Monthly Archives: March 2013

For Service WAY Beyond the Call of Duty

Thomas A. Baker

Thomas A. Baker

Thomas A. Baker, from Troy, New York, won the Medal of Honor on Saipan during World War 2. This award was an absolute no-brainer. Read what he did. This is why they were the Greatest Generation.

When his entire company was held up by fire from automatic weapons and small-arms fire from strongly fortified enemy positions that commanded the view of the company, Sgt. (then Pvt.) Baker voluntarily took a bazooka and dashed alone to within 100 yards of the enemy. Through heavy rifle and machinegun fire that was directed at him by the enemy, he knocked out the strong point, enabling his company to assault the ridge.

Some days later, while his company advanced across the open field flanked with obstructions and places of concealment for the enemy, Sgt. Baker again voluntarily took up a position in the rear to protect the company against surprise attack and came upon 2 heavily fortified enemy pockets manned by 2 officers and 10 enlisted men which had been bypassed. Without regard for such superior numbers, he unhesitatingly attacked and killed all of them. Five hundred yards farther, he discovered 6 men of the enemy who had concealed themselves behind our lines and destroyed all of them.

On 7 July 1944, the perimeter of which Sgt. Baker was a part was attacked from 3 sides by from 3,000 to 5,000 Japanese. During the early stages of this attack, Sgt. Baker was seriously wounded, but he insisted on remaining in the line and fired at the enemy at ranges sometimes as close as 5 yards until his ammunition ran out. Without ammunition and with his own weapon battered to uselessness from hand-to-hand combat, he was carried about 50 yards to the rear by a comrade, who was then himself wounded.

At this point Sgt. Baker refused to be moved any farther, stating that he preferred to be left to die rather than risk the lives of any more of his friends. A short time later, at his request, he was placed in a sitting position against a small tree. Another comrade, withdrawing, offered assistance. Sgt. Baker refused, insisting that he be left alone and be given a soldier’s pistol with its remaining 8 rounds of ammunition.

When last seen alive, Sgt. Baker was propped against a tree, pistol in hand, calmly facing the foe. Later Sgt. Baker’s body was found in the same position, gun empty, with 8 Japanese lying dead before him. His deeds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

Imagine some approval committee meeting to decide whether or not to give Baker the Medal of Honor. They read what he did, and then the chairman says, “What’s there to talk about?” Done.

(This citation is from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.

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Showrooming

Speech bubbles for Right and Wrong

“Showrooming” is a fairly new word, and I admit to having showroomed. It’s when you enter a store to research a product, which you then buy online (probably from Amazon). Best Buy is a popular showrooming spot, and their well trained and knowledgeable staff are extra helpful in providing what you need to make an informed purchase…somewhere else.

One store in Australia has started charging people $5 for “just looking.” If they buy something, the $5 is refunded at checkout. The store owner said, “I’m not here to dispense a charity service for [large supermarkets] to make more money.” He’s got a point.

Think it’ll catch on in the USA? Will we have to deposit $5 at the door before entering Big Lots or Dollar General?

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Palm Sunday Afternoon at St. Francis U

I'm pretty much hidden behind Aaron Vergon, clear over on the right. But I'm there, keyboarding away.

I’m pretty much hidden behind Aaron Vergon, clear over on the right. But I’m there, keyboarding away. (click to enlarge)

On Palm Sunday, 4pm in the afternoon, Anchor Church did a service on the campus of St. Francis University, about a mile down the road from us. Several churches in our zip code had done this, each service a month apart, as a way for Protestant students at St. Francis (a Catholic school) to get acquainted with some of the nearby churches. Palm Sunday was our turn.

Associate Pastor Kevin Whitacre did a great job with the sermon, starting off with a drama in which he put himself in the position of one of the thieves crucified with Jesus. It was very effective.

The Anchor worship team led the music. We greatly enjoyed the big auditorium and spacious stage (compared to the little cubby hole we have at the front of Anchor’s sanctuary). It required carting around and setting up a lot of equipment, but it was fun.

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TurboTax to the Non-Rescue

turbotax-deluxe-2005-with-state-winmac-old-version-pictures-1Interesting piece on Propublica.org about tax return filing. The IRS already knows how much they they think you should pay. Why not just tell you upfront? With “return free filing,” the IRS sends you a tax form already filled in with their numbers, so you know in advance what THEY think you owe. You then have several choices:

  1. Accept it as is and return it to the IRS.
  2. Make adjustments and then return it.
  3. File a return in another way (TurboTax, H&R Block, whatever).

For many people, they can file their return in five minutes–and for free. Other countries do this effectively, and it’s been endorsed by presidents going back to Ronald Reagan.

So why haven’t we done it? Partly because of heavy lobbying by Intuit, which sells the Turbotax software. Intuit doesn’t WANT the government making it easy for people. In 2011, their lobbying killed two bills which would have allowed taxpayers to file pre-filled returns for free and make the entire system more efficient.

So don’t be upset at the IRS for making tax returns difficult. They WANT to make it easy and free. Blame the selfish, greedy folks at Turbotax instead.

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From North Korea’s Silicon Valley….

North Korean computer

This newly released photo from North Korea shows Kim Jong Un inspecting some “new” military technology. Now, doesn’t that look like one advanced piece of equipment? Note the state-of-the-art trackball. I would love to see the monitor. I’m guessing amber. And is that a North Korean wifi antenna in the background? They all seem very proud.

Tom Gara of the Wall Street Journal tweeted, “North Korea appears to have crossed a dangerous threshold and developed a fully-functioning calculator.”

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Out of Every 100 People in the World

This is a fascinating graphic.

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It’s What He Does

I’m with Dave Barry on this, though in my case, it’s all pleasure and zero guilt.

My guilty pleasure is tough-guy-loner action novels, like the Jack Reacher series, where the protagonist is an outwardly rugged but inwardly sensitive and thoughtful guy who, through no fault of his own, keeps having to beat the crap out of people.

This is from the New York Times Book Review. He also says makes a statement about the Twlight books which is hard to argue with:

I’m not a big fan of the “Twilight” series. I can’t get past the premise, which is that a group of wealthy, sophisticated, educated, highly intelligent, centuries-old vampires, who can do pretty much whatever they want, have chosen to be . . . high school students. I simply cannot picture such beings sitting in a classroom listening to a geometry teacher drone on about the cosine. I have more respect for vampires than that.

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Not Gonna Go There

atopburj580

burjkhalifa580

This photo was taken by National Geographic photographer Joe McNally in Dubai, after climbing atop the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Looking at it for more than a few seconds can trigger my vertigo.

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The Most Expensive School Wins

awl-midwest

A website filled out an NCAA bracket using an interesting criteria: tuition cost. With each matchup, the school with the higher tuition is picked to win. The final four comes down to Duke ($40,665), Georgetown ($40,920), Notre Dame ($42,464) and eventual NCAA champ Bucknell ($45,132).

In this scenario, top seed Louisville ($8,903) is trounced in the first round by Liberty ($17,806). Indiana loses in the opening round to Long Island University.

Of course, most of the actual basketball players enjoy full ride scholarships, so they aren’t paying a dime of tuition. But hey, it’s an interesting twist.

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Green Chopsticks?

plastic-chopsticks

China is urging its people to carry their own tableware when they go to restaurants. The country goes through 80 billion sets of throw-away chopsticks every year. That comes to 20 million trees, per year. China is the world’s largest consumer of wood, and demand for imported lumber has tripled since 2000. So Americans can properly display an aire of superiority for our reusable metal forks and spoons.

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