In the beginning…


Everything here on earth has a beginning, and I suppose that means that some day it will also have an ending – one way or the other. Mighty redwoods spring from a very tiny seed. Great rivers start from somewhere and flow downhill toward the sea.

Today’s photo is one such example. While one would be hard pressed to describe the Jordan River along the eastern edge of Israel and bordering on Jordan to be a “great river”, it, like all rivers, has a beginning.

The Jordan River is big in history, but small in size. I was rather taken-aback by how small the river really is. In my mind, I’d always pictured it being bigger…at least 2-3 times as wide as it really is.

During our recent vacation to Israel, we went to the headwaters of the Jordan. While there are three sources for the river, there is a karst spring from which the majority (about 50%) of the river rises. Today’s photo was taken perhaps 500 yards from that karst spring. It was cold…but beautiful.


ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1962, Francis Gary Powers, an American who was shot down over the Soviet Union while flying a CIA spy plane in 1960, was released by the Soviets in exchange for the U.S. release of a Russian spy. The exchange concluded one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War.

Powers had been a pilot of one of the high altitude U-2 spy planes developed by the United States in the late-1950s. Supposedly invulnerable to any Soviet antiaircraft defense, the U-2s flew numerous missions over Russia, photographing military installations. On May 1, 1960, Powers’ U-2 was shot down by a Soviet missile. Although Powers was supposed to engage the plane’s self-destruct system (and commit suicide with poison furnished by the CIA), he and much of the plane were captured. The United States at first denied involvement with the flight, but had to admit that Powers was working for the U.S. government when the Soviets presented incontrovertible evidence. In retaliation, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev called off a scheduled summit with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Powers was put on trial, convicted of espionage, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In February 1962, the Soviet Union announced that it was freeing Powers because of a petition from the prisoner’s family. American officials made it quite clear, however, that Abel was being exchanged for Powers—a spy-for-a-spy trade, not a humanitarian gesture on the part of the Soviet Union. The U.S. government announced that in exchange for Powers, it would release Col. Rudolf Abel, a Russian convicted of espionage in the United States. On February 10, Abel and Powers were brought to the Gilenicker Bridge that linked East and West Berlin for the exchange. After the men were successfully exchanged, Powers was flown back to the United States.

In an announcement, the Soviet Union declared that its release of Powers was partially motivated by “a desire to improve relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.” U.S. officials were cautious in evaluating the Soviet overture, but did note that the action could certainly help lessen Cold War tensions. The exchange was part of the ongoing diplomatic dance between Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy. Both men seemed earnestly to desire better relations, and the February 1962 exchange was no doubt part of their efforts. Just a few months later, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the Soviets helped construct missile bases in Cuba, erased the memory of these diplomatic overtures and brought the two powers to the brink of nuclear conflict.

The recent Tom Hanks movie, Bridge of Spies, was about this prisoner exchange (and was a good movie!!!!)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The English word “girl” was initially used to describe a young person of either sex. It was not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that the term was used specifically to describe a female child.

It doesn’t look dead…


Dead Sea, Israel, January 2016. Camera pointer: Galen Dalrymple.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. I’m not really sure what I expected the Dead Sea to look like, but I didn’t expect it to be a spectacular blue color. It looks so inviting and alive, yet you don’t see boats on the water, nor do you see fish jump.

The Dead Sea is also called the Salt Sea. The surface and shore of the sea is 1407 feet below sea level, making it the lowest place on land on the face of the planet. The sea is 997 feet deep, making it the deepest hypersaline body of water on the planet.  The water is 34.2% saline, 9.6 times more salty than the ocean, but it isn’t the saltiest body of water on earth. It is 31 miles long and 9 miles wide at its widest point, but no animals live in it due to the salt and minerals. In has only been recently that I’m told they did discover some bacteria that live in the sea, but that’s it. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

The sea attracts visitors from around the world and around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. In the Bible, it is a place of refuge for King David as he flees from King Saul and his envious rage. Herod the Great used it as one of the world’s first health resorts. It has produced as wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to minerals for fertilizers. The salt and minerals are also used to create cosmetics and herbal products. Because the Dead Sea water has a density of 1.24 kg/liter, it truly takes no effort to float…just squat down into the water, lean back, and stick your hands and feet up in the air and voila…you’re floating effortlessly! (It was fun!)

But, you can’t stay in the water too long or you’ll start to have a burning sensation. If you swallow the water, they warn you to tell someone so you can be treated, or, as one of the signs I saw stated, you could die. It’s not to be messed with, but it was far more beautiful than I ever imagined. I pictured something of a dingy green/brown color, but not this!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, the largest and most luxurious ocean liner on the seas at that time, France’s Normandie, caught fire while in the process of being converted for military use by the United States.

The Normandie, built in 1931, was the first ship to be constructed in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the 1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. It was also enormous, measuring 1,029 feet long and 119 feet wide and displacing 85,000 tons of water. It offered passengers seven accommodation classes (including the new “tourist” class, as opposed to the old “third” class, commonly known as “steerage”) and 1,975 berths. It took a crew of more than 1,300 to work her. Despite its size, it was also fast: capable of 32.1 knots. The liner was launched in 1932 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1935. In 1937, it was reconfigured with four-bladed propellers, which meant it could cross the Atlantic in less than four days.

When France surrendered to the Germans in June 1940, and the puppet Vichy regime was installed, the Normandie was in dock at New York City. The Navy immediately placed it in “protective custody,” since the U.S. government did not want a ship of such size and speed to fall into the hands of the Germans, which it certainly would if it returned to France. In November 1941, Time magazine ran an article stating that in the event of the United States’ involvement in the war, the Navy would seize the liner altogether and turn it into an aircraft carrier. It also elaborated on how the design of the ship made such a conversion relatively simple. When the Navy did take control of the ship, shortly after Pearl Harbor, it began the conversion of the liner–but to a troop ship, renamed the USS Lafayette in honor of the French general who aided the American colonies in their original quest for independence.

The Lafayette never served its new purpose, as it caught fire and capsized. Sabotage was originally suspected, but the likely cause was sparks from a welder’s torch. Although the ship was finally righted, the massive salvage operation cost $3,750,000 and the fire damage made any hope of employing the vessel impossible. It was scrapped–literally chopped up for scrap metal–in 1946.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In the mountain communities of Appalachia, whole families were reduced to dandelions and blackberries for their basic diet during the Depression. Some children were so hungry, they chewed on their own hands.

What Is It?


I photographed the object in today’s post when I was in Jerusalem. What do you think it is? And no, it’s not a diving helmet!

I took this picture about 50 feet from the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a sad commentary that this was needed at all.

OK, since I can’t hear anything you just suggested that it might be, I’ll tell you. It’s a container in which a bomb could be placed and detonated, or at least it would shield those around the area from the effects of a bomb blast. Isn’t it sad that such a thing would be needed outside of the “holiest” places in Christendom?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1990, the man who was born Charles Westover in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1934, the singer/songwriter known as Del Shannon committed suicide on this day in 1990. In a period when the American pop charts were dominated by cookie-cutter teen idols and novelty acts, he stood out as an all-too-rare example of an American pop star whose work reflected real originality. His heyday as a chart-friendly star in the United States may have been brief, but on the strength of his biggest hit alone he deserves to be regarded as one of rock and roll’s greatest.

Legend has it that while on stage one night at the Hi-Lo Lounge in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1960, the young and unknown Del Shannon stopped his band mid-song to have his organ player repeat, over and over, an unusual chord sequence he had just ad-libbed: A-minor to G. Charlie went to work the next day in his job as a carpet salesman with those chords stuck in his mind, and by the time he took the stage that night, he’d written a song called “Little Runaway” around them—(A-minor) As I walk along I (G) wonder, what went wrong…”. It would be three more months before Shannon and his band could make it to a New York recording studio to record the song that Shannon now saw as his best, and possibly last, shot at stardom. As he told Billboard magazine years later, “I just said to myself, if this record isn’t a hit, I’m going back into the carpet business.” Del Shannon sold his last carpet a few months later, as “Runaway” roared up the pop charts on its way to #1 in April 1961.

“Hats Off To Larry” and “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)” were Shannon’s only other top-10 hits in the United States, but he enjoyed a much bigger career in the UK, where he placed five more songs in the top 10 over the next two years. Like most stars of his generation, Shannon was primarily regarded as an Oldies act through the 70s and 80s, but he was in the midst of a concerted comeback effort in early 1990, with a Jeff Lynne-produced album of original material already completed and rumors swirling of his taking the late Roy Orbison’s place in The Traveling Wilburys. This only added to the shock experienced by many when Shannon shot himself in his Santa Clarita, California, home on February 3, 1990. Shannon’s widow would later file a high-profile lawsuit against Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Prozac, which Shannon had begun taking shortly before his suicide. That suit was eventually dropped, but the case brought early attention to the still-unresolved question of the possible connection between suicidal ideation and SSRIs, the class of drugs to which Prozac belongs.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In the United States, there is little difference between the terms “college” and “university.” However, the term “college” in other countries, such as Canada, refers to a junior college or trade college, where as a “university” is larger, more research focused, and usually contains multiple colleges.

When in Jerusalem…Go Shopping?


I’ve written about my “fondness” (do you detect the facetiousness in that statement???) for shopping. I’ve also written how my wife loves to shop – so we’ve come to a good accommodation when we shop – she shops and I either people watch or take photos. It works for us!

When you think of going to Jerusalem, though, you may not think that much about shopping. After all, there is so much to see there that is historical and absolutely fascinating! I think you could spend weeks there and not see all that there is to see.

Shopping in Jerusalem, you say? Yes! You can shop in the Old City in endless mazes of tiny shops and bazaars for scarves, knick-knacks, trinkets and the like….but you can also find some shops that have really high quality products, like the shop where I shot today’s photo. Did I buy anything there? No. I didn’t even go in, but shot the picture from outside. Did my wife buy anything there? No. Whew!!!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1962, the first U.S. helicopter was shot down in Vietnam. It was one of 15 helicopters ferrying South Vietnamese Army troops into battle near the village of Hong My in the Mekong Delta.

The first U.S. helicopter unit had arrived in South Vietnam aboard the ferry carrier USNS Core on December 11, 1961. This contingent included 33 Vertol H-21C Shawnee helicopters and 400 air and ground crewmen to operate and maintain them. Their assignment was to airlift South Vietnamese Army troops into combat.

If my calculations are accurate (based on a Wikipedia article) another 5497 would be destroyed/lost before the war came to an end.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In 2008, a Canadian man was attacked by a grizzly bear. He survived the attack by playing dead, even when the bear began to gnaw on his scalp. The bear eventually lost interest and went away.

Dome of the Rock


If there is one item along the Jerusalem skyline that immediately identifies the city, it is probably the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock was built initially in 691 AD at the order of a Muslim caliph. The Dome of the Rock is now one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture. Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces. The octagonal plan of the structure may also have been influenced by the Byzantine Chapel of St Mary (also known as Kathisma and al-Qadismu) built between 451 and 458 on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, where Jews and Muslims traditionally believe Abraham was set to offer Isaac as recorded in Genesis.

The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site where the Jewish first temple (built by king Solomon) and second temple (built by Herod the Great) had stood. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, who built a temple to Jupiter on the site. During the Byzantine era, Jerusalem was primarily Christian, and pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to experience the first church of Christianity and places where Jesus walked.

The diameter of the dome of the shrine is 20.20 m and its height 20.48 m, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90 m and its height 21.05 m.

The structure is basically octagonal. It comprises a wooden dome, approximately 66 feet in diameter, and is mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. The outer facade is made of porcelain and mirrors the octagonal design. They each measure approximately 60 feet wide and 36 feet high. 

It is a beautiful structure by any measure. This photo was shot on a cold, mostly clear morning in January, 2016.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943, Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, defeated by Marines, started to withdraw after the Japanese emperor finally gave them permission.

On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island, part of the Solomon Islands chain, and began constructing an airfield. In response, the U.S. launched Operation Watchtower, in which American troops landed on five islands within the Solomon chain, including Guadalcanal. The landings on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tananbogo met with much initial opposition from the Japanese defenders, despite the fact that the landings took the Japanese by surprise because bad weather had grounded their scouting aircraft. “I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting,” wrote one American major general on the scene. “These people refuse to surrender.”

The Americans who landed on Guadalcanal had an easier time of it, at least initially. More than 11,000 Marines landed, but 24 hours passed before the Japanese manning the garrison knew what had happened. The U.S. forces quickly met their main objective of taking the airfield, and the outnumbered Japanese troops temporarily retreated. Japanese reinforcements were landed, though, and fierce hand-to-hand jungle fighting ensued. The Americans were at a particular disadvantage because they were assaulted from both sea and air, but when the U.S. Navy supplied reinforcement troops, the Americans gained the advantage. By February 1943, the Japanese retreated on secret orders of their emperor. In fact, the Japanese retreat was so stealthy that the Americans did not even know it had taken place until they stumbled upon abandoned positions, empty boats, and discarded supplies.

In total, the Japanese lost more than 25,000 men compared with a loss of 1,600 by the Americans. Each side lost 24 warships.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Iraq once had one of the highest quality schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write.

The Illusion is Complete


The human eye/brain connection is an interesting and fascinating one. Our eyes see things as they really are, but sometimes the brain can’t really make sense of what we see. And because our experiences have taught us to believe only what makes sense to us, our minds come up with an explanation to make sense out of the sensory input that is coming through our senses.

Take today’s photo as an illustration. It is a picture I took in Jerusalem’s old city – the Jewish Quarter to be precise. It is actually a mural on a wall near an underground shopping area. The mural is quite large…I’d guess at least 15-20 feet wide and the height would be proportional. It is supposed to represent a street scene from ancient Jerusalem (probably around the first century) and the street has colonnaded shops on both sides. The street is abuzz with adults, children and animals that have been brought to the bazaar.

So, where is the illusion? Well, so you see the columns on left hand side of the mural? There are four of them, the tallest being in the foreground and the shorter in the background. Those are real pillars from ancient history! They are not part of the mural. Yet they blend into the scene so well that it was a picture that was begging to be taken.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: sixty-six years ago today, in 1950, U.S. President Harry S. Truman publicly announced his decision to support the development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.

Five months earlier, the United States had lost its nuclear supremacy when the Soviet Union successfully detonated an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan. Then, several weeks after that, British and U.S. intelligence came to the staggering conclusion that German-born Klaus Fuchs, a top-ranking scientist in the U.S. nuclear program, was a spy for the Soviet Union. These two events, and the fact that the Soviets now knew everything that the Americans did about how to build a hydrogen bomb, led Truman to approve massive funding for the superpower race to complete the world’s first “superbomb,” as he described it in his public announcement on January 31.

On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Elugelab Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device, built upon the Teller-Ulam principles of staged radiation implosion, instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. The incredible explosive force of Mike was also apparent from the sheer magnitude of its mushroom cloud–within 90 seconds the mushroom cloud climbed to 57,000 feet and entered the stratosphere. One minute later, it reached 108,000 feet, eventually stabilizing at a ceiling of 120,000 feet. Half an hour after the test, the mushroom stretched 60 miles across, with the base of the head joining the stem at 45,000 feet.

Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the “hell bomb,” as it was known by many Americans, and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history – and lives under it still.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: “Love” in the sense of “no score” in tennis dates to 1792 and means “playing for love” or, in other words, playing for nothing. Other scholars claim that “love” as a tennis score is a corruption of the French word for egg, “L’oeuf,” because of the egg’s resemblance to a zero.

Bumper Stickers


What is it that causes people to put bumper stickers on their cars? I don’t get it. I don’t know that I’ve ever put a bumper sticker on my cars. Does that make me strange? I have put magnetic “ribbons” on the back of a car that speak towards supporting our veterans, but that’s about it. I don’t have anything against bumper stickers themselves. I just don’t want to put them on my car or truck. I must admit, however, that I find some bumper stickers to be clever and often funny.

While we were in Jerusalem in the old city, I saw this billboard with a bunch of bumper stickers pinned on to it. I thought some of them were pretty clever. Check ’em out!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1936, the dismembered body of Florence Polillo was found in a basket and several burlap sacks in Cleveland. The 42-year-old woman was the third victim in 18 months to be found dismembered with precision. It sparked a panic in Cleveland,where the unknown murderer was dubbedthe “Mad Butcher.”

In June 1936, another head, and later a headless body, turned up and police were unable to identify the victim. Even when a replica mask of the victim’s face was displayed at the Great Lakes Exposition, the victim remained a mystery, while the Mad Butcher continued killing.

By the summer of 1938, with the body count into double digits, the Cleveland police were desperate to find the Mad Butcher. One suspect, an actual butcher named Frank Dolezal, was interrogated for 40 straight hours until he confessed to killing Florence Polillo. However, he subsequently changed his story many times and killed himself in his cell before his guilt could be determined.

In reality, though, few authorities believed Dolezal was actually the killer—it is believed that the real suspect was relatively prominent and politically connected, and as a result the police department trumped up the case against Dolezal. All official police records of the matter have been destroyed.

The Mad Butcher’s attack stopped in Cleveland after the Dolezal’s suicide. The true identity of the Mad Butcher remains a mystery to this day.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Several studies show that a plant-based diet increases the body’s metabolism, causing the body to burn calories up to 16% faster than the body would on a meat-based diet for at least the first 3 hours after meals. Bummer!

Dead Men’s Bones


One of the more fascinating things throughout history is the burial customs of various peoples. The ancient Egyptians captivated us with the idea of embalming. The ancient inhabitants of Ireland had their own customs as evidenced by the dolmens that have ben left behind, and by the amazing New Grange.

I took today’s photo in Israel recently. What you see here is a burial complex. See the flat “benches” that are out front of the rock wall areas? That’s where the people would bring the dead bodies. They would anoint them with spices and such (probably to help keep the smell down) and lay the bodies on the benches. Then, they’d leave them there for a year while the flesh and organs deteriorated. After one year, they’d come back and collect the bones, put them into an ossuary (think of a box, often made of stone or ceramic, that holds bones) and place them into one of the niches carved into the walls.

Aren’t you glad you didn’t live then?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1968, the Israeli submarine Dakar, carrying 69 sailors, disappeared and was never seen again. The exact fate of this vessel remains a mystery to this day.

The Dakar was built at the height of World War II by H.M. Dockyard in Great Britain and commissioned as the HMS Totem by the British navy in 1943. Following the war, the submarine was modified, adding 12 feet to its length and removing some of its gun decks. Israel bought the sub, along with two other similar ones, from Great Britain in 1965. On November 10, 1967, the Israeli navy officially launched it as the Dakar. Following tests near Scotland, the Dakar was scheduled to journey to Haifa in Israel for an official ceremony in early February.

As the Dakar moved toward Haifa, it was supposed to radio its position to the command center in Israel every day. As it passed Gibraltar and moved into the Mediterranean Sea, Lieutenant Commander Ya’acov Ra’anan, in charge of the Dakar, requested permission to arrive in Haifa early on January 28. On January 24, though, the Dakar passed the island of Crete and radioed its position for the last time.

There was an additional signal from the Dakar just after midnight on January 25 and then–nothing. After the sub missed its scheduled signaling, unsuccessful attempts were made to contact the Dakar throughout the day. The following day, an international search-and-rescue operation began. Forces from the United States, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon all tried to find the Dakar for five days before giving up. Israel continued the search on its own until February 4. Despite some speculation that the submarine was deliberately sunk, the Dakar‘s whereabouts remain a mystery.

Israel proclaimed March 4 a national day of mourning and it was declared that all 69 sailors on board the Dakar were considered dead under Jewish religious law. A monument to the crew was later built on Mount Herzel in Jerusalem.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Calvin Graham was only 12 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart before the Navy found out how old he was.



A Hard Earned Freedom


“Israeli Bunkers“, Jersualem, Israel. Camera pointer: Galen C. Dalrymple, 2016.

One of the things that strikes you about Israel is how hard they have had to work to remain a nation. I don’t want to get into politics and I realize that there are probably readers who are not fans of Israel. That’s not the point of this post or this blog. I’m just sharing pictures of what I see and find interesting…and to tell you stories about them that might be of interest. Since my most recent trip was to Israel, right now, things that I saw there are the subject of my current posts.

Israel has been engaged in numerous wars with their neighboring countries. One of the most critical was in 1967 when Israel was on the brink of destruction. The prime minister at the time, Golda Meir, had made many overtures to the surrounding countries and believed that she’d made a lot of progress. So much progress, as a matter of fact, that despite warnings from the Israeli intelligence and military, she didn’t believe that the neighboring countries would attack. But they did. And they caught the Israelis totally unprepared…a mistake that nearly cost them their country.

Today’s photo was taken on a ridge in Jerusalem. It is a shot of a bunker system that the Israeli’s occupied during the 1967 war. In the background, you can see trees. The Egyptian army was in the line of trees as the battle raged on this very spot. This was in Jerusalem…and it was shocking to me to realize how far into Israel the Egyptian army was located. 

Try picturing that happening in Washington, DC, or anywhere else in America, for that matter. It sends shivers up and down my spine.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1998, Hilary Swank (an incredible actress in my opinion, and one of my favorites!) made her final appearance in a multi-episode arc on the Fox prime-time soap opera Beverly Hills, 90210. Barely two years later, in a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Swank would be standing onstage at the Academy Awards to accept the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance inBoys Don’t Cry.

Born in Nebraska on July 30, 1974, Swank grew up mostly in Bellingham, Washington. She performed in school plays and was a talented athlete, swimming in the Junior Olympics and competing in gymnastics. After her parents separated, Swank’s mother Judy moved with her daughter to Los Angeles to support Hilary’s desire to become an actress. After arriving in L.A., mother and daughter lived out of their car for a couple of weeks until Judy was able to save enough money to rent an apartment.

In 1992, Swank made her film debut in a bit role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two years later, she landed the title role in The Next Karate Kid (1994), the fourth and final movie in the Karate Kid series. Playing a troubled teenager who learns karate from Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), Swank was a replacement for Ralph Macchio (then 32 years old), who had starred in the first three films. The film was received poorly by critics and earned only $8.9 million at the box office–by far the least money of all the Karate Kid movies.

Swank joined the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 for the beginning of the show’s eighth season, when its popularity was waning (it was canceled in early 2000 after ten seasons). The show’s central characters had graduated from college and were embarking on their first jobs and other challenges of adulthood. Swank played Carly Reynolds, a single mom who gets involved with Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) and works as a waitress at the gang’s hangout, the Peach Pit. After 16 episodes, Swank was dropped from the series.

In a 2005 interview with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes (shortly before she took home her second Best Actress Oscar, for her role as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood’sMillion Dollar Baby) Swank was candid about how the firing affected her confidence: “I thought if I’m not a good enough actor for 90210, then maybe I should [pack it in]….I was devastated.”

It turned out to be a stroke of luck, however, as the out-of- work Swank was able to audition for and win the lead role in the independent film Boys Don’t Cry (1999), directed by Kimberly Peirce and based on the tragic real-life story of Brandon Teena, a young transgender man in small-town Nebraska who was raped and murdered by his male acquaintances after they discovered his secret. Swank was paid just $75 per week–a total of $3,000–for Boys Don’t Cry, but it would make her career. She won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress and was catapulted onto the Hollywood A-list, leaving the days of prime-time soap operas well behind her.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In studies done at Anderson Labs, international experts report that mice have dropped dead after breathing some new carpet fumes.



Remember the character from the Bible: King Herod? Well, he was also known as Herod the Great…not because he was a “great guy” (quite the opposite!!!!), but because he was a builder of incredible enthusiasm and ability. He was also paranoid – well, maybe not paranoid because in many cases his fears may have been well-founded – and constructed fortresses where he could escape if forced to abandon his palace in say, Jerusalem.

One such fortress was south of Jerusalem and east of Bethlehem – about one day’s journey from Jerusalem. On a fairly clear day, you can see the outlines of two peaks in the distance from Jerusalem. One appears to be flat. On top of the larger of the two peaks is one of the escape fortresses Herod the Great built. It was built between 23 and 15 BC.  The fortress was surrounded by a double wall 207 feet in in diameter and seven stories high. Inside, Herod built a palace fortress including halls, courtyards and bathhouses.

Earth was heaped up around the walls, which created a cone-shaped artificial mountain. (The dirt was moved from one of the two peaks to the site of the Herodium to be put around the walls. At the foot of this edifice, Herod built a kind of royal ‘country club,’ including a large pool, a bathhouse and a roofed pool.

Despite its desert location, the complex was surrounded by magnificent gardens irrigated by the pool. A special aqueduct from the area of Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem brought water to the palace.

The importance of Herodium to the king is clear from the fact that it is the only place he constructed to which he gave the use of his name. The discovery of Herod’s magnificent tomb there after long years of searching strengthens the understanding that the Judean “builder-king” had a special attachment to this site. Its special charm is also revealed in the breathtaking view from the top, which takes in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the unspoiled Judean Desert.

During the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans the rebels had a base at Herodium, constructing a synagogue there that can still be seen. During the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jewish fighters hewed tunnels within the artificial mountain, part of which are lit and accessible to visitors. The fighters would come out at night, attack the Romans, and then disappear again before they could be found.

Today’s photo is a panorama of the ruins of the Herodium from atop the peak upon which it is built that I shot earlier this month. The Herodium (or Herodian as it is also called) is now a national park in Israel.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1883, heavy fog in the North Sea caused the collision of two steamers and the death of 357 people.

The Cimbria was a 330-foot, 3,000-ton steamship built in 1867 and operated by the Hamburg-Amerika Line. It left Hamburg, Germany, on January 18 with 302 passengers and 120 crew members. Among the passengers were eastern Europeans heading to America, French sailors on their way to Le Havre and a touring group of Native Americans who were exhibiting Wild West paraphernalia.

The Sultan, a smaller Hull and Hamburg Line steamer traveling with only a crew, was also moving through the North Sea on January 19. Although there was heavy fog early that morning, neither boat took any precautionary measures, like reducing their speed, and the Sultan smashed straight into the Cimbria on the port side.

Both steamers were badly damaged and the Cimbria‘s lifeboats were launched. Seven were inflated, but in the confusion, they weren’t filled anywhere near capacity. In addition, three lifeboats quickly disappeared in the heavy fog and were never seen again. For those people who did not make it onto a lifeboat, the cold water was deadly. Hypothermia and drowning claimed hundreds of lives within minutes.

A few nearby ships picked up a couple of lifeboats soon after but the bulk of the 65 survivors from the Cimbria were not picked up until two days later. The captain of the Sultan, which had managed to stay afloat, was widely criticized for his failure to provide any assistance to the passengers and crew of the Cimbria. In total, 357 people lost their lives.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Iraq once had one of the highest quality schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write.

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


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