Some things don’t really need words.  I’ve titled this image, “Confusion.”  I think that’s enough to be said.

Taken at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, CA.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1972 the Apollo lunar-landing program ended when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down safely in the Pacific Ocean. Apollo 17 had lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10 days before.

In July 1969, after three years of preparation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accomplished President John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to Earth with Apollo 11. From 1969 to 1972, there were six successful lunar landing missions, and one aborted mission, Apollo 13. During the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt stayed for a record 75 hours on the surface of the moon, conducting three separate surface excursions in the Lunar Rover vehicle and collecting 243 pounds of rock and soil samples.

Although Apollo 17 was the last lunar landing, the last official Apollo mission was conducted in July 1975, when an Apollo spacecraft successfully rendezvoused and docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft in orbit around the Earth. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

I don’t know about you, but I hope we go back some time during my lifetime.  If they need a volunteer, I’ll be first in line!

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The largest crater in the solar system is found on the moon. Called the South Pole-Aitken, this giant crater is on the far side of the moon and is 1,550 miles (2,500 km) in diameter. The largest crater visible to Earth (on the near side of the moon) is the Bailly Crater, with a 183-mile diameter.

…for the Birds!

Double click to see a larger version of the image
Double click to see a larger version of the image

I suspect that every kid thinks it would be cool to have a tree house and to be able to live (or at least sleep) in the tree house once in a while.  I know I thought it would be cool.  Did I ever have a tree house or sleep in a tree?  Nope.  Not once.  But I climbed a lot of trees in my youth and sat in the branches.

There is just something about being in a tree that is liberating and freeing.  Perhaps we think that we are somehow lifted above the world below.  Perhaps it is nothing more than having a different vantage point on the world as it goes by.  I’m not sure.  But I know this: it’s been far too long since I climbed up in a tree and enjoyed the view!

This tree, with its many tree houses, is located at Villa Montalvo in the Los Gatos, CA area.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess that they like birds there!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1878, John Kehoe, the last of the Molly Maguires, was executed in Pennsylvania. The Molly Maguires, an Irish secret society that had allegedly been responsible for some incidences of vigilante justice in the coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania, defended their actions as attempts to protect exploited Irish-American workers. In fact, they are often regarded as one of the first organized labor groups.

In the first five years of the Irish potato blight that began in 1845, 500,000 immigrants came to the United States from Ireland–nearly half of all immigrants to the U.S. during those years. The tough economic circumstances facing the immigrants led many Irish men to the anthracite (hard coal) fields in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. Miners worked under dangerous conditions and were severely underpaid. Small towns owned by the mining companies further exploited workers by charging rent for company housing. In response to these abuses, secret societies like the Molly Maguires sprung up, leading sporadic terrorist campaigns to settle worker/owner disputes.

Industry owners became increasingly concerned about the threat posed by the Molly Maguires. Franklin B. Gowen, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to infiltrate the secret society and find evidence that could be used against them. James McParlan, who later became the most celebrated private detective of the era, took the high-risk assignment and went undercover within the organization. For more than two years, he established his place in the Molly Maguires and built trust among his fellow members.

Eventually, several Molly Maguires confessed their roles in the murder to McParlan. When he was finally pulled out of the society in February 1876, the detective’s information led to the arrest and conviction of 19 men.

In June 1877, 10 Molly Maguires were hanged on a single day. In December of the following year, Kehoe was arrested and hanged for the 1862 murder of Frank W.S. Langdon, a mine foreman, despite the fact that it was widely believed he was wrongly accused and not actually responsible for anyone’s death. Although the governor of Pennsylvania believed Kehoe’s innocence, he signed the death warrant anyway. Kehoe’s hanging at the gallows was officially hailed as “the Death of Molly-ism.”

Though the deaths of the vigilante Molly Maguires helped quell the activity of the secret society, the increased assimilation of the Irish into mainstream society and their upward mobility out of the coal jobs was the real reason that protective secret societies like the Molly Maguires eventually faded into obscurity.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The Fijians believe that the god Nangganangga, who watches over married couples, will not let a bachelor enter Fijian paradise and will turn him to ash if he dies before he is married.



Sometimes, all it takes is an invitation.  “Please, come in out of the cold and warm yourself by the fire.”  “Won’t you have a seat and let’s talk for a while.”  “Would you like to go on a date with me tonight?”

It doesn’t take much.  And somehow, just by having an invitation offered to us, we feel like we “belong”, or at the very least, that our company is desired and wanted.  In this world that can be so very hard and indifferent, that is a nice thing.

This bench, surrounded by the leave that had fallen off the tree immediately behind the bench, just seemed to me to be offering such an invitation.  “Please, you look tired.  Why don’t you just sit for a while and let your feet and soul rest.  It’s peaceful here and I’d love your company!  And look!  I’ve rolled out the golden carpet for you!”

How can you turn down an invitation like that????

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1979, a stuntman by the name of Stan Barrett blasted across a dry lakebed at California’s Edwards Air Force Base in a rocket- and missile-powered car, becoming the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound on land. He did not set an official record, however. The radar scanner was acting up, and so Barrett’s top speed–739.666 miles per hour by the most reliable measure–was only an estimate. Also, he only drove his rocket car across the lakebed once, not twice as official record guidelines require. And, none of the spectators heard a sonic boom as Barrett zoomed across the course.

Barrett, a 36-year-old stuntman and ex-lightweight Golden Glove champ, had been introduced to auto racing by Paul Newman in 1971. (He was the actor’s stunt double for the film “Sometimes a Great Notion.”) Barrett’s car, the $800,000 Budweiser Rocket, was owned by the movie director Hal Needham, a former racer himself who had broken a nine-year-old world land-speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats the previous September. The car had a 48,000-horsepower rocket engine and, to give it a little extra kick, a 12,000-horsepower Sidewinder missile.

December 17 was a dry day with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to break the sound barrier under those conditions, Barrett had to go faster than 731.9 miles per hour. He started the rocket engine and stepped on the gas; then, after counting to 12, he pushed a button on his steering wheel to fire the Sidewinder so he could go even faster. After he zoomed past a battery of timing devices, Barrett deployed a parachute to help him slow down. In all, it took only a handful of seconds for Barrett to blast across the 5 3/4-mile lake bed.

Unfortunately, the radar speedometers on the ground malfunctioned: Instead of the Rocket’s speed, they measured the speed of a passing truck (38 miles per hour). The final speed estimate came from data by the Air Force, whose scanners seemed to indicate that the Rocket had “probably exceeded the speed of sound.”

Controversy over how fast Barrett actually went persists to this day. It took until October 1997 for another driver, in a British car called the Thrust SSC, to officially break the Mach 1 sound barrier.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The protein that keeps a baby’s skull from fusing is called “noggin.


…of a Rainy Day

Double click image for a larger version
Double click image for a larger version

Recently, the “Pineapple Express” has made a big impact on the west coast of the United States.  I do not mean to minimize the problems caused by their recent storms.  They are real and they are significant…and the rain continues to fall, hillsides to slip and slide, property to be damaged and injuries and lives at risk.  Weather can be a brutal thing!

But weather can also be a beautiful thing.  There are few things that i enjoy more (at least as a break from the routine) of an overcast, rainy day when I can sit inside and watch the rain through windows and hear it fall on the roof!

We’ve not had much rain here in Georgia for a while, but we did have some about a week ago.  We had just put up some lights on the outside, a one of the strings had slipped down so it was directly in front of one of the windows.  The lights weren’t lit but the rain was streaking the window.  It was warm and cozy inside.  A perfect December day to have a cup of hot chocolate and to take this picture!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first explorer to reach the South Pole, beating his British rival, Robert Falcon Scott.

Amundsen, born near Oslo in 1872, was one of the great figures in polar exploration. In 1897, he was first mate on a Belgian expedition, the first ever to winter in the Antarctic. In 1903, he guided the 47-ton sloop Gjöa through the Northwest Passage and around the Canadian coast, the first navigator to accomplish the treacherous journey. Amundsen planned to be the first man to the North Pole, and he was about to embark in 1909 when he learned that the American Robert Peary had achieved the feat.

Amundsen completed his preparations and in June 1910 sailed instead for Antarctica, where the English explorer Robert F. Scott was also headed with the aim of reaching the South Pole. In early 1911, Amundsen sailed his ship into Antarctica’s Bay of Whales and set up base camp 60 miles closer to the pole than Scott. In October, both explorers set off–Amundsen using sleigh dogs, and Scott employing Siberian motor sledges, Siberian ponies, and dogs. On December 14, 1911, Amundsen’s expedition won the race to the Pole and returned safely to base camp in late January.

Scott’s expedition was less fortunate. The motor sleds broke down, the ponies had to be shot, and the dog teams were sent back as Scott and four companions continued on foot. On January 18, 1912, they reached the pole only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by over a month. Weather on the return journey was exceptionally bad–two members perished–and a storm later trapped Scott and the other two survivors in their tent only 11 miles from their base camp. Scott’s frozen body was found later that year.

After his historic Antarctic journey, Amundsen established a successful shipping business. He later attempted to become the first explorer to fly over the North Pole. In 1925, in an airplane, he flew within 150 miles of the goal. In 1926, he passed over the North Pole in a dirigible just three days after American explorer Richard E. Byrd had apparently done so in an aircraft. In 1996, a diary that Byrd had kept on the flight was found that seemed to suggest that the he had turned back 150 miles short of its goal because of an oil leak, making Amundsen’s dirigible expedition the first flight over the North Pole.

In 1928, Amundsen lost his life while trying to rescue a fellow explorer whose dirigible had crashed at sea near Spitsbergen, Norway.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  A plague epidemic swept through Europe from 1348 through 1351, killing an estimated 25–60% of Europeans. Some estimates are as high as 2/3 of the population.  The exact death toll is difficult to measure from medieval sources. The number of deaths varied considerably by area and depending on the source. Current estimates are that between 75 and 200 million people died from the plague.

…a place in Paradise

My buddy, my friend...
My buddy, my friend…

I don’t normally post on Friday nights, but I just had to post tonight.  I don’t know if you watched the NBC evening news tonight, but they did a story about something that the pope said today to a little boy who was missing his dog who had died.  The boy wanted to know if his dog would be in heaven, waiting for him.  The pope reportedly told the boy, “All God’s creatures have a place in Paradise.”  I don’t know if the pope is right or not…the simple fact is that we just don’t know.  But, I can tell you this: I sure hope he’s right!

Today’s photo is of my late dog, Casper, a white boxer, who died three years ago on December 20, 2011.  One thing I know: if there is, indeed, a place for all of God’s creatures in Paradise, I know he will be there, waiting and eagerly watching for me – as I would be for him if the tables were turned.

Casper, I thought of you when I heard Brian Williams reporting the pope’s comments…and I cried.  I still miss you so much.  No other dog has taken your place in my heart, nor will they ever.

I just wanted to tell you to be patient and wait for  me like you always did while you were here.  One of these days I’ll show up and you can come running to greet me!  Until then, know how much I love you…and that I can’t wait to see you again and feel your strength and exuberance…and see the delight as we look each other in the eye.

I miss you, good friend.  It won’t be long…until then, play and have fun, and keep your eyes open for me coming over the rise!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer paid $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the Leonardo da Vinci.

The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique. The painter Giuseppi Ghezzi discovered the notebook in 1690 in a chest of papers belonging to Guglielmo della Porto, a 16th-century Milanese sculptor who had studied Leonardo’s work. In 1717, Thomas Coke, the first earl of Leicester, bought the manuscript and installed it among his impressive collection of art at his family estate in England.

More than two centuries later, the notebook–by now known as the Leicester Codex–showed up on the auction block at Christie’s in London when the current Lord Coke was forced to sell it to cover inheritance taxes on the estate and art collection. In the days before the sale, art experts and the press speculated that the notebook would go for $7 to $20 million. In fact, the bidding started at $1.4 million and lasted less than two minutes, as Hammer and at least two or three other bidders competed to raise the price $100,000 at a time. The $5.12 million price tag was the highest ever paid for a manuscript at that time; a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only $2 million in 1978. “I’m very happy with the price. I expected to pay more,” Hammer said later. “There is no work of art in the world I wanted more than this.” Lord Coke, on the other hand, was only “reasonably happy” with the sale; he claimed the proceeds would not be sufficient to cover the taxes he owed.

Hammer, the president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, renamed his prize the Hammer Codex and added it to his valuable collection of art. When Hammer died in 1990, he left the notebook and other works to the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Several years later, the museum offered the manuscript for sale, claiming it was forced to take this action to cover legal costs incurred when the niece and sole heir of Hammer’s late wife, Frances, sued the estate claiming Hammer had cheated Frances out of her rightful share of his fortune. On November 11, 1994, the Hammer Codex was sold to an anonymous bidder–soon identified as Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft–at a New York auction for a new record high price of $30.8 million. Gates restored the title of Leicester Codex and has since loaned the manuscript to a number of museums for public display.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Russian poet Sergei Esenin (1895-1925) wrote an entire poem in his own blood that served as suicide note.

…the Fisherman

Double click the image to see in in a larger size
Double click the image to see it in a larger size

When I was in Israel this summer, one of the fascinating places we went was to Capernaum.  That name may ring a bell with you.  It was the home of Simon Peter, who would become known as the apostle Peter.  Jesus spent a great deal of time there.  Peter fished on the Sea of Galilee that touches the shore at Capernaum.

Archaeologists believe that they have uncovered the home of Simon Peter and you can see the remains of the home underneath the raised Catholic church that sites above it on pillars.  It was fascinating to see where he apparently lived and to imagine his boat barely yards from his home.  Across the “street” from his home was the old synagogue…and at least some of the steps date to the first century AD.

One of the things in Capernaum, though, which really caught my eye was the statue in today’s photo.  This statue sits outside the Catholic church above Peter’s home and it is a statue of the fisherman himself.  He stands with his back to the Sea of Galilee…perhaps as an indication that he was leaving it behind for a greater calling.  He holds in his left hand a staff as a shepherd would carry, and in the right hand, the keys – believed by Catholics to be the keys to the Kingdom.

It was a beautiful statue in a beautiful and historic setting.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1967, a plane crash in Madison, Wisconsin, killed soul singer Otis Redding and members of the Bar-Kays band. The plane crashed into Lake Monona, several miles from the Madison airport.

One survivor, Ben Cauley of the Bar-Kays, later reported that he had been asleep until just before the crash. He saw his friend in the band, Phalon Jones, look out the window of the small plane and exclaim “Oh no!” and, before he knew it, he was in a frigid lake holding onto a seat cushion. The following day, the lake was dragged and the bodies of the victims were recovered. A storm in Madison that day was a factor in the crash but the exact cause was never determined.

Redding was not the only well-known singer to die in a plane crash. In 1959, Buddy Holly, along with the lesser known J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, were killed in a crash that is thought to have inspired Don McLean’s well-known song “American Pie.” Country singer Patsy Cline died in a 1963 crash. Ten years later, Jim Croce perished in one in Louisiana. Key members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd died in an accident 1977. Singer John Denver was killed piloting his own plane in 1997.

Four months after his death at the age of 26, Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay,” the last song he ever recorded, reached the top spot on the pop music charts. It was his first No. 1 hit.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Insect species account for 950,000 of the two million identified species on Earth.  (And they’re out to get us!!!!)

…Where You Are


There are some things in life that are really important to know.  For example: how much something costs and how much money you have.  Failure to know that could prove embarrassing.  Failure to know how to do math could have rather disastrous consequences, too.  Failure to know your wife’s birthday, or the date of your anniversary could be fatal!  (I think it’s rather important to know where all those missing socks go to, but I have a hard time finding people who really care about it as much as I do.)

It is important to know who you are – what you are all about, what makes you tick, what your purpose is in this grand adventure called life.  If we don’t know who we are and what our values are, we are basically adrift with no anchor in a great universe.

It is also important to know where you are.  For example, you might do certain things (like burp out loud!) at home, but not in a restaurant or church or at work.  See what I mean?

Well, it’s not hard to know where you are here in Georgia.  You see things like today’s photo all over the place.  Yep…and you thought Santa was a person.  He’s not.  He’s the Georgia bulldog!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in was in 1992 that US Marines arrived in Mogadishu, Somalia, to spearhead a multinational force aimed at restoring order in the conflict-ridden country.

Following centuries of colonial rule by countries including Portugal, Britain and Italy, Mogadishu became the capital of an independent Somalia in 1960. Less than 10 years later, a military group led by Major General Muhammad Siad Barre seized power and declared Somalia a socialist state. A drought in the mid-1970s combined with an unsuccessful rebellion by ethnic Somalis in a neighboring province of Ethiopia to deprive many of food and shelter. By 1981, close to 2 million of the country’s inhabitants were homeless.  Though a peace accord was signed with Ethiopia in 1988, fighting increased between rival clans within Somalia, and in January 1991 Barre was forced to flee the capital. Over the next 23 months, Somalia’s civil war killed some 50,000 people; another 300,000 died of starvation as United Nations peacekeeping forces struggled in vain to restore order and provide relief amid the chaos of war.

In early December 1992, outgoing U.S. President George H.W. Bush sent the contingent of Marines to Mogadishu as part of a mission dubbed Operation Restore Hope. Backed by the U.S. troops, international aid workers were soon able to restore food distribution and other humanitarian aid operations. Sporadic violence continued, including the murder of 24 U.N. soldiers from Pakistan in 1993. As a result, the U.N. authorized the arrest of General Mohammed Farah Aidid, leader of one of the rebel clans. On October 3, 1993, during an attempt to make the arrest, rebels shot down two of the U.S. Army’s Black Hawk helicopters and killed 18 American soldiers.

As horrified TV viewers watched images of the bloodshed—-including footage of Aidid’s supporters dragging the body of one dead soldier through the streets of Mogadishu, cheering—-President Bill Clinton immediately gave the order for all American soldiers to withdraw from Somalia by March 31, 1994. Other Western nations followed suit. When the last U.N. peacekeepers left in 1995, ending a mission that had cost more than $2 billion, Mogadishu still lacked a functioning government. A ceasefire accord signed in Kenya in 2002 failed to put a stop to the violence, and though a new parliament was convened in 2004, rival factions in various regions of Somalia continue to struggle for control of the troubled nation.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The Muppet Movie (1979) was cut by New Zealand Censors on grounds of gratuitous violence. Sweden banned E.T. (1982) for children under 11 because it claimed the film showed parents being hostile to their children.

…in the Middle East

Double-click to see the image in a larger size



At church today we sang Christmas carols.  It was great once again to sing the songs about the birth of Jesus and the origin of the season we know as Christmas.  It reminded me of my visit to the Church (or Basilica) or the Annunciation.  This church, located in Nazareth in north eastern Israel, was built on the site were according to Catholic tradition, the announcement was given to Mary that she’d give birth the to the Christ Child.  It is the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East, and was dedicated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

The Greek Orthodox tradition is a bit different and holds that the event took place as Mary was drawing water from a spring in Nazareth, and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was erected at that alternate site.

From Wikipedia: The current Church of the Annunciation is a two-story structure built in 1969 over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by some Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary (Mary may have been no more than 13 at the time of the Biblical account of her visitation). (The location of the Grotto would be down and to the right from the vantage point of this photo.) Today, under Catholic law, the church enjoys the status of a minor basilica.

The first shrine was probably built sometime in the middle of the 4th century, comprising an altar in the cave in which Mary had lived. A larger structure was commissioned by Emperor Constantine I, who had directed his mother, Saint Helena, to found churches commemorating important events in Jesus Christ’s life. The Church of the Annunciation was founded around the same time as the Church of the Nativity (the birthplace) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the tomb). Some version of it was known to have still been in existence around 570 AD, but it was destroyed in the 7th century after the Muslim conquest of Palestine.

The second church was built over the ruins of the Byzantine era church during the Crusades, following the conquest of Nazareth by Tancred in 1102. The Crusader era church was never fully completed. Five Romanesque capitals carved by artists from northern France, and discovered during excavations in 1909, had not yet been installed in 1187 when news of Saladin’s victory in the Battle of Hittin reached the city. Saladin granted permission to Franciscan priests to remain in Nazareth to oversee services at the church.

In 1260, Baybars and his Mamluk army destroyed the church during their attack on Nazareth. A small number of Franciscans managed to stay in Nazareth until the fall of Acre in 1291. In the three centuries that followed, the Franciscans were in and out of Nazareth, depending on the local political situation, which was constantly in flux. Franciscan accounts of this period document their expulsion in 1363, their return in 1468 and a massacre of some of their members in 1542. Local Christian families with Franciscan support helped take care of the church as well during this period.

Emir Fakr ad-Din granted the Franciscans permission to return in 1620, at which time they constructed a small structure to enclose the holy grotto that is venerated as the house of Mary. In 1730, Dhaher al-Omar permitted construction of a new church, which became a central gathering place for Nazareth Latin community. The church was enlarged in 1877, and then completely demolished in 1954 to allow for the construction of a new basilica, which was completed in 1969. The new basilica was designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio, and built by the Israeli building firm Solel Boneh during the years 1960-69. Used by the Latin parish, it remains under the control of the Franciscans.

The Church of the Annunciation (center of picture) in modern Nazareth
The Church of the Annunciation (center of picture) in modern Nazareth.  Take from Mt. Precipice

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1993, Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train from New York City, killing 6 and injuring 19. Other train passengers stopped the perpetrator by tackling and holding him down. Ferguson later attributed the shooting spree to his deep-seated hatred of white people.

Colin Ferguson was a mentally unbalanced man from Jamaica who spent years on the West Coast before coming to New York in 1993. On December 7, he boarded a 5:33 p.m. train out of Penn Station carrying an automatic pistol, and as the train pulled into Garden City, Ferguson began running down the aisle and shooting passengers at random.

Famous defense attorney William Kunstler initially represented Ferguson, but his strategy of arguing that Ferguson was not responsible due to “black rage” infuriated even Ferguson himself. After firing Kunstler, Ferguson decided to act as his own lawyer.

In the resulting trial, which took place in January and February 1996, Ferguson opened by claiming that he was not the shooter. He argued that a white man had stolen his gun and shot the commuters, then pinned the crime on Ferguson. But he later changed his story, stating that a man who shared Ferguson’s name and facial features was the real killer.

When Ferguson asked nearly all of the surviving victims, in turn, to identify the killer under oath, they each pinned the blame squarely on him. After the judge denied Ferguson’s request that President Clinton and Governor Cuomo testify, Ferguson decided to forego his own right to testify. On February 17, 1996, the jury convicted Ferguson of 6 counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder. He received six life terms and will not be eligible for parole.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Polar bears are the largest land predators on earth. They can stand more than 11’ high and weigh more than 1,700 lbs.

…Is Everything

Double click to see the image in a larger size


There is an old saying that “Perspective is everything.”  There is a lot of truth to that old saw – no matter what the subject is.  The way we see things, how we perceive them, can change based on new information, on experiences, on new wisdom and insight.  I find myself that way during this special time of the  year.

I have posted before numerous pictures from my trip to Israel at the end of July and early August of this year.  It was an incredible experience – one I hope to be able to afford to repeat some time with my wife (I was there for work…and the ticket was paid for!!!)

As I think about the Nativity…and the other stories about the angel that visited Mary in Nazareth foretelling the birth of the Christ Child, I see things with fresh eyes because of my visit to those places.  When I hear “Bethlehem” I can see the city in my minds’ eye from Jerusalem…off in the distance is the place of his birth.  Of course it looks much different today than it would have then, but now I have a different perspective, a different frame of reference.

Today’s photo was taken in Nazareth inside the Church of the Annunciation.  It is a picture of the grotto area beneath the main floor level of the church and it is reputed to be the location where Mary received the angel, Gabriel, and received word that she would be with child…but a very special Child.  The altar is supposed to be the very location where Mary received her visitor.  Is it accurate? Who knows?  Probably not.  But Nazareth was a small town and it had to be very close to this location.

As we move through this time of the year, I’ll share some other pictures taken in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem…and perhaps it will help you see things differently this year.  After all, perspective is everything.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1952, heavy smog began to hover over London, England. It persisted for four days, leading to the deaths of at least 4,000 people.

It was a Thursday afternoon when a high-pressure air mass stalled over the Thames River Valley. When cold air arrived suddenly from the west, the air over London became trapped in place. The problem was exacerbated by low temperatures, which caused residents to burn extra coal in their furnaces. The smoke, soot and sulfur dioxide from the area’s industries along with that from cars and consumer energy usage caused extraordinarily heavy smog to smother the city. By the morning of December 5, there was a visible pall cast over hundreds of square miles.

The smog became so thick and dense that by December 7 there was virtually no sunlight and visibility was reduced to five yards in many places. Eventually, all transportation in the region was halted, but not before the smog caused several rail accidents, including a collision between two trains near London Bridge. The worst effect of the smog, however, was the respiratory distress it caused in humans and animals, including difficulty breathing and the vomiting of phlegm. One of the first noted victims was a prize cow that suffocated on December 5. An unusually high number of people in the area, numbering in the thousands, died in their sleep that weekend.

It is difficult to calculate exactly how many deaths and injuries were caused by the smog. As with heat waves, experts compare death totals during the smog to the number of people who have died during the same period in previous years. The period between December 4 and December 8 saw such a marked increase in death in the London metropolitan area that the most conservative estimates place the death toll at 4,000, with some estimating that the smog killed as many as 8,000 people.

On December 9, the smog finally blew away. In the aftermath of this incident, the British government passed more stringent regulations on air pollution and encouraged people to stop using coal to hear their homes. Despite these measures, a similar smog 10 years later killed approximately 100 Londoners.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Garlic, a traditional vampire repellent, has been used as a form of protection for over 2,000 years. The ancient Egyptians believed garlic was a gift from God. In several cultures, brides carried garlic under their clothes for protection, and cloves of garlic were used to protect people from a wide range of illnesses. Modern-day scientists found that the oil in garlic, allicin, is a highly effective antibiotic.  Aren’t you glad that brides don’t wear garlic under their wedding dresses today?

…Sit a Spell


The South is famous for southern cookin’ and also for hospitality.  I must say, the hospitality here is wonderful.  People are very friendly.  Even folks you’ve never met make you feel like an old friend.  It is one of the things that I like the most about being here as opposed to the fast-paced, never-stop-for-a-moment speed of California.  I know that there are exceptions – but since we don’t live in the big city (like Atlanta) we are able to live a more reasonably paced lifestyle.

In fact, the weather has been great the past week….shirt sleeves are very comfortable.  I am tempted to go outside, sit on a porch and sip an ice-cold lemonade.  Why don’t y’all come on over and sit a spell?  We can talk about the Georgia Dawgs and the weather, and maybe later, go catfishin’ down at the lake!

Today’s photo is an HDR image that I took in Helen, Georgia, about a month ago.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1984, in the early morning hours, one of the worst industrial disasters in history began when a pesticide plant located in the densely populated region of Bhopal in central India leaked a highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air. Of the estimated one million people living in Bhopal at the time, 2,000 were killed immediately, at least 600,000 were injured, and at least 6,000 have died since.

The leak was caused by a series of mechanical and human errors in the pesticide producing plant, operated by the Union Carbide Corporation, a U.S.-based multinational. For a full hour, the plant’s personnel and safety equipment failed to detect the massive leak, and when an alarm was finally sounded most of the harm had already been done. To make matters worse, local health officials had not been educated on the toxicity of the chemicals used at the Union Carbide plant and therefore there were no emergency procedures in place to protect Bhopal’s citizens in the event of a chemical leak. If the victims had simply placed a wet towel over their face, most would have escaped serious injury.

The Indian government sued Union Carbide in a civil case and settled in 1989 for $470 million. Because of the great number of individuals affected by the disaster, most Bhopal victims received just $550, which could not pay for the chronic lung ailments, eye problems, psychiatric disorders, and other common illnesses they developed. The average compensation for deaths resulting from the disaster was $1,300. The Indian government, famous for its corruption, has yet to distribute roughly half of Union Carbide’s original settlement. Union Carbide, which shut down its Bhopal plant after the disaster, has failed to clean up the site completely, and the rusty, deserted complex continues to leak various poisonous substances into the water and soil of Bhopal.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Since the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937, more than 1,200 people have jumped to their deaths, making it the number one spot in the world for suicides.

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


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