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Skipper

My great-grandfather, Erlon H. Parker, flew bi-planes for the United States in World War I. As a Memorial Day project, I decided to pull on a few threads to see what else I could find about the man known in my family as “Skipper.”

The photo up top is Skipper in the cockpit of a biplane. Back then, planes were wood-framed and covered with canvas. When they first started flying they didn’t know how to synchronize machine guns with the prop so there was a danger of shooting the propeller off. Until they could work out the synchronization, the solution was too wrap the prop with bands of steel. Randomly ricocheted bullets was the solution which gives you an idea of how they did things in the early days.

Before that pilots went up with pistols which sounds quaintly like the Wild West. Other options included deploying a grappling hook on the end of some rope and try and cross your enemy’s path and tear up the their plane like some Afghan fighting kite.

This is what my great-grandfather signed up for.

Erlon Parker’s Italian pilot’s license (the Italian official misspelled his name and got the wrong state)

Once the United States entered the war, the Army and Navy raced each other to see which service would get to Europe first. The Navy implemented a recruiting program to enlist men for aviation duty. 100 men were chosen, two from each state. Skipper, signing up from Maine, joined as a member of 1st Naval Aeronautic Detachment in Pensacola, Florida which eventually was winnowed down to 20 enlisted pilots.

On a family Zoom call, I learned that the fledgling unit left for Europe before any uniforms could be designed and made for them. Once they landed in France, (fun fact, they sailed to Europe on the USS Jupiter, the first aircraft carrier in the US Navy) they were instructed to go to a tailor and get a uniform made for themselves. Apparently everyone interpreted what a uniform of a naval airman should look like so the resulting uniforms were not very, um, uniform.

The group needed instruction as they had little practice flying. The French pilots agreed to train them but, because of the language barrier, they had to be creative.

From Origins of Naval Patrol Aviation, 1911 – 1920s

One can only imagine how dodgy these early planes were. Nicknamed “flying eggcrates” there wasn’t much holding them together. These early engines were not very reliable some only good for 4-hours flying time. There was no radio so each plane went up with a carrier pigeon which was used to send home coordinates for a search party should they go down. There were also other uses for homing pigeons.

Skipper had other uses for pigeons (clipped from his obituary)

Skipper flew seaplanes (“flying boats”) that patrolled out over the ocean looking for enemy ships and submarines. They mostly would go out on reconnaissance but they also had some light bombs (basically hand grenades) that they could pitch over the side if they wanted to cause trouble.

HS-1 Seaplane

I also learned from Skipper’s obituary that his squadron was credited with sinking two German submarines but that all he ever shot down were, “two seagulls.”

After the war, Skipper joined a fellow war pilot, Eddy Rickenbacker, as one of the first commercial pilots with Eastern Airlines where he flew the Ford Tri-motor “Tin Goose” on the route between Newark, NJ and Washington, DC. Captain Pete Parker, as he became known, became the Chief pilot with Eastern and flew the first flight out of North Beach, Long Island which is now known as La Guardia.

The Eastern Airlines Tin Goose

I have seen Captain Parker’s flight log at my parent’s house which records regular flights between Newark and Havana on a DC-3 back in the 1930’s. My great-grandmother used to tell of the time when they were passengers on a DC-3 going through choppy air. Everyone was getting ill from getting bounced around so Skipper asked his wife to excuse him and went up to the cockpit and politely asked if he could take over for a bit. The plane soon smoothed itself out to the delight of everyone on-board.

This photo was taken in 1940, I think this was a DC-3

Skipper died before I was born but his stories and spirit last be on in my family. He is also the reason my middle name is Parker. I thank him for his service and hope you enjoyed this little celebration of his amazing life.

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TWTW

The week that was

A California church invited its congregation for a Mother’s Day service in defiance of stay-at-home orders. A few days later, more than 180 people tested positive for Covid-19.

Protestors that drove hundreds of miles to Michigan for “Operation Gridlock” may have caught the virus and brought it back home. Anonymized location trails from cellphones show travelers returning home to neighboring states including Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Utah.

A man who wrote on April 2nd, “my God is bigger than this Virus will ever be” is thinking twice after being struck down by Covid and passing it to his wife.

Maybe God’s plan is just to have us all pass the dutchie and chill. Researchers in Canada have discovered that cannabis sativa strains high in CDB reduce infection by 70 to 80 per cent.

Adding new irony to David Crosby’s song, Almost Cut My Hair, getting your hair cut is now an act of defiance.

A signed pair of Air Jordan’s worn by Michael Jordan during his 1984-85 rookie season was sold by Sotheby’s for $560,000, breaking a record for the most anyone paid for a pair of used sneakers.

Pandemic Fashion is here. For the beach we have the Trikini, a bikini with a matching mask.

The NFL is building in helmets with integrated masks.

The Oakland A’s missed their April rent payment on the Oakland Coliseum. Citing financial difficulty due to the pandemic, they owe $1.2 million or a little over two pair of Air Jordan sneaks. Then again, maybe they should ask Stripchat.com who wants to buy naming rights to the New Orleans Superdome from Mercedes-Benz.

The town of Fairfield, Alabama declared bankruptcy.

Everyone has tried their hand at baking sourdough bread. As expected, hacker types are extracting efficiencies with technology.

Zoom parodies. Zoom performances, Zoom reunions, Zoom weddings. Zoom adoptions and this week a trial by Zoom and broadcasted public confessions by Zoom.

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TWTW

The week that was

Joe Exotic announced (from prison) a new fashion line. The Revenge line includes tiger-branded face masks.

Weather forecasting accuracy has been impacted by of the drop in air travel. Real-time data on temperature, wind and humidity from commercial airliners has been cut nearly 90 percent.

The Double-Rainbow guy passed away. Paul “Bear” Vasquez was 57.

Zoom conference calls are so common that they are now parodied. There are Zoom performances, Zoom reunions and Zoom weddings. And now you can adopt a dog over Zoom.

So far American Samoa has dodged the Covid pandemic. Zero deaths, zero cases. This week they announced their version of the state quarter, with a most unfortunate design.

Facebook spent $400 million for a collection of animated GIFs.

Americans spent $10.9 billion on video games in the first quarter of 2020, a new record. I’m pretty sure that record will be broken next quarter. It’s still impossible to buy a Nintendo Switch.

Taking a queue from a Chinese Elementary school, a cafe in Germany is asking customers to wear special hats to enforce social distancing.

Here in America, some restaurants are allowed to open for dining but require patrons to wear masks. Wondering how to eat with a mask? A woman in Florida is on the case.

A three-star restaurant is seating mannequins at tables to fill up the required empty space between diners.

Facial recognition technology providers are scrambling to recalibrate their software to a world where everyone is wearing a face mask. The next release of iOS will support a mask mode on Face ID.

Spotting an opportunity, DEVO has brushed off their stock of iconic red, energy dome caps and fitting them with face shields to make the perfect PPE.

Tune in today at 2pm Pacific to witness the graduation ceremony for the UC Berkeley Class of 2020 at which will take place entirely within the virtual Minecraft recreation of the campus.

Looking for some way to help those less fortunate? Check out the 1kproject and connect directly with families in need.

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TWTW

The week that was

Adrian really liked cars. He wanted a Lamborghini but needed to go to California. So he took his parents car to drive there. Adrian is five.

Things are grim in Portland. They cancelled the annual naked bike ride.

Mars Inc., the makers of M&Ms and Snickers candy bars, has filed a patent for chocolate that doesn’t melt.

Tom Cruise is flying to outer space to film a movie with Elon Musk. Really.

Elon Musk sat down to explain that language will become an inferior form of compression once we can all transmit thoughts to each other.

The European Space Agency, trying to figure out how to make concrete for a moon base where water is so valuable, hit on an idea. They’ll use human piss.

The morbid story of the week award goes to the Associated Press who brings us news of a unique solution to the coffin shortage in Columbia. A hospital bed that turns into a coffin.

The BBC could not resist sharing how Queen’s lead guitarist tore his gluteus maximus. Over-enthusiastic gardening.

Ron is a bull. Ron had an “itchy bum.” Ron scratched himself against a telephone pole but was a tad aggressive and brought down a transformer that was on the pole and knocked out power to 800 homes.

President Trump toured an N95 mask manufacturing plant, wearing goggles, but no mask, as the song Live and Let Die played in the background

A fight broke out in the Hong Kong parliament.

In 1847 the Choctaw people sent $170 to help during the potato famine. In 2020, the Irish people returned the favor.

Oh, and Adrian? A local Lamborghini owner read his story and popped by to give him a drive around.

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Current Events

Bolero Juilliard

Students from Juilliard quarantined at home like the rest of us, are unable to be with their colleagues or classmates, and isolated from the collective space where they practice their art.

But distance and isolation cannot dampen their spirit. As with others, they put a Zoom video together but, this being Juilliard, they took it to the next level and the gravitational momentum of the project brought in a several famous alumni to join the project.

The result is, as the Juilliard website describes, “a collective endeavor that captures a snapshot of a specific global moment and the possibilities of creative connection in an uncertain world.”

Bolero Juilliard

More from The Daily Beast on the making of:

Keigwin told The Daily Beast that getting Bolero Juilliard right “turned into an obsession that was comforting on so many levels. And we just hit it full speed for days and days. Not every project do you wake up at 3am for and have lots of ideas, or start editing at 6am. It was so inspiring and passion-filled. And it really wasn’t just me, this was a hugely collaborative effort.”

He laughed as he described shouting at the multiple performers on the screen in front of him: “Follow my lead…faster…grab something…stop…MELT.” People would be moving furniture, breaking things, an animal would enter the shot, leading Keigwin to exclaim: “No, keep the cat! I love the cat!

‘Bolero Juilliard’: Inside the Making of a Lockdown Musical Miracle
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TWTW

The week that was

The White House gift shop would like to sell you limited edition Covid-19 commemorative coins.

Two spaces after a period or one? Microsoft Word has settled the debate once and for all. One is ok, two gets you a red squiggle.

Remember when they made people go outside to vote in the Wisconsin primary election? Well, now over 50 people have come down with Covid-19.

Some people should be setting a better example. After the governor of Texas issued an order closing all non-essential businesses, including nail salons, the mayor of Beaumont, Texas was caught in a nail salon. After encouraging New Yorkers to snitch on neighbors not adhering to stay-at-home measures, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio was caught 11 miles from home strolling in Prospect Park.

Armed protesters in Michigan pounded on the doors of the state capital asking to be let in when they really wanted to be let out.

The administrator of the ReOpen North Carolina Facebook page posted that she is ending her quarantine and is now an asymptomatic COVID19 positive patient.

Many newscasters, and weather forecasters, are working from home. This sometimes leads to unexpected entertainment and deft improvisation.

In a series of late-night tweets that started with Tesla stock price is too high imo and ended with, Rage, rage against the dying of the light of consciousness, Elon Musk wiped $14 billion off the value off his company.

The hole in the ozone is closing up.

Belgians have been asked to increase their consumption of pomme frites to twice a week to work down the nation’s excess inventory of potatoes.

UPS will begin delivering prescriptions via drone.

A Japanese aquarium is asking people to visit with its eels via video conference. The aquarium has been closed for two months and the eels, who are “lonely” have grown unfamiliar with humans.

As of this weekend, over 65,000 Americans have died in the pandemic. Two doctors in South Carolina, overcome with grief, are collecting stories of celebration. Isolated though we may be physically, we are not alone. Let this be a place of memorial and a reminder of the precious humanity to which we all belong.

Stay safe, keep washing your hands.

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TWTW

The week that was

We collectively gasped when we read of a tractor-trailer full of toilet paper going up in flames. This week, a more severe and darker tragedy struck when a tractor-trailer of N95 masks caught fire.

More than 40 employees spent the last 28 days living at their factory, split between two 12-hour shifts working around the clock to make polypropylene, the raw material used to make N95 masks, hospital gowns and sanitary wipes. On Monday they went home to their families.

Governors worked the phones, bidding against each other, to secure valuable medical supplies and equipment. Maryland’s first lady, used her native language and connections to score 500,000 test kits direct from South Korea for her state.

The Governor of Illinois made plans to fly charter jets to China to pick up supplies but is keeping them secret because he’s worried the feds might try to seize the shipment.

At the tail end of a press conference, President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of an “injection” of disinfectant to cure those with the virus. This forced Lysol to warn folks not to try this at home. The president later said he was asking the question sarcastically “just to see what would happen.”

The Reuters headline told all you needed to know, Special Report: Former Labradoodle breeder was tapped to lead U.S. pandemic task force

Reader’s Digest wants us to know that the Q in Q-tip stands for quality.

Remember those scary Boston Dynamics robots? The company is now looking to deploy the robots to assist in remote triage of Covid-19 patients in a dystopian version of the St. Bernard Rescue Dog.

A woman walking down a street in Toronto felt “heat and pain in her left chest.” She had been shot but was unharmed because the bullet was lodged in her left silicone breast implant.

The rapper Travis Scott held a virtual concert in the game Fortnite and 12 million showed up.

Colin Cosell, the announcer for the New York Mets and grandson of Howard Cosell, has recorded over 600 walk on announcements for medical workers and first responders.

A pro cyclist in Northern Italy is riding supplies and medicine from the next town to the elderly residents in his town.

As the lockdown in New York enters its second month, Governor Cuomo declared marriage via, “audio-video technology” legal and binding. Yup, Zoom marriages are here.

Stay safe, hug your kids (if you can).

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Current Events

Ads in the time of Covid

In times of uncertainty, it’s best to stick to the pack.

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TWTW

The week that was

An elderly and reluctant Frenchman was ejected from an Air Force fighter during a retirement day outing. I promise you, this isn’t clickbait.

As with every news outlet, Footwear News, looking for their coronavirus story, found it.

“We are literally making electricity out of thin air.” Almost by accident, Yao noticed the devices he was experimenting with were conducting electricity seemingly all by themselves.

An evangelical pastor in Virginia who vowed to keep preaching unless he was “in jail or the hospital” succumbed to Covid-19. Florida declared professional wrestling an “essential business” so matches could continue.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci is everyone’s hero. A Connecticut toy company is making a Dr. Fauci plush doll. As of this writing, the petition to name him People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive had over 18,000 signatures.

Thousands protested Michigan’s stay-at-home laws and marched on the capital holding signs that unironically said Live Free or Die.

In Kenya, the Governor of Narobi said that they will be tucking a small bottle of Hennessy into the care packages going out to its citizens.

Stimulus checks from the US Treasury went out with the expected mix-ups. Scores of deceased received a check and one firefighter in Indiana was shocked to find himself $8.2 million richer instead of the expected $1700.

Just in time for the afore-mentioned stimulus checks, Apple announced the iPhone SE at a $399 price point. Meanwhile, if you were the proud owner of a top of the line Mac, a set of wheels would put you back $699.

The pandemic has postponed many trials winding thru the judicial system, including one for Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.

Land o’ Lakes butter decided it was time to retire the Native American “maiden” from their packaging. The new package just has a lake.

Looking to spice up your next Zoom call? Invite this farmer’s lama or goat and totally confuse your colleagues.

The National Guard was called, in Vermont, to build a hospital, in four days.

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Office

Coronavirus Data

When you work for a news app and there’s lots of news, you’re busy.

At SmartNews we’ve been busy trying to get a handle on the numbers behind the Coronavirus pandemic and present it in a way that is meaningful to SmartNews users.

We started with a simple widget with totals for confirmed cases along with those that had recovered. We designed a way to put US and Global numbers in once widget that updated daily. Tapping on the More data link to you to a full page with interactive graphs showing the cumulative totals of these numbers over time along with the death count.

As casualties grew and recovery data started to look inconsistent (it’s not clear when you recover and many states do not require hospitals to record recovery rates), we made the difficult decision to post the death count on the widget, replacing the recovered figure. We re-built the data pipeline to pull in data more frequently so we added a counter to show the current daily totals compared to yesterday’s total.

Then we added county-level data to satisfy the growing interest in local information.

The most recent iteration, in the app today, adds back in the global number to give context to the US figures. We’ll continue to iterate on this widget to bring the most useful information to our users.