Seeing Beauty

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Well, we are on our way back to Georgia in the next few days and posts will probably lag by a week or so but will resume then.  

Life isn’t always easy.  It’s not always easy to pick out the beauty in events and circumstances.  While there are many things that make us joyful about returning to Georgia, our hearts are also heavy as we leave behind deeply beloved family here in California.  It won’t be the same.  But we are going to family in Georgia, too.  Life is full of dilemmas and pain.  But it is also full of beauty.  

Perhaps that’s why I love flowers so much and enjoy taking photos of them.  There is something in them that raises the spirit and re-instills hope.  I thought today’s flowers were especially beautiful, and perhaps they were meant for us for this time.  I’d like to think so.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1751, Francis Blandy fell into a coma and died in his home outside London, England. Later that night, Blandy’s daughter Mary offered one of the family’s servants a large sum of money to help her get to France immediately. Mary was forced to flee on her own when he refused, but she was chased down and caught by neighbors who had heard that Blandy had been poisoned.

The servants in the Blandy home had been suspicious of Mary because the unmarried 26-year-old had been having an affair with William Cranstoun, a penniless man with a wife back in Scotland, against her father’s wishes. Cranstoun was determined to get a piece of the Blandy fortune.

Blandy had initially approved of the match, even allowing Cranstoun to live in their house. But when Cranstoun wrote his wife and kindly asked if she wouldn’t mind disavowing their marriage, Mrs. Cranstoun became outraged and caused quite a local stir. Cranstoun was then abruptly tossed out of the house, yet Mary continued to see Cranstoun behind her father’s back.

The couple, frustrated at their inability to touch Mary’s sizeable dowry, decided to find another route to the money. Mary began slipping small amounts of arsenic into her father’s food, slowly poisoning him over a period of months. As Blandy began to suffer from nausea and acute stomach pain, the servants grew suspicious. One found white powder in the bottom of a pan that Mary had used to feed her father. After Blandy eventually died, the cook saw Mary trying to dispose of the white powder and managed to preserve some of it.

Mary was charged with murder and faced trial at Oxford Assizes in March 1752. Doctors testifying for the prosecution agreed that Francis Blandy had been poisoned with arsenic. But the test they used on the powder was rather unscientific: They heated it and smelled the vapors—which everyone agreed was clearly arsenic. It wasn’t until 40 years later that chemists finally developed true toxicology tests for arsenic. But the jury remained convinced, and Mary was sent to the gallows. She told the executioner, “Do not hang me too high, for the sake of decency.”

Not long after Mary was executed, Cranstoun, who had escaped to France, died in poverty.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Pope Innocent VIII condemned cats as evil and thousands of cats were burned. Unfortunately, the widespread killing of cats led to an explosion of the rat population, which exacerbated the effects of the Black Death. 

When Cool Works Overtime

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Have you ever noticed how it is only adults who really worry about how we look and that our clothes and their colors have to be coordinated just right or we’re afraid we’ll look like dorks?  I love that children have no such hang-ups.  

Take today’s photo: my granddaughter has a shirt on underneath her princess dress.  She’s wearing outrageous sunglasses and has a Snow White emblem on the chest of her princess dress.  But she’s cool!  Just one look at that steely stare shows you how cool she is!

I think that maybe tomorrow I’ll find a Batman costume and maybe wear it to the office, or to the grocery store.  Sure, I’d probably get a few strange looks, but I’d be working the cool factor overtime, just like my granddaughter!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1995, former New York Yankees star (and my childhood sports hero) Mickey Mantle died of liver cancer at the age of 63. The Mick” patrolled center field and batted clean-up between 1951 and 1968, and during his tenure, the Yankees won 12 American League pennants and seven World Series championships.

Mantle was born in Oklahoma, in 1931 and grew up in nearby Commerce, playing baseball and football as a youth. With the help of his father, Mutt, and grandfather, Charlie, Mantle developed into a switch-hitter. Mutt pitched to Mantle right-handed and Charlie pitched to him left-handed every day after school. With the family’s tin barn as a backstop, Mantle perfected his swing, which his father helped model so it would be identical from either side of the plate. Mantle had natural speed and athleticism and gained strength working summers with his father in Oklahoma’s lead mines. Mickey won a scholarship to play football for the University of Oklahoma, but baseball was his first love, so when the New York Yankees came calling, Mantle moved to the big city.

Mantle made his debut for the Yankees in 1951 at age 19, playing right field alongside aging center fielder Joe DiMaggio. That year, in Game 2 of the World Series, Willie Mays of the New York Giants hit a pop fly to short center, and Mantle sprinted toward the ball. DiMaggio called him off, and while slowing down, Mantle’s right shoe caught the rubber cover of a sprinkler head. “There was a sound like a tire blowing out, and my right knee collapsed,” Mantle remembered in his memoir, All My Octobers. Mantle returned the next season, but by then his blazing speed had begun to deteriorate, and he ran the bases with a limp for the rest of his career.

Still, Mantle dominated the American League for more than a decade. In 1956, he won the Triple Crown, leading his league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. His output was so great that he led both leagues in 1956, hitting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 runs batted in. He was also voted American League MVP that year, and again in 1957 and 1962. After years of brilliance, Mantle’s career began to decline by 1967, and he was forced to move to first base. The next season would be his last. Mantle was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 in his first year of eligibility.

Mantle’s father and son both died in their 30s, the result of Hodgkin’s disease. Mantle was sure the same fate would befall him, and joked he would have taken better care of himself if he knew he would live. In 1994, after years of alcoholism, Mantle was diagnosed with liver cancer, and urged his fans to take care of their health, saying “Don’t be like me.” Although he received a liver transplant, by then the cancer had spread to his lungs, and he died at just after 2 a.m. on August 13, 1995, at the Baylor University Cancer Center in Dallas.

At the time of his death Mantle held many of the records for World Series play, including most home runs (18), most RBIs (40) and most runs (42).

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Pluto is the only known dwarf planet with an atmosphere. It is very thin and would be toxic for humans to breathe. When Pluto is at its perihelion (closest to the sun), Pluto’s atmosphere is gas. When Pluto is at its aphelion (farthest from the sun), its atmosphere freezes and falls like snow. 

To be buried here?

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Cemeteries are interesting places for many reasons.  But the one in today’s photo is more interesting than nearly any that I’ve seen before.

I took this picture from Jerusalem, looking eastward across the Kidron Valley.  The hill you see is known as the Mount of Olives.  This is the mountain from which Christians believe Jesus ascended after his resurrection and appearances to his disciples.  It is also the location of the garden of Gethsemane, where Christians believe Jesus pleaded with God on the night before his crucifixion.

What you may not know is that this mount is also the largestJewish cemetery in the world.  Wealthy Jews from all over the world pay to be buried here.  Jewish belief (as I was told) is that the Jews believe that when the Messiah comes, he will come from the east and will enter into Jerusalem through the East Gate in the old city wall.  In doing so, the Jews who are buried in this cemetery will rise from the dead and accompany him, giving them front row seats to the great spectacle that is to accompany his arrival in the ancient city.

Interestingly enough, just outside the East Gate of Jerusalem, the Muslims have put a cemetery of their own.  I was told the reason for this: the Muslims believe that no person of Jewish descent would ever pass through a Muslim cemetery.  Therefore, as they reason, the Messiah will be prevented from entering the city of Jerusalem (when, and if, it should happen.)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  on August 10, 1977, 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz was arrested and charged with being the “Son of Sam,” the serial killer who terrorized New York City for more than a year, killing six young people and wounding seven others with a .44-caliber revolver. Because Berkowitz generally targeted attractive young women with long brown hair, hundreds of young women had their hair cut short and dyed blond during the time he terrorized the city. After his arrest, Berkowitz claimed that demons and a black Labrador retriever owned by a neighbor named Sam had ordered him to commit the killings.

His mental condition began to severely deteriorate in 1975 (he would later be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic). Feeling isolated from the world around him, he became an arsonist and set hundreds of fires in New York City without being arrested. He began to hear voices of “demons” that tormented him and told him to commit murder. On Christmas Eve, 1975, he gave into these internal voices and severely wounded 15-year-old Michelle Forman with a hunting knife.

In January 1976, he moved into a two-family home in Yonkers, a suburb of New York. Berkowitz became convinced that the German shepherd that lived in the house and other neighborhood dogs were possessed by demons who ordered him to murder attractive young women. One of the neighborhood dogs was shot during this time, probably by Berkowitz. He also began to see his neighbors as demons.

In April, Berkowitz moved to an apartment house in Yonkers, but his new home also had dogs. His neighbor, retiree Sam Carr, had a black Labrador retriever named Harvey, who Berkowitz believed pleaded with him to kill. He also saw Sam Carr as a powerful demon and was referring to him when he later called himself Son of Sam.

On July 28, 1976, Berkowitz quit his job as a security guard. Early the next morning, he walked up to a parked car in the Bronx where two young women were talking and fired five bullets from his .44 revolver into the vehicle. Eighteen-year-old brunette Donna Lauria was killed instantly, and her friend Jody Valenti was wounded. Police could find no motives or leads in the shooting.

In the early morning of October 24, Berkowitz struck again, critically wounding 20-year-old Carl Denaro as he sat in a car and talked with a female friend in Queens. A little more than a month later, on November 26, 16-year-old Donna DeMasi and 18-year-old Joanne Lomino were shot and seriously wounded in the street on their way home from a movie. On January 30, 1977, Berkowitz fatally shot Christine Freund as she sat in a car in Queens with her fiancee. Police began to suspect that these crimes were perpetrated by a single killer, but few bullets were found intact to confirm the assumption.

On March 8, 19-year-old college student Virginia Voskerichian was shot to death as she walked home in Manhattan. A bullet was found intact, and it matched a bullet found at the scene of Berkowitz’s first murder. The New York police announced that a serial killer was on the loose, known to be a white male in his 20’s, with black hair and of average height and build. A large group of detectives was organized–the “Omega” task force–to track the killer down. On April 17, 18-year-old Valentina Suriani and 20-year-old Alexander Esau were shot and killed by the same gun as they kissed in their parked car near the Hutchinson River Parkway. This time, the .44-caliber killer left a note in which he referred to himself as the Son of Sam.

On April 29, Berkowitz shot Sam Carr’s Labrador retriever. He had previously sent an anonymous, threatening letter to Mr. Carr concerning the animal. The dog recovered, and the Yonkers police began an investigation. Meanwhile, Berkowitz began sending bizarre letters to other neighbors and his former landlords. These individuals began to suspect Berkowitz to be the Son of Sam and reported their suspicions to local police. The Omega task force was subsequently notified, but the detectives had received thousands of reports of Son of Sam “suspects” and were having a difficult time sifting through all the dead-end leads.

On June 26, the Son of Sam struck again, wounding Judy Placido and Sal Lupo as they sat in their car after leaving a Queens disco. Public concern over the rampaging serial killer grew to panic proportions, and New York nightclubs and restaurants saw a dramatic drop in business. A blistering heat wave and a 25-hour blackout in mid-July only increased the tension. On July 31, just two days after the anniversary of his first killing, Berkowitz shot a young couple kissing in a parked car in Brooklyn. Twenty-year-old Stacy Moskowitz was fatally wounded, and her boyfriend, Bobby Violante, lost his left eye and nearly all the vision in his right eye.

A few days later, a major break in the case came when an eyewitness came forward to report that she had seen a man with what looked like a gun minutes before the shots were fired in Brooklyn. Her information led to the first police sketch of Berkowitz. More important, she reminded investigators that two police officers had been writing parking tickets on her street that night. A search of tickets issued eventually turned up Berkowitz’s car.

At the same time, Yonkers police investigated Berkowitz after he escalated a harassment campaign against one of his neighbors. Convinced he was the Son of Sam, they informed the Omega task force of their findings. The Omega detectives finally put two and two together, and on August 10 David Berkowitz was arrested while leaving his Yonkers home. He gleefully admitted to being the Son of Sam. On his person was a semiautomatic rifle, and he explained he was on his way to commit another murder. The .44-caliber revolver was also recovered.

There was some question about whether Berkowitz was mentally fit to stand trial, but on May 8, 1978, he withdrew an insanity defense and pleaded guilty to the six .44-caliber murders. He was given six 25-years-to-life sentences for the crime, the maximum penalty allowed at the time. He has since been denied parole. Since 1987, he has been held at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in upstate New York.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  A bear’s normal heartbeat is 40 beats per minute. A hibernating bear’s heart rate drops to 8 bpm.

Runs Wild

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Some places are so full of history that it leaps out at you if you only pay attention.  Israel is such a place.  It is a land that lies at the crossroads of ancient trade routes stretching from the Fertile Crescent and extending down into Egypt.  Travelers from the far east would move through that land area and it was a meeting place for cultures and armies.

As such, it abounds with ruins from 5000 BC, down through the times of the great Egyptian dynasties, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans….and the list goes on and on.  Each culture left fingerprints all over the land in their architecture and practices.

Today’s photo is of the ruins of a Jewish synagogue in Capernaum.  Capernaum is famous as not only the home of Jesus’ ministry for 3-1/2 years, but also as the home of Peter, later to be known as the apostle Peter.  In fact, the ruins of Peter’s home lay just across the old street from the synagogue pictured here.  This synagogue was from the 3rd-4th century AD.  It is still beautiful, though haunting, to see.

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY:  in 1942, the U.S. 1st Marine Division began Operation Watchtower, the first U.S. offensive of the WW2, by landing on Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands.

On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island and began constructing an airfield there. Operation Watchtower was the code name for the U.S. plan to invade Guadalcanal and the surrounding islands. During the attack, American troops landed on five islands within the Solomon chain. Although the invasion came as a complete surprise to the Japanese (bad weather had grounded their scouting aircraft), the landings on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tananbogo met much initial opposition from the Japanese defenders.

But the Americans who landed on Guadalcanal met little resistance-at least at first. More than 11,000 Marines had landed, and 24 hours had passed, before the Japanese manning the garrison there knew of the attack. The U.S. forces quickly took their main objective, the airfield, and the outnumbered Japanese troops retreated, but not for long. Reinforcements were brought in, and fierce hand-to-hand jungle fighting ensued. “I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting,” wrote one American major general on the scene. “These people refuse to surrender.”

The Americans were at a particular disadvantage, being assaulted from both the sea and air. But the U.S. Navy was able to reinforce its troops to a greater extent, and by February 1943, the Japanese had retreated on secret orders of their emperor (so secret, the Americans did not even know it had taken place until they began happening upon abandoned positions, empty boats, and discarded supplies). In total, the Japanese had lost more than 25,000 men, compared with a loss of 1,600 by the Americans. Each side lost 24 warships.

The first Medal of Honor given to a Marine was awarded to Sgt. John Basilone for his fighting during Operation Watchtower. According to the recommendation for his medal, he “contributed materially to the defeat and virtually the annihilation of a Japanese regiment.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In Kalispell, Montana, children must have a doctor’s note if they want to buy a lollipop.

He’s baacccckkkkk…..

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From Israel – at the site of the Sermon on the Mount (Double or triple-click to see in larger size)

Yep, home again.  Most of you probably know my now from my emails or Facebook, but I was in Israel for the past 8 days or so.  “Israel!?!?!” you say.  “What a crazy time to go to Israel!”  Maybe so.  But, when duty calls, one must answer.  No, I’m not talking about  military duty, but just work.  It wasn’t through my regular employer, but I went there to help one of my sons with a business project with which he is engaged.  We had about three days where we could do some touristy type of stuff and we took advantage of it.

I am, as most of you know by now, a Christian.  This blog isn’t about faith per se, but about what’s going on in my life or the world and a picture that I’ve taken to illustrate some point.  While I was in Israel, I shot nearly 1000 pictures, but don’t panic: I’ve no intention of showing them all to you, nor of trying to convert anyone with these pictures.  I hope you’ll just enjoy the pictures for the sake of the history or scenery.  If you are a person of shared faith with me, you may even get something more out of seeing these pictures.

Today’s photo was shot at the location near the Sea of Galilee where it is said Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.  Today there is a church there and a Catholic retreat center (the pope has a private apartment there for use whenever he wants to “drop in”).  I took this picture as we were making our way back out of the place when I turned to look back for one more glance.  But you know what’s funny?  I didn’t notice the water splashing on the fountain that you can see in this picture (double click – or maybe triple? – to see it in larger size).  I thought it looked cool….and it was a beautiful setting!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  (NOTE: a bit of history, regardless of your position on capital punishment): on this day in 1890, at Auburn Prison in New York, the first execution by electrocution in history was carried out against William Kemmler, who had been convicted of murdering his lover, Matilda Ziegler, with an axe.

Electrocution as a humane means of execution was first suggested in 1881 by Dr. Albert Southwick, a dentist. Southwick had witnessed an elderly drunkard “painlessly” killed after touching the terminals of an electrical generator in Buffalo, New York. In the prevalent form of execution at the time–death by hanging–the condemned were known to hang by their broken necks for up to 30 minutes before succumbing to asphyxiation.

In 1889, New York’s Electrical Execution Law, the first of its kind in the world, went into effect, and Edwin R. Davis, the Auburn Prison electrician, was commissioned to design an electric chair. Closely resembling the modern device, Davis’ chair was fitted with two electrodes, which were composed of metal disks held together with rubber and covered with a damp sponge. The electrodes were to be applied to the criminal’s head and back.

On August 6, 1890, William Kemmler became the first person to be sent to the chair. After he was strapped in, a charge of approximately 700 volts was delivered for only 17 seconds before the current failed. Although witnesses reported smelling burnt clothing and charred flesh, Kemmler was far from dead, and a second shock was prepared. The second charge was 1,030 volts and applied for about two minutes, whereupon smoke was observed coming from the head of Kemmler, who was clearly deceased. An autopsy showed that the electrode attached to his back had burned through to the spine.

Dr. Southwick applauded Kemmler’s execution with the declaration, “We live in a higher civilization from this day on,” while American inventor George Westinghouse, an innovator of the use of electricity, remarked, “They would have done better with an axe.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Starfish have no brains.  (I know some people who must be starfish in disguise!!!)

Taking Flight

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You may have wondered why you didn’t get a photo-blog post yesterday.  But then again, maybe you didn’t.  You may have not even thought of it or even more to the point, you may have appreciated the break from the constant bombardment of that Dalrymple dude.

If the latter is the case, breathe easy.  You’ll have more days like that this week and early next!  I am traveling, hence the title and subject matter of today’s post – bird, obviously, on that can fly!  I wanted to let you know, dear friends, what’s up so you didn’t just think that I fell off the face of the earth (though I’m going to be traveling across a good bit of the face of this orb!)

As I write this, it is Monday evening, 9:10 p.m. EST and I am sitting in the Delta Airlines Sky Club (courtesy of my youngest son) while we await our next flight.  We flew here from Atlanta and have about a 3+ hour layover before our next flight to….(are you ready for this?!?!)… Israel.  (Not the best time go to, you say?  Yeah, probably not, but, when duty calls….)

Neither myself nor my son have been there before, and I’m going to help him with some project stuff related to his business (I worked in the high tech world for about 25 years).  We are fortunate in that we will have a couple of days to do some sight-seeing with our hosts, who seem like really wonderful people.  One of the best parts of it: neither my son nor I are having to pay for this trip!  His client is paying for it for the both of us.  How cool is that!

So, while I’m traveling and working, I may not be able to post very often.  But I plan to shoot lots of photos on our two days of sight-seeing.  We’ll be staying in a place right on the Mediterranean.

I’ll be in touch when I can…and hopefully will have some exciting photos to share when we get back.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943, the worst British bombing raid on Hamburg so far virtually set the city on fire, killing 42,000 German civilians.

On July 24, British bombers launched Operation Gomorrah, repeated bombing raids against Hamburg and its industrial and munitions plants. Sortie after sortie dropped fire from the sky, as thousands of tons of incendiary bombs destroyed tens of thousands of lives, buildings, and acreage. But the night of the 28th saw destruction unique in more than three years of bomb attacks: In just 43 minutes, 2,326 tons of bombs were dropped, creating a firestorm (a word that entered English parlance for the first time as a result of these events). Low humidity, a lack of fire-fighting resources (exhausted from battling blazes caused by the previous nights’ raids), and hurricane-level winds at the core of the storm literally fanned the flames, scorching eight square miles of Hamburg.

One British flight lieutenant recalled seeing “not many fires but one… I have never seen a fire like that before and was never to see its like again.” Despite the terrible loss of civilian life, there was  strange and awful irony: The horrific bombing runs affected Hitler’s war machine only marginally. It did more to wound the morale of the German people and its army officers than it did to the production of munitions, which was back running full speed within a matter of weeks.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong-il is only 5′ 2” tall. He wears four-inch lifts in his shoes to compensate for his short stature.

Gummy-Bear Bark?

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What is it about the females of the species and chocolate?  I just don’t get it.  Well, I guess that there are exceptions, like Snickers.  They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but I think that might be debatable.  It is not wise to get between a woman and her chocolate!

Recently, as our oldest granddaughter was staying for us for a week, I took her to a chocolatier.  I had a milk chocolate cluster with walnuts and she chose gummy-bear bark.

I’d never heard of gummy-bear bark.  I think it is unique to this store, but it was interesting and she enjoyed it!!!!  And that’s all that really mattered to me…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1918,  Della Sorenson killed the first of her seven victims in rural Nebraska by poisoning her sister-in-law’s infant daughter, Viola Cooper. Over the next seven years, friends, relatives, and acquaintances of Sorenson repeatedly died under mysterious circumstances before anyone finally realized that it had to be more than a coincidence.

Two years after little Viola met her demise, Wilhelmina Weldam, Sorenson’s mother-in-law, was poisoned. Sorenson then went after her own family, killing her daughter, Minnie, and husband, Joe, over a two-week period in September.

Waiting only four months before marrying again, Sorenson then settled in Dannebrog, Nebraska. In August 1922, her former sister-in-law came to visit with another infant, four-month-old Clifford. Just as she had done with Viola, Sorenson poisoned the poor child with a piece of candy. The unfortunate Mrs. Cooper, still oblivious to what was happening, came back again in October to visit with yet another child. This time, Sorenson’s poison didn’t work.

Early in 1923, Sorenson killed her own daughter, Delia, on her first birthday. When Sorenson’s friend brought her infant daughter for a visit only a week later, the tiny infant was also poisoned. After an attempt on Sorenson’s second husband’s life left him sick–but not dead–authorities began to think that there might be a connection between these series of deaths.

Finally, in 1925, Sorenson was arrested when she made an unsuccessful attempt at killing two children in the neighborhood with poisoned cookies. She confessed to the crimes, saying, “I like to attend funerals. I’m happy when someone is dying.” Sentiments like this convinced doctors that Sorenson was schizophrenic, and she was committed to the state mental asylum.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The Chinese have made silk since at least 3,000 B.C. The Romans knew China as “Serica,” which means “Land of Silk.” The Chinese fiercely guarded the secrets of silk making, and anyone caught smuggling silkworm eggs or cocoons outside of China was put to death.

…a Colorful Dangly-Thingy!

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So, what is this?  It’s made out of metal and is one of those fun things that turns in the wind when  you hang it outside.  There must be a name for such things besides “colorful dangly-thingy”.  Anyone know?

This specific colorful dangly-thingy was hanging outside a store (where they just coincidentally sell them!) and it caught my attention while my wife and some friends from Pennsylvania were inside checking out the wares.  It was interesting to try to get it at its peak of colorfulness.

Why did I take the picture?  ‘Cause I like color and the way these colorful dangly-thingies look when they’re hangin’ in the wind!  And that’s all the reason I need.  It’s my camera, so I get to pick what I shoot with it!  So there!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: today, in 1991, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, police officers spotted one Tracy Edwards running down the street in handcuffs, and upon investigation, they found one of the grisliest scenes in modern history -Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment.

Edwards told the police that Dahmer had held him at his apartment and threatened to kill him. Although they initially thought the story was dubious, the officers took Edwards back to Dahmer’s apartment. Dahmer calmly explained that the whole matter was simply a misunderstanding and the officers almost believed him. However, they spotted a few Polaroid photos of dismembered bodies, and Dahmer was arrested.

When Dahmer’s apartment was fully searched, a house of horrors was revealed. In addition to photo albums full of pictures of body parts, the apartment was littered with human remains: several heads were in the refrigerator and freezer; two skulls were on top of the computer; and a 57-gallon drum containing several bodies decomposing in chemicals was found in a corner of the bedroom. There was also evidence to suggest that Dahmer had been eating some of his victims.

Neighbors told both detectives and the press that they had noticed an awful smell emanating from the apartment but that Dahmer had explained it away as expired meat. However, the most shocking revelation about how Dahmer had managed to conceal his awful crimes in the middle of a city apartment building would come a few days later.

Apparently, police had been called two months earlier about a naked and bleeding 14-year-old boy being chased down an alley by Dahmer. The responding officers actually returned the boy, who had been drugged, to Dahmer’s apartment–where he was promptly killed. The officers, who said that they believed it to be a domestic dispute, were later fired.

A forensic examination of the apartment turned up 11 victims–the first of whom disappeared in March 1989, just two months before Dahmer successfully escaped a prison sentence for child molestation by telling the judge that he was desperately seeking to change his conduct. Dahmer later confessed to 17 murders in all, dating back to his first victim in 1978.

The jury rejected Dahmer’s insanity defense, and he was sentenced to 15 life terms. He survived one attempt on his life in July 1994, but was killed by another inmate on November 28, 1994.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Enough sunlight reaches the earth’s surface each minute to satisfy the world’s energy demands—for an entire year.

…the Rule of Thirds

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There are those who say that rules are made to be broken.  I suppose there is some truth to that….but many rules are there to keep us safe (like speed limits, stop signs, not running with scissors, not putting beans in our ears, etc.).  So, discretion is advised and a word to the wise is sufficient.

There are so-called “rules” to help you take better pictures.  One of them is the “rule of thirds”.  The basic idea here is to NOT put the main subject of your photo directly in the center.  This is true especially when your subject is looking somewhere toward the right or left, or when they are moving toward one side of the frame.  In such cases, the pros suggest that you utilize the rule of thirds to get a more interesting photo.  If, for example, the subject of your photo is moving from the left to right, put them one third of the way into the frame from the left (leaving room for them, at least in the mind’s eye, to move further toward the right), OR, if you want to show trailing blue behind your subject by panning the camera with the action as you take the photo, you may wish to place them one-third of the way in from the right edge (of course, to get a panning effect, you have to pan your camera in the direction of motion and possibly use a slower shutter speed, too.)

Today’s photo is an example.  This young woman (who I got to shoot in a studio!) is not looking to the left, but by placing her about a third of the way into the frame from the right hand side, the composition is more interesting than if she were in the middle.  At least, I think so, and the rule of thirds would say so.  This is one of those rules, however, that is meant to be broken – a least, if you do, you’re not likely to break a leg or get hurt in any way.

Photography should be fun – doggone it!  I encourage you, however, to try experimenting with this rule.  Simply imagine that your viewfinder is divided up into 9 squares by three vertical and horizontal lines.  Put the main point of focus at the vertical line to to the left or right, or the horizontal line a third of the way from the top or bottom.  Play with it.  With digital, it costs you nothing.  Shoot a few with the rule of thirds and some without it – with your subject in the center.  See what you like and learn when you do like the rule of thirds.

Go ahead!  Break a rule or two – but not your leg!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, Adolf Hitler took to the airwaves to announce that the attempt on his life had failed and that “accounts will be settled.”

Hitler had survived the bomb blast that was meant to take his life. He had suffered punctured eardrums, some burns and minor wounds, but nothing that would keep him from keeping control of the government and finding the rebels. In fact, the coup d’etat that was to accompany the assassination of Hitler was put down in a mere 11 1/2 hours. In Berlin, Army Major Otto Remer, believed to be apolitical by the conspirators and willing to carry out any orders given him, was told that the Fuhrer was dead and that he, Remer, was to arrest Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. But Goebbels had other news for Remer – Hitler was alive. And he proved it, by getting the leader on the phone (the rebels had forgotten to cut the phone lines). Hitler then gave Remer direct orders to put down any army rebellion and to follow only his orders or those of Goebbels or Himmler. Remer let Goebbels go. The SS then snapped into action, arriving in Berlin, now in chaos, just in time to convince many high German officers to remain loyal to Hitler.

Arrests, torture sessions, executions, and suicides followed. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who actually planted the explosive in the room with Hitler and who had insisted to his co-conspirators that “the explosion was as if a 15-millimeter shell had hit. No one in that room can still be alive.” But it was Stauffenberg who would not be alive for much longer; he was shot dead the very day of the attempt by a pro-Hitler officer. The plot was completely undone.

Now Hitler had to restore calm and confidence to the German civilian population. At 1 a.m., July 21, Hitler’s voice broke through the radio airwaves: “I am unhurt and well…. A very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible…and stupid officers had concocted a plot to eliminate me… It is a gang of criminal elements which will be destroyed without mercy. I therefore give orders now that no military authority…is to obey orders from this crew of usurpers… This time we shall settle account with them in the manner to which we National Socialists are accustomed.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In Germany, Heiligabend, or Christmas Eve, is said to be a magical time when the pure in heart can hear animals talking.

Smithy

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These are the opening verses of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith:

“Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man. “

It is an occupation that is vanishing from the world…at least from much of the United States.

On a recent visit to Columbia, California, an old mining town, I took today’s photo of a working blacksmith shop.  The forge was fired up and the smithy was busy hammering out horseshoes.  They weren’t destined for horses (at least these weren’t), as he was using some type of die to hammer a person’s name onto one side of the horseshoe iron.  They made cute gifts…which in this smithy shop, was the prime product.

Being a smithy had to be a hot and bone-tiring occupation.  Picture the heat of a Texas town in the summer, a forge blazing red hot, hammers ringing on the anvil as they forced the red-hot metal into the desired shape.

I don’t know about you, but if I was a horse, I’d not want a metal shoe hammered into my hoof.  I suppose there were advantages, but I’m just sayin….it doesn’t sound like much fun.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, spoke these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

The American effort to send astronauts to the moon has its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy’s bold proposal.

In 1966, after five years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination. Then, on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed in the fire.

Despite the setback, NASA and its thousands of employees forged ahead, and in October 1968, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, orbited Earth and successfully tested many of the sophisticated systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing. In December of the same year, Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the dark side of the moon and back, and in March 1969 Apollo 9 tested the lunar module for the first time while in Earth orbit. Then in May, the three astronauts of Apollo 10 took the first complete Apollo spacecraft around the moon in a dry run for the scheduled July landing mission.

At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”

At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the lunar module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He then planted his left foot on the gray, powdery surface, took a cautious step forward, and humanity had walked on the moon.

“Buzz” Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11 p.m., and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M. Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind.”

At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51 p.m. on July 24.

There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. The Apollo program was a costly and labor intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was justified by Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished ongoing missions lost their viability.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the night vision of a tiger is six times greater than that of a human being.

Pictures and Thoughts from a Day in Galen Dalrymple's Life

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