Tag Archives: flowers

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.

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.

Where I shall live until I live no more…

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Double click for a larger version of the image…

In a small pond in the rolling hills of Vermont, about 8 miles from the town of Woodstock, lives a blossom in a pond. It was “born” there and it shall live out its days in the sunshine of the Vermont summer. Then fall will come and with it the drop in temperatures until the cold chokes the life out of the blossom.

I have often wondered if other living things are more sentient than we suspect. Do they sense the shortening of the days and how it becomes hard and harder toward the end to find warmth and strength? Do trees grow weary of standing against the wind?

I don’t know, but I somehow suspect that if they are living things, there is more to them than we might surmise. I don’t think, however, that this blossom regrets for a single second having spent its days in the Vermont pond where I photographed it. I think it, like we, should rejoice in the days we have been given, even though many of those days may have been more filled with rain and clouds than sun. Those days are still a gift…and a precious one at that.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1572, King Charles IX of France, under the sway of his mother, Catherine de Medici, ordered the assassination of Huguenot Protestant leaders in Paris, setting off an orgy of killing that resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Huguenots all across France.

Two days earlier, Catherine had ordered the murder of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader whom she felt was leading her son into war with Spain. However, Coligny was only wounded, and Charles promised to investigate the assassination in order to placate the angry Huguenots. Catherine then convinced the young king that the Huguenots were on the brink of rebellion, and he authorized the murder of their leaders by the Catholic authorities. Most of these Huguenots were in Paris at the time, celebrating the marriage of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the king’s sister, Margaret.

A list of those to be killed was drawn up, headed by Coligny, who was brutally beaten and thrown out of his bedroom window just before dawn on August 24. Once the killing started, mobs of Catholic Parisians, apparently overcome with bloodlust, began a general massacre of Huguenots. Charles issued a royal order on August 25 to halt the killing, but his pleas went unheeded as the massacres spread. Mass slaughters continued into October, reaching the provinces of Rouen, Lyon, Bourges, Bourdeaux, and Orleans. An estimated 3,000 French Protestants were killed in Paris, and as many as 70,000 in all of France. The massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day marked the resumption of religious civil war in France.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The first on-screen kiss was shot in 1896 by the Edison Company. Titled The May Irwin-John C. Rice Kiss, the film was 30 seconds long and consisted entirely of a man and a woman kissing close up.

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.

Now THAT’S Different!

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Double click for a larger version of the image…

Art.  I rather like it.  Some things that are called “art” don’t really appeal to me at all, but that’s OK.  I am sure that some of the pictures I take are really disliked by others.  I can live with that.

Every now and then you run across something that’s rather different…and I like that.  It’s funny…when it comes to food, I’m not very adventurous, but I can get tired of the same old “art” or style of things.  I think it is good to change things up a bit now and then.  It adds balance and some perspective to life, otherwise we get locked in and stop growing.

At the flea market this past Saturday, we saw the creations that are in today’s photo.  I’m not really sure what to call them.  I guess that they were glass “flowers”…literally made out of glasses and plates.  My first impression was that they were supposed to be like those wind-spinners that whirl furiously in the wind…but these obviously wouldn’t do that.  Then I realized that they were supposed to be flowers.  And I thought it was different…and creative.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1976, on the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the Viking 1 lander, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the surface of Mars.

Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first month of its orbit was devoted to imaging the surface to find appropriate landing sites. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter, touched down on the Chryse Planitia region of Mars, and sent back the first close-up photographs of the rust-colored Martian surface.

In September 1976, Viking 2–launched only three weeks after Viking 1–entered into orbit around Mars, where it assisted Viking 1 in imaging the surface and also sent down a lander. During the dual Viking missions, the two orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and the two landers sent back more than 1,400 images of the planet’s surface.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: When Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened in 1922, the wine jars buried with him were labeled with the year, the name of the winemaker, and comments such as “very good wine.” The labels were so specific that they could actually meet modern wine label laws of several countries.

Lavender Festival

Look what I found at the Lavender Festival!!!
Look what I found at the Lavender Festival!!!

So, what did YOU do on Saturday? We went to a Lavender Festival, held annually in Roswell, Georgia (quite different from the Roswell in New Mexico where aliens were reputed to have crashed in 1947.)  What is there at a lavender festival?  Lots of lavender and purple stuff!  My wife and I both wore purple shirts so we would look like we were in the spirit of things and I guess we did because there were lots of other folks there who had the same idea.

There were food booths and crafters in booths, a musical “stage” with live music…all in all, a pretty pleasant experience. I took my camera (of course!) and found a few things to shoot while my wife browsed the booths. One of the first pictures I took was today’s photo…and I thought it was appropriate for being at a lavender festival!

Did I mention that purple is my favorite color?  (Followed closely, very closely, by orange!)  I’m grateful that we didn’t encounter a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1951, the U.S. Census Bureau dedicated UNIVAC, the world’s first commercially produced electronic digital computer. UNIVAC, which stood for Universal Automatic Computer, was developed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, makers of ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer. These giant computers, using thousands of vacuum tubes for computation, were the forerunners of today’s digital computers.

The search for mechanical devices to aid computation began in ancient times. The abacus, developed in various forms by the Babylonians, Chinese, and Romans, was by definition the first digital computer because it calculated values by using digits. A mechanical digital calculating machine was built in France in 1642, but a 19th century Englishman, Charles Babbage, is credited with devising most of the principles on which modern computers are based. His “Analytical Engine,” begun in the 1830s and never completed for lack of funds, was based on a mechanical loom and would have been the first programmable computer.

By the 1920s, companies such as the IBM were supplying governments and businesses with punch-card tabulating systems, but these mechanical devices had only a fraction of the calculating power of the first electronic digital computer, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC). Completed by John Atanasoff of Iowa State in 1939, the ABC could by 1941 solve up to 29 simultaneous equations with 29 variables. Influenced by Atanasoff’s work, Presper Eckert and John Mauchly set about building the first general-purpose electronic digital computer in 1943. The sponsor was the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, which wanted a better way of calculating artillery firing tables.

ENIAC, which stood for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator, was completed in 1946 at a cost of nearly $500,000. It took up 15,000 feet, employed 17,000 vacuum tubes, and was programmed by plugging and replugging some 6,000 switches. It was first used in a calculation for Los Alamos Laboratories in December 1945, and in February 1946 it was formally dedicated.

Following the success of ENIAC, Eckert and Mauchly decided to go into private business and founded the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. They proved less able businessmen than they were engineers, and in 1950 their struggling company was acquired by Remington Rand, an office equipment company. On June 14, 1951, Remington Rand delivered its first computer, UNIVAC I, to the U.S. Census Bureau. It weighed 16,000 pounds, used 5,000 vacuum tubes, and could perform about 1,000 calculations per second. On November 4, 1952, the UNIVAC achieved national fame when it correctly predicted Dwight D. Eisenhower’s unexpected landslide victory in the presidential election after only a tiny percentage of the votes were in.

UNIVAC and other first-generation computers were replaced by transistor computers of the late 1950s, which were smaller, used less power, and could perform nearly a thousand times more operations per second. These were, in turn, supplanted by the integrated-circuit machines of the mid-1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, the development of the microprocessor made possible small, powerful computers such as the personal computer, and more recently the laptop and hand-held computers.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Speed dating, invented by a rabbi from Los Angeles in 1999, is based on a Jewish tradition of chaperoned gatherings of young Jewish singles.

…and HDR

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Double click for a larger image…

High-Dynamic Range imagery is pretty amazing.  The idea behind it is relatively simple and has to do with the difference in the ability to perceive light by the eye versus the camera.  The human eye is a true miracle and the iris of the eye and brain work together to constantly adjust the amount of light that enters the eye.  Cameras, on the other hand, can’t do that.  They take one image and the exposure is frozen – not to mention that the human eye can distinguish between a MUCH wider range of light and dark simultaneously than any camera.  Perhaps you’ve seen photos where the sky is “washed out” – there is no blue and it’s just whiteish.  That’s because of the problem your camera has in apprehending a wide enough range of light.  In the case I just described, the light sensor in the camera took a meter reading off of a darker area and tried to brighten the image. Or, if you focused on a lighter area, the dark areas of the image may be lacking detail because they are too dark because the camera darkened the image.

The technique behind HDR is simple: shoot more than one version of an image.  Typically, at least three will be used (one that is intentionally underexposed so the lighter areas are not “washed out” [all whitish like the sky], an exposure that the camera thinks is correct, and another that is overexposed so the darker areas have more detail).  Then, typically using computer software with sophisticated algorithms, the computer combines the three images into one, keeping the darker portions of the image from the overexposed photo and the lighter portions of the image from the underexposed photo and the “normal” exposure.  The result is a HDR image.

Some HDR images are garish and look very fake, while others are truly beautiful and come much closer to capture an image that is closer to what the human eye sees.  I don’t typically care for the surreal HDR images, but a “realistic” HDR image can be lovely.

One more thing about HDR images: they typically aren’t used for images where things are in motion because the images have to be aligned carefully or you get “ghosting” from movement.  For that reason, it is best to use a tripod when taking HDR images in order to minimize camera shake that would tend to blur any image.

Today’s photo was shot last Friday at Mission Springs Conference Center in Felton, CA.  It is the result of three exposures…handheld, actually.  I’d not really tried HDR images with flowers before and there was a slight breeze, but the image still turned out nicely (at least, I think so).

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1934, a massive storm sent millions of tons of topsoil flying from across the parched Great Plains region of the United States as far east as New York, Boston and Atlanta.

When the Great Plains were settled in the mid-1800s, the land was covered by prairie grass, which held moisture in the earth and kept soil from blowing away even during dry spells. By the early 20th century, farmers had plowed under much of the grass to create fields. The U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 caused a great need for wheat, and farms began to push their fields to the limit, plowing under more and more grassland with the newly invented tractor. The plowing continued after the war, when the introduction of even more powerful gasoline tractors sped up the process. During the 1920s, wheat production increased by 300 percent, causing a glut in the market by 1931.

That year, a severe drought spread across the region. As crops died, wind began to carry dust from the over-plowed and over-grazed lands. The number of dust storms reported jumped from 14 in 1932 to 28 in 1933. The following year, the storms decreased in frequency but increased in intensity, culminating in the most severe storm yet in May 1934. Over a period of two days, high-level winds caught and carried some 350 million tons of dust all the way from the Great Plains to the eastern seaboard. According to the NY Times, dust “lodged itself in the eyes and throats of weeping and coughing New Yorkers,” and even ships some 300 miles offshore saw dust collect on their decks.

The dust storms forced thousands of families from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico to uproot and migrate to California, where they were derisively known as “Okies”–no matter which state they were from. These transplants found life out West not much easier than what they had left, as work was scarce and pay meager during the worst years of the Great Depression.

Another massive storm on April 15, 1935–known as “Black Sunday”–brought even more attention to the desperate situation in the Great Plains region, which became known as the “Dust Bowl.” That year, as part of its New Deal program, FDR’s administration began to enforce federal regulation of farming methods, including crop rotation, grass-seeding and new plowing methods. This worked to a point, reducing dust storms by up to 65 percent, but only the end of the drought in the fall of 1939 would truly bring relief.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Osteoporosis fractures cost around $18 billion per year, or $38 million a day. In 2005, fractures related to osteoporosis were responsible for an estimated $19 billion. By 2025, experts predict it will rise to $25.3 billion.

Living Color!

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Depending on how old (or young!) you are, you’ll either remember this or not: “Now…in living color….”  Ah, I knew you’d remember that!

Back in the day when color televisions first started coming out, there were still quite a few TV shows that were broadcast in black and white.  When those shows started being filmed in color, they would tout this new achievement by saying, “Now…in living color” or “Brought to you in living color!”  It was pretty heady stuff.  I recall when we got our first color TV.  It was exciting!

I am not a fan of black and white movies or TV shows.  I am not, as a general rule (though it depends on the subject matter) not a fan of black and white photography.  I love color…LOTS of color, and the brighter the better (usually).

That’s why these flowers struck me.  I love the reds and the contrast between the softness of the white and the blaring, almost garish red.   I am so glad that we have been given the gift of color vision.  I am sorry for those who are color blind, but also very grateful that each day when I open my eyes, I can think, “This day is brought to you in living color!”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1882, John Ringo, the famous gun-fighter, was found dead in Turkey Creek Canyon, Arizona.

Romanticized in both life and death, John Ringo was supposedly a Shakespeare-quoting gentleman whose wit was as quick as his gun. Some believed he was college educated, and his sense of honor and courage was sometimes compared to that of a British lord. In truth, Ringo was not a formally educated man, and he came from a struggling working-class Indiana family that gave him few advantages. Yet, he does appear to have been better read than most of his associates, and he clearly cultivated an image as a refined gentleman.

By the time he was 12, Ringo was already a crack shot with either a pistol or rifle. He left home when he was 19, eventually ending up in Texas, where in 1875 he became involved in a local feud known as the “Hoodoo War.” He killed at least two men, but seems to have either escaped prosecution, or when arrested, escaped his jail cell. By 1878, he was described as “one of the most desperate men in the frontier counties” of Texas, and he decided it was time to leave the state.

In 1879, Ringo resurfaced in southeastern Arizona, where he joined the motley ranks of outlaws and gunslingers hanging around the booming mining town of Tombstone. Nicknamed “Dutch,” Ringo had a reputation for being a reserved loner who was dangerous with a gun. He haunted the saloons of Tombstone and was probably an alcoholic. Not long after he arrived, Ringo shot a man dead for refusing to join him in a drink. Somehow, he again managed to avoid imprisonment by temporarily leaving town. He was not involved in the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881, but he did later challenge Doc Holliday (one of the survivors of the O.K. Corral fight) to a shootout. Holliday declined and citizens disarmed both men.

The manner of Ringo’s demise remains something of a mystery. He seems to have become despondent in 1882, perhaps because his family had treated him coldly when he had earlier visited them in San Jose. Witnesses reported that he began drinking even more heavily than usual. On this day in 1882, he was found dead in Turkey Creek Canyon outside of Tombstone. It looked as if Ringo had shot himself in the head and the official ruling was that he had committed suicide. Some believed, however, that he had been murdered either by his drinking friend Frank “Buckskin” Leslie or a young gambler named “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce.” To complicate matters further, Wyatt Earp later claimed that he had killed Ringo. The truth remains obscure to this day. (In the movie, Tombstone, it was Doc Holiday who met John Ringo in a grove of trees and shot him dead in a quick-draw contest.)

 

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The bicycle was introduced into China around 1891 by two American travelers named Allen and Sachtleben. The bicycle is now the primary transportation for millions of Chinese. The last Qing emperor (Puyi) rode a bicycle around the Forbidden City in Beijing. China is currently the leading bicycle manufacturer in the world.

Flower Power

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They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  I don’t know if that’s true, but there are certain things that seem to appeal to women.  Chocolate is one!  Jewelry is another.  Flowers are almost always welcome, even when in the case of this five-year-old, they are dandelions.

Why is it that even a dandelion can so capture a young heart?  Is it that they don’t yet know enough to realize that a dandelion is typically considered more weed than flower?  All they see is that there is a flower on the end of a stem – they’re not into classifying things and grouping them and labeling them.  They just accept things as they are and find delight in them.

What a lesson for us grown-ups!  We seem to apply labels to everything and everyone.  Why do we do that?  Is it because we’ve been taught that we have to have everything in its proper place?  And who is it that decides what that “proper place” is?

I totally love the innocence of childhood.  I hope I never do anything to take an of it away from my grandchildren!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: With so much of the United States having just endured several major weather systems, I thought this was appropriate for today: a hail storm devastated the farming town of Moradabad, India, killing 230 people and many more farm animals on this day in 1888. Sixteen others died in nearby Bareilly.

In the Central Plains region of Uttar Pradesh, March and April are the prime seasons for hail. However, the hail storm that struck on April 30, 1888, was far more intense than usual and is now the stuff of legend in India. The hail was accompanied by strong winds that toppled many structures and homes in the area.

Although it occurred at midday, the storm brought clouds that were so dark and thick that people reported that it seemed like night. There was no warning system in place at the time, so the area’s many farmers were out working their fields when the storm began. Most of the victims died instantly when hail the size of oranges rained down from the sky, striking them. There were reports that the hail accumulated up to 2 feet high in some spots. Thousands of farm animals were also killed by the sudden hail storm.

More advanced meteorology and advance-warning systems now help to prevent such storms from taking so many lives.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Greece organized the first municipal dump in the Western world around 500 B.C.

There Is Hope…

Flowers.  Have you ever thought about how much we use flowers?  We use them for wedding bouquets, the lapels of the groom and groomsmen, bridesmaid wrist decorations, table decorations.  We use them at funerals.  We crush their leaves and make perfumes from them.  We strew them along a walk way at weddings, or as a romantic gesture we may place the petals on our beloved’s pillow.  We get food from some of them (think sunflowers) and spices from others (think mustard).  We like to look at them and smell them.  A little child will pick a dandelion to give to mom as a precious gift.

Flowers.  They’re pretty neat after all!

I have two favorite types of flowers.  I love tulips and I love the flower known as the bird-of-paradise.  For a long time I’ve thought tulips were my favorite (and they may be), but I have a growing love for the bird-of-paradise.  To me it evokes sensations and emotions of freedom, of life springing forth ready to take wing and fly.  It is hope that can’t be held down but which will take to the sky.  I love these flowers!  I shoot them every chance I get.

Every time you see a flower, let it whisper to you: “There is hope!”

_MG_5658autoON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1957, the final report from a special committee called by President Eisenhower to review the nation’s defense readiness indicate the United States was falling far behind the Soviets in missile capabilities, and urges a vigorous campaign to build fallout shelters to protect American citizens.

The special committee had been called together shortly after the stunning news of the success of the Soviet Sputnik I in October 1957. Headed by Ford Foundation Chairman H. Rowan Gaither, the committee concluded that the United States was in danger of losing a war against the Soviets. Only massive increases in the military budget, particularly an accelerated program of missile construction, could hope to deter Soviet aggression. It also suggested that American citizens were completely unprotected from nuclear attack and proposed a $30 billion program to construct nationwide fallout shelters.

Although the committee’s report was supposed to be secret, many of its conclusions soon leaked out to the press, causing a minor panic among the American people. President Eisenhower was less impressed. Intelligence provided by U-2 spy plane flights over Russia indicated that the Soviets were not the mortal threat suggested by the Gaither Report. Eisenhower, a fiscal conservative, was also reluctant to commit to the tremendously increased military budget called for by the committee. He did increase funding for the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and for civil defense programs, but ignored most of the other recommendations made in the report. Democrats instantly went on the attack, charging that Eisenhower was leaving the United States open to Soviet attack. By 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy was still hammering away at the supposed “missile gap” between the United States and much stronger Soviet stockpiles.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Eastman Kodak’s Brownie camera cost $1.00 when it was introduced in 1900.