Category Archives: Simple Musings

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.

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.)

Portland Street Scene

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You can see street performers in nearly any large American city. Near Pier 39 in San Francisco you can see musicians and mimes and also performers acting like metallic robots. They are fun to watch and often quite talented.

I don’t know where people get the nerve and courage to perform like that in public. My first non-sports related attempt was back in my high school days. There was an experimental class that emphasized the arts off all sorts and I took it as an elective. It was fun…and actually very interesting. I wrote some music (and discovered that being a composer was not my gift), dabbled in some stage stuff (I participated in numerous plays/dramas/musicals) and really enjoyed myself. But my first attempt at performing in public on my own was when I sang, “Sunrise, Sunset” on stage. Thankfully, it wasn’t recorded for posterity!

The young lady in this image was on the sidewalk down by the river in Portland, Oregon. She was quite gifted and was playing guitar (I don’t recall her singing, though), but she played more by hammering the strings with her fingers than strumming or “picking” the notes. I wish I could have stayed and observed her talent longer, but we were off to another destination.

People like this have my admiration and appreciation. I think the only talent that I have which I can demonstrate in public is to appreciate those who are gifted and encourage them!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY (from History.com): in 1831, John X. Beidler, one of the best known of the notoriously secretive Montana vigilantes, was born in Pennsylvania.

Beidler, who preferred to be called simply “X,” had little formal education and tried his hand at a variety of trades. Initially a shoemaker, he also worked briefly as a brick maker and then traveled to Kansas where he took up farming. A supporter of John Brown’s radical abolitionist movement, he left Kansas for Texas after Brown was captured and executed for his abortive raid on the Harper’s Ferry armory in Virginia. From Texas, Beidler wandered northward, eventually joining the Gold Rush to Montana Territory in 1863.

When Beidler arrived in Virginia City, the area was plagued by marauding bandits who roamed the isolated roads of the region robbing and killing. The bandits were led by a charming psychopath named Henry Plummer who had managed to con the citizens into electing him sheriff of the nearby town of Bannock. Frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the local law enforcement, the citizens of Virginia City and Bannock formed a highly secretive vigilance committee and began systematically hunting down and hanging the road agents, including Sheriff Plummer.

Not long after arriving in Virginia City, Beidler joined the vigilantes and became one of the group’s most active members. Unlike most of the members, who took pains to conceal their identities, Beidler welcomed attention. Numerous legends arose around the so-called “Vigilante X,” and Beidler did little to discourage exaggerations—in fact, much of the Beidler lore was true. He was the principal hangman for at least five of the vigilante’s victims, and he survived several narrow escapes in his relentless pursuit of dangerous men.

After helping rid Montana of crime, Beidler became a stagecoach guard and deputy U.S. Marshall. He appears to have been highly effective in these roles, though he was criticized for sometimes overstepping the bounds of his authority. Apparently, the former vigilante still liked to take the law into his own hands.

As an old man, he fell on hard times and became dependent on the charity of Montanans who remembered his previous service. When he died in Helena, Montana, in 1890, his death certificate listed his occupation as “Public Benefactor.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: back in 1967, the band Procol Harum released a song titled A Whiter Shade of Pale, that included a reference to “vestal virgins”.  You may not know what that was referring to, but here’s a snippet: the Vestal Virgins of Rome were women priests who tended the sacred fire of Vesta, goddess of the hearth fire. If they lost their virginity, even as a result of rape, they were buried alive in an unmarked grave. In the 1,000-year history of the temple, only 18 Vestals received this punishment.

It’s All About Perspective

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The older I get the more I appreciate perspective.

I photographed this marker in a cemetery in Portland, Oregon early in July of this year. I didn’t expect to find such a marker in the Pacific northwest and was rather shocked when I saw it.  One just doesn’t think of Oregon in relation to the Civil War. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t expect to find one line this in the state of Georgia where I now call home. If I were north of the Mason-Dixon line one might expect to see such a marker. Not that many miles from where we now live is Stone Mountain with gigantic carved relief images of the leaders of the army of the Confederacy…but none of any of those mentioned on this stone who were the “saviors of our union”.  Nor would such a monument as Stone Mountain be found north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Isn’t that like so much of what we see going on in our country today?  So many of our differences are about perspective (not all, but many) and we’ve grown angry to the point of not even wanting to hear another perspective or consider its merits if it is different in the slightest from our own. We’ve become so cock-sure of ourselves and our own perspective that we immediately denigrate any other perspective – and those who hold them.

I fear we have much to re-learn as a nation. Instead of constantly insulting and castigating one another – no matter which perspective we hold – could we not at least treat another perspective (and the person who holds it) with respect as human beings?

I was a teen during the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, the age of “flower power”, Haight Ashbury, the “summer of love” and Woodstock. For all that may have been wrong about some of those things, at least people were by and large treated respectfully. Perhaps they were the “good old days” after all.  By contrast (perspective?) they sure seem better than today!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1715, a hurricane struck the east coast of Florida, sinking 10 Spanish treasure ships and killing nearly 1,000 people, on this day in 1715. All of the gold and silver on board at the time would not be recovered until 250 years later.

From 1701, Spain sent fleets of ships to the Western Hemisphere to bring back natural resources, including gold and silver. These groups of ships were heavily fortified against pirates, but there was little that could be done to protect them from bad weather.

On July 24, ten Spanish ships and one French ship left Havana, Cuba, on their way to Europe, carrying tons of gold and silver coins, about 14 million pesos worth. The Spanish ships stayed very close to the Florida coast, as was the custom, while the French ship, the Grifon, ventured further out from the shore. A week later, as the ships were between Cape Canaveral and Fort Pierce, in modern-day Florida, the winds picked up dramatically.

The hurricane advanced quickly and, one by one, the ships were wrecked. The Nuestra Senora de la Regla sank, sending 200 people and 120 tons of coins to a watery grave. The Santa Cristo de San Ramon went down with 120 sailors aboard. In all, somewhere between 700 and 1,000 people lost their lives in the wrecks. Meanwhile, the Grifon was able to ride out the storm; most of its crew survived.

In the following months, Spanish officials in Havana sent ships to salvage the treasure. About 80 percent had been recovered by April 1716, but the rest remained lost until the 1960’s.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: in the few signatures that have survived, Shakespeare spelled his name “Willm Shaksp,” “William Shakespe,” “Wm Shakspe,” “William Shakspere,” ”Willm Shakspere,” and “William Shakspeare”–but never “William Shakespeare”.

A Snortin’ Terror!!!

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I love animals. Big ones, small ones, brightly colors or even those that are more or less colorless and transparent. I love the variety of animals that exist, and wish that the species that have gone extinct were still with us (well, maybe not T-Rex!!!).

But, I must admit, I have my limits and fears. I don’t like to swim in the ocean because there are just too many things in there that that are much larger and stronger than me, and many of them have very sharp teeth!

I am leery of just about any animal that is bigger than I am or that acts in a threatening manner. Heck, even a small chihuahua that bares its teeth and threatens to bite my ankles is enough to make be back off. I would like to keep all 10 of my fingers and 10 toes, thank you very much!

So, imagine my terror when I turned a corner in Helen, GA in the beer garden that exists in the center of town and saw the fearsome creature in today’s photo. I broke into a cold sweat. The scent of brimstone emanated from his nostrils he was so fierce! But, in the pursuit of a photograph, I pretended to be undaunted and managed to sneak in a picture before I passed out.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in was dawn on this day in 1908 when the most destructive earthquake in recorded European history struck the Straits of Messina in southern Italy, leveling the cities of Messina in Sicily and Reggio di Calabria on the Italian mainland. The earthquake and tsunami it caused killed an estimated 100,000 people.

Sicily and Calabria are known as la terra ballerina–“the dancing land”–for the periodic seismic activity that strikes the region. In 1693, 60,000 people were killed in southern Sicily by an earthquake, and in 1783 most of the Tyrrenian coast of Calabria was razed by a massive earthquake that killed 50,000. The quake of 1908 was particularly costly in terms of human life because it struck at 5:20 a.m. without warning, catching most people at home in bed rather than in the relative safety of the streets or fields.

The main shock, registering an estimated 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, caused a devastating tsunami with 40-foot waves that washed over coastal towns and cities. The two major cities on either side of the Messina Straits–Messina and Reggio di Calabria–had some 90 percent of their buildings destroyed. Telegraph lines were cut and railway lines were damaged, hampering relief efforts. To make matters worse, the major quake on the 28th was followed by hundreds of smaller tremors over subsequent days, bringing down many of the remaining buildings and injuring or killing rescuers. On December 30, King Victor Emmanuel III arrived aboard the battleship Napoli to inspect the devastation.

Meanwhile, a steady rain fell on the ruined cities, forcing the dazed and injured survivors, clad only in their nightclothes, to take shelter in caves, grottoes, and impromptu shacks built out of materials salvaged from the collapsed buildings. Veteran sailors could barely recognize the shoreline because long stretches of the coast had sunk several feet into the Messina Strait.

 

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  One of the first chest-revealing suits for men appeared in 1932 and was called the “Topper.” The suit had a detachable top that could be zipped away from the trunk bottoms. Unfortunately, men who chose to appear topless at the time were often arrested for indecent exposure.

What!?!?!?! Why!?!?!?!?

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Double click for a larger size…

OK, I have to admit, that every now and then I see something that really puzzles me. I have to stop and ask myself, “What were they thinking?!?”  (Maybe a better question would be, “Were they thinking???”)

Okay, okay…I understand if you were to think, “Well, yeah, but Galen is such a blockhead that it is only to be expected that he wouldn’t grasp lots of things!”  And, I guess there would be some truth in that.

Today’s photo is another one that I took at Oakland Cemetery in downtown Atlanta, GA.  These doors were on the entrance into a families mausoleum.  At first I was just thinking that the lion heads would make an interesting picture if shot from an angle. Then, after I got back and looked at the photo, I began asking myself the question that should have popped to my mind right away: “Why do people put door knockers on the entrance to a tomb?”

What do they think goes on inside of that tomb?  That those enclosed are sitting down to dinner and that you need to knock on the door to gain entrance?  Maybe they think that there’s some kind of wild and crazy party going on inside and they need door knockers in order to gain admittance by overcoming the raucous noise?  As if someone on the inside is going to get up and come open the door for you? I don’t get it.  I mean, I understand having a lock on the door so that those outside can’t get in and vandalize the tomb…that makes perfect sense.  But door knockers?!?!?!?!  I’m confused….

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1915,

On July 12, 1915, Allied forces make a sixth and final attempt to capture Achi Baba, a prominent hill position featuring a commanding view of Cape Helles, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, from its Turkish defenders.

Though many modern-day historians have questioned the actual strategic importance of the hill in the grand scheme of the Gallipoli invasion, Achi Baba was seen by the Allied command at the time as a crucial objective in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire s forces and their German allies. Because of this, Sir Ian Hamilton, chief commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, had set the capture of Achi Baba as a priority from the first day of the Allied land invasion, on April 25, 1915. In addition to the disorderly landing itself, three separate unsuccessful attempts had been made to capture the heights, as well as the nearby village of Krithia, by that June. On June 28, another attempt met with similar failure, at the cost of heavy Allied casualties, in the Battle of Gulley Ravine.

The attack of July 12 began after the arrival of Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, a regional commander sent from the Western Front to aid Hamilton on the front lines in Gallipoli, along with an additional division of Allied forces. Yet again, the Allies were unsuccessful, gaining a total of only 350 yards over two days of heavy fighting before Hunter-Weston called off the attacks. The Allied casualty figure–4,000 dead or wounded–was lower than the Turkish one–some 10,000 men–but Achi Baba remained in Turkish hands. From then on, the bulk of Allied operations in Gallipoli were focused further north, around the so-called Anzac Cove (named for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) and Suvla Bay.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Tortoises in the Mojave Desert store up to 1/3 of their body weight in urine. When they need water, the water in their urine flows back into their bodies while the waste remains and expels. Tortoise soup, anyone????

…I Wonder About

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Double click for a larger version

I’ve been thinking lately (surprised, right!?!?!) and I have questions…lots of questions!!!!  Most of these questions come from things I’ve seen relatively recently and I doubt I’ll be able to sleep until I get ANSWERS!

Things I wonder about…

When a squirrel comes down the side of a tree head first, does their head fill with blood and hurt like ours do if we are upside down?

When a squirrel climbs up a tree head first, does all the blood rush to its tail, making it feel light-headed?

Do turtles ever feel claustrophobic?

What do turtles do if they eat a dead, rotting fish and their belly bloats up?  How does that work when you’re encased in a tight shell?

Do fish ever worry about drowning?

Do birds ever have dare-devil contests to see how close they can fly to a tree branch without crashing?

Do birds ever really fly overhead and “target” people or objects on the ground?

When frogs die, do they really croak?

Do gargoyles ever suffer from acrophobia?

What do animals eat that makes them “stuffed”?

How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck COULD chuck wood?

My inquiring mind wants to know!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1876, a mere 83 hours after leaving New York City, the Transcontinental Express train arrived in San Francisco.

That any human being could travel across the entire nation in less than four days was inconceivable to previous generations of Americans. When Thomas Jefferson first dreamed of an American nation stretching from “sea to shining sea,” it took the president 10 days to travel the 225 miles from Monticello to Philadelphia via carriage. Even with frequent changing of horses, the 100-mile journey from New York to Philadelphia demanded two days hard travel in a light stagecoach. At such speeds, the coasts of the continent-wide American nation were months apart.

As early as 1802, Jefferson had a glimmer of an answer. “The introduction of so powerful an agent as steam,” he predicted, “[to a carriage on wheels] will make a great change in the situation of man.” Though Jefferson never saw a train in his lifetime. Within half a century, America would have more railroads than any other nation in the world. By 1869, the first transcontinental line linking the coasts was completed.

Five days after the transcontinental railroad was completed, daily passenger service over the rails began. The speed and comfort was so astonishing that many Americans could scarcely believe it, and popular magazines wrote glowing accounts of the amazing journey. For the wealthy, a trip on the transcontinental railroad was a luxurious experience, riding in beautifully appointed cars with plush velvet seats that converted into snug sleeping berths. The amenities included steam heat, fresh linen daily, and gracious porters. For an extra $4 a day, the wealthy traveler could opt to take the weekly Pacific Hotel Express, which offered first-class dining on board. As one happy passenger wrote, “The rarest and richest of all my journeying through life is this three-thousand miles by rail.”

The trip was a good deal less speedy and comfortable for passengers unwilling or unable to pay the premium fares. Most of the first-class passengers traveled the transcontinental line for business or pleasure, while third-class occupants were usually emigrants hoping to make a new start in the West. A third-class ticket could be purchased for only $40–less than half the price of the first-class fare. At this, the traveler received no luxuries. Their cars, fitted with rows of wooden benches, were congested, noisy, and uncomfortable. The railroad often attached the coach cars to freight cars that were constantly shunted aside to make way for the express trains. Consequently, the third-class traveler’s journey west might take 10 or more days. Even then, few travelers complained. Even 10 days spent sitting on a hard bench seat was preferable to six months walking alongside a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail.

Railroad promotions naturally focused on the express trains. The arrival of the Transcontinental Express train in San Francisco on this day in 1876 was celebrated in the newspapers and magazines of the day. With this express service, a businessman could leave New York City on Monday morning, spend 83 hours in relaxing comfort, and arrive refreshed and ready for work in San Francisco by Thursday evening.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Records for locomotives include the heaviest (1,200,000 pounds, i.e,. 600 tons); longest with its tender 132’9″; most powerful 176,600 lpf.

…Must Have Been Very Strange

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

Meet Roxie.  Roxie is a, well, I’m not sure what she is supposed to be.  But this past weekend when we went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival, Roxie was just a short distance inside the entry to greet us.  This strange creature (and the other strange folks we saw) really made me think that we’d not fallen into a Renaissance Faire, but into something from the Dark Ages…the VERY Dark Ages!  There were people everywhere with elf ears, horns on their heads, elf ears and horns on their head…and even some folks dressed as Imperial Storm Troopers!  For a while I thought we’d fallen through a rip in the space-time continuum and were in the future until someone reminded me that Star Wars took places “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away!”  That made me feel better right way…at least, until I saw Roxie again!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1987, firefighters finally contained a giant fire sweeping eastward across China, but not before 193 people are killed.

The fateful fire began on May 6 in Mohe County of the Heilongjiang Province. From the outset, authorities mishandled the blaze, failing to contain it while the size was still manageable. It spread quickly and within two days, 2,000 square miles had burned and 100 people were dead. Firefighters also had to contend with a separate large forest fire that had broken out near China’s border with the Soviet Union that threatened to join the initial blaze.

It took several more days for the firefighters to finally stop the spread of the fire as it moved toward Inner Mongolia. Although the city of Manqui was saved by controlled fire breaks set by the firefighters, the toll from this huge fire was already immense. Two and a half million acres of land burned and 50,000 people lost their homes. In addition to the 193 people who were killed, hundreds more were injured.

When the fire finally burned out completely on May 27, Yang Zhong, China’s Forestry Minister, was fired for the initially incompetent firefighting response.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The lobotomy, from the Greek lobe=of brain +tome=slice, was one of the most popular types of brain surgery ever invented. Neurologist and psychiatrist Walter Freeman (who was not a surgeon) simplified the surgery by taking an icepick through the eye sockets instead of through drilled holes in the skull. He chose an ice pick because regular surgical tools made at the time kept snapping off inside of people’s heads.  Headache, anyone?

…Painted Faces

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Double click to see a larger version…

Have you ever really thought about painted faces?  I mean, we all know that kids love to get their faces painted at circuses or other events.  Somehow, having a painted face transports them into an alternate reality: into butterflies, bunnies, elves or mermaids.  And, boy, don’t they know that they’re cute when their faces are painted?!?!

I shot today’s picture some time ago now when I went to take a photography class at a photography studio where they were teaching how to work with different kinds of light set-ups.  I don’t have that kind of equipment myself (I almost always just shoot with natural light) so it was a lot of fun for me to get to shoot with light boxes and various lighting angles and sources.  I was able to borrow a PocketWizard from the studio that would automatically trigger the lighting systems…what fun!

Anyway, they brought in different models that we could photograph in the different light settings and the one in today’s picture had some face painting.  I thought her eyes in conjunction with the face painting was cool, so I took this close up with her permission.

Have you thought about why women “paint” their faces with make-up, eye shadow, eye liner, lipstick and the like?  Do you think it could be a carry-over from the days when we were kids?  Nah, me neither…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1918 In the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France, Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as “The Red Baron,” was killed by Allied fire.

Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the Imperial Air Service in 1915. By 1916, he was terrorizing the skies over the western front in an Albatross biplane, downing 15 enemy planes by the end of the year, including one piloted by British flying ace Major Lanoe Hawker. In 1917, Richthofen surpassed all flying ace records on both sides of the western front and began using a Fokker triplane, painted entirely red in tribute to his old cavalry regiment. Although only used during the last eight months of his career, it is this aircraft that Richthofen was most commonly associated with and it led to an enduring English nickname for the German pilot–the Red Baron.

On April 21, 1918, with 80 victories under his belt, Richthofen penetrated deep into Allied territory in pursuit of a British aircraft. The Red Baron was flying too near the ground–an Australian gunner shot him through his chest, and his plane crashed into a field alongside the road from Corbie to Bray. Another account has Captain A. Roy Brown, a Canadian in the Royal Air Force, shooting him down. British troops recovered his body, and he was buried with full military honors. He was 25 years old. In a time of wooden and fabric aircraft, when 20 air victories ensured a pilot legendary status, Manfred von Richthofen downed 80 enemy aircraft.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The Chinese were using the decimal system as early as the fourteenth century B.C., nearly 2,300 years before the first known use of the system in European mathematics. The Chinese were also the first to use a place for zero.

…Blessed Reminders

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Double click for a larger image…

I will admit it.  I have a tendency to be a “glass half-empty” type of person.  I am quick to see problems.  And I get emotionally involved when people or animals are hurting – physically, spiritually, emotionally – it doesn’t matter.  It disturbs and troubles me.

I read or listen to the news – and there’s not much that is good or edifying on the news these days.  Stories about terrorism at work in parts of the world where men, women and children are being slaughtered remorselessly and ruthlessly – heads hacked off, shot and brutalized.  I don’t get it.  But it gets me…and it makes me very sad and somewhat despondent at times.

So, it is important for me to be reminded every so often that there are beautiful things in this world.  Flowers, mountains, sunsets, puppies and bunnies, sunrises, a full moon glittering on the water, a warm and gentle breeze, the touch of a hand, fall leaves, snow on pines – these all are beautiful things and give me joy.

That which gives me the greatest joy and are the very best reminders that there is wonder and beauty all around, though, is my family…and now in my sunset years, especially the faces of my grand children!!!  Oh, how I love them so!!!  Every single one is so incredibly precious to me!  And when you see a face like the one in today’s photo of my two youngest grand daughters (even with missing teeth!) – who have some of my blood flowing in their veins – I am reminded that life is worth living and fighting for…because there is beauty in this world that is undeniable.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943 in Basel, Switzerland, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz pharmaceutical research laboratory, accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds. After taking the drug, formally known as lysergic acid diethylamide, Dr. Hoffman was disturbed by unusual sensations and hallucinations. In his notes, he related the experience:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

After intentionally taking the drug again to confirm that it had caused this strange physical and mental state, Dr. Hoffman published a report announcing his discovery, and so LSD made its entry into the world as a hallucinogenic drug. Widespread use of the so-called “mind-expanding” drug did not begin until the 1960s, when counterculture figures such as Albert M. Hubbard, Timothy Leary, and Ken Kesey publicly expounded on the benefits of using LSD as a recreational drug. The manufacture, sale, possession, and use of LSD, known to cause negative reactions in some of those who take it, were made illegal in the United States in 1965.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  During WWI, the Germans released about 68,000 tons of gas, and the British and French released 51,000 tons. In total, 1,200,000 soldiers on both sides were gassed, of which 91,198 died horrible deaths.