Category Archives: Humorous

Pie Face, Anyone?

_mg_7233

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.

The Joy of Leaves

_mg_7041

I like to photograph leaves in the autumn. I haven’t really done that this year and it is really too late now. Alas. I love the way they change colors and how a single leaf can break out in a flurry of various colors and shades. They are amazing and it delights me to see them.

But, perhaps there is no greater joy of leaves than that which comes to a child who can run and jump into a big pile of leaves!

On Thanksgiving day, our youngest son and his family came to our house for the Thanksgiving celebration. Prior to their arrival, my wife and I had raked up a HUGE pile of leaves for the purpose of letting their kids have some fun with the leaf pile. Fortunately, we have NO shortage of leaves as our home is surrounded by tree and backs right up to the Dawson forest with no fence in the back yard. So the leaves were plentiful!

I shot over 200 pictures of the little girls giggling, running, jumping, leaping, turning somersaults and messing up the pile of leaves we’d worked so hard to create. Did I mind that the pile got destroyed? Absolutely not! That was the point, after all!

And then this morning after church, our youngest grand daughter crawled up in my lap and said, “Pop-pop, it was SO MUCH FUN playing in the leaves at your house the other day!”  (I have one sequence of shots when she was running to the pile, jumped in, got twisted around, and at one point, only her rear end and shoes were sticking out of the leaves…but she emerged with a huge grin and laugh! I laughed so hard when I saw the pictures of that sequence!!!

Guess what? I’ll rake up a big pile again next year and let them destroy it again – laughing all the time!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1703, an unusual storm system finally dissipated over England after wreaking havoc on the country for nearly two weeks. Featuring hurricane strength winds, the storm killed somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people. Hundreds of Royal Navy ships were lost to the storm, the worst in Britain’s history.

The unusual weather began on November 14 as strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean battered the south of Britain and Wales. Many homes and other buildings were damaged by the pounding winds, but the hurricane-like storm only began doing serious damage on November 26. With winds estimated at over 80 miles per hour, bricks were blown from some buildings and embedded in others. Wood beams, separated from buildings, flew through the air and killed hundreds across the south of the country. Towns such as Plymouth, Hull, Cowes, Portsmouth and Bristol were devastated.

However, the death toll really mounted when 300 Royal Navy ships anchored off the country’s southern coast—with 8,000 sailors on board—were lost. The Eddystone Lighthouse, built on a rock outcropping 14 miles from Plymouth, was felled by the storm. All of its residents, including its designer, Henry Winstanley, were killed. Huge waves on the Thames River sent water six feet higher than ever before recorded near London. More than 5,000 homes along the river were destroyed.

The author Daniel Defoe, who would later enjoy worldwide acclaim for the novel Robinson Crusoe, witnessed the storm, which he described as an “Army of Terror in its furious March.” His first book, The Storm, was published the following year.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: A modern coin-counting machine can count 2,500 coins a minute. A bank note-counting machine can tally up to 100 bills in 4 seconds. It can also tell what denomination they are and if they are fake.

For Your Thanksgiving Preparations…

_mg_6649

I think that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I remember as a young boy that lived on the farm in Iowa how we would go to my grandparent’s home (also on a farm) on Thanksgiving for dinner. The weather in Iowa then was usually pretty cool so we’d dress in a warm coat, hop in the car, and my dad would drive us the 15 miles or so to my maternal grandparents (my paternal grandparents were both gone by the time I was born).

We’d get out of the car and grandpa’s big black dog, Midnight, would come to greet us and we’d walk up the sidewalk to their farmhouse (that always seemed so big and scary to me!) and enter through the back porch. The porch, though enclosed, was still pretty cold, but once you walked through the door into the kitchen – oh, my! – the warmth of the house and the smell of the turkey being roasted made the world a wonderful place! I shall never forget those sensations and smells as long as I live. They made an impression on me that made me love this holiday from my earliest years!

Not being a woman, I don’t do a lot of the cooking (and you really wouldn’t want me to because the little bit of cooking I do never seems to turn out that well!) but I do my share of eating. So I have a deep appreciation for those who prepare meals for others – and I hope we’ll give thanks for those people this week!

When we were in Charleston, we went aboard the aircraft carrier (retired) USS Yorktown. As we wandered through the canyons and crevices of the great ship, we came to the mess hall. Stuck up on the wall was a recipe for how to make 10000 chocolate chip cookies (when you have several thousand people on board, you have to make a lot of cookies for everyone to get even two each!)

Knowing that you might be making cookies this week and feeding a mass of people at your home, I thought you might appreciate having this recipe. Oh, and if you’re not planning to feed 10,000, you can reduce it by a factor of 10 and send me any left-over cookies you have. But please, if you’re making chocolate chips cookies for me, know that I love having walnuts in my chocolate chip cookies!  Yum!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1923, the U.S. Patent Office granted Patent No. 1,475,074 to 46-year-old inventor and newspaperman Garrett Morgan for his three-position traffic signal. Though Morgan’s was not the first traffic signal (that one had been installed in London in 1868), it was an important innovation nonetheless: By having a third position besides just “Stop” and “Go,” it regulated crossing vehicles more safely than earlier signals had.

Morgan, the child of two former slaves, was born in Kentucky in 1877. When he was just 14 years old, he moved north to Ohio to look for a job. First he worked as a handyman in Cincinnati; next he moved to Cleveland, where he worked as a sewing-machine repairman. In 1907, he opened his own repair shop, and in 1909 he added a garment shop to his operation. The business was an enormous success, and by 1920 Morgan had made enough money to start a newspaper, the Cleveland Call, which became one of the most important black newspapers in the nation.

Morgan was prosperous enough to have a car at a time when the streets were crowded with all manner of vehicles: Bicycles, horse-drawn delivery wagons, streetcars and pedestrians all shared downtown Cleveland’s narrow streets and clogged its intersections. There were manually operated traffic signals where major streets crossed one another, but they were not all that effective: Because they switched back and forth between Stop and Go with no interval in between, drivers had no time to react when the command changed. This led to many collisions between vehicles that both had the right of way when they entered the intersection. As the story goes, when Morgan witnessed an especially spectacular accident at an ostensibly regulated corner, he had an idea: If he designed an automated signal with an interim “warning” position—the ancestor of today’s yellow light—drivers would have time to clear the intersection before crossing traffic entered it.

The signal Morgan patented was a T-shaped pole with three settings. At night, when traffic was light, it could be set at half-mast (like a blinking yellow light today), warning drivers to proceed carefully through the intersection. He sold the rights to his invention to General Electric for $40,000.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Aristotle’s famous division between Greek and Barbarian was not based on race, but on those who organized themselves into community city-states and those who did not. The ancient Romans categorized people not on biological race or skin color, but on differing legal structures upon which they organized their lives.

Don’t Be Fooled…

_mg_6525

Many of the old cities of the world (and new ones, too, I guess) have stories of hauntings – of ghosts that roam old buildings. There are those who make a living out of being researchers into the paranormal (may I say that I’m HIGHLY skeptical?) Every year there are shows on television (especially around Halloween) about the scariest places in the world and they take people inside to try to capture proof of hauntings. I even seem to recall one show that would pay people something like $1000 a night to spend a night in a haunted house. Often those houses are places were some gruesome murder took place.

I have a cousin who swears up and down that the house they lived in (dating back to the early 1700’s, I believe) is haunted. She’s not prone to lunacy or flights of fancy. She’s bright (strange, since she’s related to me!) and a very level-headed person. I just don’t know what to think. At least in the case of her “ghost” (she even has a name for him since he apparently died in the house long ago) he seems friendly.

Charleston has plenty of ghost stories. After all, it has a long and colorful history. And like Boston and other old cities on the eastern seaboard, they have lots of “ghost tours” that tourists can pay to experience. I didn’t do that – mind you – but I did think it was interesting that when we had walked through the cemetery at St.Philip’s in Charleston, we came across this sign at the edge of the cemetery by the street.

If you look closely, however, you’ll notice an image reflected in the marble. Could that be a ghost?

No, in case you were thinking that, it is just a reflection of the photographer – in this case, me!  Boo!!!!!!! (Now, the real question may be: what is that shadow to my right in the photo?!?!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: near the end of a weeklong national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials.

The designer of the memorial was Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student who entered a nationwide competition to create a design for the monument. Lin, born in Ohio in 1959, was the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Many veterans’ groups were opposed to Lin’s winning design, which lacked a standard memorial’s heroic statues and stirring words. However, a remarkable shift in public opinion occurred in the months after the memorial’s dedication. Veterans and families of the dead walked the black reflective wall, seeking the names of their loved ones killed in the conflict. Once the name was located, visitors often made an etching or left a private offering, from notes and flowers to dog tags and cans of beer.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial soon became one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital. A Smithsonian Institution director called it “a community of feelings, almost a sacred precinct,” and a veteran declared that “it’s the parade we never got.” “The Wall” drew together both those who fought and those who marched against the war and served to promote national healing a decade after the divisive conflict’s end.

By the way, I’d like to once again offer my thanks to our veterans, living and dead, who have served our country in both war and peace.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Every hour, humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin, or about 1.5 pounds every year. By the time a person is 70 years old, they will have lost about 105 pounds of skin.

 

Gotta Watch Out for those Southern Gentlemen!

_mg_6461

The south has a reputation for being genteel and “propuh” (southern accent style). Manners matter here – through I’m sure not as much as they did in the years gone past.

All that brings me to today’s photo and story. Very recently, I took some time off from work and we went on a mini-vacation to the southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. We’d never been there before but we met up with some friends from CA who where there on vacation, too.  We had a great time and I came away very impressed with the history of Charleston!  (I’ll have numerous posts of photos I took there so will save a lot of those stories for later posts.)

One of the things you see on many of the buildings that date back to the 1700’s, etc., are balconies outside of upper floor doors. Those balconies usually face the street. Many of those balconies are semi-circular in shape and are made out of metalwork. Now here’s where it gets interesting: in days gone by, there was, of course, no air conditioning and Charleston gets hot and humid in the summers. One of the things that the southern belles used to do was to come out on the balconies all dressed in their several layers of clothing with their hoop skirts. That’s why so many of the balconies are semi-circular.

But it gets even better. The floors of those semi-circular balconies are typically made of solid metal, not metal grate. Why, you say? Well, the ladies would come out on their balconies and the southern gentlemen would engage them in conversations from the street below. If the balcony flooring was made of metal grate construction, the “gentlemen” could peek up the ladies’ skirts!!! So, the solution was that the flooring of the balconies would be made of a solid construction to maintain the modesty of the young ladies. Bear in mind that this was in the day and age when seeing a woman’s ankle was supposed to lead to a marriage proposal!  How things have changed…

_mg_6457

Today’s photo gives you an idea what I’m describing…but these were fairly small balconies compared to some of them.  And there were a few..not many, but a few…that were made with metal grate for the floors. I suspect those were constructed more recently, but who knows?  Maybe that was where the scandalous ladies met their scandalous southern suitors!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1983, David Hendricks, a businessman traveling in Wisconsin, called police in Bloomington, Illinois, to request that they check on his house and family. According to Hendricks, no one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When the police and neighbors searched the home the next day, they found the mutilated bodies of Hendricks’ wife and three children, all of whom had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife.

Because there was very little sign of a struggle or forced entry, police thought the crime scene was suspicious. In addition, though the killings were brutal, the murder weapons had been cleaned and left neatly near the bodies. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks’ alibi—that he had left for Wisconsin just before midnight on November 4—appeared solid.

Nevertheless, with no other leads, police began to examine Hendricks’ story more closely. He claimed that he had taken his family out for a pizza at about 7:30 on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30. Hendricks left for his business trip several hours later.

But after studying the children’s bodies, medical examiners concluded that Hendrick’s story did not quite fit. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30—while Hendricks was still at home.

Police charged Hendricks with murdering his family, but they still lacked a concrete motive. The Hendricks family was devoutly religious, belonging to a puritan-like group called the Plymouth Brethren.Hendrick’s defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. Still, the jury found Hendricks guilty of four counts of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 21, 1988.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The bird pictured on the American silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter. From 1830 to 1836, people who worked at the United States Mint adopted him to use as model for the drawings. When he died after getting his wing injured in the coining press, they stuffed him. He is still on display in the lobby of the mint.

Spidey Bites the Dust

It wasn’t that long ago and the movie, Superman vs. Batman was playing in theaters. I, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which reviews you read) missed it. Guess I’ll just have to catch it on video. But I have to say that the whole idea of Superman vs. Batman strikes me as silly for at least a couple of reasons: 1) everyone knows that Batman is just a guy in a special suit with lots of cool gadgets and that Superman is, well, supernatural and superhuman, meaning he’d kick Batman’s hiney easily; 2) everyone knows that Batman isn’t real, while Superman is!!!! Regardless, battles involving super-heroes do capture our attention and fascination.

Witness today’s photo of the superhero, Spiderman. You may not believe it, but I encountered Spiderman at the Renaissance Faire where he was casually strolling down the path with some mortals.  Then, out of the blue, this girl approached him and put him in a headlock!

_MG_4150

Now there’s a battle that was no contest!  Everyone knows that Spiderman is just some troubled young man in a funky looking suit and that no man, perhaps not even Superman, would stand a chance against a woman!  Today’s photo is proof!  And she’s enjoying choking the life out of him as you can tell!  Women of the world unite!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1949, the body of Leon Besnard was exhumed in Loudun, France, by authorities searching for evidence of poison. For years, local residents had been suspicious of his wife Marie, as they watched nearly her entire family die untimely and mysterious deaths. Law enforcement officials finally began investigating Marie after the death of her mother earlier in the year.

Marie married Leon in August 1929. The couple resented the fact that they lived relatively modestly while their families were so well off. When two of Leon’s great aunts perished unexpectedly, most of their money was left to Leon’s parents. Consequently, the Besnards invited Leon’s parents to live with them.

Shortly after moving in, Leon’s father died, ostensibly from eating a bad mushroom. Three months later, his widow also died and neighbors began chatting about a Besnard family jinx. The inheritance was split between Leon and his sister, Lucie. Not so surprisingly, the newly rich Lucie died shortly thereafter, supposedly taking her own life.

Becoming increasingly greedy, the Besnards began looking outside the family for their next victim. They took in the Rivets as boarders, who, under the Besnards’ care, also died abruptly. No one was too surprised when the Rivets’ will indicated Marie as the sole beneficiary.

Pauline and Virginie Lallerone, cousins of the Besnards, were next in line. When Pauline died, Marie explained that she had mistakenly eaten a bowl of lye. Apparently, her sister Virginie didn’t learn her lesson about carelessness, because when she died a week later, Marie told everyone that she too had inadvertently eaten lye.

When Marie fell in love with another man in 1947, Leon fell victim to her poisoning as well. Traces of arsenic were found in his exhumed body, as well as in the rest of her family’s corpses. But Marie didn’t let a little bit of pesky evidence get in her way. She managed to get a mistrial twice after trace evidence was lost while conducting the tests for poison each time. By her third trial, there wasn’t much physical evidence left. On December 12, 1961, Marie Besnard was acquitted. The “Queen of Poisoners,” as the French called her, ended up getting away with 13 murders. (This Day In History)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: before the 1500s, couples in Europe were free to marry themselves. It wasn’t until 1564 when the Council of Trent declared marriage was a sacrament that weddings became the province of priests and churches. (Random Facts)

 

Red-Tailed Devil Vulture

_MG_4088

So, here’s another bird that I saw at the Renaissance Faire south of Atlanta.  This bird was laying in wait for me. I’d not seen it at all until I was walking out the door over which it was perched.

My first reaction was that it was a hummingbird, but when I inquired of the bird handler nearby, I told them I thought it could be a red-tailed devil vulture.  The way it was looking at me, I could have believed it…it looked like it was hoping I’d drop dead so it could devour my corpse on the spot! Do you see how it was eye-balling me?!?!?!  And look at those talons!!!!  I suppose that if he discovered I was still breathing he would have punctured my heart and finished me off!!!

Seriously, though…does anyone know what kind of bird this is?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, Jefferson Davis, president of the fallen Confederate government, was captured with his wife and entourage near Irwinville, Georgia, by a detachment of Union General James H. Wilson’s cavalry.

On April 2, 1865, with the Confederate defeat at Petersburg, Virginia imminent, General Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that he could no longer protect Richmond and advised the Confederate government to evacuate its capital. Davis and his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia, and with Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, deep into the South. Lee’s surrender of his massive Army of Northern Virginia effectively ended the Civil War, and during the next few weeks the remaining Confederate armies surrendered one by one. Davis was devastated by the fall of the Confederacy. Refusing to admit defeat, he hoped to flee to a sympathetic foreign nation such as Britain or France, and was weighing the merits of forming a government in exile when he was arrested by a detachment of the 4th Michigan Cavalry.

A certain amount of controversy surrounds his capture, as Davis was wearing his wife’s black shawl when the Union troops cornered him. The Northern press ridiculed him as a coward, alleging that he had disguised himself as a woman in an ill-fated attempt to escape. However, Davis, and especially his wife, Varina, maintained that he was ill and that Varina had lent him her shawl to keep his health up during their difficult journey.

Imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia, Davis was indicted for treason, but was never tried–the federal government feared that Davis would be able prove to a jury that the Southern secession of 1860 to 1861 was legal. Varina worked determinedly to secure his freedom, and in May 1867 Jefferson Davis was released on bail, with several wealthy Northerners helping him pay for his freedom.

After a number of unsuccessful business ventures, he retired to Beauvoir, his home near Biloxi, Mississippi, and began writing his two-volume memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881). He died in 1889 and was buried at New Orleans; four years later, his body was moved to its permanent resting spot in Richmond, Virginia.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Artillery barrage and mines created immense noise. In 1917, explosives blowing up beneath the German lines on Messines Ridge at Ypres in Belgium could be heard in London 140 miles (220 km) away.

Keeping Your Balance

_MG_4053

Do you ever struggle to get the balance right in your life?  It could be the balance between work and family or just about any other of the myriad things that clamor for your attention. It’s not easy, is it?  I have long struggled to find the right balance, let alone keep the right balance.  So, I have great admiration for those who seem to do a better job of it than I.

At the Georgia Renaissance Festival which we attended a week ago, ther was a man who seemed to have figured out the balance…or at least, how to balance. He was doing a stage show and was a juggler/balancer. In this shot, he started out with the wash tub and started it spinning on a broomstick.  He then switched from the broom stick to the chair while the wash tub was spinning. He then balanced the chair on his chin with the wash tub above that.  But that wasn’t enough, he got the broomstick again and put the brushy end of the broomstick on the back of the chair and proceeded to balance the spinning washtub on top of a chair leg which was supported by the broomstick which he then balanced on his chin!  I have a hard enough time just balancing when I walk these days!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1988, Stella Nickell was convicted on two counts of murder by a Seattle, Washington, jury, found guilty of violating the Federal Anti-Tampering Act after putting cyanide in Excedrin capsules in an effort to kill her husband.

Stella and Bruce Nickell married in 1976, shortly after seven people were killed in Chicago, Illinois, from poisoned Tylenol pills. According to Stella’s daughter from a previous marriage, Stella had begun planning Bruce’s murder almost from the honeymoon. The Chicago Tylenol incident (which was never solved) had a lasting impact on Stella, who decided that cyanide would be a good method of murder.

In 1985, Stella took out a life insurance policy on Bruce that included a substantial indemnity payment for accidental death. A year later, Stella put cyanide in an Excedrin capsule that Bruce later took for a headache. He died in the hospital, but doctors did not detect the cyanide and ascribed the death to emphysema. Stella, who stood to lose $100,000 if his death wasn’t ruled an accident, decided to alter her plan.

Nickell tampered with five additional bottles of Excedrin and placed them on store shelves in the Seattle area. Six days later, Susan Snow took one of these capsules and died instantly. After her death was reported in the news, Stella called police to tell them that she thought her husband had also been poisoned.

When investigators came toNickell’s home to pick up the Excedrin bottle, she told them that there were two bottles and that she had purchased them on different days at different places. When both turned out to contain contaminated capsules, investigators grew suspicious. FBI detectives knew that it was an unlikely coincidence that Nickell had purchased two of four known contaminated bottles purely by chance. Still, hard evidence against her was hard to come by until January 1988.

Cynthia Hamilton, Stella’s daughter, came forward (possibly in order to obtain reward money) with her account of Stella’s plan to kill her husband. She told authorities that her mother had done extensive research at the library. When detectives investigated, they found that Stella had borrowed, but never returned, a book called Human Poisoning. Her fingerprints were also found all over other books on cyanide.

Nickell was given two 90-year sentences for the murders of her husband and Susan Snow. She will be eligible for parole in 2018. New evidence in the case has led some to believe that Nickell might be innocent.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Hershey’s produces over 80 million chocolate Kisses–every day.

 

Mystery solved! Or is it?

_MG_3644

How many hours of sleep has this mystery caused since May 25, 1977? How many sleepless nights have people spent pondering this great unknown, trembling with fear and terror? Well, after reading my blog post today, you won’t have to contend with this particular fear again because the mystery is about to be SOLVED! I have discovered the answer…and because I’m in a generous mood, I’m going to share it with you! (You may send me frozen Snickers and Dr. Pepper out of gratitude if you wish!)

OK. I know precisely what you are thinking, and have been thinking, every since the first Star Wars movie. You have wondered what really happened to the Death Star. On screen it appears to be blown to smithereens, but deep in your heart you have had that nagging fear that it’s still out there somewhere, lurking in space, perhaps sneaking up on us by hiding behind our moon where we can’t see it. And one day, you fear, it will pop out from the dark side of the moon and blast us into oblivion.

Fear not! For I have found the Death Star and it is the subject of today’s blog post. I found the Death Star while walking down a sidewalk in Portland, OR last week with my oldest son. I certainly wasn’t trying to solve the mystery on that morning, but as we walked by a house – there it was – sitting right there in plain sight outside of a basement window. Imagine my surprise – and my delight to have the mystery solved.

But then, I began to wonder: it looked intact! Does that mean it could really still be functional? But then, I thought that it’s so small!!!!  It doesn’t look like it would be much of a threat to our planet so we didn’t need to be sleepless any more. And THAT’S when I began to be disillusioned. You see, I always thought it was HUGE, monstrous in fact. But it clearly isn’t very big at all. 

So, what’s my conclusion? Two things: 1) the Death Star still does exist and we have nothing to fear from it due to it’s small size, and 2) all those people who were in the movie must be very, very small to fit inside this thing. There you have it! (Don’t forget to send the frozen Snickers and Dr. Pepper!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1820, U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, was mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Once friends, Decatur sat on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy for five years in 1808 and later opposed his reinstatement, leading to a fatal quarrel between the two men.

Stephen Decatur was reared in the traditions of the sea and in 1798 joined the United States Navy as a midshipman aboard the new frigate, United States. That year, he saw action in the quasi-war with France and in 1799 was commissioned a lieutenant. Five years later, during the Tripolitan War, he was praised as the greatest American naval hero since John Paul Jones.

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. Sustained action began in June 1803, and in October the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by gunboats. Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be used as a model for building future Tripolitan frigates, and on February 16, 1804, Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured vessel.

After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force sailed into Tripoli harbor and boarded the Philadelphia, which was guarded by Tripolitans who were quickly overpowered by the Americans. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire. Famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson hailed the exploit as the “most bold and daring act of the age,” and Decatur was promoted to captain. In August 1804, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the Battle of the Gunboats, which saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.

In 1807, Commodore James Barron, who fought alongside Decatur in the Tripolitan War, aroused controversy when he failed to resist a British attack on his flagship, the Chesapeake. Decatur sat on the court-martial that passed a verdict expelling Barron from the Navy for five years. This began the dispute between Decatur and Barron that would end 13 years later on the dueling grounds in Maryland.

In the War of 1812, Decatur distinguished himself again when, as commander of the USS United States, he captured the British ship of war Macedonian off the Madeira Islands. Barron, meanwhile, was overseas when his Navy expulsion ended in 1813 and did not return to the United States to fight in the ongoing war with England. This led to fresh criticism of Barron from Decatur, who later used his influence to prevent Barron’s reinstatement in the Navy.

In June 1815, Decatur returned to the Mediterranean to lead U.S. forces in the Algerian War, the second Barbary conflict. By December, Decatur forced the dey (military ruler) of Algiers to sign a peace treaty that ended American tribute to Algeria. Upon his return to the United States, he was honored at a banquet in which he made a very famous toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!”

Appointed to the Navy Board of Commissioners, Decatur arrived in Washington in 1816, where he became a prominent citizen and lived a satisfying life politically, economically, and socially. In 1818, however, dark clouds began to gather when he vocally opposed Barron’s reinstatement into the Navy. The already strained relations between the two men deteriorated, and in March 1820 Decatur agreed to Barron’s request to meet for a duel. Dueling, though frowned on, was still acceptable among Navy men. On March 22, at Bladensburg in Maryland, Decatur and Barron lifted their guns, fired, and each man hit his target. Decatur died several hours later in Washington, and the nation mourned the loss of the great naval hero. Barron recovered from his wounds and was reinstated into the Navy in 1821 with diminished rank.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.

 

Have a Deer Valentine’s Day

20160213_121758

Valentine’s is a time when we are supposed to spend time with those we love and who are dear to us. I think it’s a bit on the sad side that we have to have a day each year which we set aside to do that rather than making it a part of the normal routine of our lives, but there’s nothing bad about it. It is a good thing to celebrate those we love and hold dear…or, as the case may be, deer.

On Saturday, I took my wife out to a downtown shopping area not far from where we live so she could wander the stores. (She likes to do that as you probably know by now…)  I meant to take my Canon with me, but accidentally walked off and left it at home when I became distracted, so all I had with me was my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smart phone and its camera. One of the first stores we walked in to was full of old-timey stuff and was a fun place. As I wandered around looking to things that might make interesting pictures, I lifted my eyes and they alighted on the subject of today’s post. I thought it might be very apropos for Valentine’s Day…the precious deer is decked out in pearls around the neck and dangle-y earrings. Perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day, don’t you think?

And so, on this Valentine’s Day, be a deer hart and spend some time with your dear ones.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 270 A.D. (or thereabouts)Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.

Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.

To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.

When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.

Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.”

For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.

In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

Legends vary on how the martyr’s name became connected with romance. The date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. On these occasions, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentine’s Day.

Gradually, February 14 became a date for exchanging love messages, poems and simple gifts such as flowers.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: during the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia (an ancient precursor to Valentine’s Day), two boys would run through crowds of people swinging strings made from goatskins. If the strings touched a girl, it was divined that she would have healthy children when she grew up. The goatskins were called februa, which means to make clean and from which “February” derives.