Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The Chinese naval legend / Defeat in Afghanistan / Barbecue’s plan for war in Haiti / Romance and single motherhood / Icebergs that trigger tsunamis

This week: The Chinese naval legend / Defeat in Afghanistan / Barbecue’s plan for war in Haiti / Romance and single motherhood / Icebergs that trigger tsunamis

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. The legendary Chinese seafarer the West overlooks
By Alissa Greenberg | NOVA | August 2021
“In the 1400s, Zheng He sailed thousands of miles around Asia and Africa in ships the size of soccer fields, spreading Chinese innovations like compasses and gunpowder in the process.”

2. The Incoherence of American History
By Osita Nwanevu | The New Republic | August 2021
“We ascribe too much meaning to the early years of the republic.”

3. Why it takes months to subdue some wildfires
By Keith Ridler | Associated Press | August 2021
Why so long? Have wildfires changed? Is wildfire suppression in the past playing a role now?

4. The U.S. reckons with defeat in Afghanistan
By Ishaan Tharoor | The Washington Post | August 2021
Many of the same doyens of the Washington establishment who are now outraged that the Taliban is back in power have been less vocal about the failures and shortcomings of the two decades spent keeping the militants at bay ”

5. Why You Need to Protect Your Sense of Wonder — Especially Now
By David P. Fessell and Karen Reivich | Harvard Business Review | August 2021
“As the pandemic era goes on, more than ever we need ways to refresh our energies, calm our anxieties, and nurse our well-being. The cultivation of experiences of awe can bring these benefits and has been attracting increased attention due to more rigorous research.”

6. His Name Is Barbecue — and He’s Ready to Plunge Haiti Into War
By Jonathan Alpeyrie | The Daily Beast | August 2021
“Already devastated by an earthquake and rampant corruption, the people of Haiti have another problem to worry about: the rise of powerful gang bosses like Barbecue.”

7. Swiping right in the fertility doctor’s office: On pursuing romance and single motherhood at once
By Sophie Sills | Salon | August 2021
“Why do unmarried women have to choose between motherhood and a love life? Can’t we try for both at the same time?”

8. Wandering icebergs could trigger tsunamis
By Robby Berman | Big Think | August 2021
“Icebergs aren’t just a threat to unsinkable ships. Their ability to cause underwater landslides poses a danger to coastal cities.”

9. Hurricanes may not be becoming more frequent, but they’re still more dangerous
By Carolyn Gramling | Science News | July 2021
“There aren’t more of the storms now than there were roughly 150 years ago, a study suggests”

10. Moonstruck: Life in the In-Between
By Emily VanDerWerff | The Criterion Collection | November 2020
“Life is made up of binaries, sure, but it is also made up of all the spaces in between their oppositions.”

Loreta’s Civil War: A brute as this man Butler

As Velazquez recovers from her wound, New Orleans falls to Federal forces, and she decides to try to spy on the occupation forces.

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Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart will share edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Part 22: As Velazquez recovers from her wound, New Orleans falls to Federal forces, and she decides to try to spy on the occupation forces.

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My shoulder was found to be out of place, my arm cut, and my little finger lacerated — a disagreeable and exceedingly painful but not necessarily a very dangerous wound. The surgeon applied a dressing and put my arm in a sling, after which I felt a great deal more comfortable, although the pain was still intense, and he then endeavored to induce me to stop at Corinth until I was in better condition for traveling. Now, however, that my sex was discovered, I was more than ever anxious to get away from my old associates in the hope of finding some place where I could remain until I got well and able to commence operations again in a different locality, without being annoyed by the attentions of impertinently curious people. I therefore insisted upon pushing on to Grenada, and … [he], appreciating my reasons for getting away as soon as possible, very kindly went and procured transportation papers for me, and before the information that a woman, disguised as an officer, was among the wounded on the train, we were, to my infinite satisfaction, speeding out of sight, leaving behind us the camp occupied by a defeated army. The thought that our brave army should be resting under the cloud of a most humiliating defeat was a mental torture, which even my intense physical suffering could not pacify, and I was heartily glad to be able to take myself off from a locality which had so many unpleasant associations.

While on the train I suffered a great deal, although I was as well cared for as circumstances would permit, and it was an immense relief when we reached Grand Junction, for the hotel proprietor there was an old and true friend of mine, and I felt sure of receiving from him all the attention it was in his power to bestow. I found, however, that it was almost an impossibility to get any accommodation whatever, on account of the crowds of people who filled the place. The wives and other relatives of officers and soldiers had come to await the result of the battle, and as the news that the Confederate army had been defeated had preceded me, everything was in confusion, and everybody plunged in the deepest grief. Some of the waiting ones had already received their wounded friends, or the corpses of the slain, while others were nearly wild with anxiety on account of husbands, or brothers, or lovers who had not yet been heard from. …

I was asked a thousand questions about the battle, and was pressed with a thousand anxious interrogatories about particular persons and endeavored to answer as well as I could, notwithstanding the pain which my wounded arm and shoulder caused. Many of the women could not prevail upon themselves to believe that the Confederate army had been again defeated and indulged in the fiercest invective against the invaders. The intense grief of these stricken people affected me even more than the terrible scenes incident to the battle and the retreat, and, as I was not in a fit condition to endure anything more of anguish, and as it seemed to be impossible to obtain a room where I could be quiet and free from intrusion, I determined to push on to Grenada, without more delay, although I was anything but able to endure the excitement and discomfort of several hours’ ride by rail.

Having reached Grenada, I took a good rest by remaining there for two days. … I was visited by a great many of the ladies of the place, who presented me with bouquets, delicacies of various kinds, and bandages for my wound, and who otherwise overwhelmed me with attentions, for which I hope I was duly grateful. Not only the natural restlessness of my disposition, which my wound aggravated to such an extent that it was an impossibility for me to keep quiet, but a desire to get as far away from the Army of Tennessee as possible, before the fact that Lt. Harry T. Buford was a woman became generally known, induced me to move on with all the speed I could make, and I consequently started for New Orleans before I was really fit to travel. The result was, that when I reached Jackson, I found myself too ill to proceed farther, and was compelled, much against my will, to make another stop.

The hospitality I received at Jackson I will always remember with the warmest feelings of gratitude. I was really very sick, and my wounded shoulder and arm were terribly inflamed, and I scarcely know what I should have done had not a widow lady and her daughter taken a fancy to me and waited on me until I was able to be on the road again. These ladies treated me like a young lord, and I shall ever think of them as having placed me under a debt that I can never repay. So soon as I thought myself able to endure the fatigues of travel, I insisted upon being on the move in spite of the remonstrances of my friends, and made another start for New Orleans. …

By this time my wound was healing quite nicely, and although it pained me considerably still, the feverishness which had attended it was gone, and I began to feel myself once more, and with restored health began to busy myself in making plans for the future. …

On the train there were a great many wounded men, some of them old friends of mine whom I was glad to meet with again. The trip, therefore, was a pleasant one in some respects, notwithstanding its melancholy aspects, and we had a tolerably lively time discussing the late battle, and the chances of the Confederates being able to make headway in the future against the force which the Federals were bringing against them in every direction. We were obliged to acknowledge that the outlook was not a particularly promising one, and more than once expressed the belief that New Orleans would be the next object of attack. There was a good deal of confidence felt, however, that a Federal advance against the Gulf city, if it should be attempted, would be repulsed. …

When the news came that the Federal fleet had passed Forts Jackson and St. Philip, I at first thought of leaving as quickly as I could but a little reflection induced me to change my mind, for I saw clearly that if the Federals took possession of the city, I would, as a woman, have a grand field of operation. I therefore resolved to remain and see the thing out, and the uniform of Lt. Harry T. Buford was carefully put away for future use if need be, and the wearer thereof assumed the garments of a non-combatant feminine for the purpose of witnessing the entry of the victors into the captured city. …

Exactly when or where the blow would be struck, however, it was impossible to tell. The general impression was that the attack would be made by the army under [Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin] Butler, and how really formidable the Federal fleet was, few, if any, had any real notion. I suppose that scarcely anyone imagined the ships would make an unsupported effort to pass the fortifications below the city, or that they would succeed in doing so in case the attempt was made. I knew little or nothing about the river defenses or the preparations that were being made to receive a naval attack from my own observations, but from what I understood with regard to them, I felt tolerably assured of their efficiency, and my chief concern was about the insufficiency of the measures adopted to resist a land attack.

The Federal fleet, however, to the surprise of every one, succeeded in overcoming the obstructions in the river, and in passing the two principal forts, after a desperate battle, and then New Orleans was at the mercy of the naval gunners, specimens of whose methods of fighting had been exhibited to me at Fort Donelson and Shiloh in such a manner as to inspire me with a wholesome dislike for the kind of missiles they were in the habit of throwing. … I began to have a greater respect for the power of the Federal government than I had had before, and a greater appreciation of the weakness of the Confederacy. …

I felt particularly that the time was now … for me to make a display of my talents in another character than that of a warrior, and the arrival of the fleet in front of the city found me in the anxious and angry crowd on the levee, not inelegantly attired in the appropriate garments of my sex — garments that I had not worn for so long that they felt strangely unfamiliar, although I was not altogether displeased at having a fair opportunity to figure once more as a woman. …

Strange to say, the capture of New Orleans did not affect me near so unpleasantly as the defeats at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, and I felt nothing of the depression of spirit that overcame me after these battles. This may have been because I was getting accustomed to defeat now, and was consequently able to bear up under it more philosophically, although it is more than probable that it was because I was not one of the combatants, and consequently did not have that overpowering individual interest that a combatant must feel if he cares anything for his cause. I experienced less of that peculiarly disagreeable feeling of personal chagrin and disappointment that oppresses a soldier belonging to a beaten army.

The fact … that when the Federals obtained possession of the city I would probably be able to do some detective duty in a style that would not only be satisfying to my own ambition, but damaging to the enemy, and of essential service to the Confederacy, really enabled me to behold the approach of the fleet with a considerable degree of what almost might be called satisfaction. As a woman, and especially as a woman who had facilities for appearing as a representative of either sex, I knew that I would be able to observe the enemy’s movements and ferret out their plans in a signally advantageous manner. … I was really anxious to see the enemy occupy the city in order that I might try conclusions with them, having ample confidence that I would prove myself a match for the smartest Yankee of them all. …

Mayor Monroe behaved nobly when he was asked to surrender the city. He said that the city was without defense and at the mercy of the conquerors, but that it was not within his province as a municipal officer to surrender. He declined to raise the United States flag over the public buildings or to do anything that would seem a recognition of the right of the Federals in any way to regulate affairs in New Orleans by anything else than the law of force. When I read his reply to [Union Adm. David D.] Farragut’s demand for surrender, I readily forgave my private grievance against him. The mayor having positively refused to have anything to do with displaying the United States flag, or with lowering the flag of Louisiana, the raising of the Stars and Stripes on the public buildings was done by the sailors from the Federal fleet. …

When Butler took command … on May 1st, he issued orders stopping the circulation of Confederate currency, directing the people to resume their usual avocations, and giving everybody to understand that he intended to have his own way. …

I soon perceived that with such a brute as this man Butler to deal with, it would be necessary for me to be extremely circumspect, and to bring my best strategic talents to bear, if I expected to accomplish anything. I was well acquainted with the city and environs, and knew exactly how to go about slipping in and out through, the lines; but to carry on such operations as I proposed with a reasonable degree of safety and assurance of success, it was necessary … for me to keep all my wits about me, and to take care to be on good terms with those in authority.

I therefore set to work with due diligence and persistence to gain the confidence of the Federal officers. Some of them I found to be very pleasant, gentlemanly fellows, who were disposed to make themselves as agreeable as possible to everybody, and who were much gratified to hear any one — especially any woman — express Union sentiments. Many of them did not at all approve of the offensive manner in which Butler conducted himself, and some of his orders were carried out with a great deal of reluctance by those entrusted with their execution. With some of these officers I soon managed to get on very friendly terms, and they were always so polite and considerate in their treatment of myself and others that I greatly regretted the necessity of deceiving them. …

Looking Back: Her honorable adventure

When the U.S. entered World War II, Bertha Flores faced down family tradition to serve in the Navy. It was an adventure she would never forget and an experience she would never regret.

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Today in 1921, Guadalupe Berta Rodriguez Flores was born in San Antonio, Texas. When the U.S. entered World War II, Flores faced down family tradition to serve in the Navy. It was an adventure she would never forget and an experience she would never regret.

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LOOKING BACK
A special series

During my time as a contributing editor to the magnificent Voces Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin, I came across some amazing stories. The project, which I celebrated in 2011, collects the stories of Latino veterans and civilians who saw and felt the effects of war, from World War II to Vietnam. This occasional series will highlight a few of these fascinating lives.

Bertha Flores, born on March 16, 1921, was raised in a quiet San Antonio family. Her father believed women belonged at home and no where else. The U.S. entered World War II in 1941, and he was not happy when his daughter joined the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES in 1943.

Her first big adventure came simply on the cross-country train trip from San Antonio to basic training in New York City. Flores marveled at every city and town she passed. She loved the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple and the variety of women she encountered as she prepared herself for wartime military service. Flores was one of only a handful of Latinas in her class. She made friends, danced, and trained to become a teletype operator.

She served at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, and she never forgot what the experience taught her. Read her wonderful profile here.

Visit the Voces website. Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

What not to wear on a plane / Navy adviser torpedoed / Heading into the Republican National Convention

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Airlines can say: You can’t wear that
By David Koenig | Associated Press | Aug, 25
“Airlines give many reasons for refusing to let you board, but none stir as much debate as this: How you’re dressed.”
Also see: Airline rules on clothing are usually vague

2. Sunk
By Jeff Stein | The Washington Post Magazine | Aug. 21
“Why was a Navy adviser stripped of her career?”

3. A Media Personality, Suffering a Blow to His Image, Ponders a Lesson
By Christine Haughney | The New York Times | Aug. 19
“Just as quickly as his employers had questioned his credibility, they rallied around him.”

4. How Long Do You Want to Live?
By David Ewing Duncan | The New York Times | Aug. 25
“How many years might be added to a life? A few longevity enthusiasts suggest a possible increase of decades. Most others believe in more modest gains. And when will they come? Are we a decade away? Twenty years? Fifty years?”

5. Hubble Captures a Collection of Ancient Stars
ScienceDaily | Aug. 25
“Hubble Space Telescope has produced a beautiful image of the globular cluster Messier 56 (also known as M 56 or NGC 6779), which is located about 33,000 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Lyra (The Lyre).”

6. For some Republicans, convention could be springboard to future
By Peter Schroeder | The Hill | Aug. 26
“Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) will introduce Romney before he officially accepts the party’s nomination, while Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) is delivering the convention’s keynote address.”

7. Daniel Ogilvie: Why children believe they have souls
TED New York | July 2012
“Rutgers University Professor of Psychology Daniel Ogilvie is researching what causes people to believe in souls and the afterlife.”

8. A short history of the phony political convention
By Andrew O’Hehir | Salon | Aug. 25
“The GOP’s phony living-room stage is the latest twist in a history of carefully crafted, content-free spectacle”

9. The Author of the Civil War
By Cynthia Wachtell | Disunion :: The New York Times | July 6
“Sir Walter Scott not only dominated gift book lists on the eve of the Civil War but also dominated Southern literary taste throughout the conflict.”

10. The Mike Todd Party: Cronkite Recalls a TV Low
By Walter Cronkite | NPR | November 2004
“[W]hen the crowd got out of control, a bland publicity stunt turned into a giant food fight. Cronkite recalls the disastrous night.”

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TUNES

This weekend, I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the wonderful Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. Zed Head — Nice To Love You
2. Zed Head — Kick Start
3. Hill Country Review — Let Me Love You
4. Marc Brousard — Home
5. Bleu Edmondson — Southland
6. Popa Chubby — Fire
7. Rocky Athas Group — Tearin’ Me Up
8. Keb Mo — Shave Yo Legs
9. Kenny Wayne Shepherd — Blue On Black
10. Ian Moore — Nothing
11. Clay McClinton — One Of Those Guys
12. Anna Popovic — How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That
13. ZZ Top — Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings

A fascinating fall season approaches

The University of North Carolina Press just unveiled its lineup of Fall 2012 Civil War books.

The University of North Carolina Press just unveiled its lineup of Fall 2012 Civil War books. There are five titles, three new and two now available in paperback.

1. “War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865,” by James M. McPherson
2. “Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War,” by Bland Simpson
3. “The Fire of Freedom: Abraham Galloway and the Slaves’ Civil War,” by David S. Cecelski
4. “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” by George C. Rable (paperback)
5. “Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front,” by Judith Giesberg (paperback)

Read more about the books here.

They’ll make for a fascinating fall season.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

The Amazon before Columbus / Navy’s new spy plane / Interview with Carlos Fuentes / Secrets of ‘Prometheus’ / Fashion in S5 of ‘Mad Men’

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Before Columbus, humans treaded lightly in the Amazon’s forests
By Alan Boyle | Cosmic Log :: MSNBC | June 15
“The historical portrayal of the Amazon Basin’s residents before 1492 has swung from the stereotype of backward savages to a vision of sophisticated stewards of the land — but a newly reported survey suggests that wide swaths of the Amazon’s forests, particularly in the western and central regions, were relatively untouched by humans.”

2. This Is the New Spy Plane of the US Navy
By Jesus Diaz | Gizmodo | June 15
“The Navy says that their new drone will be used for sea ‘surveillance, collection of enemy order of battle information, battle damage assessment, port surveillance, communication relay, and support of the following missions — maritime interdiction, surface warfare, battlespace management, and targeting for maritime and littoral strike missions.'”

3. In the Facebook Era, Reminders of Loss After Families Fracture
By Catherine Saint Louis | The New York Times | June 14
“Not long ago, estrangements between family members, for all the anguish they can cause, could mean a fairly clean break. People would cut off contact, never to be heard from again unless they reconciled.”

4. What do they call that skyscraper in New York?
By Deepti Hajela | Associated Press | June 15
“More than a decade after 9/11, no one’s quite sure what to call the spot that was once a smoldering graveyard but is now the site of the fast-rising, 1,776-foot skyscraper that will replace the twin towers.”

5. Carlos Fuentes: The Lost Interview
By Lilly Kanso | Guernica | June 15
“A conversation recorded on the road reveals the late author’s take on the role of the writer-as-activist”

6. My relapse years
By Sarah Hepola | Salon | June 13
“After months of trying to quit, I knew I’d be a drunk for life. Then I discovered how useful failing can be.”

7. Q&A: Do-It-Yourself Templates for Microsoft Word
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | June 13
“I have designed my own letterhead and invoice documents in Microsoft Word for Windows. How do I turn these into templates?”

8. The Secrets of ‘Prometheus’ Explained by Reddit
By Jeremy Cabalona | Mashable | June 12
“When we want explanations, we turn to the ‘Front Page of the Internet,’ Reddit. We figured it was a great place to get the answers to ‘Prometheus’ we craved — and Redditors did not disappoint.”

9. Mod Men
By Sarah Ball | Vanity Fair | June 11
“In ‘Mad Men’s’ fifth season, the mod side of the 1960s has officially commenced, what with mini-dresses, nude lips, bouffants, and Vivier flats. … Here, some of season five’s most notable looks, with details on the styles and insights from Bryant, thanks to her behind-the-scenes revelations on AMC.”

10. Surgery Restores Sexual Function In Women With Genital Mutilation
By Eliza Barclay | Shots :: NPR | June 13
“French researchers report in a new paper that a reconstructive surgery they used to try to repair the clitorises of 2,938 women in France between 1998 and 2009 has helped many of them experience sexual pleasure.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. LIGHTERS UP Lil’ Kim
2. NUMB ENCORE Jay-Z & Linkin Park
3. BIG POPPA The Notorious B.I.G.
4. CAN’T NOBODY HOLD ME DOWN Puff Daddy & Mase
5. BALLA BABY Chingy, Lil’ Flip & Boozie
6. REGULATE Warren G
7. STUNT 101 DJ Swindle, 50 Cent & INXS
8. OPP Naughty by Nature
9. PAID IN FULL Eric B. & Rakim
10. MY MIND PLAYIN’ TRICKS ON ME Geto Boys

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

What your hair does for you / Inside Shuttle Atlantis / Cute baby animals / A lesser navy / Intel failure

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. In Kim’s Death, an Extensive Intelligence Failure
By Mark Lander and Choe Sang-Hun | The New York Times | Dec. 19
“As the United States and its allies confront a perilous leadership transition in North Korea — a failed state with nuclear weapons — the closed nature of the country will greatly complicate their calculations.”

2. Young women’s use of reproductive health services declines
By Shari Roan | Booster Shots :: The Los Angeles Times | Dec. 19
“This includes services such as Pap tests, pregnancy tests, contraception prescriptions, tests for sexually transmitted disease and other gynecological and obstetric care.”

3. The not-so-naked ape
The Economist | Dec. 17
“Human body hair, once thought to be an evolutionary relic, has a real job to do”

4. Last look inside space shuttle Atlantis
By Dean Putney | Boing Boing | Dec. 19
“It hadn’t occurred to me until now how little of the space shuttle I’ve seen.”

5. A Two-Ocean Navy No More?
By James R. Holmes | The Diplomat | Dec. 19
“With U.S. naval leaders more choosy amid fiscal austerity, a two-ocean strategy may be a luxury the U.S. can no longer afford. What does it mean for the Pacific?”

6. The top 6 incidents of ojo
By Sara Ines Calderon and Victor Landa | NewsTaco | April 2011
“Even though we all like to pretend that we’re modern and non-superstitious, you know that sometimes when someone is complimenting you, or when you all of a sudden fall ill for no reason, there’s that creeping suspicion that … could it be … alguien me echó ojo? But you don’t really believe in it, right?”

7. World’s Cutest Baby Wild Animals
By Clara Moskowitz | LiveScience | February 2011
Don’t deny it. You love them.

8. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison decries nine ‘accounting tricks’ that hide government spending
Texas on the Potomac :: Houston Chronicle | Dec. 17
“The national debt is now more than $15 trillion. The budget deficit for this fiscal year alone will be more than $1 trillion. This mountain of debt is a growing obstacle to economic recovery. But for many in Washington, it’s business as usual.”

9. Carry-on Essentials for Air Travel
The Flying Pinto | September 2011
“The trick to stress free air travel is to be able to roll with the punches. The trick to being able to roll with the punches when flying is a well packed carry on!”

10. Victory in Europe Day
Witness :: BBC News | May 6
“On May 8 1945, Winston Churchill announced the end of the war in Europe. It meant defeat for Germany, but great rejoicing in Britain.”