When you hear the term “Rustbucket”, you probably picture an old car that is lacking paint, the floorboard may be corroding (Fred Flintstone would find that handy for applying his “foot” brakes!), the upholstery is ripped and torn…in short, something of not much value.

Well, you know, as I’m getting older I find the terms “rustbucket”, “geezer” and other such terms not so offensive any more.  It tells me that something has had a long life – it has been used, it had purpose that it fulfilled.  And that, folks, ain’t bad!

This old “rustbucket” has certainly had better days, but one could argue that it has a beauty all its own still.  It may be more photogenic now than the day it rolled out of the factory.  Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder (and the camera!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1865 at 7:22 a.m., President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, died from an assassin’s bullet. Shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington the night before, Lincoln lived for nine hours before succumbing to the severe head wound he sustained.

Lincoln’s death came just after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Lincoln had just served the most difficult presidency in history, successfully leading the country through civil war. His job was exhausting and overwhelming at times. He had to manage a tremendous military effort, deal with diverse opinions in his own Republican party, counter his Democratic critics, maintain morale on the northern home front, and keep foreign countries such as France and Great Britain from recognizing the Confederacy. He did all of this, and changed American history when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, converting the war goal from reunion of the nation to a crusade to end slavery. 

Now, the great man was dead.  Secretary of War Edwin Stanton said, “Now, he belongs to the ages.” Word spread quickly across the nation, stunning a people who were still celebrating the Union victory. Troops in the field wept, as did General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Union commander. Perhaps no group was more grief stricken than the freed slaves. Although abolitionists considered Lincoln slow in moving against slavery, many freedmen saw “Father Abraham” as their savior. They faced an uncertain world, and now had lost their most powerful proponent. 

Lincoln’s funeral was held on April 19, before a funeral train carried his body back to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. During the two-week journey, hundreds of thousands gathered along the railroad tracks to pay their respects, and the casket was unloaded for public viewing at several stops. He and his son, Willie, who died in the White House of typhoid fever in 1862, were interred on May 4.

How fitting that on this same day, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.  Some things take far too long…

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Scientists estimate that anywhere from five million to 100 million unique species of plants and animals currently live on Earth. However, only about two million of these species have been identified.

Spring’s Snowfall


Springtime in Georgia is nothing to sneeze at…or rather, maybe it is good reason to sneeze!  It seems that springtime is the season of pollen!  (Actually, I’m told that it’s even worse in the late summer or early fall.)  When I say there’s pollen…I MEAN THERE IS POLLEN!  There is a coating of yellow all over the place – cars are covered with it (we washed a car yesterday and by this morning there was already a fine coating all over it again), it has come in through the open windows and coated my notebook screen and laptop table, the kitchen counters….and when we go out to walk the dog, pollen is even visible on the streets wherever the tires haven’t ground it away! (You should see the pollen on my truck which hasn’t been moved for several days now!  My truck is silver, but it looks like it is yellow – not very manly!!!)

So what’s this about “spring’s snowfall”?  Some of my relatives who live in the north actually had some snowfall this week, but we won’t have any here.  I’m not really talking about snowfall here, but about the white petals from the dogwoods that are in bloom.  They are gorgeous and all over the place.  Spring, of all times of the year, may be the best season in Georgia provided you don’t have allergies!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In 1935 on what came to be known as “Black Sunday,” one of the most devastating storms of the 1930′s Dust Bowl era swept across the region. High winds kicked up clouds of millions of tons of dirt and dust so dense and dark that some eyewitnesses believed the world was coming to an end.

The term “dust bowl” was reportedly coined by a reporter in the mid-1930′s and referred to the plains of western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, the panhandles of Texas andOklahoma, and northeastern New Mexico. By the early 1930s, the grassy plains of this region had been over-plowed by farmers and overgrazed by cattle and sheep. The resulting soil erosion, combined with an eight-year drought which began in 1931, created a dire situation for farmers and ranchers. Crops and businesses failed and an increasing number of dust storms made people and animals sick. Many residents fled the region in search of work in other states such as California (as chronicled in books including John Steinbeck s The Grapes of Wrath), and those who remained behind struggled to support themselves.

By the mid-1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt s administration introduced programs to help alleviate the farming crisis. Among these initiatives was the establishment of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in the Department of Agriculture. The SCS promoted improved farming and land management techniques and farmers were paid to utilize these safer practices. For many Dust Bowl farmers, this federal aid was their only source of income at the time.

The Dust Bowl era finally came to a close when the rains arrived and the drought ended in 1939. Although drought would continue to be an inevitable part of life in the region, improved farming techniques significantly reduced the problem of soil erosion and prevented a repeat of the 1930 s Dust Bowl devastation.

ALSO ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and the Titanic struck an iceberg in 1912.  Not a good day in history…

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The Norwalk virus or Norovirus (the virus that causes the stomach flu) can survive on an uncleaned carpet for a month or more.  (Now tell me – how many of you are going to vacuum your carpet after reading this?)


Feed Me, I’m Hungry


My wife seems to have taken personal responsibility to feed half the birds in northern Georgia.  I don’t know what prompted this recent interest, but with a high degree of excitement, she has purchased a couple bird feeders and a pole with hangers on which to hang the feeders.  It is set up right outside the window by the table in the RV and as she sits at her work, she can watch the little feathered beasts come and go.  She has even bought a couple of birding books so that she can learn to identify the different species that come to dine at her “table”.

As it turns out, squirrels like the food, too, so you have to buy some special things that frustrate and defeat the squirrels from robbing the feeders of their bird food.  Very clever…but they work!

Oh, and she got a hummingbird feeder, too.  Did you know that if you aren’t careful, the ants will follow the sweet smell of the sucrose water and you’ll have ants all over your hummingbird feeder?  No, we didn’t either.  But they have something special for that, too!!!  It’s looks like an upside-down umbrella that hangs from its own hook (where the handle would be) and has another hook at what would be the top of the umbrella.  The umbrella hangs upside down and the inside of the umbrella is filled with water to drown the ants that try to steal the nectar!  Ingenius…and simple – the best combination ever!

Actually, I’ve found it rather interesting, to see the birds that come because it gives me a chance to shoot pictures of the birds.  Today’s photo was shot a few days ago.  I’d seen a cardinal around once or twice, so I was thrilled when I looked outside the window and saw this fellow enjoying a snack.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  on April 13, 1970, disaster struck 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 exploded on Apollo 13, the third manned lunar landing mission. Astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise had left Earth two days before for the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon but were forced to turn their attention to simply making it home alive.

Mission commander Lovell reported to mission control on Earth: “Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” and it was discovered that the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water had been disrupted. The landing mission was aborted, and the astronauts and controllers on Earth scrambled to come up with emergency procedures. The crippled spacecraft continued to the moon, circled it, and began a long, cold journey back to Earth.

The astronauts and mission control were faced with enormous logistical problems in stabilizing the spacecraft and its air supply, and providing enough energy to the damaged fuel cells to allow successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Navigation was another problem, and Apollo 13‘s course was repeatedly corrected with dramatic and untested maneuvers. On April 17, with the world anxiously watching, tragedy turned to triumph as the Apollo 13 astronauts touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  An anonymous contributor to the Hippocratic Collection (or Canon) believed vessel valves kept impurities out of the heart, since the intelligence of man was believed to lie in the left cavity.

But Owls Are Another Story!


The movie, Ghostbusters, was a smash hit when it hit the big screen in 1984.  The cast composed of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver struck it big…and it earned over $537 million dollars worldwide and spawned at least two sequels, an animated TV series and several video games.  It set studio records for the first opening week at the time of its release.  Even Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of four stars!  One of the lines from that movie that will live forever in many minds was: “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!”

Well, on Saturday, we went to the grand opening of the Wild Bird Center in Johns Creek.  My wife has recently gotten the “wild bird” bug and has acquired some bird feeders.  Since the grand opening has to be special, they brought in some owls for display, along with their handlers.

We thought it would be fun to take our two youngest grand-daughters to the grand opening so they could see the birds.  There were three owls there: one was a horned owl, and I think one was a barn owl (the one in the picture) and one more that was considerably smaller and a light orange-brown color.

Those that wanted to could put on a leather glove and hold the barn owl on their arm.  My wife, being possessed of bird fever, asked our 5-1/2 year old grand daughter if she wanted to hold it but she said no.  So, Laurel wanted to hold it.  She put the glove on and held the owl.  I asked our grand daughter if she wanted to get  in the picture with Nana and the bird and she nodded her head, very apprehensively, yes.  I could tell, though, that she had reservations.  But she’s a brave girl and she stepped into the picture after a bit of encouragement.  That’s when I took today’s picture.  As you can see, she wasn’t sure about this!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”

After his historic feat was announced, Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity and was awarded the Order of Lenin and given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. 

The Sovieta putting the first man into space was a great blow to the US, which scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7. By that time, the Soviet Union had already made another leap ahead in the “space race” with the August 1961 flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in Vostok 2. Titov made 17 orbits and spent more than 25 hours in space.

The Soviet conquest of space was supposed to show the supremacy of communism over capitalism. However, to those who worked on the Vostok program and earlier on Sputnik, the successes were attributable to one man: Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Because of his controversial past, Chief Designer Korolev was unknown in the West and to all but insiders in the USSR until his death in 1966.

Born in 1906, Korolev was part of a team that launched the first Soviet liquid-fueled rocket in 1933. In 1938, his sponsor fell prey to Joseph Stalin’s purges, and Korolev and his colleagues were put on trial. Convicted of treason and sabotage, Korolev was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp. The Soviet authorities came to fear German rocket advances, however, and after only a year Korolev was ordered to continue his rocketry work.

In 1945, Korolev went to Germany to learn about the V-2 rocket. The Americans had captured the rocket’s designer, Wernher von Braun, who later headed the U.S. space program, but the Soviets acquired a fair amount of V-2 resources and a few German V-2 technicians. By employing this technology and his own engineering talents, by 1954 Korolev had built a rocket that could carry a five-ton nuclear warhead and in 1957 launched the first intercontinental ballistic missile.

That year, Korolev’s plan to launch a satellite was approved, and on October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 was fired into Earth’s orbit. It was the first Soviet victory of the space race, and Korolev, still technically a prisoner, was officially rehabilitated. The Soviet space program would go on to numerous space firsts in the late 1950′s and early ’60s: first animal in orbit, first large scientific satellite, first man, first woman, first three men, first space walk, first spacecraft to impact the moon, first to orbit the moon, first to impact Venus, and first craft to soft-land on the moon. Throughout this time, Korolev remained anonymous, known only as the “Chief Designer.” His dream of sending cosmonauts to the moon ended in failure, because the Soviet lunar program received just one-tenth the funding allocated to America’s successful Apollo lunar landing program.

Korolev died in 1966. Upon his death, his identity was finally revealed to the world, and he was awarded a burial in the Kremlin wall as a hero of the Soviet Union. Yuri Gagarin was killed in a routine jet-aircraft test flight in 1968. His ashes were also placed in the Kremlin wall.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Owls lack eye muscles which would allow them to move their eyeballs.  That’s one reason they have to move their heads so far in order to see what is outside of their peripheral vision.


Where Did That Come From?


Have you given any thought to names these days?  I mean, there are some really weird names out there these days!  Here’s a case in point (believe it or not, this is a true story told to me by a nurse in a hospital): It seems that a mother had to take her daughter in to the hospital for some kind of treatment.  When she had to fill out the paperwork for the girl’s name, the mother wrote “A-A”.  The nurse in question was perplexed and pronounced it “AA” (kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?)  Well, the mother got furious!!!  She went ballistic and said something to the effect of, “I don’t know what’s wrong with people that they can’t pronounce my daughter’s name!  It happens all the time and I’m sick and tired of it!”  The nurse replied, rather calmly to the mother who’s veins were bulging and who’d been yelling about the mispronounciation: “Would you please pronounce it correctly for me?”  “Her name is AdashA!!!  Can’t you see?!?!?”  (I could tell you some others that she mentioned to me that she’d encountered which we spelled like dirty words but pronounced differently!)

It isn’t just the names of people, though.  I remember when a large petroleum company changed their name to Exxon.  I remember when cars were named after people or animals or something that was obvious…but no longer!!!!  I mean, what is a Daihatsu Charade and why would anyone want to buy something called a “charade”?  Or what about a Ford Probe?  (I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor, probes are not something I look forward to!)  The Chevrolet Nova  was a poor choice because in Spanish, Nova meant “it doesn’t go”.  The Dodge Swinger sounds like something you might find in the red-light district in Amsterdam (no, I’ve never been there!) The Nissan Moco was, fortunately, only marketed in Japan, because in Spanish, “moco” means “booger”!  The Oldsmobile Alero?  It’s not even a word in the dictionary, and the same goes for Chevrolet Lumina.  I guess if you can’t think of real names, just make one up.  That’s what people seem to be doing with their kids these days, right A-A?

Maybe I’m just getting old and nostalgic, but I recall the good old days when cars were named things that made sense…like the car in today’s photo, shot at Old Car City near White, GA.  The Ford Fairlane.  It evokes images of a nice lane to drive in, doesn’t it?  But the AMC Gremlin (as it turns out, it had gremlins).  Remember the Volkswagen Thing?  Talk about U-G-L-Y!

Thankfully, some cool car names have persevered: Mustang, Cobra, Corvette, Phantom.  Now you’re talkin’!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY:  in 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sinks in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost when the sub unexpectedly plunged to the sea floor 300 miles off the coast of New England.

The Thresher was launched on July 9, 1960, from Portsmouth Naval Yard in New Hampshire. Built with new technology, it was the first submarine assembled as part of a new class that could run more quietly and dive deeper than any that had come before.

On April 10, 1963, at just before 8 a.m., the Thresher was conducting drills off the coast of Cape Cod. At 9:13 a.m., the USS Skylark, another ship participating in the drills, received a communication from the Thresher that the sub was experiencing minor problems.

Other attempted communications failed and, only five minutes later, sonar images showed the Thresher breaking apart as it fell to the bottom of the sea. Sixteen officers, 96 sailors and 17 civilians were on board. All were killed.

On April 12, President John F. Kennedy ordered that flags across the country be flown at half-staff to commemorate the lives lost in this disaster. A subsequent investigation revealed that a leak in a silver-brazed joint in the engine room had caused a short circuit in critical electrical systems. The problems quickly spread, making the equipment needed to bring the Thresher to the surface inoperable.

The disaster forced improvements in the design and quality control of submarines. Twenty-five years later, in 1988, Vice Admiral Bruce Demars, the Navy’s chief submarine officer, said “The loss of Thresher initiated fundamental changes in the way we do business–changes in design, construction, inspections, safety checks, tests, and more. We have not forgotten the lessons learned. It’s a much safer submarine force today.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Bears have been known to eat almost anything, including snowmobile seats, engine oil, and rubber boots.

Photo Software


There are those who think that using digital post-processing is “cheating”.  For the most part, those are people who never really worked in a darkroom and understood all the “cheating” that could be done there by a master developer.

I have heard it said that Ansel Adams, perhaps the most famous photographer of the 20th century, was actually just an average photographer, but that he excelled in the darkroom.  He could dodge and burn images like a wizard.  That’s not to take anything away from him and his work at all…far be it from me to do so!!!!  Compared to the late Mr. Adams, I’m a pure novice!  But the truth is that nearly anything that can be done in Photoshop (at least as far as actual processing of photographs) could be done by an expert in the darkroom.

So, I don’t think that it is cheating…at least not as far as regular processing of photos is concerned.  There are plug-ins that can be added to Photoshop that help to make the photos look even more incredible.  I recently attended Photoshop World 2014 here in the Atlanta area and came away with some new software that I’m going to be learning for a while.  It’s from Topaz Labs and it is a collection of “plug-ins” that work in conjunction with Photoshop.  They have some great stuff!

Today’s photo is of a model who was at the show.  I took the photo and then converted it from RAW to .jpg and then worked the file a bit in Topaz Simplify (one of 14 plug-ins that were in the software package I purchased).  In the future, you’ll see some other work via Topaz Labs as I learn more about it!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, at Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War, the deadliest war in US history. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end. 

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  An American woodpecker taps between 8,000 to 12,000 times each day!

The Black Pearl is in Atlanta!!!!


Captain Jack Sparrow is harder to find these days than he was a few years ago, but he still cuts a swashbuckling figure!  He is, of course, a fearsome pirate…a terror of the worst sort as he captain’s the Black Pearl on her pirately ways!

It was quite a surprise to me that I recently ran into Captain Jack here in Atlanta.  And where do you think I encountered this mega-pirate?  In the Cobb Galleria Convention Center of all places!  You see, Captain Jack was there as a guest of Photoshop World.  One of the vendors was touting their lighting system, and they had a couple of live models that you could shoot in their set-up.  I had heard such might be the case, so I took my camera and fired it up!

Captain Jack proved as tough and persistent as I thought a good pirate would be, but in the end, I think I prevailed!  I captured the dastardly pirate inside my Canon 7D!!!  And this is part of the proof!

I must say that I REALLY enjoy shooting in a studio or studio-like setting.  Makes a huge difference to have good lighting!  I typically prefer natural light, but the new LED lights that are being used in photography are s.w.e.e.t!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers. A crowd of 53,775 people, the largest in the history of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was with Aaron that night to cheer when he hit a 4th inning pitch off the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Al Downing. However, as Aaron was an African American who had received death threats and racist hate mail during his pursuit of one of baseball’s most distinguished records, the achievement was bittersweet.

Henry Louis Aaron Jr., born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1934, made his Major League debut in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves, just eight years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. Aaron, known as hard working and quiet, was the last Negro League player to also compete in the Major Leagues. In 1957, with characteristically little fanfare, Aaron, who primarily played right field, was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player as the Milwaukee Braves won the pennant. A few weeks later, his three home runs in the World Series helped his team triumph over the heavily favored New York Yankees. Although “Hammerin’ Hank” specialized in home runs, he was also an extremely dependable batter, and by the end of his career he held baseball’s career record for most runs batted in: 2,297.

Aaron’s playing career spanned three teams and 23 years. He was with the Milwaukee Braves from 1954 to 1965, the Atlanta Braves from 1966 to 1974 and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1975 to 1976. He hung up his cleats in 1976 with 755 career home runs and went on to become one of baseball’s first African-American executives, with the Atlanta Braves, and a leading spokesperson for minority hiring. Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Hammerin’ Hank remains one of the great role models and examples in American sports.  He has always been a class act.  He is now 80 years old and was present tonight at Turner Field for Atlanta’s 2014 home opener where he was honored for his achievement on this day 40 years ago!  Hat’s off to you, Hank!

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Due to jobs, kids, TV, the Internet, hobbies, and home and family responsibilities, the average married couple spends just four minutes a day alone together.

Don’t Push Me!


Remember what it was like when your kids were little?  “Mom, he’s on my side of the car!  Make him move over!”  Or, “Dad!  She is touching me!”  And another: “Don’t push me!”

No one likes to be pushed – neither adults nor children.  It is uncomfortable, it makes one feel as if they are being bullied, right?

The tree in today’s photo could have felt that way, too.  I don’t know how it got this way.  Perhaps when the tree was little, it simply grew toward the sunlight that would have been on the back end of the tail gate from this truck.  Or, it may be that as it grew, someone intentionally pushed it out so it would grow up on the back side of the tail gate.  Either way, I could just about imagine that at some point or another it would have given voice to the same sentiment that our kids did once upon a time: “How many times do I have to tell you!  Don’t push me!”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1994, Rwandan forces killed 10 Belgian peacekeeping officers in a successful effort to discourage international intervention in the genocide that had begun only hours earlier. In the next three months, the Hutu extremists who controlled Rwanda brutally murdered an estimated 500,000 to 1 million innocent civilian Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the worst episode of ethnic genocide since World War II.

The roots of the genocide dated back to the early 1990s, when President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, began using anti-Tutsi rhetoric to consolidate his power among the Hutus. Beginning in October 1990, there were several massacres of hundreds of Tutsis. Although the two ethnic groups were very similar, sharing the same language and culture for centuries, the law required registration based on ethnicity. The government and army began to assemble the Interahamwe (meaning “those who attack together”) and prepared for the elimination of the Tutsis by arming Hutus with guns and machetes. In January 1994, the United Nations forces in Rwanda warned that larger massacres were imminent.

On April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down. It is not known if the attack was carried out by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi military organization stationed outside the country at the time, or by Hutu extremists trying to instigate a mass killing. In any event, Hutu extremists in the military, led by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, immediately went into action, murdering Tutsis and moderate Hutus within hours of the crash.

The Belgian peacekeepers were killed the next day, a key factor in the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Rwanda. Soon afterward, the radio stations in Rwanda were broadcasting appeals to the Hutu majority to kill all Tutsis in the country. The army and the national police directed the slaughter, sometimes threatening Hutu civilians when persuasion didn’t work. Thousands of innocent people were hacked to death with machetes by their neighbors. Despite the horrific crimes, the international community, including the United States, hesitated to take any action. They wrongly ascribed the genocide to chaos amid tribal war. President Bill Clinton later called America’s failure to do anything to stop the genocide “the biggest regret” of his administration.

It was left to the RPF, led by Paul Kagame, to begin an ultimately successful military campaign for control of Rwanda. By the summer, the RPF had defeated the Hutu forces and driven them out of the country and into several neighboring nations. However, by that time, an estimated 75 percent of the Tutsis living in Rwanda had been murdered.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Dog nose prints are as unique as human finger prints and can be used to identify them.

Getting a Lift


Now, if I were to tell you that someone got a “lift”, what would you think I was talking about?  A face lift perhaps?  Or perhaps some other part of the anatomy that was drooping?

We also use the term lift to describe an uplift of the spirit and emotion.  In England, a “lift” is an elevator.  We lift a box to put it on a shelf.  In an auto repair shop, a lift is what is used to hoist a car up in the air.

No matter what kind of lift you are talking about, the idea is the same: to raise something up!

In today’s photo, this truck got a “lift”, too, but it was caused a seedling that had to be in place when the truck was put in the woods.  Over the  years that the hulk of the truck sat there, the little seedling was patient – getting what water and sunlight it could – and it kept growing, patiently.  And look at the result!  The little seedling grew right up through the bed of the truck in order to reach its own goal – to be straight and tall and to touch the face of the sky!

It’s easy to give up sometimes, to feel that things are just too tough, too hard, to believe that our position in life isn’t adequate for human flourishing.  Maybe we can learn something from this little seedling.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1862, the Civil War exploded in the west as the armies of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston collided at Shiloh, near Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh became one of the bloodiest engagements of the war, and the level of violence shocked North and South alike.

For six months, Yankee troops had worked their way up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Kentucky was firmly in Union hands, and now the Federals controlled much of Tennessee, including the capital at Nashville. Grant scored major victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in February, forcing Johnston to gather the scattered Rebel forces at Corinth in northern Mississippi. Grant brought his army, 42,000 strong, to rendezvous with General Don Carlos Buell and his 20,000 troops. Grant’s objective was Corinth, a vital rail center that if captured would give the Union total control of the region. Twenty miles away, Johnston lurked at Corinth with 45,000 soldiers.

Johnston didn’t wait for Grant and Buell to combine forces. He advanced on April 3, delayed by rains and muddy roads that also slowed Buell. In the early dawn of April 6, a Yankee patrol found the Confederates poised for battle just a mile from the main Union army. Johnston attacked, driving the surprised Union troops back near a small church called Shiloh, meaning “place of peace.” Throughout the day, the Confederates battered the Union army, driving it back towards Pittsburgh Landing and threatening to trap it against the Tennessee River. Many troops on both sides had no experience in battle. The chances for a complete Confederate victory diminished as troops from Buell’s army began arriving, and Grant’s command on the battlefield shored up the sagging Union line. In the middle of the afternoon, Johnston rode forward to direct the Confederate attack and was struck in the leg by a bullet, severing an artery and causing him to quickly bleed to death. He became the highest ranking general on either side killed during the war. General Pierre G. T. Beauregard assumed control, and he halted the advance at nightfall. The Union army was driven back two miles, but it did not break.

The arrival of additional troops from Buell’s army provided Grant with reinforcements, while the Confederates were worn out from their march. The next day, Grant pushed the Confederates back to Corinth for a major Union victory.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  When a shark eats food that it can’t digest (like a turtle shell or tin can), it can vomit by thrusting its stomach out its mouth then pulling it back in.

Swamp Creatures


It sits where it has sat for years now, the passenger side and front end partially submerged in a Georgia pond in the middle of the woods.  How long it has been stationed there on its lonely vigil I have no way of knowing.  How long it will last is another question entirely.

I looked at it and pictured snakes and alligators patrolling the ground and waters around the abandoned car, puzzled at this intruder into their domain.  Who was this huge interloper into their world?  Why had it come?  What was it doing there?  Was it going to harm them in some way?  Or, would they have to band together and drive this metallic monster away?

I almost could imagine that the car was a transformer of sorts, or at the very least, a sentinel, stationed there to keep the darker denizens of the watery world away from humanity.  At night, in the dark of a moonless night, does it change shape and patrol the woods, forcing sinister creatures back to their own world and away from the world of humans?

I guess we will never know, for surely if we were there at the witching hour, it would seem to appear as nothing more than a cast-off pile of metal and fabrics with no possible value to anyone or anything other than to stir our imaginations and fancies.  But we can imagine…

Shot at Old Car City, White, Georgia.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1865, the Rebel capital of Richmond, Virginia, fell to Union forces, the most significant sign that the Confederacy is nearing its final days.

For ten months, General Ulysses S. Grant had tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate the city. After Lee made a desperate attack against Fort Stedman along the Union line on March 25, Grant prepared for a major offensive. He struck at Five Forks on April 1, crushing the end of Lee’s line southwest of Petersburg. On April 2, the Yankees struck all along the Petersburg line, and the Confederates collapsed.

On the evening of April 2, the Confederate government fled the city with the army right behind. Now, on the morning of April 3, blue-coated troops entered the capital. Richmond was the holy grail of the Union war effort, the object of four years of campaigning. Tens of thousands of Yankee lives were lost trying to get it, and nearly as many Confederate lives lost trying to defend it.

Now, the Yankees came to take possession of their prize. One resident, Mary Fontaine, wrote, “I saw them unfurl a tiny flag, and I sank on my knees, and the bitter, bitter tears came in a torrent.” Another observer wrote that as the Federals rode in, the city’s black residents were “completely crazed, they danced and shouted, men hugged each other, and women kissed.” Among the first forces into the capital were black troopers from the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, and the next day President Abraham Lincoln visited the city. For the residents of Richmond, these were symbols of a world turned upside down. It was, one reporter noted, “…too awful to remember, if it were possible to be erased, but that cannot be.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  When it comes time to give birth, the female shark loses her appetite so she won’t be tempted to eat her own pups.  Aren’t you glad that your mom wasn’t a shark?

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


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