How Did I Miss That? Cherokee Nation Teams Excel at Robotics World Championship

The Cherokee Nation are covering the cost of nine robotics teams at the world championships, Cornell introduces a bird app and Trump just being Trump.

The Cherokee Phoenix reported that the Cherokee Nation is covering the $850 filing fee for nine—count ‘em, nine—robotics teams from six public schools within Cherokee territory that qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, April 19-25.

Qualification for the world competition was based upon placing in the state competition.

The Phoenix report focused on the team from Bell Elementary School in Bell, Oklahoma. Bell fielded a majority Indian team with Arik Teehee, Britt Littledeer, Jaron Proctor, Tucker Peetree, and Rachel Drywater. The students are coached by second grade teacher Kimberley Ford and her husband Trent.

The kids from the Cherokee Nation are competing with more than 10,000 teams from 32 countries. The Phoenix quoted eighth grader Britt Littledeer explaining he has been going out for the robotics team since the fifth grade because he likes “building all kinds of contraptions.” It’s Littledeer’s second trip to the world competition. He sees robotics as a way to his goal of working in medical engineering.

“Robotics?” My Cousin Ray Sixkiller whistled his appreciation. “When I was that age, we went out for rodeo.”


Turning from engineering to biology, I see Cornell University is seeking to turn birdwatching from a hobby to a scientific project.

Birders are nothing if not serious. In tribal and national and state parks you meet a lot of birders, usually recognizable by the binoculars they wear like a fashion accessory. Don’t even think about interfering when you see two of them get in an argument about the identity of a bird.

As more bird species threaten to go the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon, the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology has created a way of using the seriousness of birders to crowdsource information about the status of bird species.

Ebird allows anybody to contribute sightings and the scientists to aggregate the resulting data, feeding into the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN) for all of North America. AKN in turn feeds into the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

Cornell’s latest tool to that end is a free smartphone app called Merlin that helps to identify birds. Merlin will give you a list of possibilities based on answering a few questions or you can cut to the chase and use your smartphone to take a picture. However you arrive at the identity, ebird wants a record of what you have sighted.

“I guess this means,” Cousin Ray smirked, “that Cornell University is for the birds?”


The Natural Resources Defense Council had to sue the incoming Trump administration, which had “frozen” all the decisions on new listings under the Endangered Species Act one day before the rusty patched bumble bee was to be listed. Upon being sued, the government relented and listed the bumble bee.

Cousin Ray reminded me that even though the Endangered Species Act kept the bee from getting stung, the Act is on the Trump hit list to be gutted if not repealed.

I thought this other bee story was about a minor-league baseball team, the Salt Lake Bees. But no, ESPN reported that the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres were in a spring tune up game when they were strafed by a swarm of bees. The pitcher, the batter, the catcher, and the ump all hit the deck. It was only a bee delay, and the Rockies went on to beat the Padres 10-5.

Cousin Ray pointed out that it was only a spring training game, so “the loss should not sting the Padres that much.”


Beyond the birds and the bees, Crayola announced the color to be “retired” this year: dandelion. The iconic crayons went on the market in 1903 with eight colors. From eight, they went crazy. Before long, you could buy a box with 120 colors, including periwinkle, burnt sienna, outrageous orange and wild watermelon.

Some colors got retired for being politically incorrect. There was “flesh” only for white folks. Crayola also ditched “Indian red,” but claimed it was about a dye from India. Flesh went away in 1962; Indian red hung around until 1999, when it was pulled in response to complaints by teachers.


The Telegraph reported that North Korea pays enough attention to western media to get offended. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), in an interview with MSNBC’s Greta van Susteren, referred to Kim Jong-un as a “crazy fat kid.”

The Korean Central News Agency brought up McCain’s statement to call it “a grave provocation” and “little short of a declaration of war.”

The North Koreans proved once more they do not understand how things work where the press is not controlled by the government. Naturally, van Susteren reported the North Korean reaction as news….and replayed McCain’s remarks.

Cousin Ray reminded me that the crazy fat kid runs a nuclear armed nation that is working on a missile capable of reaching the People’s Republic of California. “There is no truth to the rumor,” Cousin Ray assured me, “that President Trump will only defend California if they meet certain conditions.”

That was a relief coming from the man who puts conditions on Article Five of the NATO Treaty, “an attack on one is an attack on all.”


ABC News reported that Judge Gonzalo Curial, who Donald Trump claimed had to be biased because he was “Mexican,” approved a settlement where Trump will pay $25 million to the people swindled by Trump “University.”

“Students” will get about 90 percent of their money back. The “Mexican” judge was born in Indiana and Trump had promised he would never settle the case and even threatened to reopen the school.

Note that if Judge Curial wanted to hurt Trump, he would not have approved the settlement. Then one after another of Trump’s victims, er, students would appear in a public trial testifying about how the fake university ripped them off.


The New York Times reported that for profit college stocks went on a tear when Trump was elected and he showed why when he appointed Betsy DeVos—who holds investments in for profit colleges—Secretary of Education.

The Obama administration had targeted some 800 schools for revoking federal student loan eligibility based on graduates not finding employment. Virtually all the schools on the government blacklist were for profit. DeVos is expected to reprieve those schools and also to reverse the Obama decision to shut down the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the organization formed to cover for schools not accredited by traditional methods.


The Washington Post reported that First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner took a fact-finding trip to Iraq with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

At 36, Kushner is past his prime years for serving in the military, so he will have to learn about war at altitude. In those years when many young men would be serving, Kushner was establishing his place in Daniel Golden’s book, The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates. Golden claimed that Kushner was admitted to Harvard after his father contributed $2.5 million to the university. He went on to graduate school at New York University after his father contributed $3 million.

Cousin Ray was smirking. “Maybe he could have gotten into the Marine Corps if daddy had spread some dough among the brass.”


The Telegraph reported at length on the war of words between Spain and the U.K. that has erupted since the Brexit vote. The issue is sovereignty over Gibraltar, the rocky peninsula that overlooks the narrow strait between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The war of words has gone so far as to threaten a war of bullets.

Britain has had Gibraltar since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Spain has always wanted it back and has sought to insert the status of Gibraltar into the Brexit negotiations.

To get the U.K.’s attention, Spain has dropped its opposition to an independent Scotland joining the European Union.

To get Spain’s attention, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon threatened to go to war, citing the precedent of the war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

In the Falklands conflict, Spain abstained on the U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an Argentine withdrawal—perhaps with Gibraltar on their mind? Argentina sent commandos to Gibraltar to sink a British ship then, but they were caught before getting it done.

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges called the war over the Falklands “a fight between two bald men over a comb,” and a war over Gibraltar would be as pointless now that air travel and the Suez Canal have destroyed the strategic value of The Rock.


Back on April 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry used a video on Facebook to test a proposed telephone tree for all Russian diplomatic missions:

*Press one for a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent.

*Press two to use the services of Russian hackers.

*Press three to request election interference.

Cousin Ray wanted to know if you press four to have your political opponent poisoned or thrown in jail?


The Chickasaw Times reported that casting calls are being held for the third feature film to be produced by Chickasaw Nation Productions. The Chickasaw Rancher is the true story of Montford T. Johnson (1843-1896), a half-blood Chickasaw citizen who built a cattle empire along the trail named for his friend and business associate Jesse Chisholm. A legendary guide and negotiator between Indians and settlers, Chisholm was a half-blood Cherokee citizen.

I turned away from the computer to look for Cousin Ray for comment. He was across the hall in the guest bedroom, emoting in front of a full-length mirror. No big surprise. Ray always wanted to be Wes Studi.

The Chickasaw Rancher website has a link for the casting calls. Cousin Ray will probably go for the one at the Cherokee casino in Catoosa on April 22. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I don’t think he’s going to become Wes Studi in two weeks.