Normandy June 6th, 1944

It was not a slam dunk. The D-Day landing hung in the balance for that first day. If the Allies had been pushed off the beaches the outcome of the war would have been different.

It’s not clear that the Allies could have or would have tried again. Britain committed what remained of her armies. All the available material was used. It would have taken another year to rebuild and train a new force. Germany would have had more time to develop the jet, rockets, and other weapons.

The Soviet Union was pressing into Germany from the east. It is possible they would have overrun all of Europe and created a series of puppet states similar to the ones created in Eastern Europe after the war.

It is possible we would have to negotiate an armistice.

It did not happen that way. In spite of the mistakes, the casualties, and the fog of war, the landing was successful. Young boys, led by young men, got out of landing craft and advanced across contested beaches to secure enough of the French coast that they could not be thrown off. Their actions deserve to be remembered as long there is a United States of America.

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Alan Shepard

The anniversary was yesterday, but we are going to carry on. On May 5th, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to leave Earth’s atmosphere and make a suborbital trip into space. The Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin beat him by about three weeks due to a series of postponements.

That alone would be the accomplishment of a lifetime, but it does not begin to cover Alan Shepard’s career. He went to the Naval Academy during WWII and saw service on a destroyer in the Pacific in the last two years of the war. He was a gunnery officer when his ship was assigned picket duty facing the kamikaze attacks at the Battle of Okinawa.

He went to flight school in 1946 . Started his flying in F4U Corsairs on the carrier USS Franklin Roosevelt. In 1950 he went to test pilot school and during his time as a test pilot, he flew the F2H Banshee, F3H Demon, F-8 Crusader, F4D Skyray and the Grumman F-11 Tiger. Starting with the Corsair, his test planes are a history of the development of jet fighters.

You can imagine what the selection process looked like for the first Astronauts. The process began with 508 successful test pilots. They picked 110, then asked for volunteers. Eliminations and declines got them to 32. Testing, training, and selection got them to 7. These were the Mercury 7.

Alan Shepard went first.

He would have flown a Gemini mission, but he was grounded and removed from flight status from a condition that caused him dizziness due to excess fluid in his inner ear. Developments in a surgical treatment for the condition allowed him to return to flying and astronaut status in May of 1969.

He flew as commander of Apollo 14 in February of 1971. He was the oldest man to walk on the moon and the only one of the original Mercury astronauts to do so. He’s also the guy that hit golf balls on the moon.

He retired as a Rear Admiral in 1974.

I have not done his story justice, no blog post could. His other accomplishments, the awards he received, the life he lead, deserve to be remembered. It was an American life lived at the height of America’s apogee.

Alan Shepard: Dear Lord – please don’t let me f*** up.

Gordon Cooper: [at launch control center] I didn’t quite copy that. Say again, please.

Alan Shepard [realizing his voice is being monitored]: Uh, I said everything is A-OK!

Autumn

Autumn. It was always my favorite season. The warm afternoons, cool evening, the leaves falling. I got married in the autumn and in the next few days will celebrate another year.

I came across a poem recently that spoke of this time of year.

Song for Autumn
 
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
 
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
–Mary Oliver
It speaks of the season in ways I had not considered. A natural order that accepts the coming changes.
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John Deere Firmware

You buy the tractor, but to use it, you have to agree to a EULA. The EULA says you don’t own the software or the firmware. So what did you buy, exactly?

This is the battle farmers all over the country are fighting. Because when the tractor isn’t running, you have to have an authorized John Deere technician work on it. Doesn’t matter that the equipment is down and you’re in a short window to get a crop in, you can’t work on it yourself.

Farmers are downloading cracked firmware from overseas and loading that on their tractors. The EULA forbids this, even though it is a specific exemption to the DMCA.

Several states have legislation pending to address this. It remains to be seen if the farmers will win. They find themselves leading the fight for the consumer to own what they buy. If they win, it will impact all of us that use cellphones and automobiles.

The Cold Blue

In 1943, at the height of the bombing war, a film director named William Wyler took a team to England. They were capturing footage for a documentary on the Memphis Belle, one of the first B-17 to complete enough missions for the crew to come home.

The extra footage, including footage filmed on bases in England and on bombing missions over Germany, was sent to the National Archive and forgotten. It was found 70 years later.

Completely restored in a digital frame by frame effort and rendered in 4K, the footage was used to create a new documentary. Surviving pilots and crew in their 90s are interviewed and provide commentary and voice over.

The mix of their memories and the vivid footage that looks like it was recorded create a historical documentary that immerses the viewer in a different time and place.

HBO has it. Clips and trailer can be found on YouTube.