Category Archives: Plants & Flowers

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.

The View from a Tub

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First of all, let me say that I’m not a fan of taking baths. Showers, yes. Baths, not especially. However, sometimes if I am really sore and achy, a good soak in a hot tub or jacuzzi can really be helpful!

Alas, that’s not what today’s photo is about. I took this shot yesterday morning looking out the window right by our bathtub. I think the view is relaxing enough that I might just have to crawl in the tub one of these days, soak in the warm water and gaze out the window. I love the woods!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, two liquid gas tanks exploded in Cleveland, Ohio, killing 130 people. It took all of the city’s firefighters to bring the resulting industrial fire under control.

At 2:30 p.m., laboratory workers at the East Ohio Gas Company spotted white vapor leaking from the large natural gas tank at the company plant near Lake Erie. The circular tank had a diameter of 57 feet and could hold 90 million cubic feet of the highly flammable gas. Ten minutes later, a massive and violent explosion rocked the entire area. Flames went as high as 2,500 feet in the air. Everything in a half-mile vicinity of the explosion was completely destroyed.

Shortly afterwards, a smaller tank also exploded. The resulting out-of-control fire necessitated the evacuation of 10,000 people from the surrounding area. Every firefighting unit in Cleveland converged on the East Ohio Gas site. It still took nearly an entire day to bring the fire under control. When the flames went out, rescue workers found that 130 people had been killed by the blast and nearly half of the bodies were so badly burned that they could not be identified. Two hundred and fifteen people were injured and required hospitalization.

The explosion had destroyed two entire factories, 79 homes in the surrounding area and more than 200 vehicles. The total bill for damages exceeded $10 million. The cause of the blast had to do with the contraction of the metal tanks: The gas was stored at temperatures below negative 250 degrees and the resulting contraction of the metal had caused a steel plate to rupture.

Newer and safer techniques for storing gas and building tanks were developed in the wake of this disaster.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Experts estimate that in a lifetime, a human brain may retain one quadrillion separate bits of information.

The Bird of Paradise

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I have two kinds of flowers that I really love: tulips and the bird-of-paradise. Unfortunately, I don’t see many of either around where we live.

So, it was an extra special treat for me to go to San Diego recently and see some bird-of-paradise flowers at a hotel we went to see (more about that in another post). This one just happened to beg me to take its picture!  I didn’t have my Canon with me, so I just had to shoot with my Galaxy Note 5 (those don’t burn up and catch fire – it’s a great phone, by the way!)

I can see, based on the way this particular flower looks, why they call it a bird-of-paradise. Doesn’t it look like a bird (almost like a hummingbird) with its wings swept back and its red, feathery head toward the bottom right of the picture?  Unfortunately, we were in a hurry so I couldn’t really stop and frame this properly, but I still love the flower.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1864, Confederate General James Longstreet assumed command of his corps in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in May of that year, Longstreet missed the campaign for Richmond, Virginia,and spent five months recovering before retuning to his command.

Longstreet was one of the most effective corps commanders in the war. He became a brigadier general before the First Battle of Bull Run, Virginia,in 1861, and quickly rose through the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia. He became a divisional commander, and his leadership during the Seven Days Battles and the Second Battle of Bull Run earned him the respect of the Confederate army’s commander, General Robert E. Lee, who gave him command of a corps just before the Battle of Antietam in Maryland in September 1862.

His leadership at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg sealed his reputation as a brilliant corps leader, but Longstreet was less successful when given an independent command. In spring 1863, he led a force in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia, and he made an expedition to relieve Confederate forces in Tennessee in fall 1863. He enjoyed little success in either situation.

The Union Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in early May 1864 for another attempt at capturing the Confederate capital at Richmond. On May 6, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Longstreet was shot by his own troops while scouting the lines during the battle. Ironically, it was just a few miles from the spot where Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had been mortally wounded by his men one year earlier. Longstreet was hit in the neck and shoulder, and nearly died. He was incapacitated for the rest of the campaign and did not rejoin his corps until it was mired in the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in October 1864.

After the war, Longstreet worked at a variety of government posts, including U.S. minister to Turkey. He broke with his fellow Confederates by joining the Republican Party, and dared to criticize some of Lee’s tactical decisions. Though he was reviled by many of his fellow generals for this later behavior, he outlived most of his detractors.Longstreet died in Gainesville, Georgia, at the age of 82 in 1904.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Christmas stockings allegedly evolved from three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins.

Buzz Flower

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I shot today’s photo with my cell phone. This particular flower was captured in Portland, OR in July of 2016. I liked the color of the flower and the bee that was gathering pollen. No, I didn’t get stung, but I also didn’t introduce myself to the bee, either!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1877, Texas Ranger John Armstrong arrested John Wesley Hardin in a Florida rail car, returning the outlaw to Texas to stand trial for murder.

Three years earlier, Hardin had killed Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in a small town near Austin, Texas. Webb’s murder was one in a long series of killings committed by the famous outlaw-the 39th by Hardin’s own count. Killing a lawman, however, was an especially serious offense. The famous Texas Rangers were determined to bring Hardin to justice.

For three years, Hardin was able to elude the Rangers. Moving between Florida and Alabama, he adopted an alias and kept a low profile. Nonetheless, the Rangers eventually unmasked his secret identity and dispatched John Armstrong to track him down in Florida.

On this day in 1877, Armstrong, acting on a tip, spotted Hardin in the smoking car of a train stopped at the Pensacola station. Armstrong stationed local deputies at both ends of the car, and the men burst in with guns drawn. Caught by surprise, Hardin nonetheless reacted quickly and reached for the gun holstered under his jacket. The pistol caught in Hardin’s fancy suspenders, giving the lawmen the crucial few seconds they needed and probably saving Hardin’s life–instead of shooting him, Armstrong clubbed Hardin with his long-barreled .45 pistol.

Technically, the Texas Rangers had no authority in Florida, so they spirited Hardin back to Texas on the next train. Tried in Austin, a jury found Hardin guilty of killing Sheriff Webb and sentenced him to life in the Texas state prison at Huntsville. He served 15 years before the governor pardoned him. Released in 1894, an El Paso policeman killed him the following year.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Approximately 71 million pounds of chocolate candy is sold during the week leading up to Easter. Only 48 million pounds of chocolate is sold during Valentine’s week. In contrast, over 90 million pounds of chocolate candy is sold in the last week of October leading up to Halloween.

In an Oregon Marsh

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Somewhere in a marsh in Oregon, I shot this photo of a “flower”.  I don’t know for sure what kind of plant this is/was, but because it was purple, I liked it!  My first reaction was that it might be related to the Canadian thistle that I grew to despise when I was a kid in Iowa, but then I am pretty sure this plant wasn’t related at all. But in Iowa, those Canadian thistles were everywhere…and when they grew in a field of crops, they – and other unwanted weeds – needed to be removed from the field or they’d tend to take over.

So, since that was before the time of selective poisons that would just target certain types of plants while leaving others “unharmed”, every Iowa farm kid knew what it meant to “walk beans” or “walk corn”.

Usually in the early morning, a group of folk (mostly kids who wanted work and needed money) would line up at one end of a field with a how or machete in hand. You started walking down between two rows of soybeans or corn and when you encountered a weed, you’ll cut it down with the machete or hoe. It was hot, dirty work.  You’d walk from one end of the field to the other, then position yourself between two more rows and walk back the other way until the entire field had been “walked”.

By mid-day it would be very hot and humid. You’d sweat profusely. And the dust from black Iowan soil that had settled on the leaves of the plants clung to your arms and your soaked-through shirt. Not a pretty sight.

Looking back on it now, it has a certain nostalgic charm to it, but at the time we hated it.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, the  second atom bomb ever used in history was dropped on Japan by the United States, at Nagasaki, resulting finally in Japan’s unconditional surrender.

The devastation wrought at Hiroshima a few days earlier was not sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender. The United States had already planned to drop their second atom bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” on August 11 in the event of such recalcitrance, but bad weather expected for that day pushed the date up to August 9th. So at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its usual commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 1,650 feet above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).

General Leslie R. Groves, the man responsible for organizing the Manhattan Project, which solved the problem of producing and delivering the nuclear explosion, estimated that another atom bomb would be ready to use against Japan by August 17 or 18—but it was not necessary. Even though the War Council still remained divided (“It is far too early to say that the war is lost,” opined the Minister of War), Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared that “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, there are more than 73,000 Americans still unaccounted for.

How Fragile

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There are many fragile things in nature: a spider web, a newborn baby,  a human being at the mercy of a raging sea. The list is long.

I shot this image of a plant (I can’t tell you what it is but I know it’s not an elephant) because I was fascinated by how fragile it appears.  I don’t know that it is any more fragile than a dandelion, but if you zoom in on the image, you can see it is made up of very thin filaments. Yet it manages to withstand the storms of the Pacific northwest. It isn’t colorful, but it has beauty of its own.

Maybe we can learn a thing or two about strength from some of nature’s weakest things.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1971, a severe flood of the Red River in North Vietnam killed an estimated 100,000 people on this day in 1971. This remarkable flood was one of the century’s most serious weather events, but because the Vietnam War was going on at the time, relatively few details about the disaster are available.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compiled a list of the 20th century’s top weather and climate events, based upon their natural wonder and impact on people. On the list were such major disasters as the Bangladesh cyclones of 1970 and 1991, both of which killed more than 100,000 people. The “Great Smog of London” of 1952 and the 1972 blizzard in Iran also made the list. Notably, not a single incident occurring in North American was included.

The Red River flood in North Vietnam made NOOA’s list even though relatively little is known about how or why approximately 100,000 people perished in the disaster. During the Vietnam War, information from North Vietnam was neither plentiful nor reliably accurate. What is known is that the Red River, which runs near the capital city of Hanoi, experienced a “250-year” flood. Torrential rains simply overwhelmed the dyke system around the heavily populated delta area, which is not far above sea level. As well as directly killing thousands of people, the flood also wiped out valuable crops, causing further hardship, especially as it occurred during wartime.

Though many more reservoirs have since been built in the Hanoi region, the area remains vulnerable to flooding.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Grover Cleveland was the only president in history to hold the job of a hangman. He was once the sheriff of Erie County, New York, and twice had to spring the trap at a hanging.

Living the Wild Life

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On our recent trip to visit out oldest son in Oregon, we went for a nice hike one day at a  national wildlife refuge. A portion of the refuge borders on the Columbia River. It was a peaceful place and it was mostly an overcast day with occasional splotches of sun breaking through.

There are lots of grasses, brush, trees, birds, turtles, rabbits and other critters in the preserve, though we didn’t see some of the more obscure ones. The birdsong filled the air and though at times they weren’t visible, their songs were lovely.

At the end of the hike on the side of the outhouses is a board where people can list the animals that they saw. My wife added some bird species to her “life list” and to the board. Not to be outdone, I added that we’d seen a bigfoot…but I wasn’t able to get a picture because I had put my shoes back on!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1938, Douglas Corrigan, the last of the early glory-seeking fliers, took off from Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn, New York, on a flight that would finally win him a place in aviation history.

Eleven years earlier, American Charles A. Lindbergh had become an international celebrity with his solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. Corrigan was among the mechanics who had worked on Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, but that mere footnote in the history of flight was not enough for the Texas-born aviator. In 1938, he bought a 1929 Curtiss Robin aircraft off a trash heap, rebuilt it, and modified it for long-distance flight. In July 1938, Corrigan piloted the single-engine plane nonstop from California to New York. Although the transcontinental flight was far from unprecedented, Corrigan received national attention simply because the press was amazed that his rattletrap aircraft had survived the journey.

Almost immediately after arriving in New York, he filed plans for a transatlantic flight, but aviation authorities deemed it a suicide flight, and he was promptly denied. Instead, they would allow Corrigan to fly back to the West Coast, and on July 17 he took off from Floyd Bennett field, ostentatiously pointed west. However, a few minutes later, he made a 180-degree turn and vanished into a cloudbank to the puzzlement of a few onlookers.

Twenty-eight hours later, Corrigan landed his plane in Dublin, Ireland, stepped out of his plane, and exclaimed, “Just got in from New York. Where am I?” He claimed that he lost his direction in the clouds and that his compass had malfunctioned. The authorities didn’t buy the story and suspended his license, but Corrigan stuck to it to the amusement of the public on both sides of the Atlantic. By the time “Wrong Way” Corrigan and his crated plane returned to New York by ship, his license suspension had been lifted, he was a national celebrity, and a mob of autograph seekers met him on the gangway.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Elias Howe (1819-1867) said one inspiration for his invention of the sewing machine came from a nightmare he had about being attacked by cannibals bearing spears that looked like the needle he then designed.

Trying to trick your kids…and creepy trees…

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Isn’t it interesting what we parents do to try to trick our kids?  We tell them that brussel sprouts taste good (that one is in the category of a lie to my way of thinking).  We do all sorts of things to get them to eat stuff that they don’t want to eat.  We bribe them to eat stuff, letting them know that they can stay up an extra half hour if they do, or that they can have a cookie after dinner if they eat all that green colored rabbit food (vegetables).

When our kids were little, they didn’t like broccoli for one thing…so we started calling them “pretty trees” so they’d maybe pretend to be giants and eat them.

Today’s tree isn’t so much “pretty” as rather sinister looking. I’d certainly never try to get my kid to eat it.  This tree was near Multnomah falls in Oregon.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato, ostensibly the greatest battleship in the world, was sunk in Japan’s first major counteroffensive in the struggle for Okinawa.

Weighing 72,800 tons and outfitted with nine 18.1-inch guns, the battleship Yamato was Japan’s only hope of destroying the Allied fleet off the coast of Okinawa. But insufficient air cover and fuel cursed the endeavor as a suicide mission. Struck by 19 American aerial torpedoes, it was sunk, drowning 2,498 of its crew.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the first half of the twentieth century, Shanghai was the only port in the world to accept Jews fleeing the Holocaust without an entry visa.

Adrift and Floating

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Double click for a larger size image…

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.

Fields of Green and Gold

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Do you remember the fabled King Croesus? He was the legendary king who had a “gift” for being exceedingly wealthy (hence the saying, “He’s as rich as Croesus!”). In several stories of fiction, there is a pool of water in which lies a golden object…but there’s only one problem. When someone reaches for it, they themselves turn into gold as soon as they touch the surface of the pool! I suppose that there’s a moral to that story about how riches can possess us and do us harm if we are not careful.

But the gold in the photo today won’t hurt you. Near where we live, there is a corner farm lot where sunflowers grew (they have now been cut down and harvested, sadly). They made a spectacular sight – and I hope that they will be back again next year so I can shoot some more photos of them.

One morning about a week ago I drove over and pulled out my camera and captured the fields of green and gold. An not a single cell in my body turned to gold, nor did I become frozen and immobile. For that, I’m grateful!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, a second atom bomb ever used in warfare was dropped on Japan by the United States, at Nagasaki, resulting finally in Japan’s unconditional surrender.

The devastation wrought at Hiroshima was not sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender. The United States had already planned to drop their second atom bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” on August 11 in the event of such recalcitrance, but bad weather expected for that day pushed the date up to August 9th. So at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its usual commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 1,650 feet above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).

General Leslie R. Groves, the man responsible for organizing the Manhattan Project, which solved the problem of producing and delivering the nuclear explosion, estimated that another atom bomb would be ready to use against Japan by August 17 or 18—but it was not necessary. Even though the War Council still remained divided (“It is far too early to say that the war is lost,” opined the Minister of War), Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared that “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Cats have 32 muscles that control the outer ear (humans have only 6). A cat can independently rotate its ears 180 degrees.