Category Archives: Scenery

Various shots of scenery.

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.

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.

Don’t Worry…Big Brother Is Here

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The town of Mt. Pleasant, SC, is across the river/estuary from Charleston, SC. It is a fairly small suburb, containing both the old, historic houses near the waterline and newer structures in other places. It is a blend of old and new…a study, if you will, in contrasts.

I took today’s photo when we were on our way aboard a ship to visit Fort Sumter. The boat left from Mt. Pleasant and headed around the nearby marina to make its way to the fort in the middle of the bay that leads to Charleston.

The ferry started from a dock that was right by the USS Yorktown, a carrier that is retired and is now a floating museum of sorts. It contains aircraft on its flight deck, the Congressional Medal of Honor museum on the hanger deck and various other photographic and video displays about the ship and where she served.

As with any aircraft carrier – it is impressive in size. It isn’t as large as the carriers being built today, but it’s not of a size that you could put it into your bathtub, either!  And so, as we rounded the marina on our way out to the fort, I looked back toward where we’d come from and caught today’s photo. All the smaller boats in the marina stood in start contrast to the sheer size of the Yorktown. I couldn’t help but thinking of a bunch of baby ducklings or goslings swimming along behind a much larger parent…and feeling comforted that big brother was nearby. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the other large ship toward the right in the photo is a destroyer…again dwarfed by Big Brother.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In keeping with today’s photo, on this day in 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan in perhaps the most memorable speech of his career. The speech, in which he called Japan’s act a “deliberate deception,” received thunderous applause from Congress and, soon after, the United States officially entered the Second World War.

The day before, Japanese pilots had bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, decimating the majority of U.S. warships in the Pacific Fleet along with most of the Air Corps and Navy aircraft stationed on the island of Oahu. The bombing raids killed 2,403 people, including 68 civilians, and wounded almost 1,200.

Although Roosevelt and his advisors had received intelligence reports indicating an imminent attack by Japan days before, he had hoped that Japanese and American diplomats, then negotiating in Washington, would come to a peaceful solution. He was incensed to realize that while American and Japanese diplomats engaged in negotiations (over Japan’s recent military actions in China and elsewhere in the Pacific), Japanese aircraft carriers had been steaming toward Hawaii intent on attack. His words on December 8 relayed his personal indignation and fury.

Roosevelt had already proven his oratorical skills during the Great Depression when his “fireside chats” rallied the nation’s morale. The same president who once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” declared with equal conviction that the nation “would never forget the character of [Japan’s] onslaught against us” and vowed that the “unbounding determination of our people… will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”

The stirring speech was hardly necessary—Congress and millions of Americans, who had been hearing details of the attack in the news, shared the president’s outrage and commitment to defending the nation. Young men flocked to armed forces recruiting stations the next day and both houses of Congress quickly voted to declare war on Japan, with only one dissenting vote, that of Montanan Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist. She was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both World Wars, having been among those who voted against American entry into World War I nearly a quarter of a century earlier.

Rankin, however, believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack because he wanted to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany; she was determined not to cooperate with the president’s plan. After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House, a roll call vote began. When her turn came, Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

Rankin was vilified in the press, accused of disloyalty, and called “Japanette Rankin,” among other impolite names. She stood her ground, however, and never apologized for her vote.

When her term neared completion two years later, Rankin was certain she would not win re-election and chose not to run again. She continued to be an active advocate for pacifism, and led a campaign against the Vietnam War in 1968 when she was 87 years old.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the decapitated head of a dead snake can still bite, even hours after death. These types of bites usually contain huge amounts of venom.

Where it begins/began…

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There is an old Neil Diamond song from my youth called Sweet Caroline that has these lyrics:

Where it began
I can’t begin to knowing…

In spite of what some think, the words were not inspired by the young daughter of JFK (Caroline Kennedy at the time), but by the woman who was Neil Diamond’s wife at the time. Her name wasn’t Caroline, but he needed something with three syllables and that’s the name he chose.

But that’s beside the point..it’s that lyric that I’m after. He may not have known when his love for his wife started (it is rather hard to pin-point such a thing so I don’t hold that against him), but it is clear when the Civil War started in earnest.

Today’s photo was taken at Fort Sumter in the middle of the bay near Charleston, SC. It was taken from inside the fort and the encasement that was facing in the direction from which the Confederates fired the first shots at the Union held fort on April 12, 1861. (The fort actually figured in two Civil War battles).

On Thursday, April 11, 1861, Confederate general Beauregard sent three aides, Colonel James Chesnut, Jr., Captain Stephen D. Lee and Lieutenant A. R. Chisolm to demand the surrender of the fort. Anderson (the Union commander of the fort) declined, and the aides returned to report to Beauregard. After Beauregard had consulted the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy Walker, he sent the aides back to the fort and authorized Chesnut to decide whether the fort should be taken by force. The aides waited for hours while Anderson considered his alternatives and played for time. At about 3:00 a.m., when Anderson finally announced his conditions, Colonel Chesnut, after conferring with the other aides, decided that they were “manifestly futile and not within the scope of the instructions verbally given to us”. The aides then left the fort and proceeded to the nearby Fort Johnson. There, Chesnut ordered the fort to open fire on Fort Sumter.

On Friday, April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire, firing for 34 straight hours, on the fort. The Union batteries in the fort didn’t fire back until 2-1/2 hour later as they didn’t have the right kind of ordinance for such a battle (they only had solid shot, not explosive shells).  During the attack, the Union colors fell. Lt. Norman J. Hall risked life and limb to put them back up, burning off his eyebrows permanently.

Interestingly enough, not a single soldier in the fort died as a result of the hostile exchange of fire. However, when the fort was surrendered on April 13, 1861, a 100-gun salute was ordered to celebrate the end of the violence. It was on the 47th shot of the 100-gun salute that a Union soldier was killed. His name was Daniel Hough and the death came about as the premature discharge of a cannon. It earned him the dubious distinction of being the first person to die in the Civil War.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began his expedition across Georgia by torching the industrial section of Atlanta and pulling away from his supply lines. For the next six weeks, Sherman’s army destroyed most of the state before capturing the Confederate seaport of Savannah, Georgia.

Sherman captured Atlanta in early September 1864 after a long summer campaign. He recognized his vulnerability in the city, however, as his supply lines stretched all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. Confederate raiders such as Nathan Bedford Forrest threatened to cut his lines, and Sherman had to commit thousands of troops to protect the railroads and rivers that carried provisions for his massive army. Sherman split his army, keeping 60,000 men and sending the rest back to Nashville with General George Thomas to deal with the remnants of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee, the force Sherman had defeated to take Atlanta.

After hearing that President Abraham Lincoln had won re-election on November 8, Sherman ordered 2,500 light wagons loaded with supplies. Doctors checked each soldier for illness or injuries, and those who were deemed unfit were sent to Nashville. Sherman wrote to his general in chief, Ulysses S. Grant, that if he could march through Georgia it would be “proof positive that the North can prevail.” He told Grant that he would not send couriers back, but to “trust the Richmond papers to keep you well advised.” Sherman loaded the surplus supplies on trains and shipped them back to Nashville. On November 15, the army began to move, burning the industrial section of Atlanta before leaving. One witness reported “immense and raging fires lighting up whole heavens… huge waves of fire roll up into the sky; presently the skeleton of great warehouses stand out in relief against sheets of roaring, blazing, furious flames.” Sherman’s famous destruction of Georgia had begun.

Interestingly enough, Fort Sumter was finally recaptured from the Confederates as a result of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: McDonald’s Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. The company earns most of its profits not from selling food, but by collecting rent. McDonald’s Happy Meals have been served since 1979. In the mid-1970s, a Guatemalan woman name Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño invented the happy meal (which she called the “Menu Ronald”) to make it easier for mothers to feed their children. The concept was later co-opted by Bob Bernstein, CEO of an advertising agency, who ultimately named the small meal the “happy meal” and was given credit for the idea.

Strangely Apropos…

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Charleston, SC is on a peninsula that is bounded on two sides by fairly large rivers that dump out into the Atlanta that is visible in the distance. Being a seaport, it has had a colorful history that goes way back.

On the very tip of the peninsula is a park, called Battery Park by some. That end of the peninsula has seen its share of pirates and brigands. Did you know that the fearsome pirate, Edward Teach (or Edward Thatch as some claim) roamed those waters? Edward Teach lived between about 1680-1712 when he was killed in a battle in 1718 after being slashed across the throat when others rushing in and finished him off. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Edward Teach was better known as Blackbeard.

According to Wikipedia, there are no confirmed accounts of him ever having murdered anyone, but he may have. He certainly had opportunity. But his history with Charleston was fairly extensive. At one point, his ships entered the harbor and held the entire city hostage. What was his demand for ranson? One chest of medicine. Some believe it was for himself (he apparently had an STD), but he didn’t ask for gold or anything else. Once the medicine chest was delivered, he stopped the siege.

But back to the park: when pirates were captured, they would be tried and hung by the neck (if found guilty) from the trees in the park…and they’d be left to rot there hanging by their necks as warnings to any other pirates who might happen to come around.

That’s maybe why I thought the photo of the skeleton on the motorcycle was apropos (that’s one of the rivers in the background). Of course, it was nearly Halloween, but I thought more of the pirates!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1971, John Emil List slaughtered his entire family in their Westfield, New Jersey, home and then disappeared. Though police quickly identified List as the most likely suspect in the murders, it took 18 years for them to locate him and close the case.

John List was an outwardly normal and successful father. A Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout troop leader, List was a strict disciplinarian who insisted his children follow extremely rigid rules.

On November 9, seemingly out of the blue, List shot his mother Alma (above her left eye), his wife Helen (in the side of the head), and two older children in the back of their heads; he shot his youngest child, a son, several times in the chest and face. He then left the murder weapon alongside their carefully laid-out corpses. List had methodically devised a plan so that the bodies would not be discovered for quite a while, cancelling newspaper, milk, and mail delivery to his home in the days leading up to the murder. He then called the children’s schools to say that the family was going to visit a sick relative out of town. By the time authorities discovered the bodies, List had vanished without a trace.

Local law enforcement officials had essentially given up looking for List when the television show America’s Most Wanted began airing in the late 1980s. After a segment about the List murders aired on May 21, 1989, calls began flooding in. Although most of them proved to be unhelpful, one viewer claimed that John List was living in Virginia under the alias Robert Clark.

Indeed, List had assumed a false identity, relocated to the South, and remarried. In 1989, he was returned to New Jersey to face charges for the death of his family. The following year, he was convicted of five counts of murder and received five consecutive life sentences.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Holiday retailers use music to attract potential shoppers. For example,  if shoppers like the type of music retailers are playing, they will be more likely to enter the store and like the products. Additionally, the slower the tempo of the music, the slower people will walk through the store, and the more they will buy. A faster tempo will encourage shoppers to walk faster and, consequently, they won’t buy as much.

What if….

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The picture above is the view out of my office window here at the house. I’m fortunate – I can work from home, or pretty much anywhere that I have an internet connection. I know some still fight the commute (as I did for decades!) and I feel for you, but I’m grateful that I seldom have to do that any more.

I took this picture about a week ago. As you can see, fall is trying to arrive here in Georgia. There is hope!  (Actually, it’s been quite nice the past 10 days or so.) But as I looked at this picture, a thought crossed my mind (hey – even I have thoughts once in a while!): what would life be like if we worked outside and only came inside when it was too cold or raining? I know that some folks work outside all year long, but I’m thinking even of folks like me who are primarily white collar types of workers. What if my desk and computer were outside during the fall and spring (at least) and I spent the entire day out there in the beauty, the fresh air and was surrounded by the sounds of leaves rustling and birds singing? Wouldn’t that be AWESOME!!!!!

Instead, I sit in here, occasionally looking out the window. I think that if we were outside more, we’d be more at peace, have less stress in our lives, be healthier…and have better suntans, too!  (That is if we didn’t die of skin cancer…but we’d have a shade over us to protect us, right!?!?!)

I have a hammock in the back yard and the last time I was out there laying in it, I was thinking about “How can I work while laying in my hammock?”  I’m still working on that one. It would be hard to type on my Surface, that’s for sure.  But it’s a pretty smart machine and can do almost anything by voice, too.  May have to give it a try one of these days before long!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1962, complicated and tension-filled negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union finally resulted in a plan to end the two-week-old Cuban Missile Crisis. A frightening period in which nuclear holocaust seemed imminent began to come to an end.

On October 22, President John F. Kennedy warned the Soviets to cease their reckless program to put nuclear weapons in Cuba and announced a naval “quarantine” against additional weapons shipments into Cuba. The world held its breath waiting to see whether the two superpowers would come to blows. U.S. armed forces went on alert and the Strategic Air Command went to a Stage 4 alert (one step away from nuclear attack).

On October 24, millions waited to see whether Soviet ships bound for Cuba carrying additional missiles would try to break the U.S. naval blockade around the island. At the last minute, the vessels turned around and returned to the Soviet Union.

On October 26, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev responded to the quarantine by sending a long and rather disjointed letter to Kennedy offering a deal: Soviet ships bound for Cuba would “not carry any kind of armaments” if the United States vowed never to invade Cuba. He pleaded, “let us show good sense,” and appealed to Kennedy to “weigh well what the aggressive, piratical actions, which you have declared the U.S.A. intends to carry out in international waters, would lead to.” He followed this with another letter the next day offering to remove the missiles from Cuba if the United States would remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.

Kennedy and his officials debated the proper U.S. response to these offers. Attorney General Robert Kennedy ultimately devised an acceptable plan: take up Khrushchev’s first offer and ignore the second letter. Although the United States had been considering the removal of the missiles from Turkey for some time, agreeing to the Soviet demand for their removal might give the appearance of weakness. Nevertheless, behind the scenes, Russian diplomats were informed that the missiles in Turkey would be removed after the Soviet missiles in Cuba were taken away. This information was accompanied by a threat: If the Cuban missiles were not removed in two days, the United States would resort to military action. It was now Khrushchev’s turn to consider an offer to end the standoff.

(I was just a kid, barely 10 years of age, but I remember the tension of those days very clearly.  I remember going to bed at night and wondering if I’d ever get the chance to see the sun come up again.)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the 1872 election, presidential incumbent Ulysses S. Grant ran against a corpse. His opponent, Horace Greeley, died before the election was finalized. Grant won the election.  George Washington blew his entire campaign budget on 160 gallons of liquor to serve to potential voters (he won 100% of the electoral votes – he was unopposed, so I guess he could afford to blow the budget on booze.)

Inside a “Moonshine” Car

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People love their luxury cars. To some people, luxury means “fine Corinthian leather” (those of you who are old enough will remember those commercials with Ricardo Montalban – those of you who aren’t old enough can just go wash behind your ears!) Some think of luxury cars as having all the bells and whistles you can imagine: power windows, power seats that tip and slide by pressing a button, rear-facing cameras, heated seats, headlight wipers, GPS systems, tire pressure monitors, self-parking and auto-braking. I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be added to that list, but you get the idea.

Today’s photo is of the inside of one of the cars at the moonshine festival. For those of you who may not have the sharpest of eyes, yep – that’s a beer can holder attached to the dashboard and a jug for moonshine sitting in the seat. But what caught my eye was the fine upholstery.

I grew up on a farm and knew quite well what a gunny sack is. If you look closely, you’ll see that they paneled the doors, covered the seats and even the dashboard with only the finest gunny sack upholstery. Nothing was too good for the moonshiners, I guess!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Taylor was not the first person to attempt the plunge over the famous falls. In October 1829, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper, survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side of the border. More than 70 years later, Taylor chose to take the ride on her birthday, October 24. (She claimed she was in her 40s, but genealogical records later showed she was 63.) With the help of two assistants, Taylor strapped herself into a leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to break her fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of the fast-flowing Niagara River and cut loose.

Knocked violently from side to side by the rapids and then propelled over the edge of Horseshoe Falls, Taylor reached the shore alive, if a bit battered, around 20 minutes after her journey began. After a brief flurry of photo-ops and speaking engagements, Taylor’s fame cooled, and she was unable to make the fortune for which she had hoped. She did, however, inspire a number of copy-cat daredevils. Between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of them survived. Among those who died were Jesse Sharp, who took the plunge in a kayak in 1990, and Robert Overcracker, who used a jet ski in 1995. No matter the method, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, and survivors face charges and stiff fines on either side of the border.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Moon dust is said to smell like spent gunpowder.

Moonshine Madness

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OK. So we live in Georgia – in north Georgia, as a matter of fact. Many people don’t realize how far north the Atlanta area is in Georgia, and we live about 45 miles north of Atlanta. I suppose it would be safe to say that we live in the foothills of the Georgia mountains. (They use the term “mountains” loosely here in Georgia – at least from the perspective of someone who has lived most of his life near the Sierra Nevada mountain range and who has visited and been through the Rockies numerous times, too.)

Northern Georgia is famous for lots of things. There were many Civil War battles that took place around here, most notably the battle of Chickamauga. The first gold rush in America started not far from where we live. And infamously, the Trail of Tears began near here, too. But there’s another thing that the hills of Appalachia are famous for: moonshine and moonshiners!

The hamlet of Dawsonville celebrates that part of north Georgia’s history every fall about this time and it was held this weekend. It has turned into a large car show, lots of food and craft booths, bands playing outdoors and just a generally good time.

I was busy on Saturday so I couldn’t go then when my wife did, but after we got home from church and a bit of shopping this afternoon, I went over with my camera to explore. Sadly, quite a few of the cars that were on display had already pulled out from the looks of things, but I still enjoyed myself. In my wanderings, I came across a booth for the Moonshine Museum. That’s where I shot today’s photo. Sorta helps you get a sense for the north Georgia hills, right? I’ve got more pictures that I’ll share in the coming days, but for now, you might just pull out your banjo and juice harp and watch Deliverance or listen to Dueling Banjos to help round out the picture.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1965, in action following the clash at the Plei Me Special Forces camp 30 miles southwest of Pleiku earlier in the month, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) launched Operation Silver Bayonet.

U.S. troops, in conjunction with South Vietnamese forces, sought to destroy North Vietnamese forces operating in Pleku Province in II Corps Tactical Zone (the Central Highlands). The operation concluded in November with a week of bitter fighting when fleeing North Vietnamese troops decided to protect an important staging area and supply base in the Ia Drang Valley. It was the bloodiest battle of the war to date. In one engagement, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry fought a desperate three-day battle at Landing Zone X-Ray with the North Vietnamese 33rd and 66th Regiments; when the fighting was over, 834 Communists lay dead on the battlefield. In an associated engagement, 500 North Vietnamese ambushed another battalion from the 1st Cavalry Division at Landing Zone Albany, wiping out almost an entire company. Reported enemy casualties for Operation Silver Bayonet totaled 1,771. U.S. casualties included 240 killed in action.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: A four-leaf clover is often considered good luck, but it is also part of an Irish love ritual. In some parts of Ireland, if a woman eats a four-leaf clover while thinking about a man, supposedly he will fall in love with her.