try this… again… after WordPress decided to eat (and apparently thoroughly digest) my last post. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far into it and the miscellany is all fairly easily recoverable.

Happy birthday to :

Last night was D&D 4.0 night with and company. The encounter was a little different than our usual ones: We got into a bar fight. But, it wasn’t our fault. (This time.) And by “we got into a bar fight,” I mean that “we got beat on by a hero from the Forgotten Realms” (read: “ever-so-slightly out of our league”).

Correction: We got beat on by a drunken hero (read: “still ever-so-slightly out of our league”) from the Forgotten Realms.

It was a good encounter. We all survived, though some of our group had a few new lumps. And, we left the bar in one piece (more or less) and not on fire. I’d consider that a minor feat for our party.

Chew on This : Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Charles Young (1, 2, 3, 4)

Charles Young was the third African American graduate of West Point, the first black U.S. national park superintendent, first black military attaché, first black to achieve the rank of colonel, and highest-ranking black officer in the United States Army until his death in 1922.

Charles Young was born in 1864 into slavery to Gabriel Young and Arminta Bruen in May’s Lick, Kentucky, a small village near Maysville, but he grew up a free person. His father Gabriel escaped from slavery, in 1865 going across the Ohio River to Ripley, Ohio to enlist as a private in the Fifth Regiment of the Colored Artillery (Heavy) Volunteers during the American Civil War. After the war, the entire family migrated to Ripley in 1866, where the parents decided opportunities were better than in postwar Kentucky. As a youth, Charles Young attended the all-white high school in Ripley, the only one available. He graduated at age 16 at the top of his class. Following graduation, he taught school for a few years at the newly established black high school of Ripley.

While teaching, Young took a competitive examination for appointment as a cadet at United States Military Academy at West Point. He achieved the second highest score in the district in 1883, and after the primary candidate dropped out, Young reported to the academy in 1884. He was not the only black student in the academy,(John Hanks Alexander entered West Point Military Academy in 1883 and graduated in 1887, Alexander and Young shared a room for three years at West Point). He had to repeat his first year because of failing mathematics. Young’s strength was in languages, and he learned several. Young graduated with his commission as a second lieutenant in 1889, the third black man to do so at the time. Young began his service with the Ninth Cavalry in the American West: from 1889-1890 he served at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, and from 1890-1894 at Fort Duchesne, Utah.

Beginning in 1894 as a lieutenant, Young was assigned to Wilberforce College in Ohio, a historically black college, to lead the new military sciences department, which was established under a special federal grant. As a professor for four years, he was one of a number of outstanding men on the staff, including W.E.B. Du Bois, with whom he became friends.

In 1903, Young served as Captain of a black company at the Presidio of San Francisco. When appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks, he was the first black superintendent of a national park. At the time the military supervised the parks. Because of limited funding, the Army assigned personnel for short-term assignments during the summers, making it difficult for the officers to accomplish longer term goals, such as construction of infrastructure. Young supervised payroll accounts and directed the activities of rangers. Young’s greatest impact on the park was managing road construction, which helped to improve the underdeveloped park and enable more visitors to travel within it. Young and his troops accomplished more that summer than had teams under the three military officers who had been assigned the previous three summers.

With the Army’s founding of the Military Intelligence Department, in 1904 it assigned Young as one the first military attachés, serving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was to collect intelligence on different groups in Haiti, to help identify forces that might destabilize the government. He served there for three years.

In 1908 Young was sent to the Philippines to join his Ninth Regiment and command a squadron of two troops.

In 1912 Young was assigned as military attaché in Liberia, the first African American to hold that post. For three years, he served as an expert adviser to the Liberian Government and also took a direct role, supervising construction of the country’s infrastructure. For his achievements, in 1916 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awarded Young the Spingarn Medal, given annually to the African American demonstrating the highest achievement and contributions.

He returned to Wilberforce University, where he was a Professor of Military Science through most of 1918. On November 6, 1918, after Young traveled by horseback from Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, D.C. to prove his physical fitness, he was reinstated on active duty in the Army and promoted to full Colonel. In 1919, he was assigned again as military attaché to Liberia.

Young died January 8, 1922 of a kidney infection while on a reconnaissance mission in Nigeria. His body was returned to the United States, where he was given a full military funeral and buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC.

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“Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on me…”

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"Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothin' on me..."

Wednesday – 23 February 2011
It’s midweek, once again.

Last night was SaraRules!’ night to host her book club. This meant that my evening had a roughly two-hour “free pass” section in it. I took advantage of this and did a little gallivanting. I went to West Valley Hobbies and Best Buy. I was mostly just window shopping at WVH, but I went to Best Buy with a purpose: To pick up the just-released All-Star Superman. (I also picked up the first two seasons of Moonlighting, as a boxed set.)

When I got back home, I played DCUO for a bit. This time, I ventured to Gotham City. As bright and shiny as Metropolis was, Gotham was equally dark and menacing. I met Commissioner Gordon and Robin (voiced by Wil Wheaton) before heading off to my first mission. On the way to that mission, I noticed that I flew over Crime Alley. I’d heard that there was a Feat available for finding the Wayne Memorial – the place where Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down. So, I detoured to see if I could locate it. I did. Not only was there, in fact, a Feat awarded for finding it, but the designers actually put a couple of roses on the ground there. Nice touch.

After her book club was finished, SaraRules! and I watched All-Star Superman. The movie was an adaptation of the award-winning mini-series of the same name (1, 2), by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It did a good job of condensing the story into 76 minutes, without losing much of the tone and flavor that Morrison brought to the story.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
I’m going to go out of my standard semi-alphabetical order for today’s entry.  Today’s person of note is: Dwayne McDuffie (1, 2).

Dwayne McDuffie was an American writer of comic books and television. His notable works included creating the animated series Static Shock, writing and producing the animated series Justice League Unlimited, and co-founding the comic book company Milestone Media.

McDuffie was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and attended The Roeper School. He attended the University of Michigan studying physics, graduating with an undergraduate degree in English, and a graduate degree in physics. He then moved to New York to attend film school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

While working as a copy-editor for a financial magazine, a friend got him an interview for an assistant editor position at Marvel Comics. While on staff at Marvel as Bob Budiansky’s assistant on special projects, McDuffie also scripted stories for the company. His first major work was Damage Control, a series about the company that shows up between issues and tidies up the mess left by the latest round of superhero/supervillain battles. While an editor at Marvel, he submitted a spoof proposal for a comic entitled Teenage Negro Ninja Thrasher in response to Marvel’s treatment of its black characters. Becoming a freelancer in early 1990, McDuffie followed that with dozens of various comics titles for Marvel comics, DC Comics, and Archie Comics.

In 1992, wanting to express a multi-cultural sensibility that he felt was missing in comic books, McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media, a comic book company owned by African-Americans. McDuffie explained:

If you do a black character or a female character or an Asian character, then they aren’t just that character. They represent that race or that sex, and they can’t be interesting because everything they do has to represent an entire block of people. You know, Superman isn’t all white people and neither is Lex Luthor. We knew we had to present a range of characters within each ethnic group, which means that we couldn’t do just one book. We had to do a series of books and we had to present a view of the world that’s wider than the world we’ve seen before.

Milestone debuted its titles in 1993 through a publishing deal with DC Comics. Serving as editor-in-chief, McDuffie created or co-created many characters, including Static. After Milestone had ceased publishing new comics, Static was developed into an animated series Static Shock. McDuffie was hired to write and story-edit on the series, writing 11 episodes. McDuffie was hired as a staff writer for the animated series Justice League and was promoted to story editor and producer as the series became Justice League Unlimited. During the entire run of the animated series, McDuffie wrote, produced, or story-edited 69 out of the 91 episodes.

On February 21, 2011, McDuffie died from complications due to a surgical procedure performed the previous evening.

And, the/another reason that I chose McDuffie for today’s personality: He wrote the adaptation for All-Star Superman, which was released yesterday.

Stray Toasters


“A rolling stone gathers no moss.”

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"A rolling stone gathers no moss."

Tuesday – 22 February 2011
Work Week: Day Two. The sun’s out, but the temps are still kind of low. (Although we might actually break 40F today…)

On the “up” side, I am definitely feeling better. I also no longer sound (completely) like a reject from the old Budweiser frogs commercials. I’m still a bit congested, but I can breathe… for the most part.

Last night, SaraRules! made a tasty chicken pot pie for dinner. We ate and watched a couple of episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles and then a couple of episodes of House Hunters.

Generally speaking, I enjoy House Hunters, but last night’s episodes contained a couple of families who the Logic Fairy seemed to overlook – or at least skimp on – when she was doling out common sense:

  1. A family in the suburbs of Louisville, KY decided that they wanted to purchase a vacation home.
    (So far, so good.)Let me reparse the above with the kicker: “…they wanted to buy a vacation home, twenty minutes from their current home.” Yeah, we were dumbstruck. They wanted to take out a second mortgage ($250, 000) on a “vacation condo” in downtown Louisville. Twenty minutes away. That doesn’t even make good crazy people sense.
  2. The second family wanted to buy a new home in which to raise their 18-month-old daughter. Their main “wants” were:
    • One level.
    • Three or more bedrooms.
    • A yard for their daughter to play in.

    All-in-all, their wants weren’t too outrageous… especially when compared to some of the things that people have sought on this show. The “one level” requirement was because they saw stairs as a safety hazard. (I guess they’d never heard of a child safety gate. *shrug*) They saw three houses:

    1. One level, but the “back yard” was largely taken over by a large, in-ground swimming pool.
    2. Multi-level house, with a couple of notable potential hazards.
    3. Two-level house with a loft.

    They chose House #1, despite the wife’s early – and quite vocal – objections to having no back yard and the giant water hole. I can understand some of their reasons for avoiding the second house, but the third house’s stair “problem” could have easily been handled with a gate.

I also spent a little time in Metropolis before bed. I started off just flying around, exploring parts of the city that I hadn’t yet visited. I decided to tackle a mission that I’d let languish for a couple of levels.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s personality is: Carter G. Woodson (1, 2, 3)

Carter Godwin Woodson was an African-American historian, author, journalist and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was one of the first scholars to value and study Black History. He recognized and acted upon the importance of a people having an awareness and knowledge of their contributions to humanity, and left behind an impressive legacy. A founder of Journal of Negro History, Dr. Woodson is known as the “Father of Black History.”

The son of freed slaves, Woodson worked as a sharecropper and a miner to help his family. He began high school in his late teens and proved to be an excellent student. Woodson went on to college and earned several degrees. He received a doctorate from Harvard University in 1912—becoming one of the first African Americans to earn a Ph.D. at the prestigious institution. His doctoral dissertation,The Disruption of Virginia, was based on research he did at the Library of Congress while teaching high school in Washington, D.C. After earning the doctoral degree, he continued teaching in the public schools, later joining the faculty at Howard University as a professor and served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Convinced that the role of his own people in American history and in the history of other cultures was either being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, Woodson realized the need for research into the neglected past of African Americans. Along with Alexander L. Jackson and three associates, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History September 9, 1915, in Chicago. That was also the year Woodson published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861. His other books followed: A Century of Negro Migration (1918) and The History of the Negro Church (1927).

After leaving Howard University, Dr. Woodson devoted the rest of his life to historical research. He worked to preserve the history of African Americans and accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications. He noted that African American contributions “were overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.” Race prejudice, he concluded, “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.” In 1926, Woodson single-handedly pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week”, for the second week in February, to coincide with marking the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The week was later extended to the full month of February and renamed Black History Month.

Dr. Woodson’s most cherished ambition, a six-volume Encyclopedia Africana, lay incomplete at his death on April 3, 1950 at the age of 74. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland-Silver Hill, Maryland.

Stray Toasters


“…when the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away.”

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"...when the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away."

Monday – 21 February 2011
It’s a sunny, but cold, President’s Day. While many people/businesses have the day off, ours is not one of them. I just noted how empty the parking lots are. *shrug* Of course, most of the people who are off today don’t get a week-and-a-half off for Christmas, so I really shouldn’t complain too much.

Over the weekend, I apparently picked up SaraRules!’ cold. Yay. It hasn’t been completely hellish – mostly a cough, some sniffles and a few aches – and I seem to be on the downhill side of it now. Of course, I still sound like a frog, but what can you do…?

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Denmark Vesey (1, 2)

Denmark Vesey, originally Telemaque, was an African American slave brought to the United States from the Caribbean of Coromantee background. After purchasing his freedom, he planned what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States.

No records existed on Denmark’s origins, although scholars have speculated that he may have been born in St. Thomas or in Africa. Denmark labored briefly in French Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), and then was settled in Charleston, South Carolina as a youth, where Joseph Vesey kept him as a domestic slave. On November 9, 1799, Denmark Vesey won $1500 in a city lottery. He bought his own freedom and began working as a carpenter. Although a Presbyterian as late as April 1816, Vesey co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1817.

By 1818 he was preaching to slaves at plantations throughout the region and, drawing on the Bible, he told them that, like the Israelites, they would gain their freedom. Although he would later deny it, he allegedly held meetings at his home to collect arms for an uprising he was planning for as many as 9000 African-Americans in South Carolina.

Inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of slaves during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, and furious at the closing of the African Church, Vesey began to plan a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place on Bastille Day, July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of blacks throughout Charleston and along the Carolina coast. The plot called for Vesey and his group of slaves and free blacks to execute their enslavers and temporarily liberate the city of Charleston. Vesey and his followers planned to sail to Haiti to escape retaliation. Two slaves opposed to Vesey’s scheme leaked the plot. Charleston authorities charged 131 men with conspiracy.

Vesey defended himself ably at his trial, but was sentenced and hanged along with about 35 blacks; some 35 others were sold to West Indian plantation owners. It would have been the largest slave revolt in U.S. history, but its end result was the passing of even stricter laws against African-Americans.

Stray Toasters


Sunday afternoon ruminations

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Sunday afternoon ruminations

Sunday – 20 February 2011
Today is my friend, Perry’s, birthday:

This morning, I was up before 0800. That in itself wasn’t so bad. I made my way to the living room, to see what the world outside the windows looked like. Opening the blinds, I discovered the world was grey and white: Snow was falling. (Why can’t it be Spring now…?)

Yesterday’s main excitement, so to speak, was the HeroClix tournament at Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection. I was curious as to how it would go, as the store layout had changed last week, and I didn’t know how it would affect gamers’ ability to move about. Turns out that it wasn’t bad at all. We had a decent turnout – 10 players – which provided a good litmus test. We’ve had a number of close tournaments over the past few months, many of them decided by less than five (5) points. Yesterday’s event was not of that mold: The winner came in over 300 points above his nearest competitor.

On the way home from the game, I stopped to pick up late lunch/early dinner for SaraRules! and myself. (Guess who had Chinese food.) We wound down the evening with Machete. Somehow, I never got around to seeing it last year. Pity. It was a fun flick that, in many places, tossed “suspension of disbelief” right out the window… and that was just fine.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Dr. DeNorval Unthank.

Unthank was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His mother died when he was nine, leaving eight children. Unthank’s father, a cook unable to support him, sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in Kansas City. After completing high school, Unthank attended the University of Michigan where he received his B.A. He received his medical degree in 1926 from Howard University in Washington, D.C. Unthank returned to Kansas City to complete advanced medical training before moving to Portland in 1929 to start his own practice.

Dr. Unthank was recruited to Portland in 1929 because the city needed a black doctor.  He was quickly tested as his white neighbors greeted his first attempt to move into a previously all white residential area with broken windows, threatening phone calls, and general harassment.  Unthank had to move his family four times before finding a place to settle down peacefully.

Throughout the 1930s, Dr. Unthank was Portland’s only black medical practitioner.  He was a dedicated doctor and a friend to any minority group in the city as well.  Black families could not receive treatment in hospitals – house calls were necessary, and Dr. Unthank made himself available day and night.  He served African Americans, Asians and many whites as well.

Dr. Unthank was politically active and was outspoken in his support of civil rights and equal opportunity.  In 1940, Dr. Unthank was elected head of the Advisory Council, an organization that hoped to pressure local leaders into providing equal access to economic opportunities related to WWII jobs.  The Council documented incidents of discrimination in the workplace around Portland despite raised expectations following President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 8802.  On Dec. 5, 1941, the Council organized a mass meeting to promote an official letter of protest to federal authorities about Portland’s situation.

During and after World War II, Dr. Unthank worked tirelessly to build his medical practice and promote civil rights.  He became the first black member of Portland’s City Club in 1943.  He encouraged the club to publish a significant 1945 study called “The Negro in Portland,” which opened the eyes of many citizens to ongoing discriminatory practices.  Dr. Unthank also served as president of the local chapter of the NAACP, and was a cofounder of the Portland Urban League.  He played a strong role in the passing of Oregon’s 1953 Civil Rights Bill, which among many issues, overturned a law banning interracial marriages in the state.

Dr. Unthank died on September 20, 1977. His impact on racial integration and institutional recognition of minority groups was eulogized in many newspaper articles and obituaries by people from both the medical profession and the civic organizations he helped form and influence.

Stray Toasters

That’s good enough for me.


The End Is the Beginning Is the End

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The End Is the Beginning Is the End

Saturday – 19 February 2011
It’s a grey day here… and there’s the possibility of snow in the forecast. Yay.

Last night was the beginning of the end of an era. The local Borders, where we spend the “coffee” portion of our Clitorati gathering,  is one of the nearly 300 stores that is slated to close. I’ve been going to that store for close to ten years; I started going there on Friday evenings because that was where and I would meet so that she could coach me at drawing. In fact, the entire Clitorati gathering came about from me telling people that they should come and hang out with us while we were there. And now, nearly ten years down the road, we find ourselves looking for a new home-away-from-home.

We knew that the stor was closing. What we didn’t know, until we arrived last night, was that the Seattle’s Best Coffee franchise/sublet that ran the cafe closed – for the last time – on Thursday night. This means that for the next two months (or however long it takes to liquidate their inventory), there will be no cafe service. At all. I spoke with Brandi, one of the sales associates about the closing: She said that she and the other employees found out about it on Wednesday… from The Wall Street Journal article. According to her, employees:

  • …had no advance warning.
  • …haven’t been offered any kind of relocation/transfer package to the Orem/Provo store.
  • …will be officially unemployed when the closeout sale is over.

While Borders has been on the rocks financially for a long time, I think that it’s poor form to let your employees be blindsided by the closure news and have to find out from mass media.

Since the list of closing stores came out on Wednesday, there’s been chatter among the group as to where we should now meet. We bandied about a few places and decided that we’d test drive the new location when the time came. Funny, we weren’t quite expecting it to be so soon. We had eight people show up for coffee last night, which made for a decent litmus test. I think that our new choice fared decently; we’ll have to see how it stands up over time.

After coffee and dinner, I came home and played DCUO for a bit. I’ve decided that I don’t necessarily want to plow through the game. Instead, I’m enjoying just roaming around the city (I haven’t even left Metropolis yet) and enjoying the view. Jim Lee and his crew did an amazing job of bringing Metropolis to life. I’m looking forward to seeing the other settings the game has to offer.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Wallace Thurman (1, 2, 3)

Wallace Henry Thurman was an American novelist during the Harlem Renaissance. He is best known for his novel The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, which explores discrimination among black people based on skin color.

Thurman was born in Salt Lake City, UT to Beulah and Oscar Thurman. Between his mother’s many marriages, Wallace and his mother lived with Emma Jackson, his maternal grandmother. His grandmother’s home doubled as a saloon where alcohol was served without a license.

Thurman’s early life was marked by loneliness, family instability and illness. He began grade school at age six in Boise, Idaho, but his poor health eventually led to a two-year absence from school, during which he returned to Salt Lake City. From 1910 to 1914, Thurman lived in Chicago, but he would have to finish grammar school in Omaha, Nebraska.[2] During this time, he suffered from persistent heart attacks. While living in Pasadena, California’s lower altitude in the winter of 1918, Thurman came down with influenza during the worldwide Influenza Pandemic. Considering his history of illness, he surprisingly recovered and then returned to Salt Lake City, where he finished high school.

Thurman studied at the University of Utah and the University of Southern California, although he did not receive a degree. He moved to Harlem in 1925, and by the time he became managing editor of the black periodical Messenger in 1926, he had immersed himself in the Harlem literary scene and encouraged such writers as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston to contribute to his publication. That summer, Hughes asked Thurman to edit Fire!! , a literary magazine conceived as a forum for young black writers and artists. Despite outstanding contributors, who included Hughes, Hurston, and Gwendolyn Bennett, the publication folded after one issue. Two years later Thurman published Harlem, again with work by the younger writers of the Harlem Renaissance, but it too survived only one issue.

Thurman was lauded as a satirist and often used satire to accuse blacks of prejudice against darker-skinned member of their race. He also rejected the belief that the Harlem Renaissance was a substantial literary movement, claiming that the 1920s produced no outstanding writers and that those who were famous exploited, and allowed themselves to be patronized by, whites. He claimed, as did a number of authors of the decade, that white critics judged black works by lower standards than they judged white efforts. Thurman maintained that black writers were held back from making any great contribution to the canon of Negro literature by their race-consciousness and decadent lifestyles.

Thurman and others of the “Niggerati” (the deliberately ironic name Thurman used for the young African American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance) wanted to show the real lives of African Americans, both the good and the bad. Thurman believed that black artists should be more objective in their writings and not so self-conscious that they failed to acknowledge and celebrate the arduous conditions of African American lives. As Singh and Scott put it, “Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance is, thus, staunch and revolutionary in its commitment to individuality and critical objectivity: the black writer need not pander to the aesthetic preferences of the black middle class, nor should he or she write for an easy and patronizing white approval.”

Thurman died at the age of 32 from tuberculosis, which many suspect was exacerbated by his long fight with alcoholism.

Stray Toasters

And with that, it’s time to finish getting ready for today’s HeroClix tournament at Dr. Volt’s.


“My baby just cares for me…”

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"My baby just cares for me..."

Friday – 18 February 2011
It’s my day off. Unfortunately, it’s not a four-day weekend for me, as our robot overlords protectors don’t give us President’s Day as a holiday. Oh, well.

Last night, SaraRules! and I attended Ballet West‘s performance of

It was very enjoyable. The dancers for Aurora, Prince Desire (“Prince Philip” for the Disney-ites out there), the Lilac Fairy and the Male Bluebird were all excellent. My only real complain about the performance came in Act III, with the court dances of the fairy-tale characters in attendance — It seemed to be a never-ending cavalcade of dance. Granted, the performers were all talented and acquitted themselves nicely, but it just seemed to make the production drag on and on. (NOTE: The dances were written into the original production by Tchaikovsky, so it’s the way the ballet is supposed to be performed.)

After we returned home, I played a little CoD: Black Ops before calling it a night.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s personality of note is: Nina Simone (1, 2)

Eunice Kathleen Waymon, also known by her stage name Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, soul, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.

She took to music at an early age, learning to play piano at the age of 4, and singing in her church’s choir. The sixth of seven children, Simone grew up poor. Her music teacher helped establish a special fund to pay for Simone’s education and, after finishing high school, Simone won a scholarship to New York City’s famed Julliard School of Music to train as a classical pianist, but she eventually had to leave school after she ran out of funds. Moving to Philadelphia, Simone lived with her family there in order to save money and go to a more affordable music program. Her career took an unexpected turn, however, when she was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; she later claimed the school denied her admittance because she was African-American. Turning away from classical music, she started playing American standards, jazz and blues in clubs in the 1950s. Her original style arose from a fusion of gospel and pop songs with classical music, in particular her first inspiration, classical composer Bach, and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in characteristic low tenor. She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality, and as she felt that pop music was inferior. She took the stage name Nina Simone—”Nina” came from a nickname meaning “little one” and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret.

Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that hinted about her African-American origins (such as “Brown Baby” and “Zungo” on Nina at the Village Gate during 1962). But on her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone In Concert (live recording, 1964), Simone for the first time openly addresses the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song “Mississippi Goddam”. It was her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children. The song was released as a single, being boycotted in certain southern states. With “Old Jim Crow” on the same album she reacts to the Jim Crow Laws. From then on, a civil rights message was standard in Simone’s recording repertoire, where it had already become a part of her live performances. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period as opposed to Martin Luther King’s non-violent approach, and hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state.

In 1987, the original 1958 recording of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” was used in an advert for Chanel No. 5 perfume in the UK. This led to a re-release which stormed to number 5 in the UK singles chart giving her a brief surge in popularity in the UK. Her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, was published during 1992 and she recorded her last album, A Single Woman, in 1993.

In 1993, Simone settled near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. She had been ill with breast cancer for several years before she died in her sleep at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, Bouches-du-Rhône on April 21, 2003. Simone’s ashes were scattered in several African countries.

Stray Toasters

That’s it for now.
Time to find some trouble to get into…


“I wonder what this button does…?”

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"I wonder what this button does...?"

Thursday – 17 February 2011
It’s another NBN Thursday in the valley. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. And the mountains (and a fair portion of the valley) is covered in white. That’s right: It snowed last night. Of course, that also means that the air is clear and one can see the west side of the valley clearly.

Last night, after work, I ran up to Dr. Volt’s to pick up this week’s four-color goodness before dashing back home to grab a quick bite to eat. SaraRules! had a Justice Junior League meeting and I had coffee with my friend, Frankie.  While out, I had thought to kill multiple avians with a single piece of silicate and get the batteries in a couple of my watches replaced. The snow made me decide to deal with that tomorrow, on my day off.

After coffee, I headed back home – time for comfy pants and comics! – to wait for the missus to get in. I even had the presence of mind to throw in a load of laundry. When she got in, we finished watching Prince of Persia. I swear that movie had more gratuitous slow-motion scenes than The Matrix, Dhoom and Resident Evil: Afterlife combined. On the whole, it was an entertaining movie — it was kind of like a live-action Aladdin. I also found it amusing that “foreign” (or at least “non-American”) still seems to mean “just speak with an (affected) British accent” to most people. *shrug*

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s personality is Paul Robeson (1, 2).

Paul Leroy Robeson was an African American concert singer (bass-baritone), recording artist, athlete and actor who became noted for his political radicalism and activism in the civil rights movement. Robeson was the first major concert star to popularize the performance of Negro spirituals and was the first black actor of the 20th century to portray Shakespeare’s Othello alongside an all white cast.

The son of a former slave turned preacher, Robeson attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where he was an All-America football player. Upon graduating from Rutgers at the head of his class, he rejected a career as a professional athlete and instead entered Columbia University. He obtained a law degree in 1923, but, because of the lack of opportunity for blacks in the legal profession, he drifted to the stage, making a London debut in 1922.

At the height of his career, Paul Robeson chose to become primarily a political artist. Increasing political awareness impelled Robeson to visit the Soviet Union in 1934, and from that year he became increasingly identified with strong left-wing commitments, while continuing his success in concerts, recordings, and theatre.

During World War II, Robeson’s support for the Allied War effort had made him the world’s most famous African-American and his previous statements and advocacy for socialism had been ignored by both the media and the white establishment. The start of the Cold war led to a social climate in which most civil rights and anti-imperialist groups in the United States were considered “Communist affiliated.”

In 1950, Robeson’s passport was revoked under the McCarran Act over his work in the anti-imperialism movement and what the U.S. State Department called Robeson’s “frequent criticism while abroad of the treatment of blacks in the US.” Under heavy and daily surveillance by both the FBI and the CIA and publicly condemned for his beliefs, Robeson was blacklisted, his income fell dramatically and he became very nearly a non-person.

Robeson’s autobiography, Here I Stand, was published by a British publishing company in 1958. As part of his “comeback”, he gave two sold-out recitals that month in Carnegie Hall, which were released on LP and later on CD. They were his only stereo recordings.

Also that year, Robeson’s 60th birthday was celebrated in several US cities and twenty-seven countries across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, as well as in the Soviet Union. Later, in May 1958, his passport was finally restored and he was able to travel again, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Kent vs. Dulles, that the Secretary of State had no right to deny a passport or require any citizen to sign an affidavit because of his political beliefs.

By 1965, he was forced into permanent retirement. He spent his final years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, unapologetic about his political views and career.

Stray Toasters

Back to it.


“They say hey little boy you can’t go, where the others go… ‘Cause you don’t look like they do.”

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"They say hey little boy you can't go, where the others go... 'Cause you don't look like they do."

Wednesday – 16 February 2011
It’s Midweek. Which also means that it’s new comics day and D&D 4.0 night. Win-Win-Win.

Last night was D&D 3.5 night, but it was also “The Game Night That Almost Didn’t Happen.” Of the six (6) players in our campaign, only and I made it. Fortunately, had a small side adventure ready to go. We ran through it, picked up some “free” XP and have something new for our characters that the others don’t/didn’t get. (Neener neener neeeeeeeener!)

After the game, I went home and watched the first half of Prince of Persia with SaraRules!.  It’s not the greatest movie ever made, but it has been entertaining. We will most likely finish it tonight.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s item is the Plessy v. Ferguson court case.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses (particularly railroads), under the doctrine of “separate but equal”.

After the American Civil War (1861–1865), during the period known as Reconstruction, the government was able to provide some protection for the civil rights of the newly freed slaves. But when Reconstruction ended with the Compromise of 1877 and federal troops were withdrawn from the south, southern state governments began passing Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from using the same public accommodations as whites.

The Thirteenth Amendment (1, 2)served to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime. Under the meaning of the Thirteenth Amendment, the term “slavery” implies involuntary servitude or bondage and the ownership by human beings of other human beings as property. According to the Slaughterhouse Cases, the Thirteenth Amendment was intended primarily to abolish slavery as it had been known in the United States, and that it equally forbade involuntary servitude.

In 1890, the State of Louisiana passed Act 111 that required separate accommodations for African Americans and Whites on railroads, including separate railway cars, though it specified that the accommodations must be kept “equal”. Concerned, several African Americans (including Louisiana’s former governor P.B.S. Pinchback) and Whites in New Orleans formed an association, the Citizens’ Committee to Test the Separate Car Act, dedicated to the repeal of that law. They raised $1412.70 ($33716.44 in 2008 USD) which they offered to the then-famous author and Radical Republican jurist, Albion W. Tourgée, to serve as lead counsel for their test case. Tourgée agreed to do it for free. Later, they enlisted Homer Plessy, who was one-eighth black (an octoroon in the now-antiquated parlance), to take part in an act of planned civil disobedience. The plan was for Plessy to be thrown off the railway car and arrested not for vagrancy, which would not have led to a challenge that could reach the Supreme Court, but for violating the Separate Car Act, which could and did lead to a challenge with the high court.

The Committee hired a detective to ensure that Plessy was arrested for violating the Separate Car Act, which the Citizen’s Committee wanted to challenge with the goal of having it overturned. They chose Plessy because, with his light skin color, he could buy a first class train ticket and, at the same time, be arrested when he announced, while sitting on board the train, that he had an African-American ancestor. For the Committee, this was a deliberate attempt to exploit the lack of clear racial definition in either science or law so as to argue that segregation by race was an “unreasonable” use of state power.

The decision was handed down by a vote of 7 to 1 with the majority opinion written by Justice Henry Billings Brown and the dissent written by Justice John Marshall Harlan. “Separate but equal” remained standard doctrine in U.S. law until its repudiation in the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education.

Stray Toasters

Quote of the Day
Today’s quote comes from Sib-4’s Foursquare status update:

Melissa just became the mayor of Eighth Circle Of Hell!

It was one of the first things that I read this morning, post-email, and (as a fan of Dante’s Inferno) it made me laugh.

And, that’s a wrap.


“I can see clearly now…”

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"I can see clearly now..."

Tuesday – 15 February 2011
Day Two of the work week is upon us… and it’s a bright, sunshiny day. It’s even supposed to be fairly warm, too. And tonight is D&D 3.5 night.

Last night, SaraRules! and I had a quiet evening in. That was one of the benefits of having celebrated Valentine’s Day last week. We had a quick dinner and then settled in for a movie. As I had mentioned wanting to watch Star Trek (2009) on Saturday after watching The Hurt Locker, SaraRules! was gracious enough to agree to watch it last night. It was fun — we MSTK3-ed parts of the movie. All-in-all, it was a very good evening with the coolest wife ever.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s personality is: President Barack Obama (1, 2):

Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned after his election to the presidency in November 2008.

A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.

Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. Following an unsuccessful bid against a Democratic incumbent for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he ran for United States Senate in 2004. His presidential campaign began in February 2007, and after a close campaign in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries against Hillary Rodham Clinton, he won his party’s nomination. In the 2008 general election, he defeated Republican nominee John McCain and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009.

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“You can be my Yoko Ono… You can follow me wherever I go…”

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"You can be my Yoko Ono... You can follow me wherever I go..."

Monday – 14 February 2011
It’s Monday, which means that it’s the start of another work week.

It’s also Valentine’s Day

or, as Neil Gaiman put it:

Happy Valentine’s Day. Or take pride in Being Single Day. Or join me in the newly-created Why Is My Wife In Australia Day (people who live in Australia are not eligible to join).

or, as I was just reminded: It’s Anti-Green Lantern Day. (Look at a color wheel, it will make sense then.) I wasn’t thinking about it when I got dressed this morning, but I selected a green shirt, white turtleneck and black slacks for today’s fashion fare. It wasn’t until Julie came into the office, in red-and-black that I thought about it being Anti-GL Day, too.

Yesterday, I finally picked up a six-car hopper set that I’ve been eying at a local hobby shop. It’s an older set – and showed no signs of moving any time soon – so they cut me a rather nice deal. (That didn’t hurt my feelings.) After that, I headed home and saved the world (DCUO-style) for a bit before heading over to the in-laws’ for dinner and a movie. Last night’s feature was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Huey Newton (1, 2).

Huey Percy Newton was a political and urban activist who founded the Afro-American Association and co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana, the youngest of seven children to Armelia Johnson and Walter Newton, a sharecropper and Baptist lay preacher. In 1945, the family settled in Oakland, California. The Newton family was destitute, and often relocated throughout the San Francisco Bay Area throughout Newton’s childhood. Despite this, he contended that his family was close-knit and that he never went without food and shelter as a child. Growing up in Oakland, Newton claimed that “[he] was made to feel ashamed of being black.” In his autobiography Revolutionary Suicide, he wrote, “During those long years in Oakland public schools, I did not have one teacher who taught me anything relevant to my own life or experience. Not one instructor ever awoke in me a desire to learn more or to question or to explore the worlds of literature, science, and history. All they did was try to rob me of the sense of my own uniqueness and worth, and in the process nearly killed my urge to inquire.”

Although he graduated at Oakland Technical High School in 1960, Newton was illiterate. During his course of autodidacticism, he struggled to read Republic by Plato. He read it five times to better understand it, and it was this success that inspired him to become a political leader.

In the mid-1960s Newton decided to pursue his education at Merritt College where he met Bobby Seale. The two were briefly involved with political groups at the school before they set out to create one of their own. Founded in 1966, they called their group The Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Unlike many of the other social and political organizers of the time, they took a militant stance, advocating the ownership of guns by African Americans, and were often seen brandishing weapons. The group believed that violence—or the threat of violence—might be needed to bring about social change. They set forth their political goals in a document called the Ten-Point Program, which included better housing, jobs, and education for African Americans. It also called for an end to economic exploitation of black communities.

The Black Panthers wanted to improve life in black communities and established social programs to help those in need. They also fought against police brutality in black neighborhoods by mostly white cops. Members of the group would go to arrests in progress and watch for abuse.

Newton earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz in 1974. He was enrolled as a graduate student in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz in 1978, when he arranged to take a reading course from famed evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, while in prison. He and Trivers became close friends. Trivers and Newton published an influential analysis of the role of flight crew self-deception in the crash of Air Florida Flight 90. Newton earned a Ph.D. in social philosophy at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1980. His doctoral dissertation was entitled War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America.

On August 22, 1989, Newton was fatally shot on the 1400 block of 9th street in West Oakland by a 24-year-old Black Guerilla Family member Tyrone Robinson during an attempt by Newton to obtain crack cocaine.

Stray Toasters

That’s good for now.