Memory Lane…

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Sometimes we go places and find powerful memories stirred in us.  On our way moving back across country to Georgia (yep, again!), we stopped in New Orleans for a day.  My wife and I had been there shortly after Hurricane Katrina when w traveled there with a medical response team to help out.

The city looks a lot different today than it did then, I’m happy to report.  I am sure that there are areas of the town that still haven’t recovered, but we didn’t travel to those places, nor to the exact place we’d been before.  But, one place we did visit was a museum about the hurricane.

Inside the hurricane there were various artifacts from the hurricane, including this garage door that I’m sharing today.  I don’t recall what all the markings mean (someone had explained them to us when we were there after the hurricane), but I do recall that typically a number would be in one of the quadrants of the X that was spray painted on the door, indicating if any bodies had been found inside the building.  In this case, it looks like a dead dog had been found inside this home.

It was sad…this walk down memory lane, evoking strong recollections and feelings from that time some years back.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1864, Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, Georgia, shelling civilians and cutting off supply lines. The Confederates retreated, destroying the city’s munitions as they went. On November 15,  Sherman’s troops burned much of the city before continuing their march through the South. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil War.

William Sherman, born May 8, 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio, and when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Sherman joined the Union Army and eventually commanded large numbers of troops, under General Ulysses S. Grant, at the battles of Shiloh (1862), Vicksburg (1863) and Chattanooga (1863). In the spring of 1864, Sherman became supreme commander of the armies in the West and was ordered by Grant to take the city of Atlanta, a key military supply center and railroad hub.

Sherman’s Atlanta campaign began May 4, 1864, and in the first few months his troops engaged in several fierce battles with Confederate soldiers on the outskirts of the city, including the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, which the Union forces lost. However, on September 1, Sherman’s men successfully captured Atlanta and continued to defend it through mid-November against Confederate forces led by John Hood. Before he set off on his famous March to the Sea on November 15, Sherman ordered that Atlanta’s military resources, including munitions factories, clothing mills and railway yards, be burned. The fire got out of control and left Atlanta in ruins.

Sherman and 60,000 of his soldiers then headed toward Savannah, Georgia, destroying everything in their path that could help the Confederates. They captured Savannah and completed their March to the Sea on December 23, 1864. The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, when the Confederate commander in chief, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.

After the war, Sherman succeeded Grant as commander in chief of the U.S. Army, serving from 1869 to 1883. Sherman, who is credited with the phrase “war is hell,” died February 14, 1891, in New York City. The city of Atlanta swiftly recovered from the war and became the capital of Georgia in 1868, first on a temporary basis and then permanently by popular vote in 1877.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Historically, sweat has been an active ingredient in perfume and love potions.

 

A Soldier’s Sentiment

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As horrible as the great American Civil War was (it was by far the deadliest war in which Americans have ever fought), the combatants took their part in it very seriously.  People had convictions then – convictions that they held deeply.  They were more than willing to die for them if need be.

It makes me wonder somewhat about the level of conviction that we have today.  What sorts of things are we willing to bleed and die for?

This photo was taken at the Atlanta History Center in the Civil War section.  You can hear and practically feel the pride in this man’s words as he declares his conviction…and his pride, for having taken a stand based on his convictions and having lived with integrity.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1869, convinced they had a better chance of surviving the desert than the raging rapids that lay ahead, three men left John Wesley Powell’s expedition through the Grand Canyon and scaled the cliffs to the plateau above.

Though it turned out the men had made a serious mistake, they could hardly be faulted for believing that Powell’s plan to float the brutal rapids was suicidal. Powell, a one-armedCivil War veteran and self-trained naturalist, had embarked on his daring descent of the mighty Colorado River three months earlier. Accompanied by 11 men in four wooden boats, he led the expedition through the Grand Canyon and over punishing rapids that many would hesitate to run even with modern rafts.

The worst was yet to come. Near the lower end of the canyon, the party heard the roar of giant rapids. Moving to shore, they explored on foot and saw, in the words of one man, “the worst rapids yet.” Powell agreed, writing that, “The billows are huge and I fear our boats could not ride them…There is discontent in the camp tonight and I fear some of the party will take to the mountains but hope not.”

The next day, three of Powell’s men did leave. Convinced that the rapids were impassable, they decided to take their chances crossing the harsh desert lands above the canyon rims.  Seneca Howland, O.G. Howland, and William H. Dunn said goodbye to Powell and the other men and began the long climb up out of the Grand Canyon. The remaining members of the party steeled themselves, climbed into boats, and pushed off into the wild rapids.

Amazingly, all of them survived and the expedition emerged from the canyon the next day. When he reached the nearest settlement, Powell learned that the three men who left had been less fortunate–they encountered a war party of Shivwit Indians and were killed. Ironically, the three murders were initially seen as more newsworthy than Powell’s feat and the expedition gained valuable publicity. When Powell embarked on his second trip through the Grand Canyon in 1871, the publicity from the first trip had insured that the second voyage was far better financed than the first.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  A transplanted heart beats about 100-110 beats per minute (70 beats is about normal). A transplanted heart also doesn’t increase its rate as quickly in response to exercise.

Civil War: A Time for Grieving

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The Civil War was a brutal, brutal time in our nation’s history.  There was no understanding of bacteria as a cause of infection – and sanitary conditions were terrible.  That was perhaps never more true than in the case of the hospitals that treated the wounded.  Due to the damage caused by minie balls (the rounds fired from muskets, often over .50 caliber), arms and legs were often amputated – and quickly.  The longer an injured limb remained on the body, the greater the risk of infection.  So surgeons became experts at amputations.  While it could take up to 15 minutes to amputate a limb, I remember reading that some docs were able to whack off a limb in just a couple of minutes!

Word of fatalities was hard to come by.  Many times, a family member might learn of the death of a father, husband or son by reading their name on the front page of the newspaper along with hundreds (if not thousands) of others slain in a single battle.

Life was not easy for the widow, either.  Today’s photo was taken at the Atlanta Historical Center and is a figure of a Civil War widow.  Widows were expected to wear black mourning dress for a minimum of 2.5 years after the death of her husband.  Many had no means of support.

If you’ve never been to the Civil War portion of the Atlanta Historical Center, I’d encourage you to go.  It’s worth the visit!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1957, the Soviet Union announced that it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of being fired “into any part of the world.” The announcement caused great concern in the US, and started a national debate over the “missile gap” between America and Russia.

For years after World War II, both the US and the Soviet Union had been trying to perfect a long-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Building on the successes of Nazi Germany in developing the V-1 and V-2 rockets that pummeled Great Britain during the last months of World War II, both American and Russian scientists raced to improve the range and accuracy of such missiles. (Both nations relied heavily on captured German scientists in their efforts.) In July 1957, the United States seemed to win the race when the Atlas, an ICBM with a speed of up to 20,000 miles an hour and an effective range of 5,000 miles, was ready for testing. The test, however, was a disaster. The missile rose only about 5,000 feet into the air, tumbled, and plunged to earth. Just a month later, the Soviets claimed success by announcing that their own ICBM had been tested, had “covered a huge distance in a brief time,” and “landed in the target area.” No details were given in the Russian announcement and some commentators in the United States doubted that the ICBM test had been as successful as claimed. Nevertheless, the Soviet possession of this “ultimate weapon,” coupled with recent successful test by the Russians of atomic and hydrogen bombs, raised concerns in America. If the Soviets did indeed perfect their ICBM, no part of the United States would be completely safe from possible atomic attack.

Less than two months later, the Soviets sent the satellite Sputnik into space. Concern quickly turned to fear in the United States, as it appeared that the Russians were gaining the upper hand in the arms and space races. The American government accelerated its own missile and space programs. The Soviet successes–and American failures–became an issue in the 1960 presidential campaign. Democratic challengerJohn F. Kennedy charged that the outgoing Eisenhower administration had allowed a dangerous “missile gap” to develop between the United States and the Soviet Union. Following his victory in 1960, Kennedy made missile development and the space program priorities for his presidency.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania studied data from over 10,000 speed daters and found that most people make a decision regarding a person’s attraction within three seconds of meeting.

The Star Marks the Spot?

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OK, folks. We are now back in Georgia…and hopefully, I’ll be able to start posting again fairly regularly.  So, without further ado, here we go:

This is a photo that I took in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem earlier this month. It was nearly deserted because of the hostilities that were taking place between Israel and Hamas.  Others have told us that sometimes people have to wait five hours in line in order to get to the spot where I took this picture.  We were able to walk right in – no waiting.  

This is supposedly THE SPOT where Jesus was born.  There is, of course, no way to prove (or disprove) the truth of this statement, but I must say that there was something special about being in a the place where it MAY have happened.  This spot is located down below the sanctuary of the church, down stairs down .the basement below the present church.  

Whether or not it was THE PLACE, it felt, well…holy.  It was a good feeling – full of possibilities.  

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1835, the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appeared in the New York Sun newspaper.

Known collectively as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon’s geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.

The New York Sun, founded in 1833, was one of the new “penny press” papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism. From the day the first moon hoax article was released, sales of the paper shot up considerably. It was exciting stuff, and readers lapped it up. The only problem was that none of it was true. The Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier, and Grant was a fictional character. The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.

Readers were completely taken in by the story, however, and failed to recognize it as satire. The craze over Herschel’s supposed discoveries even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. After Sun employees sent them back and forth between the printing and editorial offices, hoping to discourage them, the scientists returned to New Haven without realizing they had been tricked.

On September 16, 1835, the Sun admitted the articles had been a hoax. People were generally amused by the whole thing, and sales of the paper didn’t suffer. The Suncontinued operation until 1950, when it merged with the New York World-Telegram. The merger folded in 1967. A new New York Sun newspaper was founded in 2002, but it has no relation to the original. 

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The heaviest baby on record to survive was a 22 lb. 8 oz. Italian baby born in 1955. In 1879, a woman in Canada gave birth to a 23 lb. 1.92 oz. baby that died 11 hours after birth. 

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.

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

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