Catching Light in a Bottle

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Have you heard the expression, “Catching lightning in a bottle”? Well, this isn’t lightning, but it is a close relative. I mean, after all, it’s electricity – and so is lightning.

Someone got clever and decided to make a hanging lamp out of a mason jar. I thought it might make an interesting shot. Rather shocking what some folks come up with, isn’t it?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militiamen murdered 96 Christian Indians–39 children, 29 women and 28 men–by hammering their skulls with mallets from behind as they kneel unarmed, praying and singing, in their Moravian Mission at Gnadenhuetten in the Ohio Country. The Patriots then piled their victims’ bodies in mission buildings before burning the entire community to the ground. Two boys managed to survive, although one had lost his scalp to his attackers. Although the militiamen claimed they were seeking revenge for Indian raids on their frontier settlements, the Indians they murdered had played no role in any attack.

This infamous attack on non-combatants led to a loss of faith in the Patriots by their Indian allies and reprisals upon Patriot captives in Indian custody. The Indians resurrected the practice of ritualized torture, discontinued during the Seven Years’ War, on the men they were able to apprehend who had participated in the Gnadenhuetten atrocity.

Although the Moravians and their Indian converts were pacifists who refused to kill under any circumstances, they found other ways to assist the Patriot cause. Like other Indian allies who refused to kill fellow Indians, they aided the Patriots by working as guides and spies. The German Moravian missionaries were also supplying the Americans with critical information, for which they were later arrested and tried by the British.

None of this protected the Indians when 160 members of the Pennsylvania militia decided to act as judge, jury and executioner. The Delaware Indians they murdered were neutral pacifists. Their Christian missionaries were aiding the Patriot cause. Furthermore, they did not live in the manner described as savage by European settlers–they were instead engaged in European-style settled agriculture in their mission village. There was no political, religious or cultural justification for the militiamen’s indiscriminate brutality during the Gnadenhuetten massacre; the incident is sadly illustrative of the anti-Indian racism that sometimes trumped even political allegiances during the American Revolution.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman took the first acid trip in 1943 while he was conducting tests for a migraine cure in Basel, when he accidentally absorbed the LSD compound through his fingertips.

Boxed

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One of the things that I like best about going to the flea market that I wrote about yesterday is the old wood that is there. Sometimes, they are just old barn boards or slices of trees and at other times it is wood that has been painted or stained to look old or antique. I have to admit that I’m not an aficionado of antiques so I could be easily duped. But I know what I like to see and try to take photos of the old (or old-looking) wood when I get the chance.

Today’s photo was shot at that flea market. I liked the way these old wooden boxes looked and how they were stacked atop each other in a non-symmetrical way. I even liked the color that had been applied to them.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, I didn’t buy them!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 2002, the defense rested in the trial of Andrea Yates, a 37-year-old Texas woman who confessed to killing her five young children by drowning them in a bathtub. Less than a week later, on March 13, Yates was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; however, her conviction was later reversed.

Andrea Pia Kennedy was born July 2, 1964, in Houston, Texas, and married Russell Yates on April 17, 1993. The couple’s first child, Noah, was born in February 1994. Three more boys followed, in 1995, 1997 and February 1999. Later that year, Yates attempted suicide twice and was diagnosed with psychosis and postpartum depression. She was also advised not to have any more children; however, in November 2000, she gave birth to a daughter. Several months later, she had another breakdown and was hospitalized.

After her husband, a NASA employee, left for work on the morning of June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub of the family’s suburban Houston home. Afterward, she called 911 and then phoned her husband to tell him he needed to return home immediately. Police found the body of the Yates’ oldest son Noah, age 7, face-down in the tub. Yates had placed the bodies of her four younger children—John, 5, Luke, 3, Paul, 2, and Mary, 6 months—next to each other on a bed and covered them with a sheet. She confessed her actions to police and later made statements that she heard voices and believed she was saving her children’s souls by killing them.

At her 2002 trial, Yates’ attorneys argued that she was insane, while the prosecution charged she failed to meet Texas’s definition of insanity because she was able to tell right from wrong. After deliberating for less than four hours, a jury found Yates guilty, rejecting her insanity defense, and she was sentenced to life in prison. In 2005, a Texas appeals court reversed the conviction and granted Yates a new trial after it was learned that prosecution witness Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist, gave erroneous testimony that had influenced the jury. On July 26, 2006, a jury found Yates not guilty by reason of insanity. Since that time, she has been committed to a state mental hospital in Texas.

Russell Yates was supportive of his wife in the aftermath of the murders, blaming her behavior on severe mental illness and also criticizing her doctors for failing to properly treat her condition. In turn, he was criticized for being controlling and for leaving his wife unsupervised at the time she killed their children, when he had been advised not to do so. Russell Yates filed for divorce in 2004 and remarried two years later.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Charles Manson

How to Beat the Tax Man

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Well, first of all, let me say that the title to this post might hold true if you were living back in New Orleans in the late 1800’s, but I’m pretty doggone sure that what I’m about to tell you won’t work in these modern times. Sorry…

I took today’s photo a couple weeks back when my wife and I went to the Lakewood 400 Flea Market. I normally don’t like going to flea markets, but this one is different. It’s 95% indoors and takes place in a very large building that has numerous “halls” and each hall is jam-packed with crafts, furniture, trinkets, and all sorts of fascinating stuff. Some of it is even worth buying, but that’s not typically why I go. I go because it’s a photographer’s delight. It is held once a month and starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. And, get this, you an even buy food and popcorn there! Yippee!

Anyway, this last time we were there we came across an old antique wardrobe from New Orleans. It was clearly old and had been painted over a number of times, but the paint job on it was still very interesting though there was a patina of yellow to it. Someone had clearly loved this piece of furniture (as we did!)  The person who was selling it gave us a bit of the story of how folks back in the day tried to beat the tax man in New Orleans. Here’s the story:

Apparently, back in the 1800’s when this piece of furniture was created, in New Orleans they taxed your home based on how many rooms your house had in it. It didn’t matter too much how big the rooms were, but it was the number of rooms that mattered. In order to try to keep their tax bills down, people started getting smart and they stopped building closets in their house because the taxing agents considered a closet a “room”. And wardrobes, like the one we were looking at, became the rage because they weren’t rooms! Pretty clever, eh? I wonder how long it was before the tax assessor figured that one out!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: one hundred and one years ago today, during a punishing snowstorm, the German army launched a new attack against French forces on the high ground of Mort-Homme, on the left bank of the Meuse River, near the fortress city of Verdun, France. The Battle of Verdun itself began February 21, 1916, with a German bombardment on the symbolic city of Verdun, the last French stronghold to fall during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Though the Germans had advanced speedily since the start of their advance, capturing Verdun’s major protective fort, Fort Douaumont, on February 25, the French were by no means ready to give way, and the battle soon settled into a stalemate, with heavy casualties on both sides. On the night of Douaumont’s capture, General Philippe Petain took over the French command of the Verdun sector, vowing to hold the fort at all costs and inflict the maximum number of German casualties in the process. The German objective was similar: in the words of General Erich von Falkenhayn, chief of the general staff, they aimed to bleed the French white.

Knowing the Allies planned to launch a major offensive at the Somme River that July, the German high command was determined to keep French troops and resources devoted to the defense of Verdun throughout the spring. To do this, Falkenhayn determined that he needed to change the focus of the German attacks, shifting them from Verdun and the inner ring of forts that protected it—the core of Petain’s defensive strategy—to the flanks of the French lines surrounding the city.

To that end, on March 6, after receiving fresh artillery supplies, the Germans attacked along the west bank of the Meuse, beginning the so-called Battle of the Flanks with a preliminary artillery bombardment every bit as intense as the one of February 21. Although under heavy fire from French artillery positions, the Germans managed to cross the river at Brabant and Champneuville to step up their assault on Mort-Homme, which held, though 1,200 French soldiers were captured over the course of two days’ fighting. The Germans made good progress in the area in general, however, capturing nearby positions before the French began their aggressive counterattacks. The struggle for Mort-Homme itself went on for more than a month, with thousands dying on both sides of the line, but the Germans never captured the position.

Fighting at Verdun would continue for 10 months, making it the longest battle of World War I. Paul von Hindenburg—who replaced Falkenhayn that summer—finally called a halt to the German attacks on December 18, after more than a million total casualties had been suffered by German and French troops.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Consumers spend about $662 million on fireworks each year. Sparklers are considered one of the more “sane” fireworks, but are deceivingly benign. They can actually burn as hot as 2,000° F.

 

 

Dancin’ Daffodils

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Not far from where we live (maybe 20-25 minutes away) is a place called Gibbs Gardens. It is the creation of a many by the name of Jim Gibbs, who for over 40 years owned and operated a landscaping company in the Atlanta area. As one might anticipate, he loves gardens and desired to create a world-class gardens in north Georgia. By all accounts, he has succeeded grandly!

The property where the manor house stands covers 292 acres, and 250 of those acres have been converted into gardens for others to come and enjoy (there is a fee for entrance). There is a wide variety of different plants and types of gardens so that something is likely to be blooming at any time of the year (almost!).

Over 50 acres are planted in daffodils. Their signs advertise that there are 20 million daffodils on the property, and I believe it after my first visit there a bit over one week ago! This year, because of the warmer weather than usual, the daffodils have bloomed early and we wandered around the area where the daffodils were blooming shooting photos. The picture today was one that I shot a week ago this past Saturday. It was a fairly windy day, but I believe you’ll still get a good sense for the place and how beautiful it is. I am eager to go back to the gardens several times this summer to see the other sights as different plants and trees leaf out and bloom. I suspect it will be spectacular. And yes, we did by an annual pass so we can go year round!

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1963, the Hula-Hoop, a hip-swiveling toy that became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958, was patented by the company’s co-founder, Arthur “Spud” Melin. An estimated 25 million Hula-Hoops were sold in its first four months of production alone.

In 1948, friends Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr founded a company in California to sell a slingshot they created to shoot meat up to falcons they used for hunting. The company’s name, Wham-O, came from the sound the slingshots supposedly made. Wham-O eventually branched out from slingshots, selling boomerangs and other sporting goods. Its first hit toy, a flying plastic disc known as the Frisbee, debuted in 1957. The Frisbee was originally marketed under a different name, the Pluto Platter, in an effort to capitalize on America’s fascination with UFOs.

Melina and Knerr were inspired to develop the Hula-Hoop after they saw a wooden hoop that Australian children twirled around their waists during gym class. Wham-O began producing a plastic version of the hoop, dubbed “Hula” after the hip-gyrating Hawaiian dance of the same name, and demonstrating it on Southern California playgrounds. Hula-Hoop mania took off from there.

The enormous popularity of the Hula-Hoop was short-lived and within a matter of months, the masses were on to the next big thing. However, the Hula-Hoop never faded away completely and still has its fans today. According to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, in April 2004, a performer at the Big Apple Circus in Boston simultaneously spun 100 hoops around her body. Earlier that same year, in January, according to the Guinness World Records, two people in Tokyo, Japan, managed to spin the world’s largest hoop–at 13 feet, 4 inches–around their waists at least three times each.

Following the Hula-Hoop, Wham-O continued to produce a steady stream of wacky and beloved novelty items, including the Superball, Water Wiggle, Silly String, Slip ‘n’ Slide and the Hacky Sack.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The hula was originally a form of worship performed by highly trained men who were supposedly taught the dance by the Hawaiian god Luka.

Slip Slidin’ Away…

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This past Saturday my wife and I took of just to get away for a while. Things have been hectic and a “get-away” was overdue. We decided to drive up the “alpine” Helen in the north Georgia “mountains”. It’s less than an hour from where we live and my wife loves a particular restaurant there. Personally, I can take it or leave it, but she absolutely loves going there.

The town of Helen has sort of a Danish/German/Bavarian flavor to the heart of the little town. There’s a beer garden surrounded by shops and places that are made to look alpine. But just outside of the town is an old mill that still operates and produces milled flour, grits, etc. It’s a fun place to stop and lots of interesting things are there to photograph.

One of the favorite things of my to shoot there is a dam. The creek that turns the mill stone flows behind the building. It’s a rather lazy creek, but the dam has water flowing over the top of it constantly, and this time I noticed that there are pipes a bit below the water surface on the down-dam side. I thought it was rather pretty to watch the water shooting over the top of the dam and through the pipes, too, so I took today’s picture of it to share with you.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1898, a massive explosion of unknown origin sank the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.

One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January.

An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting. On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The Sahara Desert at one time was lush grassland and savannah. Overgrazing and/or climate change in 8000 B.C. began to change the area from pastoral land to desert. Now it is the world’s largest hot desert at over 3,630,000 square miles—roughly the size of the United States. Antarctica is considered the largest desert (of any type) in the world.

Whoever She Was, I Liked Her

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I’m not very good with names. Never have been, even when I had a good memory. I could remember facts but the bucketful, but names have always eluded me. And as time passes, they elude me even faster.

Right after Christmas, we were at Rock City, TN, a tourist “trap” (but a pleasant one!), and we were wandering through the rock garden. There are some pretty amazing rocks and formations, but at one point, we came around a corner and saw this bronze statue atop some rocks. I looked to try to find out more about what it was, who made it, etc., but alas, no luck. I don’t know what it is or isn’t supposed to be, but I think she might be some sort of woodlands sprite or elf princess. Or, maybe she’s a siren from the sea who takes on human form on land and beckons the unwary to a watery grave.

What do you think?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1922, police discovered the body of film director William Desmond Taylor in his Los Angeles bungalow. Lieutenant Tom Ziegler responded to a call about a “natural death” at the Alvarado Street home of Taylor. When he arrived they found actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging through the director’s belongings.He also found Taylor lying on the living room floor with a bullet in his back–not exactly suggesting a “natural” death.

The murder of Taylor, 50 years old, became a nationwide scandal and proof to the nation’s moralists of Hollywood’s depravity. Two of the actresses linked to Taylor got caught up in the scandal and saw their film careers die a quick death following the murder. Comedian Mabel Normand had been linked romantically with Taylor, but was sent to a sanatarium to recover from tuberculosis, and died. While she was away, Mary Miles Minter, a teenager, became a star in Taylor’s silent films and fell in love with him. Charlotte Shelby, Minter’s mother, disapproved of the budding relationship.

After his murder, a love note to Taylor from Minter was found in his home, along with her nightgown in the bedroom. Other damning facts came to light. Minter had once tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun used in Taylor’s murder. Furthermore, Shelby had previously threatened the life of another director who had made a pass at her daughter. And to top it off, Shelby’s alibi witness received suspiciously large sums of money after the murder. Still, no one was ever prosecuted for Taylor’s death and the case remains officially unsolved.

Many years later, in Minter’s unpublished autobiography, she admitted that she and her mother were at Taylor’s bungalow on the night of the killing. Famous director King Vidor told people that Minter had ambiguously admitted that her mother had killed Taylor after finding her daughter at Taylor’s home.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In 2009, DNA tests reveled that the skull fragment long thought to have been Hitler’s is that of an unknown woman under 40. Scientists don’t believe the skull belongs to Evan Braun because she committed suicide by cyanide rather than with a gun.

At the End of the Wardrobe

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Perhaps you’ve seen The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or you’ve read the book by C. S. Lewis of the same title. In the story, some young English children find much more than they’ve bargained for inside of a wardrobe: they find a portal to Narnia. The first of the children to stumble through only to find herself in a snowy, frozen land is Lucy Pevensy. The land of Narnia has had a curse placed on it by the wicked queen. She finds herself in a clearing with a lampstand.

Not long after Christmas, we had a snowfall here at our home in Georgia. It wasn’t much of a snowfall if you’re from Maine or places in the northern United States, but we had about three inches of the powdery white stuff and it hung around in some places for 3-4 days because the temperatures stayed below or slightly above freezing.

On the morning after the snow first fell, I took my camera and went out to capture the fairly rare event. As I came around the west end of our home, the image in today’s post presented itself to me and it reminded me of the lampstand in the clearing of Narnia. Now I’m wondering: if I go into the walk-in closed tonight, might I wind up in a strange, exciting place that I didn’t know was there?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: On this day in 1943, Japanese forces on Guadalcanal Island, 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: During WWII, the Japanese launched 9,000 “wind ship weapons” of paper and rubberized-silk balloons that carried incendiary and anti-personnel bombs to the U.S. More than 1,000 balloons hit their targets and they reached as far east as Michigan. The only deaths resulting from a balloon bomb were six Americans (including five children and a pregnant woman) on a picnic in Oregon.

Time to Relax

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I have been way too busy. I am trying to find a way to not be so busy, but I’m not sure I’ve found it yet. Every night I’ve been telling myself that I need to post some to this photo blog, but I’ve been too tired and busy to do so. So, I just forced myself to do it tonight!

This photo was shot with my cell phone along the Chattahoochee River in Norcross, GA. It was getting late in the day and I was looked eastward up the river to catch this light. I’d not taken my Canon 7D with me, so I had to make do with my phone.

I am looking forward to this coming Saturday to try to unwind and relax a bit – and who knows? – maybe even take some photos. But until then, looking at pictures like this will have to suffice.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: 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.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the Civil War, 2% of the U.S. population died. This is equivalent to 6 million men today. While rifles were the deadliest weapons during the war, disease killed more men. Camps became breeding grounds for measles, chicken pox, and mumps. One million Union solders contracted malaria.

Pie Face, Anyone?

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Pie Face. I guess that it was one of the hot items this last Christmas. Since I don’t have little kids anymore, I guess I’m somewhat out of touch with the hottest kids trends, but I was introduced to Pie Face over the Christmas holidays when our youngest granddaughters received it as a gift.

Here’s how it works: you put your face inside of a circle. You put whipped cream on the purple hand and turn a crank the number of times that is specified on a spin dial. Sometimes the hand stays “locked” and doesn’t throw the whipped cream in your face, but other times, well, let’s just say you get “pie faced”!  The picture was shot inside on a cloudy day and things were moving fast…so that’s why it’s blurry!  I didn’t have my flash with me!

This is one of my granddaughters. Do you think she was having fun?!?! Do you think she liked it when she got “pie faced”? Oh, yeah!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, saw three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and described them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. Mermaids are closely linked to sirens, another folkloric figure, part-woman, part-bird, who live on islands and sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths.

Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren’t made up, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting). Manatees are slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, bulbous faces and paddle-like tails. Some think manatees evolved from an ancestor they share with the elephant. The three species of manatee (West Indian, West African and Amazonian) and one species of dugong belong to the Sirenia order. As adults, they’re typically 10 to 12 feet long and weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds. They’re plant-eaters, have a slow metabolism and can only survive in warm water.

Manatees live an average of 50 to 60 years in the wild and have no natural predators. However, they are an endangered species. In the U.S., the majority of manatees are found in Florida, where scores of them die or are injured each year due to collisions with boats.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During WWI, British tanks were initially categorized into “males” and “females.” Male tanks had cannons, while females had heavy machine guns.

What in the world is it?

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OK…this is weird. The other morning after a very cold night, my wife called tme and said I should bring my camera. I asked what for, and she said it was because there was something in the birdbath that is on the back deck. I went to get my camera, thinking it was a bird or perhaps some leaves or pine needles. Imagine my surprise when I saw thing:

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I had never seen anything like it, nor have I since (but hey – that was only less than a week ago). I couldn’t figure out what it could possibly be that caused it. There was nothing inside of it except air bubbles, yet there it was, ice sticking straight up about six inches out from the surface of the birdbath. If it had a branch in it, a feather perhaps, it might be understandable, but nothing? How does water mound itself up in defiance of gravity and do in such a way that it instantly freezes before it falls back into the liquid from which it sprang?

I was totally at a loss for the cause…until today, when an old friend of mine shared a photo he’d taken on Facebook of the exact same phenomenon at their home! He didn’t know what it was, either, but one of the people who read his post knew what it was: an ice spike. You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_spike. Even thought I read about how it is believed to form, I’m not sure that I understand it at all. Regardless, it is an explanation.

Have you ever seen such a thing?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1996, a cargo plane crashed in Kinshasa, Zaire, (modern day Democratic Republic of the Congo) killing somewhere between 225 and 350 people and injuring another 500.

Africa Air was a private freight company that operated on the margins of legality. They were well-known for sometimes ignoring safety regulations, and enforcement of the rules was lax in Zaire. On January 8, the company went even further, sending its Russian Antonov AN-32B into the sky from N’Dolo Airport in Kinshasa even though its certification for flying had been revoked. Making matters worse, the Russian crew members had loaded the plane with freight beyond its capacity. The plane was allegedly on its way to bring supplies to Jonas Savimbi’s notorious rebels in Angola.

As the plane barreled down a runway on the sunny afternoon, its engines smoked and then burst into flames. The plane could not attain any altitude and simply ran off the end of the runway, toward a marketplace filled with wooden and iron shacks. The plane crashed into the crowded market and exploded. Fires broke out everywhere and would-be rescuers were driven back by the intense heat and smoke.

In all, estimates of the death toll ranged from 225 to 350 people killed and approximately 500 seriously injured. Of the six crew members on board, four survived. The angry marketplace crowd attempted to lynch them but was thwarted by authorities. There was a second attempt while the crew was at a local hospital but it also failed. The crew members were extradited to Russia for prosecution and sentenced to two years in prison. Pilot Nicolai Kazarin stated during the trial “the market shouldn’t have been there, so why should they be entitled to compensation?” Africa Air subsequently went out of business.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In 1995, Hiroyoki Gotu memorized 42,195 places of pi and is considered the current pi champion. Some scholars speculate that Japanese is better suited than other languages for memorizing sequences of numbers. The first 144 digits of pi add up to 666 (which many scholars say is “the mark of the Beast”). And 144 = (6+6) x (6+6).

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

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