Interview and Photo of Col. Edward F. Fleming

A couple months ago my great uncle Eddie passed away. He was one of six brothers, among which was my material grandfather. I probably had fewer than 10 occasions to talk with Eddie. But he had a special humor to him that everyone loved. People really gravitated to him. And I loved to be near him at family gatherings as he was sure to make me laugh.

Like all six of his brothers, he served in World War II. They each contributed in different ways and many were involved in heroic and hair-raising action. Every few years I try my hand at Google to see if I can find stories about them. And after Eddie’s death I found one about him, which came with a photograph.

Below is the story that I found on Facebook.  I’m preserving it here with the photo for myself, my friends, my family, and posterity.

Interview with: (Col Edward F. Fleming).
Capt Edward Fleming, 84th FS, 78th FG and several other P-47s were chasing enemy fighters at low altitude over Charters, France. Suddenly flack blew a hole in his right wing. The rudder was damaged and under a lot of pressure, he lost the ability to Bank and turn the aircraft quickly.
Fleming looked up and found himself headed right at Chartres Cathedral!
“I missed the steeple by no more than a foot and a half!” he said.
He was headed in the wrong direction and used all of his strength to turn the P-47 around to fly over the channel back to Duxford with two 84th FS P-47s escorting him back.
Later, looking at the damage, his assistant crew chief said, “I can’t figure out how you got back at all!”
Fleming remembered, “The hole was so big you could stand up under the wing, fit into the hole and look out over the top!”
He was convinced he was going to crash into the Chartres Cathedral and kept thinking…“If I demolish a church will they ever let me into heaven?”
This is the photo that came with the story with Eddie on the left.
Capt. Edward F. Fleming

15 Actors You Didn’t Know Were In Band of Brothers

In the wonderful vacation I just finished I enjoyed watching Band of Brothers during two typhoon days.  It was Clair’s first time seeing it and perhaps my fifth.  In this most recent viewing I was amazed how much of the cast has gone on to great success after that show.  I made mental notes during that viewing and snapped screenshots yesterday.  I’ve been having fun sharing these with people so might as well put them here for posterity. Below are 15 great actors you may not have known were in Band of Brothers.

Jamie Bamber

Jamie BamberShortly after Band of Brothers, Bamber played Lee Adama in Battlestar Gallactica.

Michael Cudlitz

Michael CudlitzCudlitz starred in TNT’s Southland and currently appears in The Walking Dead.

Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy FallonJimmy Fallon was a comedian on Saturday Night Live at the time Band of Brothers was filmed. Now he is instantly recognizable as the host of a late night talk show.

Michael Fassbender

Michael FassbenderFassbender (to the right of Damian Lewis) has had incredible success as a movie star. He appeared in 300, Prometheus, Inglorious Basterds, the X-men series, and 12 Years a Slave.

Stephen Graham

Stephen GrahamStephen Graham is perhaps not as well known as the other actors are now. But I recognized him in Snatch and more recently as Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire.

Colin Hanks

Colin HanksColin Hanks possibly got the role for being the son of Band of Brothers producer Tom Hanks. But he’s gone on to success in his own right as was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work in Fargo.

Tom Hardy

Tom HardyTom Hardy’s career is on fire of late. I loved him in Bronson years ago. But he had roles in two Christopher Nolan films that earned over $200 million in the US market alone: Inception and Dark Knight Rises. He’s about ready to bring Mad Max Rockatansky back to the screen.

Damian Lewis

Damian LewisDamian Lewis is probably more recognizable to most for the other role in which he played an American soldier: Homeland.

Ron Livingston

Ron LivingstonMany saw Livingston in Office Space and Swingers. He pops up every now and again in pleasant supporting roles.

James McAvoy

James McAvoyJames McAvoy was briefly in Band of Brothers. He’s starring in the X-men series (with other Band of Brothers alum Michael Fassbender).

Neal McDonough

Neal McDonoughNeal McDonough followed Band of Brothers with roles in Minority Report and Captain America. As a friend on Facebook pointed out, he’s also “that guy in the Cadillac commercials.”

Simon Pegg

Simon PeggMost people met Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead, a hilarious zombie film he co-wrote. But now he’s banking big checks with recurring roles in the Star Trek and Mission Impossible series.

David Schwimmer

David SchwimmerDavid Schwimmer was the most recognizable actor in the series at the time it aired. Since Band of Brothers aired around the end of the Friends run one could say his career peaked with Band of Brothers. But, then again, no one ever called him “that guy from Band of Brothers.”

Andrew Scott

Andrew ScottAndrew Scott is perhaps not terribly well-known today. But he is starring as Jim Moriarty in Sherlock, one of the best shows currently airing.

Donnie Wahlberg

Donnie WahlbergAt the time Donnie was probably thought of as “Mark Wahlberg’s big brother.” But he’s since appeared in the Saw series and is currently in Blue Bloods.


Protected: Pain In the Neck

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A Violation

I recently had a disturbing conversation with a friend named Lucy*.  Lucy and I have a strange and tenuous connection.  We chat online and have only done so a few times.  We don’t know each other’s last names.  We are veritable strangers.  So it was odd when one morning when I woke up and saw a message from her asking for my help.  She told me a guy did something bad to her.  And that she might need the help of the police.  She wanted someone to talk to and, as you will learn below, she had some reasons for choosing me.

What happened to her is terrible and private and humiliating.  I suppose one of the reasons she came to me is because we are so disconnected–such strangers to each other–that she could tell me something she could not share with her close circle in her home town.  Below is this story. {Read More}


Another Pivot

career-change-blogIts been weeks since I last wrote. So much has transpired that this proper update is due. I will start by saying my sabbatical is finished. My commitments to learn Chinese, develop a big data community, volunteer for Open Data Hong Kong, write, and ponder my next move met with mixed success. As evidenced by the lack of activity on this blog, my writing commitment to writing flagged towards the end. But the other projects generally went well.

{Read More}


Duplicity or Simplicity

ChessI just finished A Thousand Pieces of Gold by Adeline Yen Mah.  It tells the story of the first few emperors of China and the Chinese proverbs those stories spawned.  The book was fantastic, both informative and engaging.  But its tales of history were framed with the author’s twisted and sad reflections on her family life.  Despite loving the book, those family stories made me dislike the author.

Mah gives an account of the duplicitous actions of her step mother, her oldest sister, and her older brother.  She explains that everyone schemed against her.  And in presenting her own sad tale in the backdrop of Chinese history, she asserts that life is a series of machinations and betrayal.  I emphatically disagree.  In fact, I think the people that imagine enemies and ulterior motives are the very ones that create a toxic atmosphere.

The real question I am today asking myself is if our future is better by acknowledging the games people play and becoming better at them.  Or are these games self-defeating?  Would our lives and ambitions be more fulfilled if we spoke directly and honestly and assumed others were doing the same?  Certainly our lives would be simpler if this were true.

{Read More}


Locusts and Humans

LocustDid you know that before they swarm, and ravenously destroy crops, locusts are grasshoppers?  It is true. Before taking flight en masse to travel to, descend on, and mercilessly consume fields, they are harmless, lonesome grasshoppers munching on tiny and unnoticed bits of vegetation. But as those docile grasshoppers multiply, their density increases. When it gets high enough their personal space overlaps and they occasionally bump into each other.

Well scientists have now shown that it is exactly that contact–jostling in confined areas and bumping into others–that turns a pleasant, calm grasshopper into an asshole of biblical proportions. In this way I think humans and locusts are much alike.

{Read More}


One Lesson That Changes Your Life


When I was young I had a lisp.  As a child a lisp is not a serious problem.  But as I entered puberty it became a liability.  I remember my mom sending me to speech therapists with no success.  Then one day I met a therapist that worked at my high school.  In 30 seconds she showed me something that instantly corrected my lisp.  With that new knowledge I went home and practiced my new speech.  I never again lisped.

What she did that no other therapist had tried was use a model to demonstrate to me correct speech. She removed from her bookshelf a molded plastic design of the mouth and tongue. The model was human-sized and bisected vertically. When held from one side it looked like a head. When held from the other side the viewer could peer into the mouth and see positions of the teeth, tongue, and lower jaw. She showed me where a tongue was supposed to be placed when making a proper ‘s’. I could replicate that. I could finally speak normally. I was 15 years old.

I think of how simple the solution was and how strange that it was untried by therapists before. Each person’s cognitive style is different. Previous therapists had given me drills and worked on my psyche and described things in ways that I obviously did not understand. And one person came in with a different approach. A spacial model that resonated with my unique kinesthetic style. And it worked.

This story occurred to me on my way home from Chinese class on Tuesday. We had our first listening quiz and I scored 20%. I know I have one of the best vocabularies among my classmates. And I know my pronunciation is among the best in the class. People see that and they assume I am being falsely modest when I say I do not understand people when they speak Chinese. But Tuesday’s 20% grade shows that my problem is not an inflated sense of modesty.

One of my previous Chinese teachers told me of his own cognitive challenges. He has studied English for 20 years and by any judgment would be called fluent. Yet he shared with me that he only understands about 20% of television news programming. Something about the pace of speech combined with use of unfamiliar political or geographical terms disrupts his understanding. Like me, he hears one word he does not understand and focuses on it. As we focus on that mysterious word, searching in our memory for its definition, we miss entire sentences and lose track of the content. We have a cognitive style that struggles with real time information sprinkled with undefined components.

I see that great linguists listen with soft ears. They are able to hear sentences, casually dismiss the portions they do not understand, and infer the speaker’s meaning. I guess my hard hears–my sharp listening–is a detriment in language study. It is greatly impeding my studies.

So on this past Tuesday afternoon, taking the train home from my morning classes, I remembered my youthful struggles with speech and how a single person instantly corrected my impediment and changed my life forever. Is there an analog for a listening impediment? Is there a person that could explain better to me this idea of soft listening? That could help my reason incorporate unfamiliarity while extracting meaning? I hope so. I have a life to find this person and receive that single lesson.


Benefits of Studying Another Language

LanguageA couple months ago I found this article on the benefits of studying a second language.  Sometimes it helps motivate me when my classes are frustrating.  A few highlights from the article:

  1. Stave off dementia.  Bilingual individuals apparently are likely to stave off dementia by up to five years.
  2. Increased attention.  As those that meditate know, practice concentrating and it is easier to concentrate on all problems.  Language study and the attention required to interpret an unfamiliar language is such an act of concentration.
  3. New views on life.  The article references and example of Japanese but I like this one of Chinese: did you know that the Chinese word for thin (?) includes a component that is used in words that describe disease and sickness?  That shows how much the early Chinese admired their plump friends and family.

In summarizing many of my previous observations and rants, I will offer a few reasons of my own on the benefits of studying a second language:

  1. Exercise your humility.  Learning any language will always introduce you to people fluent in that language.  Comparing your proficiency with theirs is a constant exercise in humility.
  2. Build confidence.  The most accomplished linguists are fearless.  They use every word they know at every opportunity without fear of the listener’s response.  Force yourself to do this and it must translate into life’s other activities.
  3. Round out your intelligence.  Language intelligence is a distinct component of our multi-dimensional intelligence.  Develop it.
  4. Broaden your cultural horizons.  It is veritably impossible to learn a new language without meeting people from different cultures.  Cultural understanding provides an incredible context to history and national politics.

Sabbatical Half-year Report Card

Report CardJust over six months ago my sabbatical began.  This mid-life professional break saw me leave EMC with great trepidation and uncertainty.  I knew this break would be enjoyed but at a great opportunity cost.  But I also knew it could change me in wonderful ways.  So from my sabbatical’s start I was committed not to waste the opportunity.

In early June I started sharing with my friends and family the personal goals for this year-long break.  I wanted to formulate a rough development plan that would prove to myself that a “break” from work could be as productive as employment.  Its been six months since that plan was conceived.  So it is appropriate now to give myself a half-year report card.

Below are my sabbatical projects, a grade, and commentary.

Sabbatical First Half Report Card

Personal development: write one blog a week.  Execution: A-.  Effort: A-.  Except for a weekend or two break I have dedicated some time each week to personal reflection.  I have committed to developing my writing by sharing the observations of that period.

Chinese studies: learn to read, write, and speak.  Execution: B-.  Effort: A+.  Learning Mandarin has been complex, to say the least.  My reading comprehension has soared.  I struggle mightily with listening comprehension.  But my commitment has been strong.  I am surely studying more than most of my classmates.

Big data consultancy: meetings, website, blogging, and network building.  Execution: C+. Effort: B+.  I have presented half a dozen times to business and academic audiences.  My professional blog‘s audience has grown steadily.  I have been invited to join research groups and industry events based on my work.  But building a reputation takes time.  And a consultancy/advisory business would take many more months’ worth of reputation than I originally anticipated.

Exercise.  Execution: B.  Effort: B.  I now attend yoga about three times a week.  I hit the gym one time a week.  I run about 10km a week.  Not a bad regimen.

Open Data volunteer work.  Execution: B.  Effort: B.  I have not been as involved with the Open Data Hong Kong group’s administrative activities as I might have originally liked.  But I have made great strides in building a team of researchers that use ODHK’s data.

Entrepreneurial ambitions.  Execution: C.  Effort: C.  Certainly for the first three months the idea of starting a business was only a shadow of a dream in my head.  Now my energies are focused and I have a shot to create something successful.  I was rudderless for the first four months but feel I am on track now.

Bonus project: big data community.  Execution: A.  Effort: A.  I wanted to develop a network of people interested in big data analytics in Hong Kong.  The work I was doing to build Information Incognita’s readership unexpectedly produced a group of students from three different Hong Kong schools that want to learn about big data.  I started a Google+ community dedicated to Hong Kong Big Data.  It today has 111 members and will have its first meeting next week.

Sabbatical Second Half Projects

I initially planned for this sabbatical to last about a year. That timeline was defined primarily by the one-year diploma curriculum at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Chinese Language School. But the one-year limit is heavily influenced by my dwindling finances.

With about half a year left, I have a few more things I want to accomplish:

  • Continued Chinese study.  My last term will include business discussions and newspapers.  But I sorely need improvement in my listening comprehension.
  • Big Data community.  I would love to run three or four meetings for computer scientists, statisticians, and data hackers in Hong Kong.  Building this network and helping young students may provide its own rewards.
  • Exercise.  I hope to continue getting at least four good workouts a week.  Ideally five or six.
  • The Big Idea.  My business partner and I have started early phases of market research on a business for Asia-based technology companies.  Within six months I will need to qualify or disqualify this idea.  Then it potentially becomes a full-time job.
  • More writing.  I am doing well with this personal blog and Information Incognita.  My plan is to continue contributing once a week to each.  But should other professional writing become important these two blogs may suffer.  But as long as I am writing something I will consider this goal fulfilled.