Predicting 2014

I don’t have a crystal ball and haven’t thrown the I Ching, so I can’t really say what will happen. but Mark Bittman had an amusing column in yesterday’s New York Times about years ending in four.  Bittman seems to be of the opinion that nothing much that is good happens during such years, but we can hope that he just has a selective memory.

Bittman begins with 1944, but I’ll add 1914.  That was the year Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia to begin World War I. On the plus side, the Panama Canal opened and the Boston Braves won the World Series.
Bittman writes

1944 Those of us who don’t remember this year are lucky; a soldier cited in Rick Atkinson’s brilliantly horrifying saga of the last two years of the war in Europe, “The Guns at Last Light,” quotes King Lear: “The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ ” The end of the war was in sight; getting there was the trick, and millions were killed in the interval. Things have not been this bad since.

1954 If there was a golden era of United States foreign policy, it ended here, as Eisenhower warned against involvement in Vietnam while espousing the domino theory. Good: Joe McCarthy’s power began to ebb. Not good: The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1964 The last year of the baby boom was mind-blowing. In the 28 months beginning that January, Bob Dylan made five of the best albums of the era — and there were the Beatles.

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, and Lyndon Johnson single-handedly sent everyone into a tizzy by signing the Civil Rights Act, sending more “advisers” to Vietnam, talking about bombing North Vietnam and proposing the Great Society. Huh? The first anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and draft-card burnings took place. Pot smoking officially began. (Not really, but sorta.)

1964 was also the year my husband graduated from high school.  I’ll call that a plus.

Skipping to 1994

Whoa: Not only did Nelson Mandela not spend his life in jail, but he became president. The Brady Law went into effect, and Bill Clinton signed the assault weapons ban. (It expired in 2004.) O. J. Simpson spurred a national obsession. Four bombers were convicted of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

Reagan was implicated in the Iran-contra cover-up, but it seemed more important to torture the Clintons over a bad real estate investment. (Still, Paula Jones wasn’t the Republicans’ fault, was she?) Clinton fired Joycelyn Elders for discussing masturbation.

The first credit default swap was created. Nearly everyone in Rwanda became either a killer or a victim, or so it seemed. And there was that messy thing in “the former Yugoslavia.”

Netscape Navigator was released.

1994 was an important year for me.  We got married and I moved to Boston.  Thomas Menino was mayor but not yet The Mayor.

Which brings us to 2004.

2004  Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic convention and there seemed reason for hope; then John Kerry went windsurfing and W., incredibly, became president again (what were 62 million of us thinking?) several months after endorsing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Massachusetts had already legalized. (By 2013, even Utah is on the right side of this issue.) W. also promised to improve education and access to health care; we all know how that worked out. Lance Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France; we all know how that worked out, too.

And also in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years ending the mythical curse of Babe Ruth.

So, 2014.  I know what I hope for:  the Democrats retain control of the Senate and, at a minimum, creep closer to a majority in the House. I hope the ACA enrolls so many people who like their benefits that we don’t have to listen to Ted Cruz reading “green eggs and ham” again.  I hope, though it seems unlikely, that we get tax and immigration reform.  I hope that President Obama has a better year. And I hope everyone comes home safely from Afghanistan.  I wish Marty Walsh all the best as he becomes mayor and I hope that Michelle Wu gives up her crazy idea of voting for Bill Linehan for City Council president and picks Tito Jackson instead.  Most of all, I hope that all of us have a safe and healthy year.

2014

Virginia Sweet and Henry Allingham

Today, forty years ago, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.  In the last few days two pioneering pilots, one from World War I and the other from World War II have died.

VIRGINIA SWEET

Virginia Sweet’s obituary as published in the Boston Globe is short so here it is in its entirty.

Inspired by a story she read as a young girl about Amelia Earhart’s trans-Atlantic flight, Virginia Sweet became a pioneering female aviator in her own right.

She was a pilot with the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, ferrying every imaginable type of military aircraft from factories to air bases during World War II to free male pilots for combat overseas.

Sometimes Ms. Sweet was assigned to fly shot-up, barely functional aircraft in for repair. Thirty-eight of her fellow female fliers were killed during duty.

After the war, when these Rosie the Riveters of the skies no longer were needed, the nation essentially turned its back on Ms. Sweet and hundreds of Women’s Airforce Service Pilots like her.

The longtime Schenectady resident died July 12 at 88, two weeks after President Obama signed a law that offered recognition and Congressional Gold Medals, the highest award Congress can give to a civilian, to the WASP fliers.

Ms. Sweet prided herself on a five-decade flying record without an accident

Henry Allingham was one of the few veterans of World War I still alive when he died at aged 113.  The New York Times obituary tells his story.

An iconic figure to many in Britain, Mr. Allingham did wartime service including stints on land, in the air and at sea. In 1915, he flew as an observer and gunner in the Royal Naval Air Service, hunting zeppelins over the North Sea. He was aboard one of the Royal Navy ships that fought in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, in which Britain lost 14 ships and 6,000 seamen.

Mr. Allingham was born in London in 1896. He lost his father to tuberculosis the next year. After his mother also died, he was raised by a grandmother. He became a trainee maker of surgical instruments before moving into the motor trade, training as a mechanic. After his wartime service, he worked until retirement for the Ford Motor Company. Judged to be too old to serve in combat in World War II, he was assigned to a project that sought to neutralize German magnetic mines.

The Associated Press  news account of Mr. Allingham’s death has this wonderful account

He spent the war’s first months refitting trucks for military use, but when his mother died in June 1915, he decided to join after seeing a plane circling a reservoir in Essex.

Only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane, Allingham and other airmen set out from England on motorized kites made with wood, linen, and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil, or engine grease to block the cold.

“To be honest, all the planes were so flimsy and unpredictable – as well as incapable of carrying large fuel loads – at the start of the war that both British and German pilots would immediately turn back rather than face each other in the skies if they did not enjoy height supremacy,’’ Allingham would later write.

As a mechanic, Allingham’s job was to maintain the rickety craft. He also flew as an observer on a biplane. At first, his weaponry consisted of a standard issue Lee Enfield .303 rifle – sometimes two. Parachutes weren’t issued. He fought in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of World War I. He served on the Western Front.

We owe Virginia Sweet and Henry Allingham not only for their service during war, but for their part in advancing aviation.  As anyone who plays Sid Meir’s Civilization knows:  you have to have flight before you can get rocketry.