…Childlike Curiosity

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OK, so I like to tease people.  I really do.  I am careful, though, to only tease those I love and who I know fairly well.  I don’t go up and start teasing folks I don’t know or with whom I am barely acquainted.  Doing so could result in a swift knuckle sandwich, and I prefer other fare for lunch!  But when it comes to family and good friends…well, all bets are off.

My wife isn’t a teaser.  She, bless her heart, has learned to put up with my teasing for the most part, so it is rather unusual when she teases someone else.  She might say that in the incident that I’m about to relate to you that she wasn’t teasing…she was just telling a fairy tale of sorts.  But the outcome was really cute, regardless…

A bit over a week ago, our middle child and his family came out for a barbecue.  Their family includes our two youngest grand daughters, ages six and three.  Now at that age, children are fairly gullible and are easy targets for teasing or tall tales.

Not too long before they came, my wife had ordered some decorations that are meant to be attached to a tree.  They are called fairy doors because they are supposed to be doors and windows that the fairies use to get into the inside of a tree.  My wife had installed them on a couple of trees outside our place so they would be there when the little girls arrived.  When they got here, she made a point out of showing them the “doors” (which are round in shape, sort of like Hobbit-doors) and explained that they are fairy doors.  The little ones were captivated and walked over to the closest decorated door to check it out.  I, naturally, had my camera and caught a photo of them as they began to inspect the doors.  Then, the littlest one reached out and knocked on the door so the fairies would open up and she could see them!  I felt so fortunate to capture the moment….

There were some rather interesting expressions on their faces after no one answered, and then oldest eventually pulled one side of the “door” aside to see if there was a hallway leading from the back of the fairy door into the tree.  When she realized she’d been “had”, she got the cutest expression on her face!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1897, the very first copies of what would become the quintessential vampire novel Dracula, by Irish writer Bram Stoker, appeared in London bookshops.

A childhood invalid, Stoker grew up to become a soccer star at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he got a job in civil service at Dublin Castle, where he worked for the next 10 years while writing drama reviews for the Dublin Mail. In this way, Stoker met the well-respected actor Sir Henry Irving, who hired him as his manager. Stoker stayed in the post for most of the next three decades, writing Irving’s voluminous correspondence for him and accompanying him on tours in the United States. Over the years, Stoker began writing a number of horror stories for magazines, and in 1890 he published his first novel, The Snake’s Pass.

Stoker would go on to publish 17 novels in all, but it was his 1897 novel Dracula that eventually earned him literary fame and became known as a masterpiece of Victorian-era Gothic literature. Written in the form of diaries and journals of its main characters, Dracula is the story of a vampire who makes his way from Transylvania–a region of Eastern Europe now in Romania–to Yorkshire, England, and preys on innocents there to get the blood he needs to live. Stoker had originally named the vampire “Count Wampyr.” He found the name Dracula in a book on Wallachia and Moldavia written by retired diplomat William Wilkinson, which he borrowed from a Yorkshire public library during his family’s vacations there.

Vampires–who left their burial places at night to drink the blood of humans–were popular figures in folk tales from ancient times, but Stoker’s novel catapulted them into the mainstream of 20th-century literature. Upon its release, Dracula enjoyed moderate success, though when Stoker died in 1912 none of his obituaries even mentioned Dracula by name. Sales began to take off in the 1920s, when the novel was adapted for Broadway. Dracula mania kicked into even higher gear with Universal’s blockbuster 1931 film, directed by Tod Browning and starring the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Dozens of vampire-themed movies, television shows and literature followed, though Lugosi, with his exotic accent, remains the best known Count Dracula.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The world’s largest stockpile of gold can be found five stories underground inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s vault and it holds 25% of the world’s gold reserve (540,000 gold bars). While it contains more gold than Fort Knox, most of it belongs to foreign governments.


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When I was last in California, I went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with my daughter and her husband and daughter.  I shared some pictures from it before, but what I captured in today’s photo bears some explaining.

We were almost out of time on the parking meter and were soon going to have to leave the Boardwalk when I wondered if my grand daughter wanted to go on a ride.  I thought she was interested in one in particular, and when I asked her if she wanted to ride on it and that I’d pay for it, she said, no, but she loved to ride on the overhead cable cars that move people from one end of the Boardwalk to the other.  So, I told her I’d buy her a ticket and that I’d ride with her.

Now, sitting in an open bucket about 35 feel above the ground isn’t my idea of fun because I don’t like heights (but it is something I’ll do for my grand kids!), so we bought out tickets and headed up the stairs to the platform.  We climbed in and started the ride.  Then, part way through the ride, I noticed this fellow approaching us in one of the buckets from the other direction.  The goofy look on his face reminded me of some of my friends (who will go unnamed), but he looked like he was posing, so I shot him…with my camera, of course!  Kinda reminded me of Homer Simpson…doh!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1542, on the banks of the Mississippi River in present-day Louisiana, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto died, ending a three-year journey for gold that took him halfway across what is now the US. So the Indians would not learn of his death and discover that de Soto’s claims of divinity were false, his men buried him in the Mississippi River.

In late May 1539, de Soto landed on the west coast of Florida with 600 troops, servants, staff, 200 horses, and a pack of bloodhounds. They immediately set about subduing the natives, seizing any valuables and preparing the region for Spanish colonization. Traveling through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Appalachians, and back to Alabama, de Soto failed to find the gold and silver he desired, but he did seize a valuable collection of pearls at Cofitachequi, in present-day Georgia. Decisive conquest also eluded the Spaniards, as what would become the United States lacked the large, centralized civilizations of Mexico and Peru.

As was the method of Spanish conquest in the Americas, de Soto mis-treated and enslaved the natives. For the most part, the Indian warriors they encountered were intimidated by the Spanish horsemen and kept their distance. In October 1540, however, a confederation of Indians attacked the Spaniards at the Indian town of Mabila, near present-day Mobile, Alabama. All the Indians were killed, along with 20 of de Soto’s men. Several hundred Spaniards were wounded. In addition, the Indian conscripts they had come to depend on to bear their supplies had all fled with baggage.

De Soto could have marched south to reconvene with his ships along the Gulf Coast, but instead he ordered his expedition north-westward in search of America’s elusive riches. In May 1541, the army reached and crossed the Mississippi River, probably the first Europeans ever to do so. From there, they traveled through Arkansas and Louisiana. Turning back to the Mississippi, de Soto died of a fever on its banks on May 21, 1542.

The Spaniards, now under the command of Luis de Moscoso, traveled west again, crossing into north Texas before returning to the Mississippi. With nearly half of the original expedition dead, the Spaniards built rafts and traveled down the river to the sea, and then made their way down the Texas coast to New Spain, finally reaching Veracruz, Mexico, in late 1543.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the past 400 years, nearly a quarter of a million people have been killed as a direct result of volcanic eruptions. Indirect aftereffects such as famine, climate change, and disease most likely have tripled that number.

…Bottom’s Up!

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When you stop to think about it, we drink from a variety of “things”.  For example, here’s at least a partial list that I can think of from which I’ve quaffed fluid: glass bottles, aluminum bottles, aluminum cans, out of my cupped hands, glasses, cups, water fountains, spigots, water hoses, A&W wax/cardboard containers when I was in high school (the quart size, which seemed huge back then!), mugs, goblets, paper cups and yes, I confess, milk cartons and milk bottles.  What would your list look like?  Can you think of other things you’ve used to get a drink?

Today’s photo of a variety of cups, glasses and goblets was taken in a shop at the Renaissance Faire a bit over a week ago. I liked the way they were all arranged. Utensils fit for a king or queen, eh?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1969, after 10 days and 10 bloody assaults, Hill 937 in South Vietnam was finally captured by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. The Americans who fought there cynically dubbed Hill 937 “Hamburger Hill” because the battle and its high casualty rate reminded them of a meat grinder.

Located one mile east of the Laotian border, Hill 937 was ordered taken as part of Operation Apache Snow, a mission intended to limit enemy infiltration from Laos that threatened Hue to the northeast and Danang to the southeast. On May 10, following air and artillery strikes, a U.S.-led infantry force launched its first assault on the North Vietnamese stronghold but suffered a high proportion of casualties and fell back. Ten more infantry assaults came during the next 10 days, but Hill 937’s North Vietnamese defenders did not give up their fortified position until May 20. Almost 100 Americans were killed and more than 400 wounded in taking the hill, amounting to a shocking 70 percent casualty rate.

The same day that Hamburger Hill was finally captured, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts called the operation “senseless and irresponsible” and attacked the military tactics of President Richard Nixon’s administration. His speech before the Senate was seen as part of a growing public outcry over the U.S. military policy in Vietnam. U.S. military command had ordered Hill 937 taken primarily as a diversionary tactic, and on May 28 it was abandoned. This led to further outrage in America over what seemed a senseless loss of American lives. North Vietnamese forces eventually returned and re-fortified their original position.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Influenced by Richard Wagner, Elizabeth Nietzsche, the sister of the famous philosopher, selected an entire community of people based on their blonde hair and blue eyes and shipped them off to an isolated village in Paraguay in order to plant the seed of a new race of supermen. The village still exists.

…Gargoyles Can Have Fetishes

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I’ve learned that going to Renaissance Festivals can be a very educational experience.  I mean, who knew that so many people back in the day had elf ears (see my most recent post prior to this one)?  Who knew that there were cell phones in renaissance times, yet I saw them all over the festival.  And did you know that they had Coca-Cola products then?  Nope, me neither.  See how educational such events can be?

Sometimes, however, you learn things that you wish you didn’t.  I mean, we all know that there are people who get excited by various things…and those things sometimes are referred to as fetishes.  These are typically things which people take to extremes and which are a bit out of the ordinary.

The word fetish originally meant “charm,” and it originates from the 15th century Portuguese word feitico, which means false power, object or charm. For example, when the Portuguese explored West Africa and encountered native religions, they called whatever talisman (totems, carvings, beads) they revered a fetish.

To the Portuguese in those days, the fetishists were those who worshiped the unusual. Later on, however, the implication of the word took on a whole different meaning.

First, a fetish involves the transfer of power from an original source onto a substitute. Second, a fetishist is someone who operates outside the circle of what is characteristically considered normal. Yeah right, what is normal nowadays?

There are “media fetishes” – such as someone who likes leather; there are form fetishes – where someone likes a certain shape like high heels; and there are “animate fetishes” which relate to humans, such as an eye fetish, where one is obsessed with eyes.  (I just want you to know I had to look all the preceding up!!!!)

Then, there are the more weird fetishes, like the fetish of the fellow in today’s photo.  You may have heard about such a fetish before, in this case, apparently an animate fetish…as this gargoyle clearly is into feet and nibbling on toes.  All I can say is that I’m glad he was under lock and key…I didn’t want him nibbling on my toes!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1864, a dozen days of fighting around Spotsylvania, Virginia, ended with a Confederate attack against the Union forces. The epic campaign between the Army of the Potomac, under the effective direction of Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began at the beginning of May when Union forces crossed the Rapidan River. After a bloody two-day battle in the Wilderness forest, Grant moved his army further south toward Spotsylvania Court House. This move was a departure from the tactics of the previous three years in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Since 1861, the Army of the Potomac had been coming down to Virginia under different commanders only to be defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia, usually under Lee’s direction, and had always returned northward.

But Grant was different than the other Union generals. He knew that by this time Lee could not sustain constant combat. The numerical superiority of the Yankees would eventually wear Lee down. When Grant ordered his troops to move south, a surge of enthusiasm swept the Union veterans; they knew that in Grant they had an aggressive leader who would not allow the Confederates time to breathe. Nevertheless, the next stop proved to be more costly than the first.

After the battle in the Wilderness, Grant and Lee waged a footrace for the strategic crossroads at Spotsylvania. Lee won the race, and his men dug in. On May 8, Grant attacked Lee, initiating a battle that raged for 12 awful days. The climax came on May 12, when the two armies struggled for nearly 20 hours over an area that became known as the Bloody Angle.

The fighting continued sporadically for the next week as the Yankees tried to eject the Rebels from their breastworks. Finally, when the Confederates attacked on May 19, Grant prepared to pull out of Spotsylvania. Convinced he could never dislodge the Confederates from their positions, he elected to try to circumvent Lee’s army to the south. The Army of the Potomac moved, leaving behind 18,000 casualties at Spotsylvania to the Confederates’ 12,000. In less than three weeks Grant had lost 33,000 men, with some of the worst fighting yet to come.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is home to the world’s largest parking lot. The Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has the third largest runway in the world and is the alternate landing site for the space shuttle. Texas has more airports than any other state in the country.

…of Lothlorien


Where precisely is Middle Earth?  Where is Gondor, the Shire, or for that matter, Fanghorn Forest?  There are those who would say that they existed only in the mind of JRR Tolkien, who “wrote” them into existence.  There are those who say there are no such things as hobbits, cave trolls or dwarves who mine gold from the depths of the earth.  There are many who don’t believe there are such things as elves, and I would have counted myself among them up until a weekend ago when we visited the Georgia Renaissance Festival and I came across the comely elfin lass in today’s photo.

Imagine my surprise when I came around a corner and my eyes beheld this bewitching elf!  Now I have to start to rethink all sorts of things: if there are elves, are the leprechauns who hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows?  How about fairies with pixie dust that can make you fly?  Perhaps there really is a large rodent relative who hides eggs for children to find at Easter and a jolly old red-faced man in a red suit who has a team of flying reindeer who works all year long at the far northern reaches of the globe just to delight us all at Christmas?  If this lass is anything, she surely must be evidence that elves exist, that they are lovely creatures, and that all sorts of wondrous things are possible…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1769, George Washington fired a legislative salvo at Great Britain’s fiscal and judicial attempts to maintain its control over the American colonies. With his sights set on protesting the British policy of “taxation without representation,” Washington brought a package of non-importation resolutions before the Virginia House of Burgesses.

The resolutions, drafted by George Mason largely in response to England’s passage of the Townshend Acts of 1767, decried Parliament’s plan to send colonial political protestors to England for trial. Though Virginia’s royal governor promptly fired back by disbanding the House of Burgesses, the dissenting legislators were undeterred. During a makeshift meeting held at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia’s delegates gave their support to the non-importation resolutions. Maryland and South Carolina soon followed suit with the passing of their own non-importation measures.

The non-importation resolutions lacked any means of enforcement, and Chesapeake tobacco merchants of Scottish ancestry tended to be loyal to their firms in Glasgow. However, tobacco planters supported the measure, and the mere existence of non-importation agreements proved that the southern colonies were willing to defend Massachusetts, the true target of Britain’s crackdown, where violent protests against the Townshend Acts had led to a military occupation of Boston, beginning on October 2, 1768.

When Britain’s House of Lords learned that the Sons of Liberty, a revolutionary group in Boston, had assembled an extra-legal Massachusetts convention of towns as the British fleet approached in 1768, they demanded the right to try such men in England. This step failed to frighten New Englanders into silence, but succeeded in rallying Southerners to their cause. By impugning colonial courts and curtailing colonial rights, this British action backfired: it created an American identity where before there had been none.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: With nearly 3,000 years of rich history, Rome is often called the “Eternal City.” Though Rome dates back to possibly 625 B.C., the oldest continuously populated city in the world is widely to be considered Byblos in present-day Lebanon dating back to 5000 B.C.

…and the Reflection

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Reflections attempt to portray a glimpse of reality.  A face reflected in a mirror, a person reflected in a store-front window, a building reflected in a puddle of rain water – they aren’t the real thing, but just reflections of something more substantial and beautiful.

When I was in California recently, I met up with my daughter and her family and we went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.  I’d never been there before (hard to believe for someone who has spent as much time as I did in the greater San Francisco bay area!) and I had a wonderful time!  The best part of it, of course, was the time spent with those I love, but there were other things that made it interesting, too.

There is a carousel there at the Boardwalk and it features at least three different “band boxes.”  They were very interesting and colorful.  As I took the picture you see here today of the beautiful music machine, I noticed the even more beautiful reflection of my oldest grand daughter reflected in the glass.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1972, seventeen U.S. helicopters landed 1,000 South Vietnamese marines and their six U.S. advisors behind North Vietnamese lines southeast of Quang Tri City in the first South Vietnamese counterattack since the beginning of the communist Nguyen Hue Offensive. The marines reportedly killed more than 300 North Vietnamese before returning to South Vietnamese-controlled territory the next day. Farther to the south, North Vietnamese tanks and troops continued their attacks in the Kontum area.

On May 1, North Vietnamese troops had captured Quang Tri City, the first provincial capital taken during their ongoing offensive. The fall of the city effectively gave the North Vietnamese control of the entire province of Quang Tri. Farther south along the coast, three districts of Binh Dinh Province also fell, leaving about one-third of that province under communist control.

These attacks were part of the North Vietnamese Nguyen Hue Offensive (later called the “Easter Offensive”), a massive invasion by North Vietnamese forces on March 30 to strike the blow that would win them the war. The attacking force included 14 infantry divisions and 26 separate regiments, with more than 120,000 troops and approximately 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles. The main North Vietnamese objectives, in addition to Quang Tri in the north and Kontum in the Central Highlands, included An Loc farther to the south.

The situation at Quang Tri would not be rectified until President Nguyen Van Thieu relieved the I Corps commander and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Ngo Quang Truong, whom Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr., later described as “probably the best field commander in South Vietnam.” Truong effectively stopped the ongoing rout of South Vietnamese forces, established a stubborn defense, and eventually launched a successful counterattack against the North Vietnamese, retaking Quang Tri in September.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Penguins often slide on their tummies over ice and snow. This is called tobogganing. Researchers believe they do this for fun and as an efficient way to travel.

…Must Have Been Very Strange

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Meet Roxie.  Roxie is a, well, I’m not sure what she is supposed to be.  But this past weekend when we went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival, Roxie was just a short distance inside the entry to greet us.  This strange creature (and the other strange folks we saw) really made me think that we’d not fallen into a Renaissance Faire, but into something from the Dark Ages…the VERY Dark Ages!  There were people everywhere with elf ears, horns on their heads, elf ears and horns on their head…and even some folks dressed as Imperial Storm Troopers!  For a while I thought we’d fallen through a rip in the space-time continuum and were in the future until someone reminded me that Star Wars took places “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away!”  That made me feel better right way…at least, until I saw Roxie again!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1987, firefighters finally contained a giant fire sweeping eastward across China, but not before 193 people are killed.

The fateful fire began on May 6 in Mohe County of the Heilongjiang Province. From the outset, authorities mishandled the blaze, failing to contain it while the size was still manageable. It spread quickly and within two days, 2,000 square miles had burned and 100 people were dead. Firefighters also had to contend with a separate large forest fire that had broken out near China’s border with the Soviet Union that threatened to join the initial blaze.

It took several more days for the firefighters to finally stop the spread of the fire as it moved toward Inner Mongolia. Although the city of Manqui was saved by controlled fire breaks set by the firefighters, the toll from this huge fire was already immense. Two and a half million acres of land burned and 50,000 people lost their homes. In addition to the 193 people who were killed, hundreds more were injured.

When the fire finally burned out completely on May 27, Yang Zhong, China’s Forestry Minister, was fired for the initially incompetent firefighting response.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The lobotomy, from the Greek lobe=of brain +tome=slice, was one of the most popular types of brain surgery ever invented. Neurologist and psychiatrist Walter Freeman (who was not a surgeon) simplified the surgery by taking an icepick through the eye sockets instead of through drilled holes in the skull. He chose an ice pick because regular surgical tools made at the time kept snapping off inside of people’s heads.  Headache, anyone?

…and HDR

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High-Dynamic Range imagery is pretty amazing.  The idea behind it is relatively simple and has to do with the difference in the ability to perceive light by the eye versus the camera.  The human eye is a true miracle and the iris of the eye and brain work together to constantly adjust the amount of light that enters the eye.  Cameras, on the other hand, can’t do that.  They take one image and the exposure is frozen – not to mention that the human eye can distinguish between a MUCH wider range of light and dark simultaneously than any camera.  Perhaps you’ve seen photos where the sky is “washed out” – there is no blue and it’s just whiteish.  That’s because of the problem your camera has in apprehending a wide enough range of light.  In the case I just described, the light sensor in the camera took a meter reading off of a darker area and tried to brighten the image. Or, if you focused on a lighter area, the dark areas of the image may be lacking detail because they are too dark because the camera darkened the image.

The technique behind HDR is simple: shoot more than one version of an image.  Typically, at least three will be used (one that is intentionally underexposed so the lighter areas are not “washed out” [all whitish like the sky], an exposure that the camera thinks is correct, and another that is overexposed so the darker areas have more detail).  Then, typically using computer software with sophisticated algorithms, the computer combines the three images into one, keeping the darker portions of the image from the overexposed photo and the lighter portions of the image from the underexposed photo and the “normal” exposure.  The result is a HDR image.

Some HDR images are garish and look very fake, while others are truly beautiful and come much closer to capture an image that is closer to what the human eye sees.  I don’t typically care for the surreal HDR images, but a “realistic” HDR image can be lovely.

One more thing about HDR images: they typically aren’t used for images where things are in motion because the images have to be aligned carefully or you get “ghosting” from movement.  For that reason, it is best to use a tripod when taking HDR images in order to minimize camera shake that would tend to blur any image.

Today’s photo was shot last Friday at Mission Springs Conference Center in Felton, CA.  It is the result of three exposures…handheld, actually.  I’d not really tried HDR images with flowers before and there was a slight breeze, but the image still turned out nicely (at least, I think so).

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1934, a massive storm sent millions of tons of topsoil flying from across the parched Great Plains region of the United States as far east as New York, Boston and Atlanta.

When the Great Plains were settled in the mid-1800s, the land was covered by prairie grass, which held moisture in the earth and kept soil from blowing away even during dry spells. By the early 20th century, farmers had plowed under much of the grass to create fields. The U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 caused a great need for wheat, and farms began to push their fields to the limit, plowing under more and more grassland with the newly invented tractor. The plowing continued after the war, when the introduction of even more powerful gasoline tractors sped up the process. During the 1920s, wheat production increased by 300 percent, causing a glut in the market by 1931.

That year, a severe drought spread across the region. As crops died, wind began to carry dust from the over-plowed and over-grazed lands. The number of dust storms reported jumped from 14 in 1932 to 28 in 1933. The following year, the storms decreased in frequency but increased in intensity, culminating in the most severe storm yet in May 1934. Over a period of two days, high-level winds caught and carried some 350 million tons of dust all the way from the Great Plains to the eastern seaboard. According to the NY Times, dust “lodged itself in the eyes and throats of weeping and coughing New Yorkers,” and even ships some 300 miles offshore saw dust collect on their decks.

The dust storms forced thousands of families from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico to uproot and migrate to California, where they were derisively known as “Okies”–no matter which state they were from. These transplants found life out West not much easier than what they had left, as work was scarce and pay meager during the worst years of the Great Depression.

Another massive storm on April 15, 1935–known as “Black Sunday”–brought even more attention to the desperate situation in the Great Plains region, which became known as the “Dust Bowl.” That year, as part of its New Deal program, FDR’s administration began to enforce federal regulation of farming methods, including crop rotation, grass-seeding and new plowing methods. This worked to a point, reducing dust storms by up to 65 percent, but only the end of the drought in the fall of 1939 would truly bring relief.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Osteoporosis fractures cost around $18 billion per year, or $38 million a day. In 2005, fractures related to osteoporosis were responsible for an estimated $19 billion. By 2025, experts predict it will rise to $25.3 billion.

…a Dog’s Life

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Another saying that must be mostly American is, “It’s a dog’s life!”  And let’s face it, dogs in America have it pretty doggone good (pun intended!)  I’ve been in conferences for the past two weeks and I’ve eaten like a pig…or two.  I’d recently been going to the gym regularly and had lost 8-10 pounds.  I fear now that I’ve put a fair bit of that back on my bones.

Dogs in America eat better (and much more often) than many of the people in the world.  That has been brought home to me again this week while I’ve been in conference with my Medical Ambassadors co-workers who serve in some of the most impoverished and hunger-prone areas of the world where people literally don’t know where the next days’ food will come from…or if it will come at all.

People in those countries will work from dawn to after dark to try to feed their families and get enough water to keep flesh and spirit together.  I am old enough that I probably would never survive in those countries because I no longer have that kind of strength and physical prowess.  There’s a reason why there are not many old people in those areas of the world…they simply cannot survive.  If the diseases or war won’t kill them, inability to work hard enough to provide for one’s needs will.

Today’s photo is of our dog.  I don’t want to make light of the plight I’ve described above, but the simple truth is that she has it made.  She sleeps most of the day, eats twice a day, gets to walk around in safety and won’t be eaten.  Sort of gives new meaning to “It’s a dog’s life”, doesn’t it?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1965, in the early morning hours of a Clearwater, Florida, motel room, a bleary-eyed Keith Richards awoke, grabbed a tape recorder and laid down one of the greatest pop hooks of all time: The opening riff of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” He then promptly fell back to sleep.

“When I woke up in the morning, the tape had run out,” Richards recalled many years later. “I put it back on, and there’s this, maybe, 30 seconds of ‘Satisfaction,’ in a very drowsy sort of rendition. And then it suddenly—the guitar goes ‘CLANG,” and then there’s like 45 minutes of snoring.” It wasn’t much to go on, but he played it for Mick Jagger later that same day. “He only had the first bit, and then he had the riff,” Jagger recalls. “It sounded like a country sort of thing on acoustic guitar—it didn’t sound like rock. But he didn’t really like it, he thought it was a joke… He really didn’t think it was single material, and we all said ‘You’re off your head.’ Which he was, of course.”

With verses written by Jagger—Richards had already come up with the line “I can’t get no satisfaction”—the Stones took the song into the Chess studios in Chicago just three days later, on May 10, 1965, and completed it on May 12 after a flight to Los Angeles and an 18-hour recording session at RCA. It was there that Richards hooked up an early Gibson version of a fuzz box to his guitar and gave a riff he’d initially envisioned being played by horns its distinctive, iconic sound.

Though the Stones at the time were already midway through their third U.S. tour, their only bona fide American hits to date were “Time Is On My Side” and the recently released “The Last Time.” “Satisfaction” was the song that would catapult them to superstar status. Forty years later, when Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Satisfaction” #2 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” it put the following historical perspective on the riff Keith Richards discovered on this day in 1965: “That spark in the night…was the crossroads: the point at which the rickety jump and puppy love of early rock and roll became rock.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: One in five adults admitted to urinating in swimming pools, which means 20% of adults in swimming pools have urinated in it. Red eyes associated with swimming are not caused by chlorine. They are caused by chloramine, a chemical that is created when urine combines with the chlorine already in the pool. In fact, the more strong smelling a pool is, the more contaminated it is.  (Don’t go near the water!  Sharks aren’t the only danger!)

…Sticky Situation

Double click for a larger image...
Double click for a larger image…

We often find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths or getting ourselves into some kind of trouble because of our own “stupidity.”  Well, I guess I shouldn’t speak for you, but I know it is true of me.  Here in America we have a saying that we’ve gotten ourselves into a sticky situation.  I look for an explanation of where the saying comes from but found nothing that was very satisfying.

There is a similar saying in England and other places where they play cricket.  Instead of a sticky situation, it’s a sticky wicket.  That one comes from when the pitch (the field where the game is played) is wet and tacky…in such a case the ball doesn’t roll or bounce properly.

I don’t know that either has anything to do with today’s photo, but this is a cactus I photographed in Peoria, Arizona last week.  Looks pretty sticky to me…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: 1911: George Maledon, the man who executed at least 60 men for “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker, died from natural causes in Tennessee.

Few men actively seek out the job of hangman and Maledon was no exception. Raised by German immigrants in Detroit, Michigan, Maledon moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, in his late teens and joined the city police force. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War, and he then returned to Fort Smith where he was appointed a U.S. deputy marshal. The town also had occasional need of an executioner, and Maledon agreed to take on the grisly task in addition to his regular duties as a marshal.

Maledon wound up with more business than he expected. In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed a young prosecuting attorney named Isaac Parker to be the federal judge of the Western District of Arkansas. Headquartered at Fort Smith, the Western District was one of the most notoriously corrupt in the country, and it included the crime-ridden Indian Territory to the west (in present-day Oklahoma). Indian Territory had become a refuge for rustlers, murderers, thieves, and fugitives, and Parker’s predecessor often accepted bribes to look the other way. Assigned an unprecedented force of 200 U.S. marshals to restore order, Parker began a massive dragnet that led to the arrest of many criminals. A friend of the Indians and more sympathetic to the victims of crimes than the criminals, Parker doled out swift justice in his court. In his first months in session he tried 91 defendants and sentenced eight of them to hang.

It was Maledon’s job to carry out Judge Parker’s death sentences. Paid $100 for each hanging, Maledon willingly accepted the work. He tried to be a conscientious hangman who minimized suffering with a quick death. Maledon said he considered the job “honorable and respectable work and I mean to do it well.”

In all, Maledon is believed to have hanged about 60 men and to have shot five more who tried to escape. Subsequent sensational accounts of the Fort Smith “Hanging Judge” unfairly painted Parker as a cruel sadist with Maledon as his willing henchman. Yet, it is well to keep in mind that 65 marshals were also killed in the line of duty attempting to bring law and order to Indian Territory during Parker’s term.

After Parker died from diabetes in 1896, Maledon met a publicity-seeking attorney named J. Warren Reed, who had written a lurid account of the Fort Smith court entitled Hell on the Border. Attracted by the promise of fame and money, Maledon joined Reed in a promotional tour for the book. He willingly played the role of the ghoulish hangman, displaying ropes he had preserved and telling which were used to execute various outlaws.

After a year of touring, Maledon tired of the limelight and used his earnings to purchase a farm. A small man with a weak constitution, he did not have the strength to work the farm profitably, and soon after entered a soldier’s home at Johnson City, Tennessee, where he remained until his death in 1911.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: When Martin Van Buren wrote his autobiography after serving as president from 1837-1841, he didn’t mention his wife of 12 years. Not even once. 

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


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