Monday, January 30, 2017


The Troubles

Growing up in a large Irish Catholic family, I heard quite a bit about "The Troubles" from the adults in my life, especially on those occasions when the associated violence made the evening news on TV.

On January 30, 1972 the "Bloody Sunday" incident took place in Derry, a major city
in majority-Protestant Northern Ireland.

My own sympathies, shaped as they were by my upbringing, were always with those mostly Catholic voices arguing for an Irish republic and an end to the 1921 partition that had created Northern Ireland as an English province.

"Bloody Sunday" happened just as the second semester of my freshman year of college was getting under way, and the issues involved were being hotly debated on my campus as they were all across the United States.

It took another 26 years for a meaningful end to the conflict to come with the signing
of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Everybody decided to stop being mad because of a piece of paper?"

Well, no...the agreement calmed things down considerably, but resentments remain...

So What?

23-year-old American Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So, who moved to the United States from the Philippines in 2015, took clear first in the famous Tata Steel Chess Tournament which just concluded
on Sunday.

The victory in this prestigious event moved Wesley up to the World No. 2 ranking,
just a few points behind World Champion Magnus Carlsen (who placed second in the Wijk aan Zee event).

He has now gone 56 consecutive games without suffering a loss, a truly remarkable streak considering the level of competition he has faced during that stretch.

"Is this kid a legit contender for the World Championship?"

He certainly appears to be, yes...that give the United States three such contenders: So, Fabiano Caruana (currently No. 3 in the world), and Hikaru Nakamura (currently No. 6 in the world)...

Hodge Podge

One of the things I most enjoy about living where I live is getting to watch the BNSF and Union Pacific freight trains that rumble back and forth on the trackage that lies
just north and just south of my apartment complex. Sometimes these trains consist of impressive strings of identical cars with relatively fresh paint (tank cars and hoppers, mostly). More often than not, though, they are a rag-tag collection of every sort of rolling stock imaginable...

Union Pacific SD70M No. 3968 photographed roughly an hour northeast of Council Bluffs in January 2016.

BNSF B40-8W No. 539 in the classic old-school Santa Fe "war bonnet" livery, photographed at the same grade crossing in June 2016.

"So, how come you don't have anything like that in your model collection?"

Because locomotives interest me, not what they're pulling...also, since I don't actually have a layout, there's no point in owning any rolling stock for my locomotives to haul...

Give It Up, Dude

From the indispensable comic strip Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, which you should read every day, as I do (even though Wiley is a squishy liberal).

Until Next Time...

When they first formed in Dublin in 1976, the rock band U2 was basically some kids who dug punk rock and who believed musical proficiency wasn't that important in achieving success. After knocking around for a few years the band finally began a recording career in the early '80s, but the initial public response to their music was disappointing.

That changed in 1983 with the band's third studio album, War. Released in February
of that year, the recording was the band's first to crack the Top 50 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart (it peaked at No. 12), and it received four platinum certifications from RIAA. It was also the album the changed the band's image from quasi-spiritual punk rockers to socially-conscious, politically-aware musicians whose music needed to be taken seriously.

Original 1983 45 rpm single
The album's first track was the most overtly political song the group had recorded to that point. And while
it is explicitly about The Troubles, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is also
a broader political statement about the futility of violence and revenge as tools for bringing about change.

The song quickly became a staple
of the band's live performances, and is now considered a signature song for the group. In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine included it on its
500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

Today's send-off is the 2008 remastered version of the original landmark recording,
from the band's YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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