Wednesday, February 24, 2021



READERS WEEK: Some comments and some pics . . .


Steve M drew my attention to not having fully redacted Count P's full name in yesterday's Readers Write post about names. I have now corrected that . . . mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.



Whilst on the topic of Readers Writing, I also omitted to mention that Graham E had sent me a response to my gripe as to why no one had yet made a film out of the Isaac Asimov Foundation series of books.  Apparently it is happening.


Graham regularly sends me snippets of information and items of interest, so much so that I sometimes save them and post them in a group in a segment which, in his honour is designated The G Spot.

From wikipedia:

The Foundation series is a science fiction book series written by American author Isaac Asimov. First published as a series of short stories in 1942–50, and subsequently in three collections in 1951–53, for thirty years the series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Asimov began adding new volumes in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. The additions made reference to events in Asimov's Robot and Empire series, indicating that they were also set in the same fictional universe.

The premise of the stories is that, in the waning days of a future Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon spends his life developing a theory of psychohistory, a new and effective mathematical sociology. Using statistical laws of mass action, it can predict the future of large populations. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second empire arises. Although the inertia of the Empire's fall is too great to stop, Seldon devises a plan by which "the onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little" to eventually limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To implement his plan, Seldon creates the Foundations—two groups of scientists and engineers settled at opposite ends of the galaxy—to preserve the spirit of science and civilization, and thus become the cornerstones of the new galactic empire.

One key feature of Seldon's theory, which has proved influential in real-world social science, is the uncertainty principle: if a population gains knowledge of its predicted behavior, its self-aware collective actions become unpredictable.


Here is Graham's email to me:

Hi Mr O,

Noticed you mentioned the Foundation series this morning......

Prayers answered

Foundation is an upcoming American science fiction television series based on the book series of the same name by Isaac Asimov and produced by David S. Goyer for Apple TV+. In January 2021, Goyer stated “...with Foundation we can tell the story, hopefully, over the course of eighty episodes; eighty hours, as opposed to trying to condense it all into two or three hours for a single film”. Foundation is set to premiere in 2021

On June 22, 2020, as part of its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple released a teaser trailer for the series. Apple also announced that the series will premiere in Autumn 2021.


Mr G

Thanks, Graham, I am looking forward to watching it.  I remeber being right into Asimov sci fi in my uni days.


The following pics and text were sent to me by John P, thanks John . . . 


300-year-old library tool that enabled a researcher to have seven 
books open at once, yet conveniently nearby 
(Palafoxiana Library, Puebla).

350-year-old pocket watch carved from a single Colombian 

In 1955, this small electric narrow gauge train was installed in New 
York’s Holland Tunnel to monitor traffic speed.

A British couple sleeps inside a "Morrison shelter” used as 
protection from collapsing homes during the WWII 'Blitz' bombing 
raids. March 1941.

Philco Predicta Television from the late 1950s.

This car is a French 'Delahaye 175s roadster', introduced at the Paris 
motor show in 1949. Only one was ever made. it was recently sold at 
auction for around five million dollars.

Kodak K-24 camera, used for aerial photography during WW2 by the 

Motorised roller-skate salesman in California, 1961.

A rail zeppelin and a steam train near the railway platform. Berlin, 
Germany, 1931.

Soviet peasants listen to the radio for the first time, 1928.

One wheel motorcycle, Germany, 1925.

The open side view of an old adding machine.

FBI's fingerprint files, 1944.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

READERS WEEK: Readers Write . . .


An email from Tom B in response to the Quote of the Day by Satchel Paige: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” –

Good evening Otto,

There is a film produced by and starring Clint Eastwood called “The Mule”. There is a song in the movie written by Toby Keith with a line that says, “Ask yourself how old you would be if you didn’t know the day you were born.” Pretty cool movie and song.

Stay safe,

Tim B

Thanks Tim.

I saw that film and enjoyed it.

Some quotes on the topic . . .


A few weeks ago during the themed “Johnson Week”, one of the posts looked at the origin of “Johnson” as a term for the male organ.

Byter Steve M sent me an email:

G’day Otto,

Ref Bytes 8th February.

I am not sure about the swear words and references to anatomies, but I have a friend who we call The Count (his real name is Stephen P##) and this is how his nickname came about.

Stephen used to be a director of one of Australia’s largest suppliers of a particular product I sold in my business. He left them to work for a major competitor, which put him in ‘the bad books’.

I arrived at the conference with Stephen a few months later and we eventually split up and started chatting to various groups of people we knew. Stephen’s original employers (my suppliers) called me over and said some very derogatory things about him... calling him by the C word.

Later that morning, I found Stephen again and said, ‘I didn’t know that you had Royal blood.’

‘I don’t,’ he said, surprised.

‘Well, that’s not what your ex employers just said, coz they asked me if I was doing business with that Count P##!’

That is a true story actually (I have used SP’s real name [which I changed - Otto] and I think he may be a Bytes subscriber). Now everyone calls him a silly old Count, and his wife The Countess!

Steve m

Thanks, Steve.

Steve’s comments are a good segue for me to repost one of my favourite limericks:

Ethnologists up with the Sioux
Wired ‘Send two punts, one canoe.’
The answer next day
Said, "Girls on the way,
But what in the hell's a 'panoe'?"


Readers may recall the very funny poem by Roy Jerden called “Redneck Christmas”. Those who want to read or revisit it can do so by clicking on:

It inspired Tim B to send me an email:

Well Otto, yer done donnit agin. I’m from Alabama and I shore did love that there poem. Seriously, I did enjoy it, and it did in fact remind of Home. I still have a hundred acres in Alabama with a cabin on it and it seems like every time I go over there, there is one more trailer on a lot down the street. I don’t think the kids move away from their parents, they just buy a trailer and put it in the back yard.

A guy from Georgia, true story here, hit the lottery and when they asked him what he was going to do with the money, he said, “buy a double wide and move to Alabama”, and I think that’s exactly what he did. God, I love the South and the people in it.

Now Y’all stay safe Otto, yer hear, I’m fixin to git ready fer bed.

Tim B
p.s. We lived with my grandparents in Flea Hop, Alabama, real community, when my Dad went to Korea in 1952. We had no indoor bathroom and used the outhouse behind the smoke house. It sure makes you appreciate the conveniences we have today, especially a warm bathroom on a cold winter morning. 😊

Thanks, Tim.

Your comments remind me that I too grew up with an outdoor toilet, or what in Oz was (and is) colloquially referred to as the “dunny”. I well remember walking barefoot on damp grass to go at night by the light of the moon, stepping on slugs and snails, trying to hold one’s breath for the duration.

Tim, following on from the comments in your email, here is an item for you:

Did you hear that the Governor’s mansion in Alabama burned down?

Almost took out the whole trailer park.




Monday, February 22, 2021



READERS WEEK: A bit of lost history captured by Kodak...

Thanks to John P for sending me the pics and text below of bygone American days . . . 

Thanks John.

A bit of lost history captured by Kodak...


Cowboys around the Hoodlum Wagon, Spur Ranch, Texas , 1910
Additional comment:
When a single chuck wagon could not carry all of the outfit’s gear, ranches added a second wagon, known as a ‘bed wagon’ or ‘hoodlum wagon’. Generally they were lighter than the standard chuck wagon, and also carried extra wood, water and cooking equipment. Two-wheeled hoodlum wagons, pulled behind the chuck wagon, came to be known as ‘trail pups’.


Judging by the saddle style, this unidentified cowboy was working in the late 1870s or 1880s. 
In his holster, he carries a Colt model 1873 single action revolver with hard rubber grips, and he has looped his left arm around a Winchester model 1873 carbine in a saddle scabbard. 
On the back of the photo is the light pencil inscription "Indian fighter."

Snow Tunnel ~ On the Ouray and Silverton Toll Rd ~ Colorado ~ 1888

Thankful someone took the time to photograph this type of beauty - April 1937. 
Buttermilk Junction, Martin County , IN.

1887 – West Center Street, Anaheim, California 


In 1906, a massive magnitude 7.9 earthquake ruptured the entire San Andreas Fault in Northern California  
That is a huge running crack in the ground. 
Now they are building houses right on the line as fast as the boards can be delivered. 

This is what real cowboys looked like in 1887. 
Not as fancy as on TV, huh!

Some of the toughest, bravest people we know of. 
They gave it their all to go west and start a new life. 
This wagon train is in eastern Colorado in 1880.

This moose team belonged to W.R. (Billy/Buffalo Bill) Day. 
They were found by a Metis near Baptiste Lake in 1910 and were 
reared by bottle and broken to drive by Mr. Day at Athabasca Landing 
during the winter of 1910. 
Mr. Day and the moose team hauled mail and supplies.

In the American Civil War, soldiers were required to have at least four opposing front teeth, so that they could open a gunpowder pouch. Some draftees had their front teeth removed to avoid service. 



Lulu Parr – 
Her skill with the gun caught the attention of Pawnee Bill, who signed her to his show in 1903. 
She left that show but came back in 1911. 
By that time, Pawnee Bill had joined Buffalo Bill's show. 
Buffalo Bill was so in awe of Lulu's willingness to ride unbroken ponies that he presented her with an ivory-handled Colt single-action revolver, engraved with 
"Buffalo Bill Cody to Lulu Parr—1911." 
View from the driver's seat of a 40 mule team. 
These rigs were used to haul Borax out of Boron, CA and then loaded onto railroads for manufacturing. 

Hoops had to be removed before taking your seat in a carriage and then they were hooked onto the back of the carriage.

Omaha Board of Trade in Mountains near Deadwood, SD April 26, 1889. 
It was created in 1889 by Grabill, John C. H., photographer. 
The picture presents procession of stagecoaches loaded 
with passengers coming down a mountain road


A stunning photograph from 1862. 
The image shows a horse-drawn Civil War ambulance crew 
removing the wounded from a battlefield.


Sunday, February 21, 2021


“Following conversations with the Duke, the Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of the royal family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.”

- Part of the Buckingham Palace announcement that Prince Harry and spouse aren’t returning to the The Firm and therefore lose the patronages etc

“We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

- Part of the statement issued by Harry and wife in response.



Readers, today starts another Readers’ Week, both because I still have readers’ items to post and because I have received some interesting emails in the last week. Hope you enjoy and keep sending.


The first cab off the rank is Steve M’s email responding to yesterday’s post about the last man hanged in Australia, Ronald Ryan in 1967, and Derek Bentley, the mentally challenged “Let him have it” defendant who was hanged at 19 in 1953 and posthumously pardoned.

Steve has been actively supporting the Victims’ Support Group, parents who have lost children through homicide, and indeed donated the proceeds of one of his novels (The Skinny Girl, about DV) to that organisation.

His views and comments may not be shared by everyone.

Gandhi once said: 

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Against that, Barack Obama stated:

“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes–mass murder, the rape and murder of a child so heinous that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment.” 

(The Audacity of Hope 2006)

The issue is complex and not clear cut . . .
Are there circumstances in which members of society forfeit their right to remain a part of it?
Does the State have a moral right to kill a person who for killing someone?
If one objects on the ground of cruelty, is it any less cruel to incarcerate the inmate? Recent reports are that Port Arthur mass murderer Martin Bryant, detained in solitary since 1996, has become an obese, disturbed, suicidal individual.


Steve’s email:

What an interesting Bytes today, Otto. Thank you. Very thought provoking. In this technological age where science is more proven than ever before and with the introduction of DNA, there is less chance of someone being executed wrongly because of an incorrect verdict .

There are cases in Australia for instance, heinous murders where you would be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees that the foul, disgusting people who murdered Janine Balding, Ebony Simpson and Anita Cobby (for example) should not be put to death. Instead, as Peter Simpson famously said on the steps of the court after his daughter’s killer was sentenced – He got bed and breakfast, we got a life sentence.

The true measure of fair sentencing is the public’s expectation, and it is there that the Justice System has it all wrong. Generally speaking, I believe that most of us don’t care about the rehabilitation of vile murderers, paedophiles, rapists and the like – lock them away, shove a cup of water and a tin of cold baked beans under their cell door twice a day and forget about them. The world is a much better place without them as they contribute nothing to society – would they if they were rehabilitated? Who cares?

They had their chance and failed to take it – many of them, several times over. Don’t give them another chance, for they all know the difference between right and wrong.

That is real justice - justice for their victims and their victims’ families, who do not get a second chance.

The lawyer in you may well say that emotions should not interfere with sentencing, and again, that is where the Justice system has it wrong, in my opinion. Emotions mean everything, because they come from surviving family members whose lives have been shattered and can never be repaired. How about we think about rehabilitating them?

The old argument that I am talking about ‘revenge’ could well come to the fore, but I would argue that am talking about fairness and reasonable expectation.

Look forward to a debate with you and Thomas one day soon, over lunch.

I will leave with the famous quote from Mr Bumble, no offence intended:

"The law is a ass — a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

With best regards always,

Steve m


Thanks, Steve.


Some facts and information about the death penalty:

In the US, drug manufacturer Pfizer announced in 2016 that it would no longer sell any of its products for use in lethal injections. They joined over 20 other drug companies who had made the same decision. With Pfizer leaving the market, there are no FDA-approved drugs currently available for use in the process. States have countered by using less-than-reputable suppliers and attempting to keep the details hidden from public view. This has caused delays in procuring the new drugs, as well as concerns about their effectiveness.

Around 621 BC, the lawgiver Draco established a particularly brutal code of laws in ancient Greece. The death penalty was prescribed for many offenses, both big and small. Everything from stealing a cabbage to killing your neighbor resulted in a gruesome end. In fact, we still use the term “draconian” to refer to a type of brutal or unjust law.

A 2009 US survey found that 88% of the country’s top criminologists don’t believe the death penalty is a proven deterrent to homicide. In addition, 87% believe the repeal of the death penalty would have no effect whatsoever on the murder rate.

According to Amnesty International, 20 countries are known to have performed executions in 2019. There are countries which do not publish information on the use of capital punishment, most significantly China and North Korea, Amnesty International having provided estimates for same.

Excluding China, three countries were responsible for more than 80% of executions - Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. According to Amnesty's figures, China consistently executes more people than any other country.

Amnesty International recorded at least 657 executions in 20 countries worldwide in 2019. The total was a 5% decrease from the at least 690 executions recorded in 2018 and was down 60% from the 25-year-high total of 1,634 reported executions in 2015.

As in previous years, the execution total does not include the estimated thousands of executions carried out in China, which treats data on the death penalty as a state secret. Excluding China, 86% of all reported executions took place in just four countries:
Iran (251)
Saudi Arabia (184)
Iraq (100+)
Egypt (32+).

The 22 executions in the U.S. were the sixth most of any nation, although Vietnam’s and North Korea’s execution totals are not known.

In the industrialised world, only the US, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan still use capital punishment. While still legal in South Korea, there is currently a moratorium.

The percentage of Americans who support the death penalty has fallen from a high of 80% in 1996 to its current level of 49%, versus 42% who are opposed.

The last woman executed in Australia was Jean Lee (1919-1951), hanged with her two male companions at Pentridge prison in Melbourne, Victoria for the murder of 73 year old dwelling house landlord and bookmaker, William "Pop" Kent. On the morning of her execution she became hysterical and had to be sedated. She fainted when the executioner came to her cell and she was strapped semi-conscious to a chair. She was dropped through the trapdoor strapped to the chair. The situation was made more bizarre by the hangman and his assistant wearing large felt hats and goggles, a strange Australian practice.

Jean Lee

The last woman executed in Britain was Ruth Ellis (1926 – 1955), a British escort and nightclub hostess who was hanged in 1955 after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.

She has been the subject of a Bytes post in 2014, which can be accessed by clicking on:

Ruth Ellis

The last woman executed in the US was Lisa Montgomery (1968-2021), who received a lethal injection at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, after a last-minute stay of execution was lifted by the US Supreme Court. The case attracted attention because her lawyers argued she was mentally ill and suffered serious abuse as a child.

The 52-year-old strangled a pregnant woman before cutting out and kidnapping her baby in Missouri in 2004. Her victim, 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, bled to death but her baby was safely recovered and returned to her family.

Montgomery was the first female federal inmate to be put to death by the US government in 67 years.

Lisa Montgomery

The last man executed in Australia was Ronald Ryan, in 1967.

Ronald Ryan

On 13 August 1964 Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen were simultaneously executed in separate prisons, Strangeways prison in Manchester and Walton prison in Liverpool, the last persons to be executed in Britain. They had bludgeoned a man to death to steal £10. They were unlucky with their timing. Two months after they were executed Labour came to power, bringing a Commons vote to suspend capital punishment for five years in the 1965 Murder Act, a move made permanent in 1969.

Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen

The last man executed in the US was Dustin John Higgs (1972-2021), executed on January 16 2021 in Indiana for his role in the January 1996 murders of three women in Maryland.

His case, conviction, and execution were the subject of multiple controversies. The main contention was that Higgs did not personally kill any of the three victims, but waited in a vehicle nearby. The man who shot them, Willis Mark Haynes, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole plus 45 years. The prosecution argued that although Higgs did not kill anyone, he was the ringleader, ordering and bullying Haynes. Higgs and his defense team maintained his innocence to the end, arguing that although he was involved, he was merely a witness, and was set up by Haynes and another witness, Victor Gloria. In 2012, Haynes swore in an affidavit that Higgs did not force or threaten him into killing any of the victims.

Because the murders had happened on federal land, the offences were treated federally. Higgs was executed via lethal injection on January 16, 2021, the thirteenth and final person executed by the federal government during the presidency of Donald Trump, when federal executions returned after a 17-year hiatus.

The execution was also controversial in taking place in a “lame duck period’, the period after another official is elected but has not yet taken office.

On January 16, 2021, Higgs, 48, was executed by lethal injection of pentobarbital. His last words were "I'd like to say I am an innocent man. I did not order the murders."

Dustin John Higgs


Saturday, February 20, 2021



"Let him have it."


The issue of capital punishment came up at work yesterday, with staff discussions about the last person executed in Australia, Ronald Ryan, and the case of Derek Bentley, who was dubiously executed in Great Britain in 1953 at the age of 19.

I have previously posted about Ryan's execution, that post can be read by clicking on:

There are very good grounds for believing that Ryan was not guilty of the murder of the prison officer killed in his jail break, that the officer was in fact killed by a shot from the rifle of one of the other prison officers, and that Ryan was wrongly hanged.

In considering the death penalty, it is also worth revisiting a post from June 2, 2011, about the execution of Derek Bentley. That story, which was in the context of a look at a movie about it, is reposted below.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Movie Moments: #47

Let Him Have It (1991)


I haven’t seen this film but hope to one day do so. The film, a true story, is credited with keeping the case depicted in the public eye and of swaying public opinion against capital punishment.


Derek Bentley, aged 19, had an intellectual age of 11, was illiterate, an epileptic and according to psychiatrists at the time, was also borderline retarded. In November 1952 he and fellow South London youth Christopher Craig were detected by the police when breaking into a warehouse. Craig was armed with a handgun. After Bentley allegedly yelled “Let him have it, Chris”, Craig wounded one policeman and killed another. At the subsequent trial, Craig, aged 16 at the time of the murder, was too young to be sentenced to death. Bentley’s defence team maintained that if the words “Let him have it” had been spoken, it was in the sense of surrender the firearm. The prosecution maintained it was a command to shoot. At that time there was no diminished responsibility defence. There was, however, a mandatory death penalty. Bentley was found guilty, an appeal was dismissed and he was hanged on 28 January 1953, He was still aged 19 at the time of his execution. He would have been 20 on 30 June 1953. Craig, the shooter, served 10 years and was released, living a law abiding life thereafter.

Following continuing public dissatisfaction with the verdict and the execution, headed by Bentley’s sister Iris, Bentley was granted a Royal pardon in 1993, 2 years after the movie was made. Iris continued agitating in that this did not quash the conviction. In 1998 the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction on the ground that he had not had a fair trial because of errors in the summing up by the trial judge, Lord Goddard, and his further misdirection to the jury. This was not equivalent to innocence and, had he still been alive, he would have had to face a retrial.

In 1970 Lord Goddard had said that he thought Bentley was going to be reprieved, that he should have been, and was critical of the Home secretary David Maxwell Fyfe for not doing so. In 1998, following the Court of Appeal verdict, Christopher Craig apologised to the families of the killed police officer and of Derek Bentley, adding “A day does not go by when I don't think about Derek and now his innocence has been proved with this judgment.”

The decision came too late for Iris, who died before the verdict was delivered/


Lawyer: Between the age of 11 and your present age, 16, how many fire arms have you had?
Chris Craig: Forty or fifty.
[jury react]
Chris Craig: I, uh, used to swap them with friends at school.
Judge: Why did you swap them?
Chris Craig: Because I liked them.
Lawyer: Did having them make you feel like one of the gangsters in the films?
Chris Craig: Yes, sir.
Lawyer: And how often did you carry them around with you?
Chris Craig: Every day.
Judge: Forty or fifty do you mean?
Chris Craig: Well I didn't carry them all at the same time, sir.


Capital punishment was abolished for murder in 1969 in Great Britain and in 1973 in Northern Ireland. Although not applied since 1964, the date of the last execution in the United Kingdom, the death penalty remained on the statute book for certain other offences until 1998.

From Wikipedia:

Capital punishment has been formally abolished in Australia. It was last used in 1967, when Ronakld Ryan was hanged in Victoria. Ryan was the last of 114 people executed in the 20th century and prior to his execution Queensland and New South Wales had already abolished the death penalty for murder. Brenda Hodge became the last person sentenced to death in August 1984. Her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and she was paroled in 1995. It was removed as a punishment for murder in all states by 1984 when the state of Western Australia abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and the next year NSW removed death as a possible punishment for treason, piracy and arson of naval dockyards.

Between Ryan's execution and 1984, occasional death sentences were passed in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, but were commuted to life imprisonment. In 2010 Federal legislation prohibited capital punishment in all Australian states and territories.

Additional material:


Derek Bentley

Christopher Craig

Christopher Craig arrives at Croydon Magistrates Court on a stretcher to face murder charges.

11th December 1952: Detective Sergeant Fairfax, who was wounded during the killing of another policeman by Christopher Craig, who due to his age was given a life sentence, while his accomplice Derek Bentley was hanged.

Lord Goddard, Lord Chief Justice of England 1946 – 1958

Derek Bentley was hanged at 9am on 28th January 1953. The hangman, Albert Pierrepoint, wrote about meeting Bentley on the morning of his death. He said:


“When you go to hang a boy of 19 years old, it does not matter that he is tall and broad-shouldered, for at nine o’clock on the morning he is to die, he still looks only a boy. And so did Derek Bentley, when the sickly green door of the condemned cell was abruptly whisked open for me on January 28, 1953. He sat at his prison table, watching the doorway. 

When I walked in with my assistant and the group of silent prison officials crowding behind us, I believe that because we were all dressed so normally, in everyday lounge suits, young Derek Bentley thought then, at that moment, we had come with his reprieve. 

His face glowed with an instant of eagerness. Then he saw the yellow leather strap in my right hand, and his eyes fixed upon it. The sight of this wiped all the hope from his expression. He stood up very slowly and clumsily. For all his youthfulness, he was the tallest person in that pale little room. 

In some ways the wait in the Wandsworth death cell had been better for Bentley than for many murderers who went before him. Until the very last moment, a reprieve seemed possible.”


As Bentley was led towards the rope, he sobbed his last words, “I didn’t say it. I didn’t tell Chris to shoot the policeman.”