A Picture I Like


No fancy story today, just a photo that I rather liked.  I shot it in a Greek Orthodox church this past Saturday at the Greek Festival in Cumming, GA.  I intentionally focused in on the small standing object with the one to the front right blurred.  This is one technique photographers use in order to add intrigue to a photo, but mostly to focus the eye on what they want the viewer to see.  I thought the chalice that is out of focus also added to the color of the image, making it more pleasing to the eye.  If you have a camera that allows you to do this, I encourage you to give it a try!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1921 in the French town of Chalons-sur-Marne, an American officer selected the body of the first “Unknown Soldier” to be honored among the approximately 77,000 United States servicemen killed on the Western Front during World War I.

According to the official records of the Army Graves Registration Service deposited in the U.S. National Archives in Washington, four bodies were transported to Chalons from the cemeteries of Aisne-Marne, Somme, Meuse-Argonne and Saint-Mihiel. All were great battlegrounds, and the latter two regions were the sites of two offensive operations in which American troops took a leading role in the decisive summer and fall of 1918. As the service records stated, the identity of the bodies was completely unknown: “The original records showing the internment of these bodies were searched and the four bodies selected represented the remains of soldiers of which there was absolutely no indication as to name, rank, organization or date of death.”

The four bodies arrived at the Hotel de Ville in Chalons-sur-Marne on October 23, 1921. At 10 o’clock the next morning, French and American officials entered a hall where the four caskets were displayed, each draped with an American flag. Sergeant Edward Younger, the man given the task of making the selection, carried a spray of white roses with which to mark the chosen casket. According to the official account, Younger “entered the chamber in which the bodies of the four Unknown Soldiers lay, circled the caskets three times, then silently placed the flowers on the third casket from the left. He faced the body, stood at attention and saluted.”

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The moon’s gravity has slowed the speed of Earth’s rotation. Long ago, it was much faster and days were much shorter.

…My Changing Room!

Click twice to see a larger version of this image.
Click twice to see a larger version of this image.

Do you remember the rotary dial phone?  Or, I can do you one better than that!  When I was a kid living out on the farm in Iowa, we had one of those kind of phones that hung on the wall and you would turn the crank to call “Central”.  Then  you’d tell them who you wanted to talk with and they would connect you by plugging a wire in from a jack that represented your phone to a jack that represented someone else’s phone.  Archaic, but it worked (and you could even talk to Central if they weren’t too busy!)

There are lots of things that have come and gone during my lifetime: black and white TV, “rabbit ears”, 8-track tapes, Studebakers, Edsels, Nash Ramblers, bobby sox, poodle skirts and for a while at least (until they were resurrected!!!), Twinkies!

Another thing that you no longer find around in as much profusion as once was the case is phone booths. Remember when you could pull into any gas station or shopping area and there’d be phone booths where you could make a local call for a dime?  And there was always a big, fat phone book there, too, so you could look up the phone number or address?  Now, you can hardly find one!  And if you do, it’s a safe bet that there’s no phone and no phone book inside!  Just like in today’s photo.

This phone booth is here at the RV park where we are staying.  There’s no phone.  There’s no phone book.  But it’s still here.  Why?  Because they wanted to leave my changing room intact for when the world needs…SUPERMAN!  And I’m grateful…otherwise, I’d have to change out in the open!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1934, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd was shot by FBI agents in a cornfield in East Liverpool, Ohio. Floyd, who had been a hotly pursued fugitive for four years, used his last breath to deny his involvement in the infamous Kansas City Massacre, in which four officers were shot to death at a train station. He died shortly thereafter.

Charles Floyd grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. When it became impossible to operate a small farm in the drought conditions of the late 1920s, Floyd tried his hand at bank robbery. He soon found himself in a Missouri prison for robbing a St. Louis payroll delivery. After being paroled in 1929, he learned that Jim Mills had shot his father to death. Since Mills, who had been acquitted of the charges, was never heard from or seen again, Floyd was believed to have killed him.

Moving on to Kansas City, Floyd got mixed up with the city’s criminal community. A prostitute gave Floyd the nickname “Pretty Boy,” which he hated. Along with a couple of friends he had met in prison, he robbed banks in Missouri and Ohio, but was eventually caught in Ohio and sentenced to 12-15 years. On the way to prison, Floyd kicked out a window and jumped from the speeding train. He made it to Toledo, where he hooked up with Bill “The Killer” Miller.

The two went on a crime spree across several states until Miller was killed in a spectacular firefight in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1931. Once he was back in Kansas City, Floyd killed a federal agent during a raid and became a nationally known criminal figure. This time he escaped to the backwoods of Oklahoma. The locals there, reeling from the Depression, were not about to turn in an Oklahoma native for robbing banks. Floyd became a Robin Hood-type figure, staying one step ahead of the law. Even the Joads, characters in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, spoke well of Floyd.

However, not everyone was so enamored with “Pretty Boy.” Oklahoma’s governor put out a $6,000 bounty on his head. On June 17, 1933, when law enforcement officials were ambushed by a machine-gun attack in a Kansas City train station while transporting criminal Frank Nash to prison, Floyd’s notoriety grew even more. Although it was not clear whether or not Floyd was responsible, both the FBI and the nation’s press pegged the crime on him nevertheless. Subsequently, pressure was stepped up to capture the illustrious fugitive, and the FBI finally got their man in October 1934.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Burying coffins also means that 90,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper and bronze, and over 30 million feet of hard wood covered in toxic laminates are also buried per year. However, a British company called “Ecopod” offers coffins made from 100% recycled paper.

…Is For Horses!

Double click image for a larger version of the photo.

The English language is such a strange and bizarre beast.  We have many different words that are pronounced the same and one must understand the context in which they are used to know which word was meant.  For example, there, their, they’re, or too, to, two.  The word weather is pronounced the same as whether.  I, eye, aye…you get the idea.  Is it any wonder than many think English is perhaps one of the hardest languages in the world to learn?

Then we have hay and hey.  And we have quaint little sayings, too, like “Hay is for horses.”  And just in case you didn’t believe it, maybe today’s photo, taken at the petting pen at the Cumming Greek Festival, will prove it to you!

Cute horse, hey?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  on a dark day in history in 1941, German soldiers went on a rampage, killing thousands of Yugoslavian civilians, including whole classes of schoolboys.

Despite attempts to maintain neutrality at the outbreak of World War II, Yugoslavia finally succumbed to signing a “friendship treaty” with Germany in late 1940, finally joining the Tripartite “Axis” Pact in March 1941. The masses of Yugoslavians protested this alliance, and shortly thereafter the regents who had been trying to hold a fragile confederacy of ethnic groups and regions together since the creation of Yugoslavia at the close of World War I fell to a coup, and the Serb army placed Prince Peter into power. The prince-now the king–rejected the alliance with Germany-and the Germans retaliated with the Luftwaffe bombing of Belgrade, killing about 17,000 people.

With Yugoslavian resistance collapsing, King Peter removed to London, setting up a government-in-exile. Hitler then began to carve up Yugoslavia into puppet states, primarily divided along ethnic lines, hoping to win the loyalty of some-such as the Croats-with the promise of a postwar independent state. (In fact, many Croats did fight alongside the Germans in its battle against the Soviet Union.) Hungary, Bulgaria, and Italy all took bites out of Yugoslavia, as Serb resisters were regularly massacred. On October 21, in Kragujevac, 2,300 men and boys were murdered; Kraljevo saw 7,000 more killed by German troops, and in the region of Macva, 6,000 men, women, and children were murdered.

Serb partisans, fighting under the leadership of the socialist Josef “Tito” Brozovich, won support from Britain and aid from the USSR in their battle against the occupiers. “The people just do not recognize authority…they follow the Communist bandits blindly,” complained one German official reporting back to Berlin.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  It is still a hanging offense in Texas to steal cattle or to put graffiti on someone else’s cow. It is also illegal to indecently expose or swear in front of a corpse in Texas. In Galveston, Texas, it is illegal to have a camel run loose on the beach. (There are so many bizarre facts about Texas….it was hard to pick just a few!)

Misty Lake

Double click for a larger version of the picture.

I have always been fascinated by fog and mist.  I love it when it is foggy (as long as I don’t have to drive in it!)  And I find the mist rising up off the surface of a lake interesting, too, as it twists in the gentle breezes, here for a moment and then gone again.

But what causes it?  Here’s what National Geographic says about mist (and it’s close relative, fog):

Mist is tiny droplets of water hanging in the air. These droplets form when warmer water in the air is rapidly cooled, causing it to change from invisible gas to tiny visible water droplets.

Mist often forms when warmer air over water suddenly encounters the cooler surface of land. However, mist can also form when warm air from land suddenly encounters cooler air over the ocean. This is the cause of the summer fog in San Francisco, California. You can even create mist yourself, as you probably know, when you exhale the warm air from your body into the cold air.

Mist is a lot like its cousin, fog. The difference between the two depends on how well you can see. Mist is less dense than fog. If you can’t see beyond one kilometer (two-thirds of a mile) in front of you, it’s fog that’s clouding your vision. If you can see more than that, it’s just mist.

I shot this photo last week at the lake here by the place we are staying.  It was morning and the sun was just hitting the trees in the background.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, two liquid gas tanks explode in Cleveland, Ohio, killing 130 people, on this day in 1944. It took all of the city’s firefighters to bring the resulting industrial fire under control.

At 2:30 p.m., laboratory workers at the East Ohio Gas Company spotted white vapor leaking from the large natural gas tank at the company plant near Lake Erie. The circular tank had a diameter of 57 feet and could hold 90 million cubic feet of the highly flammable gas. Ten minutes later, a massive and violent explosion rocked the entire area. Flames went as high as 2,500 feet in the air. Everything in a half-mile vicinity of the explosion was completely destroyed.

Shortly afterwards, a smaller tank also exploded. The resulting out-of-control fire necessitated the evacuation of 10,000 people from the surrounding area. Every firefighting unit in Cleveland converged on the East Ohio Gas site. It still took nearly an entire day to bring the fire under control. When the flames went out, rescue workers found that 130 people had been killed by the blast and nearly half of the bodies were so badly burned that they could not be identified. Two hundred and fifteen people were injured and required hospitalization.

The explosion had destroyed two entire factories, 79 homes in the surrounding area and more than 200 vehicles. The total bill for damages exceeded $10 million. The cause of the blast had to do with the contraction of the metal tanks: The gas was stored at temperatures below negative 250 degrees and the resulting contraction of the metal had caused a steel plate to rupture.

Newer and safer techniques for storing gas and building tanks were developed in the wake of this disaster.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Hawaii is the only state that is not geographically located in North America, is completely surrounded by water, and does not have a straight line in its state boundary.

…Hittin’ the Bottle


There are things that I just can’t stand to see.  For example, when commercials come on television that feature video of dogs in cages or dogs that have been mistreated – I can’t watch them.  I know that they’re trying to raise money, but that’s not why I can’t watch.  It’s that I can’t stand to see the misery of these creatures that have so much love to give.

To be honest, I really can’t stand to see any animals being mistreated or harmed.  I know that there are many others who feel the same way about animals that I do.

And that brings me to today’s photo that I took just Saturday at the 10th Annual Greek Festival that is held here in Cumming, GA each fall.  This was the first time we went to the festival and it was a good time.  We’d not had a weekend in a long time where I’d been home for both Saturday and Sunday and this was just the ticket.  There were booths of crafts and other things you could buy, live music and Greek food.  There was also a Greek Orthodox church there that was open and offering tours.  We didn’t take the tour, but we did learn lots of fascinating things about icons (some of which I’ll share in future posts).  But, I digress…

As I walked around, I came across a small enclosure where there were animals that the little ones could pet…and that’s where I got today’s photo.  It just broke my heart to think that humans would entice these creatures to hit the bottle.  Shame on our species….who would think of doing such a thing!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1991, fire began in the hills of Oakland, California. It burned thousands of homes and killed 25 people. Despite the fact that fires had ravaged the same area three times earlier in the century, people continued to build homes there.

Fires had previously raged through the hills in 1923, 1970 and 1980. Each time, the fires occurred during autumn in a year with relatively little precipitation, and, each time, the residents rebuilt and moved back in as soon as possible. The deadly 1991 fire can be traced to a small fire at 7151 Buckingham Boulevard on October 18. Firefighters responded quickly and thought they had brought the blaze under control. However, heat from the fire had caused pine needles to fall from the trees and cover the ground.

When highly flammable debris, also known as “duff,” accumulates on the ground, fires can smolder unseen. At 10:45 a.m. on October 19, strong winds blew one of these unseen fires up a hillside; changing wind patterns then caused it to spread in different directions.

The winds were so intense and the area was so dry that within an hour close to 800 buildings were on fire. The wind then blew southwest, pushing the fire toward San Francisco Bay. In some places, the temperature reached 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, making it virtually impossible to fight the fire effectively. Homeowners attempted to hose down their roofs, but were often thwarted when water pipes burst from the fire. Also, many homes had wooden shingle roofs that were particularly susceptible to fire—it took only 10 minutes in some cases for a house to be brought down by the flames.

Firefighting efforts were constrained by the fact that the affected homes were located on steep hills with very narrow streets. This made it difficult to maintain radio communications and to move large fire engines close to the flames. The fire spread so rapidly that firefighters were unable to establish a perimeter. When the fire was finally contained the following day, 25 people had lost their lives, 150 people were injured and 3,000 homes and 1,500 acres had been consumed. The total tally of damages was $1.5 billion.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The first Google storage was made from Legos. Google needed an expandable and cheap way to house 10 4GB hard drives.

…Raspberry Dog!


It’s a line that those of my generation grew up with: “Look!  Up in the sky!  It’s a bird!  No, it’s a plane!  No!  It’s SUPERMAN!”  How I loved that show!  Every time it was on my sister and I would gather in front of the tiny black and white screen in the little farmhouse in Iowa where we lived and we’d watch it.  I don’t think I ever missed an episode: George Reeves played the Man of Steel.  I bet you remember it, too!!!

Today’s picture is a photo I took of our third boxer, Ramses.  At the time I took this picture, we didn’t know anything was wrong with him.  Later, he’d be diagnosed with dilated cardio-myopathy that would eventually take his life, but at this point we had no clue.

This photo was taken of him as he was laying on the carpet in our house in Tracy, California.  Boxers have rather large tongues and it is not unusual to see part of it sticking out….but it always cracked me up when I’d reach out and touch it and he’d just look at me with those big brown eyes and I’d crack up!  He was my buddy…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1991, George Jo Hennard drove his truck through a window in Luby’s Cafeteria in Kileen, Texas, and then opened fire on a lunch crowd of over 100 people, killing 23 and injuring 20 more. Hennard then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The incident was one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history.

The rampage at the Central Texas restaurant began at approximately 12:45 p.m. and lasted about 15 minutes. Witnesses reported that the 35-year-old gunman moved methodically through the large crowd, shooting people randomly and reloading his weapon several times. Hennard, of nearby Belton, Texas, was shot several times by police before he committed suicide. No clear motive for his actions was ever determined.

In the aftermath of the Luby’s massacre, Killeen residents urged officials at Luby’s corporate headquarters to let the restaurant re-open so people wouldn’t lose their jobs. Five months after the shootings, the cafeteria was back in business and stayed open for nine more years before permanently shutting its doors in September 2000. Another outcome of the Luby’s massacre was that in 1995 the Texas legislature passed a law allowing residents with gun permits to carry concealed weapons. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who was at Luby’s with her parents on the day of the massacre and watched as they were murdered, was instrumental in getting the law passed. Hupp had a handgun with her that day, but left it in her car to comply with the law that forbid people from carrying concealed firearms.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Christmas stockings allegedly evolved from three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins.

…Wear Fatigues

Photo taken with Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, Oct. 12, 2014.
Photo taken with Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, Oct. 12, 2014.

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  Gender doesn’t matter, either, nor does nationality, language, ethnicity or religion.  A hero is a hero…even when they don’t wear fatigues.

At the Airborne and Special Forces Museum in Fayetteville, NC, most of the museum is devoted to the brave men and women who have faithfully and heroically defended our country.  Outside there are several sculptures of some of the more famous ones, but off to one side is the sculpture in today’s photo.  It is a sculpture dedicated to the faithful canine heroes of the armed forces that, like so many of their human fellow-soldiers, have paid the ultimate price.

I recently read a National Geographic magazine issue that was about dogs in the military.  I highly recommend it.  They, too, deserve credit and honor!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1863, the C.S.S. Hunley, the world’s first successful combat submarine, sank during a test run, killing its inventor and seven crew members.

Horace Lawson Hunley developed the 40-foot submarine from a cylinder boiler. It was operated by a crew of eight—one person steered while the other seven turned a crank that drove the ship’s propeller. The Hunley could dive, but it required calm seas for safe operations. It was tested successfully in Alabama’s Mobile Bay in the summer of 1863, and Confederate commander General Pierre G.T. Beauregard recognized that the vessel might be useful to ram Union ships and break the blockade of Charleston Harbor. The Hunley was placed on a rail car and shipped to South Carolina.

The submarine experienced problems upon its arrival. During a test run, a crew member became tangled in part of the craft’s machinery and the craft dove with its hatch open; only two men survived the accident. The ship was raised and repaired, but it was difficult to find another crew that was willing to assume the risk of operating the submarine. Its inventor and namesake stepped forward to restore confidence in his creation. On October 15, he took the submarine into Charleston Harbor for another test. In front of a crowd of spectators, the Hunley slipped below the surface and did not reappear. Horace Hunley and his entire crew perished.

Another willing crew was assembled and the Hunley went back into the water. On February 17, 1864, the ship headed out of Charleston Harbor and approached the U.S.S. Housatanic. The Hunley stuck a torpedo into the Yankee ship and then backed away before the explosion. The Housatanic sank in shallow water, and the Hunley became the first submarine to sink a ship in battle. However, its first successful mission was also its last—the Hunley sank before it returned to Charleston, taking yet another crew down with it. The vessel was raised in 2000, and is now on exhibit in Charleston.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Zorba, an English mastiff, is the biggest dog ever recorded. He weighed 343 pounds and measured 8′ 3″ from his nose to his tail.

…a Hand

Taken with Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, Fayetteville, NC, 10/12/14.

I know that not everyone is a patriotic American.  That makes me sad, honestly.  Is our nation perfect?  No.  Has it ever been perfect?  No.  Nor will it ever be perfect!  But I’ve seen enough of the rest of the world to know that there’s no where else I’d rather live than right here in America!  I am proud to be an American.  And I know that we owe our freedom to others, including the men and women who have fought on behalf of our country and freedom for over two hundred years.

Near the Airborne and Special Forces Museum in Fayetteville, NC, just across an expanse of grass and concrete, is the North Carolina veterans museum.  (Not sure of the exact name…)  In the area adjacent to that building they have pylons rising up from the ground – one for each county in the state of North Carolina – and on the four sides of the pylons they have casts made from the hands of veterans.  Some of the hands are young and supple, some are clearly feminine hands, others are aged and gnarled with the years.  But each cast from each hand came from the hand of someone who served this country with dignity and honor.  It was special.  And it made me grateful all over again to be an American.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1780, in the early morning hours, a contingent of approximately 350 Patriot troops from the North Carolina and Virginia militias engaged a group of British Loyalists, numbering between 400 and 900, at the Shallow Ford crossing of the Yadkin River in North Carolina.

In the previous two weeks, British Loyalists had begun to overrun the area, thanks to an absence of Patriot forces, who had marched north to defend Charlotte from the British army. Upon hearing of the Loyalist uprising, Major Joseph Cloyd headed to the area with members of the North Carolina and Virginia militias. At the Shallow Ford crossing, Cloyd spotted the Loyalists, who had just crossed the Yadkin River and were headed west toward present-day Davie County.

Although they were severely outnumbered, Cloyd ordered the Patriot forces to attack; they gained the advantage when Loyalist leader Colonel Samuel Bryan was killed early in the battle. Without a leader, the Loyalists became disorganized and, realizing that defeat was imminent, they retreated across the Yadkin River, ending their reign of terror over the area. The Patriot militia lost one soldier killed and four wounded while it is believed that the Loyalists lost 14 killed.

The Battle of Shallow Ford is considered one of the most important battles for the Patriot cause to take place in North Carolina during the Revolutionary War. It lasted just under 90 minutes.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Speed dating, invented by a rabbi from Los Angeles in 1999, is based on a Jewish tradition of chaperoned gatherings of young Jewish singles.

…of World War II


Today’s photo was taken this past Saturday at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC, and is a picture of a WW2 Waco glider.

America’s first military stealth aircraft – the Waco CG-4A combat glider – silently soared into World War II history 70 years ago, powered only by the prevailing winds and the guts of the men who flew them.

Under veil of darkness on D-Day and other major Allied airborne assaults, the Waco glider carried troops and material behind enemy lines to take out key enemy defenses and transportation links. These humble gliders – engineless and unarmed – overcame perilous odds to make the first cracks in Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Their moment in the spotlight of military aviation was fleeting. But in the pre-helicopter age, combat gliders represented the state-of-the-art in stealth, landing precision, and hauling capacity.

“Flying coffins.” “Tow targets.” Pilots and glider-borne infantry had colorful and well-earned nicknames for their ungainly planes. But according to at least one veteran flight officer, the most common moniker for the combat glider was way off base: “Silent Wings.”

The CG-4A fuselage was 48 feet long and constructed of steel tubing and canvas skin. Its honeycombed plywood floor could support more than 4,000 pounds, approximately the glider’s own empty weight. It could carry two pilots and up to 13 troops, or a combination of heavy equipment and small crews to operate it. The nose section could swing up to create a 5 x 6-foot cargo door of Jeeps, 75-mm howitzers, or similarly sized vehicles.

With a wingspan of 83.5 feet, the Waco maxed out at 150 mph when connected to its tow plane. Once the 300-ft length of 1-inch nylon rope was cut, typical gliding speed was 72 mph.

Glider pilots who participated in the Normandy landings were awarded the Air Medal for their role in the Allies’ early successes on D-Day. Their role in Operation Market Garden was lauded, even though it was overshadowed by the mission’s overall failure to take the key bridge at Arnhem. Gliders were also central to Allied invasions of Sicily, Burma, Southern France, Bastogne, and the crossing of the Rhine into Germany in March 1945.

Like all Army Air Corps pilots, the glidermen wore wings on their chests. Theirs were special, with a capital “G” stamped in the center. Technically it stood for “glider,” but they were quick to tell anyone who asked that it really stood for “Guts.”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 2010, the last of 33 miners trapped nearly half a mile underground for more than two months at a caved-in mine in northern Chile, were rescued. The miners survived longer than anyone else trapped underground in recorded history.

The miners’ ordeal began on August 5, 2010, when the San Jose gold and copper mine where they were working, some 500 miles north of the Chilean capital city of Santiago, collapsed. The 33 men moved to an underground emergency shelter area, where they discovered just several days’ worth of food rations. As their situation grew more desperate over the next 17 days, the miners, uncertain if anyone would find them, considered suicide and cannibalism. Then, on August 22, a drill sent by rescuers broke through to the area where the miners were located, and the men sent back up a note saying, “We are fine in the refuge, the 33.”

Food, water, letters, medicine and other supplies were soon delivered to the miners via a narrow bore hole. Video cameras were also sent down, making it possible for rescuers to see the men and the hot, humid space in which they were entombed. As engineering and mining experts from around the world collaborated on the long, complex process of devising a way to bring the 33 men up to the surface, the miners maintained a system of jobs and routines in order to keep up morale.

Rescuers eventually drilled and reinforced an escape shaft wide enough to extract the men, one by one. (Employees of a Pennsylvania-based drilling-tool company played a role in drilling the rescue shaft.) On October 12, the first of the miners was raised to the surface in a narrow, 13-foot-tall capsule painted white, blue and red, the colors of the Chilean flag. The approximately 2,000-foot ascent to the surface in the capsule took around 15 minutes for each man.

The miners were greeted by a cheering crowd that included Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera; media from around the world; and friends and relatives, many of whom had been camped at the base of the mine in the Atacama Desert for months. Millions of people around the globe watched the rescue on live TV. Less than 24 hours after the operation began, all 33 of the miners, who ranged in age from 19 to 63, had been safely rescued. Almost all the men were in good health, and each of them sported dark glasses to protect their eyes after being in a dimly lit space for so long.

The rescued miners were later honored with trips to a variety of destinations, including England, Israel and Florida’s Walt Disney World, where a parade was held in their honor.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Even though over 50 native tongues are still spoken in rural locations, Spanish is the national language of Mexico. In fact, Mexico is the most populated Spanish-speaking country in the world.

Echoes of Disasters


There are certain events in history that echo in our memories.  Some echo for centuries, or perhaps even millennia, while others may echo for shorter spans: a century, a decade, a year or two or sometimes, maybe just for a few months.  Those who live through certain events will, of course, remember them far better than succeeding generations.  For example, in my lifetime, I can recall the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy assassination (both), the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam war, the lunar landings, Watergate, the Challenger disaster, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, the Indonesian tsunami and so many, many more things that my grandchildren (and even my kids) never experienced in the same way that I did.  They may read about them in books or be taught about them in school, but they don’t have the same impact in the gut as they do for those of us who lived through them and recall them not just as history, but as mile-markers in our lives.

I had a bit of that this last Saturday afternoon.  I was in Fayetteville, NC, for a speaking engagement that morning and when I was done there was a bit of time before I needed to get to the airport.  On the way driving into town from Raleigh-Durham airport, I noticed a billboard for the Airborne and Special Forces Museum in Fayetteville.  I commented that it sounded interesting.  My host remembered that and suggested we take a quick spin through the museum.  I, of course, was thrilled.  The only problem was that I didn’t have a good camera with me, so I made do with my Microsoft Surface 2.

Today’s photo brought back to me one of those life events.  It wasn’t an event that I was personally involved with, but I recall it very well.  That was the mission into Mogadishu which spawned the movie, Blackhawk Down.  What you see in the photo above is the rotor gear and shattered rotors from the first helicopter that was shot down by the Somali warlords that threw the military plans into disarray and led to the death of American soldiers.  Apparently, some years after the 1993 raid into Mogadishu by the military, these busted parts were repatriated to the US and have found their way to this museum.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1940, cowboy-movie star Tom Mix was killed when he lost control of his speeding Cord Phaeton convertible and rolled into a dry wash (now called the Tom Mix Wash) near Florence, Arizona. He was 60 years old. Today, visitors to the site of the accident can see a 2-foot–tall iron statue of a riderless horse and a somewhat awkwardly written plaque that reads: “In memory of Tom Mix whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the Old West in the minds of living men.”

According to Mix’s press agent, the star was a genuine cowboy and swaggering hero of the Wild West: He was born in Texas; fought in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War; and served as a sheriff in Kansas, a U.S. marshal in Oklahoma and a Texas Ranger. In fact, Mix was born in Driftwood, Pennsylvania; deserted the Army in 1902; and was a drum major in the Oklahoma Territorial Cavalry band when he went off to Hollywood in 1909.

None of these inconvenient facts prevented Mix from becoming one of the greatest silent-film stars in history, however. Along with his famous horse Tony, Mix made 370 full-length Westerns. At the peak of his fame, he was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, earning as much as $17,500 a week (about $218,000 today).  Unfortunately, Mix and Tony had a hard time making the transition to talking pictures. Some people say that the actor’s voice was so high-pitched that it undermined his macho cowboy image, but others argue that sound films simply had too much talking for Mix’s taste: He preferred wild action sequences to heartfelt conversation.

On the day he died, Mix was driving north from Tucson in his beloved bright-yellow Cord Phaeton sports car. He was driving so fast that he didn’t notice–or failed to heed–signs warning that one of the bridges was out on the road ahead. The Phaeton swung into a gully and Mix was smacked in the back of the head by one of the heavy aluminum suitcases he was carrying in the convertible’s backseat. The impact broke the actor’s neck and he died almost instantly. Today, the dented “Suitcase of Death” is the featured attraction at the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  No spacecraft has ever visited Pluto. However, the spacecraft New Horizons, which was launched in 2006, is scheduled to fly by Pluto in 2015.

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


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