Adrift and Floating

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I learned about something new today through Groupon. I get Groupon’s promotional messages automatically delivered to my inbox, though we seldom actually purchase any. Today, one of their specials was for something called “Floating Isolation Tank Sessions.” Apparently, this place called Infinity Floating, has “pods” that are filled with body-temperature water and 900 pounds of “pharmaceutical grade” Epson salts. The idea is to created something similar to the Dead Sea which has so much salinity in it that it takes absolutely no effort at all to float in the water. The same is true of Infinity Floating. They claim it simulates zero gravity and offers no distractions. It actually sounds pretty doggone attractive to me, and very relaxing, too!

So, I was already in a “floating” state of mind when it came time to prepare my photo post for today. I had no idea what to post, but when I looked I came across this photo of a patch of flowers I shot in May. There was a gentle breeze blowing and the patch of ground was covered with lots of pretty flowers. Since I was in a floating mindset already, I pictured what it would be like to be adrift, and floating, in a field of flowers – no energy required on my part, just relaxing. You know what?  That sounds pretty good to me, too!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1963, two months after signing an agreement to establish a 24-hour-a-day “hot line” between Moscow and Washington, the system went into effect. The hot line was supposed to help speed communication between the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union and help prevent the possibility of an accidental war.

In June 1963, American and Russian representatives agreed to establish a so-called “hot line” between Moscow and Washington. The agreement came just months after the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which the United States and Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear conflict. It was hoped that speedier and more secure communications between the two nuclear superpowers would forestall such crises in the future. In August 1963, the system was ready to be tested. American teletype machines had been installed in the Kremlin to receive messages from Washington; Soviet teletypes were installed in the Pentagon. (Contrary to popular belief, the hot line in the United States is in the Pentagon, not the White House.) Both nations also exchanged encoding devices in order to decipher the messages. Messages from one nation to another would take just a matter of minutes, although the messages would then have to be translated. The messages would be carried by a 10,000-mile long cable connection, with “scramblers” along the way to insure that the messages could not be intercepted and read by unauthorized personnel. On August 30, the United States sent its first message to the Soviet Union over the hot line: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890.” The message used every letter and number key on the teletype machine in order to see that each was in working order. The return message from Moscow was in Russian, but it indicated that all of the keys on the Soviet teletype were also functioning.

The hot line was never really necessary to prevent war between the Soviet Union and the United States, but it did provide a useful prop for movies about nuclear disaster, such as Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove. Its significance at the time was largely symbolic. The two superpowers, who had been so close to mutual nuclear destruction in October 1962, clearly recognized the dangers of miscommunication or no communication in the modern world.

Though the Cold War is over, the hot line continues in operation between the United States and Russia. It was supplemented in 1999 by a direct secure telephone connection between the two governments.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Gold is edible. Some Asian countries put gold in fruit, jelly snacks, coffee, and tea. Since at least the 1500s, Europeans have been putting gold leaf in bottles of liquor, such as Danziger Goldwasser and Goldschlager. Some Native American tribes believed consuming gold could allow humans to levitate.

Where will it take you?

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Before you is a door. It may be old, it may be new. It may be painted in color or simply painted by the weather and mud. It might be metal or wood. But there it is…and it beckons.

If there is a lock on the door, it adds to the mystique. What could possibly be behind this locked door? If there’s a handle, it beckons to you to reach out and turn it to gain entry.

What is on the other side? Is it pain? Is it delight? Does the door hide something frightful simply waiting to be loosed on the world? Perhaps something beautiful that needs to be set free to bless and encourage. Will there be heartache or love?

That’s the beautiful thing about doors – you never know until you pass through the doorway and begin whatever adventure awaits you there.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1835, the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appeared in the New York Sun newspaper.

Known collectively as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon’s geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.

The New York Sun, founded in 1833, was one of the new “penny press” papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism. From the day the first moon hoax article was released, sales of the paper shot up considerably. It was exciting stuff, and readers lapped it up. The only problem was that none of it was true. The Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier, and Grant was a fictional character. The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.

Readers were completely taken in by the story, however, and failed to recognize it as satire. The craze over Herschel’s supposed discoveries even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. After Sun employees sent them back and forth between the printing and editorial offices, hoping to discourage them, the scientists returned to New Haven without realizing they had been tricked.

On September 16, 1835, the Sun admitted the articles had been a hoax. People were generally amused by the whole thing, and sales of the paper didn’t suffer. The Sun continued operation until 1950, when it merged with the New York World-Telegram. The merger folded in 1967. A new New York Sun newspaper was founded in 2002, but it has no relation to the original.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Microbiologists have identified air blown from a running vacuum cleaner as one of the five places in the home that has the highest numbers of germs. Other places include dish sponges, washing machines, bathroom toilets during a flush, and kitchen trash cans.

Where I shall live until I live no more…

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In a small pond in the rolling hills of Vermont, about 8 miles from the town of Woodstock, lives a blossom in a pond. It was “born” there and it shall live out its days in the sunshine of the Vermont summer. Then fall will come and with it the drop in temperatures until the cold chokes the life out of the blossom.

I have often wondered if other living things are more sentient than we suspect. Do they sense the shortening of the days and how it becomes hard and harder toward the end to find warmth and strength? Do trees grow weary of standing against the wind?

I don’t know, but I somehow suspect that if they are living things, there is more to them than we might surmise. I don’t think, however, that this blossom regrets for a single second having spent its days in the Vermont pond where I photographed it. I think it, like we, should rejoice in the days we have been given, even though many of those days may have been more filled with rain and clouds than sun. Those days are still a gift…and a precious one at that.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1572, King Charles IX of France, under the sway of his mother, Catherine de Medici, ordered the assassination of Huguenot Protestant leaders in Paris, setting off an orgy of killing that resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Huguenots all across France.

Two days earlier, Catherine had ordered the murder of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader whom she felt was leading her son into war with Spain. However, Coligny was only wounded, and Charles promised to investigate the assassination in order to placate the angry Huguenots. Catherine then convinced the young king that the Huguenots were on the brink of rebellion, and he authorized the murder of their leaders by the Catholic authorities. Most of these Huguenots were in Paris at the time, celebrating the marriage of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the king’s sister, Margaret.

A list of those to be killed was drawn up, headed by Coligny, who was brutally beaten and thrown out of his bedroom window just before dawn on August 24. Once the killing started, mobs of Catholic Parisians, apparently overcome with bloodlust, began a general massacre of Huguenots. Charles issued a royal order on August 25 to halt the killing, but his pleas went unheeded as the massacres spread. Mass slaughters continued into October, reaching the provinces of Rouen, Lyon, Bourges, Bourdeaux, and Orleans. An estimated 3,000 French Protestants were killed in Paris, and as many as 70,000 in all of France. The massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day marked the resumption of religious civil war in France.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The first on-screen kiss was shot in 1896 by the Edison Company. Titled The May Irwin-John C. Rice Kiss, the film was 30 seconds long and consisted entirely of a man and a woman kissing close up.

Wear like a pig’s nose?

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Have you ever work overalls? I have. You don’t spend time on a farm in Iowa without wearing overalls! Even as I kid I was wearing overalls…on Halloween when I’d dress up in a pair of my dad’s overalls, we’d stuff a pillow in the belly area to make me look like a fat man, I’d put on a pair of those classes with a fake nose and plastic mustache and we’d drive from farm to far trick-or-treating. It wasn’t anything like trick-or-treating in the city where you can go house to house and in 30 minutes you’ve got an entire pillow case full of candy. No, I think that on a typical Halloween in Iowa, we’d visit maybe 6-8 farms and that would be it. But it was fun and I loved it.

So, after leaving the farm, I never thought a whole lot more about overalls…until a couple of weeks ago when I saw this sign for sale at the Lakewood Antiques Flea Market in Cumming, GA. Can someone explain what this means to me? I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a pig’s nose!!!

All I can figure is that pigs root around in dirt and mud for a lifetime with their noses and their noses never seem to wear out. Perhaps that’s what they’re saying about Finck’s Detroit-Special Overalls. Any other ideas, folks?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: I’ll bet you didn’t know this: in 1784, four counties in western North Carolina declared their independence as the state of Franklin. The counties lay in what would eventually become Tennessee.

The previous April, the state of North Carolina had ceded its western land claims between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River to the United States Congress. The settlers in this area, known as the Cumberland River Valley, had formed their own independent government from 1772 to 1777 and were concerned that Congress would sell the territory to Spain or France as a means of paying off some of the government’s war debt. As a result, North Carolina retracted its cession and began to organize an administration for the territory.

Simultaneously, representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) and Greene counties declared their independence from North Carolina. The following May, the counties petitioned for statehood as “Frankland” to the United States Congress. A simple majority of states favored acceptance of the petition, but it fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass, even after the counties’ changed their proposed name to “Franklin” in an attempt to curry Benjamin Franklin’s and others’ favor.

In defiance of Congress, Franklin survived as an independent nation for four years with its own constitution, Indian treaties and legislated system of barter in lieu of currency, though after only two years, North Carolina set up its own parallel government in the region. Finally, Franklin’s weak economy forced its governor, John Sevier, to approach the Spanish for aid. North Carolina, terrified of having a Spanish client state on its border, arrested Sevier. When Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw began to attack settlements within Franklin’s borders in 1788, it quickly rejoined North Carolina to gain its militia’s protection from attack.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: John Lennon started a band in 1957 called the Quarry Men and later asked Paul McCartney to join. Paul brought in George Harrison, and later Ringo Starr would replace Peter Best as drummer. The band changed its name a few times, which included the names Johnny and the Moondogs, The Rainbows, and British Everly Brothers.  Whatever they did worked: according to the Beatles Album Sales Statistics, through 2012 they had sold over 2 billion albums.

Sunflower Redux

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Does that sound like a fancy title for an Iowa farm boy?  Bet you didn’t even think that farm boys knew what “redux” meant, eh?  Well, I don’t.  But it makes me sound educated, so I throw it out every so often just for the fun of it!

Anyway, this is another shot I took a few weeks ago (before they harvested all the sunflowers!) and it’s late and I want to go to bed but felt I should post something tonight.  So, there it is: Sunflower Redux.  If you look closely, you can see bees on some of the sunflowers!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sent the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message–a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings–shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II.

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

On August 20, 1977, a NASA rocket launched Voyager II, an unmanned 1,820-pound spacecraft, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the first of two such crafts to be launched that year on a “Grand Tour” of the outer planets, organized to coincide with a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Aboard Voyager II was a 12-inch copper phonograph record called “Sounds of Earth.” Intended as a kind of introductory time capsule, the record included greetings in 60 languages and scientific information about Earth and the human race, along with classical, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music, nature sounds like thunder and surf, and recorded messages from President Jimmy Carter and other world leaders.

The brainchild of astronomer Carl Sagan, the record was sent with Voyager II and its twin craft, Voyager I–launched just two weeks later–in the faint hope that it might one day be discovered by extraterrestrial creatures. The record was sealed in an aluminum jacket that would keep it intact for 1 billion years, along with instructions on how to play the record, with a cartridge and needle provided.

More importantly, the two Voyager crafts were designed to explore the outer solar system and send information and photographs of the distant planets to Earth. Over the next 12 years, the mission proved a smashing success. After both craft flew by Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager I went flying off towards the solar system’s edge while Voyager II visited Uranus, Neptune and finally Pluto in 1990 before sailing off to join its twin in the outer solar system.

Thanks to the Voyager program, NASA scientists gained a wealth of information about the outer planets, including close-up photographs of Saturn’s seven rings; evidence of active geysers and volcanoes exploding on some of the four planets’ 22 moons; winds of more than 1,500 mph on Neptune; and measurements of the magnetic fields on Uranus and Neptune. The two craft are expected to continue sending data until 2020, or until their plutonium-based power sources run out. After that, they will continue to sail on through the galaxy for millions of years to come, barring some unexpected collision.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: It is more likely that Americans will recycle than vote.  Maybe that’s why we keep sending the same old politicians right back into office…it’s sort of like recycling.

Angry Skies

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What would you do if you were outside and looked up and saw the sky dark and brooding as in today’s picture? Would you turn tail and run indoors?  This is the sort of scene you don’t see often if you live in California.  The clouds are just different there.  If you got inland and away from the Pacific a few hundred miles, the cloud formations change and they get billowy and puffy.  By the time that you get to the mid-west or the east coast, the clouds can be huge, piled-high-on-top-of-another that reaches thousands of feet up into the atmosphere.  In California, they are mostly wispy, feathery things, probably because of the winds over the Pacific Ocean, I guess.

I was outside shooting pictures in Vermont under these skies.  It was beautiful.  I actually love shooting photos when there are lots of clouds, and the darker the better.

Our daughter and her family were in Vermont with us and as we drove from Boston to Vermont in the dark, there was a significant lightning storm north of us and my daughter (who lives in San Francisco) was amazed and fascinated by it!  Thunder and lightning are seldom seen in California. Unfortunately, they have had some this summer which started many of the wildfires now burning in the state.  Living here in Georgia, hardly a week goes by when we don’t have some thunder and lightning.  And I enjoy it!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1227, Genghis Khan, the Mongol leader who forged an empire stretching from the east coast of China west to the Aral Sea, died in camp during a campaign against the Chinese kingdom of Xi Xia. The great Khan, who was over 60 and in failing health, may have succumbed to injuries incurred during a fall from a horse in the previous year.

Genghis Khan was born as Temujin around 1162. His father, a minor Mongol chieftain, died when Temujin was in his early teens. Temujin succeeded him, but the tribe would not obey so young a chief. Temporarily abandoned, Temujin’s family was left to fend for themselves in the wilderness of the Steppes.

By his late teens, Temujin had grown into a feared warrior and charismatic figure who began gathering followers and forging alliances with other Mongol leaders. After his wife was kidnapped by a rival tribe, Temujin organized a military force to defeat the tribe. Successful, he then turned against other clans and tribes and set out to unite the Mongols by force. Many warriors voluntarily came to his side, but those who did not were defeated and then offered the choice of obedience or death. The nobility of conquered tribes were generally executed. By 1206, Temujin was the leader of a great Mongol confederation and was granted the titleGenghis Khan, translated as “Oceanic Ruler” or “Universal Ruler.”

Khan promulgated a code of conduct and organized his armies on a system of 10: 10 men to a squad, 10 squads to a company, 10 companies to a regiment, and 10 regiments to a “Tumen,” a fearful military unit made up of 10,000 cavalrymen. Because of their nomadic nature, the Mongols were able to breed far more horses than sedentary civilizations, which could not afford to sacrifice farmland for large breeding pastures. All of Khan’s warriors were mounted, and half of any given army was made up of armored soldiers wielding swords and lances. Light cavalry archers filled most of the remaining ranks. Khan’s family and other trusted clan members led these highly mobile armies, and by 1209 the Mongols were on the move against China.

Using an extensive network of spies and scouts, Khan detected a weakness in his enemies’ defenses and then attacked the point with as many as 250,000 cavalrymen at once. When attacking large cities, the Mongols used sophisticated sieging equipment such as catapults and mangonels and even diverted rivers to flood out the enemy. Most armies and cities crumbled under the overwhelming show of force, and the massacres that followed a Mongol victory eliminated thoughts of further resistance. Those who survived–and millions did not–were granted religious freedom and protection within the rapidly growing Mongol empire. By 1227, Khan had conquered much of Central Asia and made incursions into Eastern Europe, Persia, and India. His great empire stretched from central Russia down to the Aral Sea in the west, and from northern China down to Beijing in the east.

On August 18, 1227, while putting down a revolt in the kingdom of Xi Xia, Genghis Khan died. On his deathbed, he ordered that Xi Xia be wiped from the face of the earth. Obedient as always, Khan’s successors leveled whole cities and towns, killing or enslaving all their inhabitants. Obeying his order to keep his death secret, Genghis’ heirs slaughtered anyone who set eyes on his funeral procession making its way back to Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol empire. Still bringing death as he had in life, many were killed before his corpse was buried in an unmarked grave. His final resting place remains a mystery.

The Mongol empire continued to grow after Genghis Khan’s death, eventually encompassing most of inhabitable Eurasia. The empire disintegrated in the 14th century, but the rulers of many Asian states claimed descendant from Genghis Khan and his captains.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Galileo did not invent the telescope; he was, however, the first to methodically use it to peer into the night sky. Dutch eyeglass maker Hans Lippershey (1570‒1619) actually invented the optical telescope (telescopes that see visible light) in 1608.

Lovin’ those Southern recipes!

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Double click for a larger size image…

Let’s face it: it’s legendary. Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy!  Fried green tomatoes.  Fried dill pickles.  Okra (well, THAT’S not MY cup of tea!).  Creamed spinach.  Southern BBQ.  Collard greens.  Cajun shrimp. Creamy/dreamy grits from the Flying Biscuit restaurant. Yum, yum, yum!

If you’ve not tasted the cuisine of the south, you’re missing something. Come on down and we’ll maybe go with you to the Blue Willow Inn, a fantastic home-style restaurant out in rural Georgia.  I’ll drive – you can pay for the food!

But then there’s the more exotic fare, such as is mentioned in today’s photo that I took in Dalonhega. Just sorta makes your mouth water to just think about it, don’t it?  Creamed possum with coon fat gravy!  Now does it possibly get any better than that!? (I hope so!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson and a force of Marine raiders came ashore Makin Island, in the west Pacific Ocean, occupied by the Japanese. What began as a diversionary tactic almost ended in disaster for the Americans.

Two American submarines, the Argonaut and the Nautilus, approached Makin Island, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands, which had been seized by the Japanese on December 9, 1941. The subs unloaded 122 Marines, one of two new raider battalions. Their leader was Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, a former lecturer on post-revolutionary China. Their mission was to assault the Japanese-occupied Makin Island as a diversionary tactic, keeping the Japanese troops “busy” so they would not be able to reinforce troops currently under assault by Americans on Guadalcanal Island.

Carlson’s “Raiders” landed quietly, unobserved, coming ashore on inflatable rafts powered by outboard motors. Suddenly, one of the Marines’ rifles went off, alerting the Japanese, who unleashed enormous firepower: grenades, flamethrowers, and machine guns. The subs gave some cover by firing their deck guns, but by night the Marines had to begin withdrawing from the island. Some Marines drowned when their rafts overturned; about 100 made it back to the subs. Carlson and a handful of his men stayed behind to sabotage a Japanese gas dump and to seize documents. They then made for the submarines too. When all was said and done, seven Marines drowned, 14 were killed by Japanese gunfire, and nine were captured and beheaded.

Carlson went on to fight with the U.S. forces on Guadalcanal. He was a source of controversy; having been sent as a U.S. observer with Mao’s Army in 1937, he developed a great respect for the “spiritual strength” of the communist forces and even advocated their guerrilla-style tactics. He remained an avid fan of the Chinese communists even after the war.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: To die honorably, the defeated Roman gladiator would grasp the thigh of his victor who would then hold his opponent’s head or helmet and plunge a sword in his neck. To make sure the gladiator was not faking his death, an attendant dressed as Mercury would touch him with a hot iron rod and another attendant dressed as Charon would hit him with a mallet. (Sorta makes you wanna go to gladiator school, NOT!)

In Other Words, Just Relax…

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I’ve had several friends recently who posted on Facebook about some people who got upset and angry about really stupid, simple things and vented their frustration at everyone around them, including my friends.  The reaction was certainly not commensurate with any provocation – it was totally overboard. We’ve all witnessed those kinds of things, and in fact, we’ve been guilty of doing the same thing, I’m sure. But it isn’t pretty when it happens, nor is it warranted.

The South is just full of colloquial expressions.  I took this photo a couple of weeks ago in a gift shop in Dahlonega, Georgia, and it is a southern way of saying, “Just relax…take it easy…have a lemonade and calm down!”

Good advice.  I’m sure things will happen this week that will test our patience and response…just keep this image in your mind, and don’t get your panties in a bunch about it!  Your week will be better for it!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  on August 16, 1948, baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth died from cancer in New York City. For two days following, his body lay in state at the main entrance to Yankee Stadium, and tens of thousands of people stood in line to pay their last respects. He was buried in Hawthorne, New York.

Ruth, who had a colorful personality and an unmistakable physical presence, began his major league career in Baltimore in 1914. That same year, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox and during the next five years proved himself to be a formidable left-handed pitcher and batter. In 1919, he was sold to the New York Yankees, where he played outfield to better exploit his phenomenal hitting talents. At a time when baseball was suffering through the disgrace of the Black Sox scandal, Ruth almost single-handedly salvaged the sport’s popularity, hitting a record 60 home runs in the 1927 season and leading the Yankees to seven pennants. Yankee Stadium, opened in 1923, came to be known as “the House that Ruth Built.”

However, the Babe also made headlines by his charitable actions, such as visiting sick children in hospitals. In 1935, he retired from baseball, having hit a record 714 home runs in his career. In 1946, Ruth was diagnosed with throat cancer, but doctors could do little. Early the next year, treatment ended. On June 13, 1948, a uniformed Ruth appeared at Yankee Stadium one last time to retire his number. On August 16, he died of cancer at the age of 53.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  At Italian weddings, it is not unusual for both the bride and groom to break a glass. The number of shards will be equal to the number of happy years the couple will have.

Like a Stone Wall

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Double click for a larger version of this image.

I don’t know why, but I have always loved things made from rock. If I could choose the facade for my dream house, it would be made of rock, not brick or wood.  Rock.

If I had the money and time, I’d put a rock wall around my yard. Rock, not split rail, chain link or wood.  Rock.

There is something about rock that seems almost eternal. The rock wall in my photo for today has been standing for who knows how long? It has weathered the howling blizzards of the Vermont winter for years and has never complained.  It doesn’t care when the sun beats down on it.  It stands firm, like a rock.

Stonewall Jackson reported got his name “Stonewall” (it was really Thomas) because when other generals and their troops would cut and run, he wouldn’t.  Someone witnessed it and said, “There stood Jackson, like a stone wall,” and the name stuck.

Bob Seeger and his Silver Bullet Band sang a song that also came to be used by Chevy trucks about how their vehicles are “…like a rock.”

Rock. It even sounds solid and firm. Gotta love it.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, German aircraft began the bombing of southern England, and the Battle of Britain, which will last until October 31, escalatedf.

The Germans called it “the Day of the Eagle,” the first day of the Luftwaffe’s campaign to destroy the RAF, the British Royal Air Force, and knock out British radar stations, in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, the amphibious invasion of Britain. Almost 1,500 German aircraft took off the first day of the air raid, and 45 were shot down. Britain lost 13 fighters in the air and another 47 on the ground. But most important for the future, the Luftwaffe managed to take out only one radar station, on the Isle of Wight, and damage five others. This was considered more trouble than it was worth by Herman Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe, who decided to forgo further targeting of British radar stations because “not one of those attacked so far has been put out of operation.”

Historians agree that this was a monumental mistake on the part of the Germans. Had Goering and the Luftwaffe persisted in attacking British radar, the RAF would not have been able to get the information necessary to successfully intercept incoming German bombers. “Here, early in the battle, we get a glimpse of fuddled thinking at the highest level in the German camp,” comments historian Peter Fleming. Even the Blitz, the intensive and successive bombing of London that would begin in the last days of the Battle of Britain, could not compensate for such thinking. There would be no Operation Sea Lion. There would be no invasion of Britain. The RAF would not be defeated.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Stress makes the blood “stickier,” in preparation for an injury. Such a reaction, however, also increases the probability of developing a blood clot. This is the reason that stress is so dangerous for those with coronary heart disease or those with hereditary dispositions toward heart attack or stroke.

Doofus in the Mist

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Double click for a larger version of the image (if you dare!)

I share today’s photo, not with the intention of scaring little children, but of simply making the point that not all alpaca’s are winsome, smiley creatures. The other day, I shared a rather happy looking alpaca. Today’s alpaca, is, well, I guess there no polite way of saying this, rather doofus-like.

What, you may ask, is a doofus?  Webster defines it thusly: “a stupid or foolish person”. That’s why I didn’t say this WAS a doofus, just rather doofus looking. I therefore christened this particular alpaca with the name, Goofy.

Note the razor sharp look in the eyes (not!). Don’t miss the well-trimmed long eyebrows and eye lashes (not!). Get a load of that aquiline nose. And I think that the coup de gras is the mouth and teeth. Perhaps the only thing that I am aware of that looks more like a doofus is either Bart Simpson or me!!!!

Still, I’m sure that this alpaca’s mother loves him.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovered three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turned out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer.

Amazingly, Sue’s skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Hendrickson’s employer, the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, paid $5,000 to the land owner, Maurice Williams, for the right to excavate the dinosaur skeleton, which was cleaned and transported to the company headquarters in Hill City. The institute’s president, Peter Larson, announced plans to build a non-profit museum to display Sue along with other fossils of the Cretaceous period.

In 1992, a long legal battle began over Sue. The U.S. Attorney’s Office claimed Sue’s bones had been seized from federal land and were therefore government property. It was eventually found that Williams, a part-Native American and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, had traded his land to the tribe two decades earlier to avoid paying property taxes, and thus his sale of excavation rights to Black Hills had been invalid. In October 1997, Chicago’s Field Museum purchased Sue at public auction at Sotheby’s in New York City for $8.36 million, financed in part by the McDonald’s and Disney corporations.

Sue’s skeleton went on display at the Field Museum in May 2000. The tremendous T.rex skeleton–13 feet high at the hips and 42 feet long from head to toe–is displayed in one of the museum’s main halls. Another exhibit gives viewers a close-up view of Sue’s five foot-long, 2,000-pound skull with its 58 teeth, some as long as a human forearm.

Sue’s extraordinarily well-preserved bones have allowed scientists to determine many things about the life of T.rex. They have determined that the carnivorous dinosaur had an incredible sense of smell, as the olfactory bulbs were each bigger than the cerebrum, the thinking part of the brain. In addition, Sue was the first T.rex skeleton to be discovered with a wishbone, a crucial discovery that provided support for scientists’ theory that birds are a type of living dinosaur. One thing that remains unknown is Sue’s actual gender; to determine this, scientists would have to compare many more T.rex skeletons than the 22 that have been found so far.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Bela Lugosi’s (1882-1956) face was used as a model for Satan in Walt Disney’s production Fantasia (1940). Lugosi was famous for playing Count Dracula on the stage and on screen.

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

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