Friday, April 27, 2012

Kindle Fire ... Good Enough?

Kindle Fire”
With Wi-Fi, Full Color 7" Multi-Touch Display

For those of us who remain “challenged” with today’s technology the Kindle Fire, as opposed to a “kindling fire” is a tablet styled version of’s Kindle e-Book Reader, in fact, you might simply call it a very small PC. Introduced on September 28, 2011, the Kindle Fire has a color 7-inch multi-touch screen with IPS technology and runs a forked version of Google’s Android operating system. The device includes access to the Amazon Appstore, streaming movies and TV shows, and in addition, Kindle’s e-books were made available on November 15, 2011.

The Kindle Fire retails for $199.00 US.  Analysts projected the device to be a strong competitor to Apple's iPad (16 GB Wi-Fi model) which sells for as much as $499.00 US.  Amazon’s business strategy or plan is to make money on the selling of digital content for the device, rather than through the sale of the Kindle Fire itself. Most market analysts agree that the plan’s working, as Kindle Fire has proven to be one of the few success stories for Android tablets; it sold an estimated 4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, and it wasn’t released until the middle of November.

The Kindle Fire's external dimensions are 7.5 × 4.7 × 0.45 inch (190 × 120 × 11 mm), with the visible area of the screen a little smaller than a standard 4×6 inch photograph.

As implied above, customers received their first Kindle Fires on November 15, 2011, and during the following month of December, customers purchased over 1 million Kindle devices per week.

The device includes 8 GB of internal storage; described as being enough for 80 applications. That’s space enough for at least 10 movies, 800 songs or 6,000 books; you choose one of the three; or alternatively a combination of the three.  According to Amazon’s list of technical details, the Kindle Fire’s battery lasts for up to 8 hours of consecutive reading and up to 7.5 hours of video playback before recharging is needed.  Of the 8 GB of internal storage, approximately 6.5 GB are available for content.

With the Kindle Fire, you can read e-books using Amazon’s Kindle software, download Android apps and games using Amazon’s Appstore, purchase music using Amazon’s MP3 store, and watch videos using Amazon’s video on-demand and download services. 

Many basic features are covered, as well. You can browse the Web, e-mail your friends, read common document files (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others), view photos, and listen to stored music files.  In addition, there’s a common Micro-USB connection on the bottom of the Kindle Fire which allows you to easily connect to any Mac or PC which allows the easy transfer whatever content you may want.

If there’s a down side for software, it’s that you’re limited to the Amazon way of doing things though. You can download third-party apps, but they come via Amazon’s app store.  The “unspoken” deal you’re making with Amazon here is that in exchange for an inexpensive computer tablet, you’re agreeing to get your apps, your games, your books, your music, and your videos through Amazon services.

Nonetheless it's a benevolent dictatorship, and to be fair Apple runs its iPod Tablet the same way.  The good news is that Amazon’s services don't suck. Their music store for example is absolutely on par with iTunes in terms of selection, and their prices are cheaper in nearly every case. 

To seal the deal, The Kindle Fire’s video menu ties directly in with Amazon’s digital video store, offering an impressive selection of movie rentals, downloads, and TV shows.  Just like the iPad, Amazon is receptive to the idea that offering competing services in this arena, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Rhapsody, Pandora, and others is just good business.

You can’t make a $199 tablet without cutting some corners, and Amazon cut plenty of them. Fortunately however, the company used a scalpel instead of a ‘Texas’ chainsaw.  However some omissions are obvious. To name a few, there’s no GPS, no cameras, no microphone, no compass, no gyro sensor, no calendar, and no card slot for extra memory. If there’s a deal breaker in that list, so be it.

In summation, the Kindle Fire marks an important milestone in the history of Android tablets. It can be said that the industry has been competing with Apple for acknowledgement of the fastest, thinnest, and the most feature-packed tablet, but Amazon has started its own race to make the first “good enough” tablet at a price best described as ‘game-changing’.

Sources:                                                                 ;continue                                                                                                                  

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Amelia Earhart and Lockheed Electra 10E NR16020 in 1937

Born, Amelia Mary Earhart in Atchison, Kansas; located in the northeastern portion of the state, situated near the banks of the Missouri River on the 24th of July 1897; six years before the Wright brothers had their historic flight on a then remote Atlantic Ocean beach  in Kitty Hawk North Carolina. She moved around a lot as a child, but was able to complete her high school education at Hyde Park High School in Chicago in the year 1916.  Her first attempt at college was in Rydal, Pennsylvania but left school after visiting her sister who was attending a college in Toronto, Canada in 1917.

While in Toronto, she visited a military hospital that cared for returning WW I casualties, and was so touched that she took a first aid course after which she volunteered as a nurse’s aide at the Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto.  While there, her favorite amusement, during her free time was watching airplanes take off and land at a nearby air-field.

Beginning in 1919, Amelia tried college as a pre-med student at Columbia University in New York City, but during summer vacation in 1920 she visited her parents in Los Angeles where she experienced her first airplane ride.  As a result she soon became obsessed with becoming a pilot; she gained employment as a truck driver and worked for the telephone company during her endeavor to obtain the funds ($1,000.00) required for training lessons.

Her first solo flight was in 1921. The next year, on her 25th birthday she purchased a bright yellow Kinner Canary, her first plane with the financial help of her mother and sister. At that time there were less than 100 female pilots in the United States.

In 1930, a group of 99 women aviators formed the first flying club exclusively for women, Amelia was the 99 Club’s” first president. In July of the same year, she set the woman’s flying speed record of approximately 180 miles per hour. In February of 1931, George Putnam and Amelia Earhart wed, which some expected to signal an end to her flying career. But within two months, Amelia set another world record, for the highest altitude in an auto-gyro (sometimes described as a hybrid flying machine that utilizes both the rotor of a helicopter and the propeller of an airplane) by a woman, reaching 18,400 feet. A mere two months passed and she attempted to complete her first solo transcontinental flight in the same auto-gyro.

Among many of Ms. Earhart’s accomplishments, both before and after her presumed passing, include but are not limited to the following:
  •  Amelia was the first female, and one of only a few to date, to receive the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross; it was awarded on July 29, 1932.
  • Amelia was named Amelia Mary Earhart after her two grandmothers, Amelia Harres Otis and Mary Wells Earhart; a family tradition.
  • She learned to fly at the age of 24, and purchased her first plane at 25.
  • In 1932 she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  Not only did she do it, she did it in record time, 14 hours and 56 minutes.                                                                                                        
  • Finally Ms. Earhart set out to fly around the world in 1937; with this venture, like her clothing line, she did not succeed the last of only two known failed endeavors.

Her second unsuccessful venture began in early 1936; when Amelia started to plan for a ‘round-the-world flight’. It would not be the first to circle the globe, but it would be the longest at 29,000 miles (47,000 km), with plans to follow a demanding equatorial route.

Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Los Angeles, California on May 21, 1937 and headed east; on June 1, 1937 they started their official trip, departing from Miami, Florida.

With several stops along the way that included rest, refueling, and repairs, the two arrived at Lae, New Guinea on June 29, 1937. They had flown 22,000 miles at that point and had 7,000 more miles to go; all of which was over the vast Pacific Ocean. Following repairs on various flight instruments, including the direction finder, Amelia and Fred departed on July 2nd. They had no less than 1,000 gallons of fuel in the tanks which was expected to cover at least 20 hours of flying time.

However, nineteen (19) hours into the flight, they sent a message saying their gas was ‘running low’. Forty-five minutes later Amelia transmitted their position. Neither Amelia Earhart nor Fred Noonan was ever heard from again.

It is generally believed that they veered off course and ran out of fuel, disappearing just north of the equator, somewhere between Hawaii and Australia. However, no conclusive sign of them has yet been found and this in and of itself has resulted in a shroud of mystery surrounding their disappearance.

The official search efforts lasted until July 19, 1937; a total of 17 days. At 4 Million Dollars, the air and sea search by the Navy and Coast Guard was the most costly and intensive in U.S. history up to that point in time.  Despite the unprecedented search by the United States Navy and Coast Guard no physical evidence of Earhart, Noonan or the Lockheed Electra 10E was found.

Immediately after the end of the official search, Putnam (her husband) financed several private searches, but no trace of the plane or its occupants were found.

Back in the United States, Putnam took the necessary actions to become the trustee of Earhart's estate so that he could pay for the searches and other related bills. In the probate court of Los Angeles, Putnam requested to have the “death in absentia”
seven-year waiting period waived so that he could manage Earhart's finances and help pay for the searches. As a result, Amelia Earhart was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939.

Many theories have emerged after the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan. Two possibilities concerning the flyers' fate have prevailed among researchers and historians:

The theory that the Lockheed Electra 10E simply ran out of fuel and Earhart and Noonan were forced to ditch at sea is the most widely accepted explanation for the disappearance.

In 1988, a second theory began to be seriously considered when the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery began a project to investigate the Earhart/Noonan disappearance and has since sent six expeditions to the west Pacific island, commonly known as Gardner Island. This theory suggests that Earhart and Noonan may have flown without further radio transmissions for another two and a half hours along the line of position Earhart noted in her last transmission, thus having arrived at then-uninhabited Gardner Island (now known as Nikumaroro); landed on an extensive reef flat near the wreck of a large freighter (the SS Norwich City) and ultimately perished.

This theory is supported to some extent by TIGHAR's research which has produced a range of documented archaeological and circumstantial evidence supporting this hypothesis / belief.  For example, in 1940, Gerald Gallagher, a British colonial officer and licensed pilot, radioed his superiors to inform them that he had found a
skeleton... possibly that of a woman, along with an old-fashioned sextant (a piece of equipment used to determine navigation / direction) box, under a tree on the island's southeast corner. He send the remains to Fiji, where in 1941, British colonial authorities took detailed measurements of the bones and determined they were from a male who was about 5 feet 5 inches tall. However, in 1998 upon further analysis of the measurement data by forensic anthropologists it was indicated that the skeleton had belonged to a tall white female of northern European ancestry. The bones themselves unfortunately, were misplaced in Fiji long ago and have not yet been recovered.

In 2007, a TIGHAR expedition visited Gardner Island searching for identifiable aircraft artifacts and DNA evidence or other relics. The group did find remnants of uncertain origin on the weather-ravaged isle, including three pieces of a pocket knife and fragments of what might be a broken cosmetic glass jar, along with bronze bearings which may have belonged to Earhart's aircraft and a zipper pull which could have come from her flight suit.

In 2010, the research group said it had found bones that appeared to be part of a human finger however DNA testing at the University of Oklahoma proved inconclusive as to whether the bone fragments were from a human or from a sea turtle.

On March 20, 2012, the US State Department and TIGHAR together announced that TIGHAR was launching a new search based on the re-evaluation of a 1937 photograph taken of the reef at Nikumaroro / Gardner Island. The new expedition was called “Niku 7”; the project began in July of 2012 with plans to undertake an underwater search off the islands’ reef.  However they did not find any objects that appeared to be plane shaped, but some still speculate that the plane may have broken up as it washed out to sea.

In-any-event, Amelia is proof positive that to become an international celebrity, being of the male gender is not a prerequisite — All the same, the affection and admiration the world holds for her even today is unsurpassed; as it’s likely to always be.


Monday, April 16, 2012


The first basketball court:
Basketball is one of the world's most popular and widely viewed sports.  It’s a team sport with the objective being to shoot or toss a spherical ball through a ‘basket’ that’s horizontally positioned on the narrow or width end of the basketball court. This allows individual team players to score points while following a set of rules.  Two teams of five players usually play on a marked rectangular court with a basket / goal at each width end.
In early December of 1891, Dr. James Naismith,  a physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School (todays YMCA)  in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, was trying to come up with a game to keep his gym class active on a cold rainy day.
He wanted an energetic indoor game to keep his students occupied and provide proper levels of fitness during the typically long New England winters. After rejecting several ideas as either too rough or poorly suited to walled-in gymnasiums, following a major brain storm, he wrote the basic rules for the new game that would become basketball.  His second step was to nail a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.05 m) elevated track, and the entertainment began. 
In contrast to modern basketball goals & nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, so balls had to be retrieved manually after each “basket” or point was made; this soon proved ineffective, so the larger portion of bottom of the basket was soon removed, allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel or rod each time a player scored a basket.
Basketball was originally played with an ‘association football’ which is a fancy name for a standard soccer ball. The first balls that were made specifically for basketball were brown in color, and remained so until the late 1950s that Tony Hinkle, searching for a ball that would be more visible to players and spectators alike, introduced the orange ball that is now most commonly used.
Initially, “dribbling” was not part of the game unless the bounce passes to a teammate is considered dribbling. Passing the ball was the primary method utilized for ball movement. Dribbling was eventually introduced but the procedure was originally limited by the often lop-sided shape of the early game balls. Dribbling became a major part of the game around the 1950s, when manufacturers improved the ball’s shape to that of a more accurate spherical shape.
The peach baskets were used until 1906 when they were finally replaced by metal hoops with backboards.
A regulation basketball hoop consists of a rim that’s 18 inches in diameter; 10 feet high, and mounted to a backboard. A team can score a field goal by shooting the ball through the basket during regular play. A field goal scores two points for the shooting team if a player is touching or closer to the basket than the ‘three-point line’ displayed upon the basketball court and three points if the player is behind the three-point line. The team with the most points at the end of the game, surprise surprise, wins! But additional time (overtime) may be issued when or if the game ends with a tie score.
The basketball rules currently allow the ball to be advanced on the court by bouncing or throwing it:  This action is permitted while walking, running and or dribbling while throwing / passing the ball to a teammate.  It is a violation to move ‘about’ (if you have the ball) without dribbling the ball. This action constitutes traveling / walking; to ‘carry it’ during the dribbling process, or to double dribble (to hold the ball with both hands then resume dribbling a second time during a single possession), are additional infractions.
Various violations are generally called “fouls”(each player is limited to 5 per game). When disruptive physical contact (a personal foul) is made and penalized, a free throw or free shot is usually awarded to an offensive player if he is fouled while shooting the ball or on certain occasions even if the fowled player is not shooting. A technical foul may also be issued when certain infractions occur, most commonly for unsportsmanlike conduct on the part of a player or the team coach. A technical foul gives the opposing team a free throw and possession of the ball.
Basketball has evolved the use of many styles of play, including but not limited to: shooting, passing, dribbling, and rebounding, as well as the development of specialized player positions and offensive and defensive structures such as ‘Man, to Man’ or ‘Zone’ style defensive techniques.
While competitive basketball is carefully regulated, numerous variations of basketball have developed for casual play. Competitive basketball is chiefly an indoor sport played on a judiciously marked and maintained basketball court, but a less regulated variation is often played outdoors in both inner cities as well as remote areas using ‘goals’ similar to the one depicted below:

Basketball's early support spread to YMCAs throughout the United States; in turn the game quickly spread through large portions of the USA and Canada. By 1895, there were several well established women’s high school teams. Although the YMCA was responsible for initially developing and spreading the game, within 10 years it elected to discourage the new sport, as rough play was said to attract rowdy crowds which began to detract from the YMCA’s primary mission vision.

During the early decades of the 20th century, basketball quickly became the ideal interscholastic sport due to its modest equipment and personnel requirement needs in comparison to other games. Prior to widespread TV coverage of professional and college sports, the popularity of high school basketball was unrivaled in many parts of America.  Perhaps the most legendary of high school teams was Franklin, Indiana’s ‘Wonder Five’, which took the nation by storm during the 1920s, dominating Indiana basketball and earning national recognition.

With basketball king in Indiana, the team from Franklin, IN was dubbed the “Wonder Five”. This small town (sporting only 4,909 residents in 1920) located about 20 miles south of Indianapolis produced a team that captured the Indiana State Basketball Championship three years in in a row, 1920, 1921, and 1922.  The boys had started playing together as children and developed superior interaction focusing on team cooperation which is proof positive that basketball is truly a team sport.

Today practically every high school in the United States fields a basketball team that participates in varsity competition.  The US states of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky are particularly well known for their citizens’ devotion to high school basketball.

Dr. Naismith, who dreamed up the game in the first place, was instrumental in establishing college basketball programs.  Naismith himself later coached at the University of Kansas for six years; one of Naismith's disciples, Amos Alonzo Stagg, is credited with bringing basketball to the University of Chicago, while Adolph Rupp, a student of Naismith's at Kansas, enjoyed great success as coach at the University of Kentucky.  On February 9, 1895, the first intercollegiate 5-on-5 game was played at Hamline University between Hamline and the School of Agriculture, which was affiliated with the University of Minnesota.  The School of Agriculture won; the final score was 9 to 3.

In 1905, recurrent injuries on the football field prompted then President Theodore Roosevelt to suggest that colleges form a governing body, which resulted in the creation of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). In 1910, that body would change its name to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, most commonly known as the NCAA.

Starting in the 1920’s there were literally hundreds of men’s professional basketball teams in towns and cities all over the United States, but there was little to no organization established for the professional game. Players habitually jumped from one team to another and teams played in low budget places such as local armories and smoky dance halls.

In 1946, the Basketball Association of America was formed. Three seasons later, in 1949, the BAA merged with the National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). By the 1950s, basketball had become a major college sport, thus paving the way for the growth in interest for professional basketball.  Originally called an ‘Upstart’, the American Basketball Association, emerged in 1967 and briefly threatened the NBA’s dominance until the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. As a result of this action, today’s NBA is the top professional basketball league in the world in terms of popularity, salaries, talent, and level of competition and the ‘dream’ of getting there is undoubtedly the prevailing thought of amateur players of basketball everywhere, perhaps with the one exception of President Obama, who according to a select few, is apt to be a third round draft choice next year.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Trench Warfare of WW I

July 1916

Although Trench Warfare has often occurred throughout the long history of war, its occurrence during WW I almost exactly when there was an ongoing military revolution in firepower which was not matched by similar advances in mobility equipment resulted in a grueling form of warfare in which the defense held the advantage. In other words a ‘stalemate’ in the war effort held true for both sides.

During World War I, trenches first begun to appear by late 1914; you may recall that the war started as a result of the assignation of Francis Ferdinand in late June   of 1914 in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and ended in November of 1918.  On the western front, trenches stretched from the Belgium border to the Swiss Border for a distance of approximately 400 miles, and they soon became home to millions of soldiers.

Practically every novel or movie which makes mention of WW I invariably portrays the hardships or conditions associated with Trench Warfare on the “Western Front”; in fact, it has become a powerful symbol representing the very futility of war.   Images of young men going “over the top” or over the walls of the trench, in route to attack the enemy trench line through a muddy barb-wire strewn ‘no man’s land’, facing a flurry of gun fire leading to certain death, is typified by the first day of the river Somme battle (in  which  the  British  suffered 57,000 casualties on  the 1st day  alone), or  the  grinding slaughter in the mud of Passchendaele (modern day Passendale) near the city of Ypres in Belgium.  To the French, the equivalent is perhaps best described as the wear and tear encountered during the Battle of Verdun in north eastern France; in which they suffered 362,000 casualties and the German opposition lost approximately 336,000 men. The battle lasted a total of ten (10) grueling months which placed the average monthly loss at just short of 10,000 men per month.

Perhaps it’s now pointless to say that such Trench Warfare was invariably associated with the needless slaughter in the most appalling of conditions, combined with the view that brave men went to their deaths because of incompetent and narrow-minded commanders who failed to adapt to the new more destructive conditions of trench warfare. Far too often the class-ridden and backward-looking generals put their faith in the attack, apparently believing that   ‘superior morale’ and’ sprint’ would somehow overcome the weapons and moral inferiority of the defender. In fact, leadership was considered so poor that often times the British / Empire troops on the Western Front ware commonly referred to as “lions led by donkeys.” Unfortunately this “war to end all wars”, failed entirely regarding this factor, in that this same leadership view persisted in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

The only possible good news was that practically all trenches were deep enough for a man to stand up straight without being seen by the enemy. However on those occasions when they weren’t quite deep enough the men had to crouch or crawl throughout each day, for if enemy snipers saw so much as a hair on the un-crouched soldiers head, they would shoot him straight away.

The mud that was dug out of the trench was piled up in front to form additional fortifications, which offered additional protection from enemy bullets. ‘Sandbags’ or more than likely, ‘mud bags’, were also used as reinforcements.

Trenches were dug or formed in zigzags, as opposed to straight lines, so as to prevent attackers from shooting straight down the trench, and it also helped to reduce the ill effects of blasts from arterially shells. This design also made it more difficult for the trench to be captured, since the enemy who would have to fight round each corner to capture more and more of the trench. Another trick often used for slowing down the process of the enemy capturing the trench, was barbed wire doors, which were common in trenches. When open they fit into gaps in the side of the trench, but when they were closed they were lethal, so they were situated at intervals along the length of the trench.

Wet weather made the trenches become very muddy, rather quickly, so flat planks of wood typically called ‘duckboards’ were laid end-to-end along the ground, and were then nailed together. These helped to provide a floor of a sort, which enhanced the soldier’s mobility inside the trench from day-to-day.

Rest assured that living conditions in trenches were very basic and extremely unsanitary. The troops had little choice but to slept in little holes cut out of the side of the trench known as ‘dug outs’.  The soldiers often had no choice but to stand with water up to their ankles, and sometimes up to their knees; this invariably caused them to suffer from a condition called “trench foot”; which was as you’re sure to guess, a condition of the feet that caused blisters to develop and resulted in severe pain for the soldiers.  Since the recommended preventive measures required dry socks as well as dry feet, trench conditions insured that most soldiers were to become infected, and most sooner than later. Add to this inconvenience the ever present rat and lice infestation that plagued most all of the trenches and it soon becomes evident that trench life was far from the good life often described by the most avid outdoorsman.

The other good news was that as a general rule most of the troops were rarely hungry, except on those occasions when shelling had damaged the communication trenches which delay the ferrying of food up and down the line. Even though there was usually enough food to go round, the choice was not typically varied.

The classic food selection included a tinned “bully beef” or corned beef package, a loaf of bread to be shared by as many as 10 men, and jam, which was usually  plum or apple flavor, which the men soon tired of.   On occasion there was plenty of cheese, but this caused constipation and the soldiers suspected that the abundance of this commodity was a veiled attempt to ease the problem of trench toilets.

When all else failed, or in cases of absolute emergencies, there was a large  supply of hard biscuits, but these were described as being like cement and caused immense problems especially for men with false teeth; they were so hard, it was common to soak them in water just to make them edible.

Now for the really bad news: No description of trench life can possibly avoid the aspect that shocked most visitors to the lines; that being the appalling reek or foul smell given off by a number of sources.

It included rotting human carcasses which lay around by the thousands.  For example, approximately 200,000 men were killed on the river Somme battlefields, many of which lay in shallow graves. There were always overflowing latrines which would also give off a most offensive stench.

Clearly there were lots of men who didn’t have the luxury of partaking in a bath for weeks or more often for months and would therefore radiate the disquieting odor of dried sweat, especially if they had their boots off. 

Add to all of this the smell of cordite (a smokeless alternative to gun powder), the lingering odor of poison gas, rotting sandbags, stagnant mud, cigarette smoke, plus the occasional cooking of food and a retch of a smell is sure to become unbearable to most; yet the men somehow grew used to it, while it thoroughly overcame first-time visitors to the front.

Most folks will agree that the only really good news to come out of WW I arrived on November 11, 1918. For on the eleventh (11) day of the eleventh month (November) on the eleventh hour (11:00 O’clock) the “Great War” said to have been fought to end all wars, ended when Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in Versailles, France.  “The Treaty of Versailles” was not signed until June 28, 1919 however, which was the anniversary of the assignation of Francis Ferdinand in 1914, whose death had allegedly started it the war.