Tag Archives: HDR

High Dynamic Range Images (HDR or HDRI for short!)

Living the Wild Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Perfect Calm

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Well, today is my birthday. We are on vacation and are presently staying with our daughter and her family before heading up the west coast to visit our oldest son and his family. When we got here, our daughter said she was taking my birthday off work and what would I like to do on my birthday? My response didn’t take long: I’d like to go somewhere so I can shoot some photos. She asked where, and all I could think of was the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. She graciously agreed and so today we all piled in the car and headed into the city.

It was a nearly perfect day for shooting in the city: it was overcast with that San Francisco fog bank that sometimes lingers all day. The sky was “high” (meaning bright), but still overcast. I would have been nice if it had been a tad darker, but I surely couldn’t complain. When it’s been a loooonnngggg time since I’ve shot I sometimes forget how much I love photography and this was a perfect reminder.

We wandered around the garden shooting. Even though there were quite a few people there, I was reminded of the peace that can be found in a garden. I’m not into growing flowers, but I can appreciate a beautiful garden.

After we’d wandered the garden, we stopped by the little gift shop and while everyone else was inside, I wandered around looking for something else to shoot. And on the other side of the shop was where I found a stone boat with a bamboo fountain that poured water into it…and that’s where I got today’s shot.

Dang…I love photography!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1995, the American space shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian space station Mir to form the largest man-made satellite ever to orbit the Earth.

This historic moment of cooperation between former rival space programs was also the 100th human space mission in American history. At the time, Daniel Goldin, chief of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), called it the beginning of “a new era of friendship and cooperation” between the U.S. and Russia. With millions of viewers watching on television,Atlantis blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in eastern Florida on June 27, 1995.

Just after 6 a.m. on June 29, Atlantis and its seven crew members approached Mir as both crafts orbited the Earth some 245 miles above Central Asia, near the Russian-Mongolian border. When they spotted the shuttle, the three cosmonauts on Mir broadcast Russian folk songs to Atlantis to welcome them. Over the next two hours, the shuttle’s commander, Robert “Hoot” Gibson expertly maneuvered his craft towards the space station. To make the docking, Gibson had to steer the 100-ton shuttle to within three inches of Mir at a closing rate of no more than one foot every 10 seconds.

The docking went perfectly and was completed at 8 a.m., just two seconds off the targeted arrival time and using 200 pounds less fuel than had been anticipated. Combined, Atlantis and the 123-ton Mir formed the largest spacecraft ever in orbit. It was only the second time ships from two countries had linked up in space; the first was in June 1975, when an American Apollo capsule and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft briefly joined in orbit.

Once the docking was completed, Gibson and Mir’s commander, Vladimir Dezhurov, greeted each other by clasping hands in a victorious celebration of the historic moment. A formal exchange of gifts followed, with the Atlantiscrew bringing chocolate, fruit and flowers and the Mir cosmonauts offering traditional Russian welcoming gifts of bread and salt. Atlantis remained docked with Mir for five days before returning to Earth, leaving two fresh Russian cosmonauts on the space station. The three veteran Mir crew members returned with the shuttle, including two Russians and Norman Thagard, a U.S. astronaut who rode a Russian rocket to the space station in mid-March 1995 and spent over 100 days in space, a U.S. endurance record. NASA’s Shuttle-Mir program continued for 11 missions and was a crucial step towards the construction of the International Space Station now in orbit.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In 2007, a dog named Rocco discovered a truffle in Tuscany that weighed 3.3 pounds. It sold at auction for $333,000 (USD), a world record for a truffle. A Mir trifle, I say….

Dome of the Rock

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If there is one item along the Jerusalem skyline that immediately identifies the city, it is probably the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock was built initially in 691 AD at the order of a Muslim caliph. The Dome of the Rock is now one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture. Its architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces. The octagonal plan of the structure may also have been influenced by the Byzantine Chapel of St Mary (also known as Kathisma and al-Qadismu) built between 451 and 458 on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, where Jews and Muslims traditionally believe Abraham was set to offer Isaac as recorded in Genesis.

The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site where the Jewish first temple (built by king Solomon) and second temple (built by Herod the Great) had stood. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, who built a temple to Jupiter on the site. During the Byzantine era, Jerusalem was primarily Christian, and pilgrims came by the tens of thousands to experience the first church of Christianity and places where Jesus walked.

The diameter of the dome of the shrine is 20.20 m and its height 20.48 m, while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90 m and its height 21.05 m.

The structure is basically octagonal. It comprises a wooden dome, approximately 66 feet in diameter, and is mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. The outer facade is made of porcelain and mirrors the octagonal design. They each measure approximately 60 feet wide and 36 feet high. 

It is a beautiful structure by any measure. This photo was shot on a cold, mostly clear morning in January, 2016.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943, Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, 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: Iraq once had one of the highest quality schools and colleges in the Arab world. However, after the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations sanctions, today only around 40% of Iraqis can read and write.

Shooting in the Dark #2

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I typically like photos with lots of color. I love color!  I’m so grateful that I am not color-blind. It is hard for me to imagine not being able to see the turning leaves in Maine in October or November, or to see the color of my grand-children’s eyes.

Sometimes, however, pictures are better in black and white. I shot this, of course, as a color image. But because of some really strange lighting at this spot, it just came out…well, weird!  But when I converted it to monochrome it was a much better photo and all the weirdness caused by the various kinds of light sources that confused the camera’s sensor were largely eliminate.

This is another night shot of the lake that is right across the road from our humble abode. There is something about the contrast between the blackest of blacks and the bright white light of the floodlights at the base of the small trees that line the lake’s edge.  There is mystery afoot…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1989, five-year-old Melissa Brannen disappeared without a trace from a Christmas party in Fairfax, Virginia. The intensive forensic investigation that followed led to the arrest of party guest Caleb Hughes and, in the process, demonstrated how technically advanced crime solving had become.

After interviewing everyone who had been at the party, investigators determined that Hughes had left the party at roughly the same time that Brannen was discovered missing. When detectives visited Hughes’ home at 1 a.m., they found him washing his clothes, shoes, and belt. Although Hughes denied having any contact with the little girl, the detectives began an exhaustive search of his home and car.

To collect hairs and fibers, forensic experts carefully ran tape across all of the surfaces in Hughes’ house and car. Every tiny bit of evidence caught on the tape was cataloged and taken to a scraping room, where they were then examined under a microscope. In addition, Hughes’ clothing was systematically combed for foreign fibers and hairs.

Two of the fibers found in the passenger seat of Hughes’ car matched the rabbit-fur coat that Brannen’s mother had been wearing at the party. Since it was possible that the two fibers had innocently landed there, though, police needed additional evidence. Although Brannen had been wearing a blue sweater when she disappeared and police located more than 50 blue fibers in the car, direct forensic comparisons were impossible to make, since the young girl and her clothing were still missing. However, investigators learned that Melissa’s sweater was part of a Sesame Street outfit made only by JC Penney, and they were able to obtain an identical sample outfit from the manufacturer. A detailed examination proved that the blue fibers in Hughes’ car matched those from the Sesame Street outfit.

Hughes was convicted of abduction with intent to defile on March 8, 1991, but Melissa Brannen was never found.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Gourds were so important to the Haitian people that in 1807, President Henri Christophe (1761-1820) made them the base of national currency and declared all gourds the property of the state. Today, the Haitian currency is called “gourdes.

Shooting In the Dark

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Being in the dark usually has a negative connotation…meaning that one is not tuned in, they they haven’t been informed of some vital piece of information that is important in order to really understand or grasp something. When we are left in the dark, it makes us feel uncomfortable.

I was in the dark last night, but I was that way on purpose. For some time I’d been wanting to shoot some low-light images of the place where we live – the larger of the two lakes at Twin Lakes RV Park. I was so much in the dark last night, mind you, that a lady out walking her dog along the banks of the lake didn’t seem me and nearly walked right into me…but her dog alerted her to the fact that someone else (me!) was there.  I think she was a bit alarmed, but the dog was probably thinking, “What’s wrong with you?  Couldn’t you see him?!!  Even a blind dog could see him!”

Well, anyway, after regaining her composure, she and the dog wandered off into the darkness and I kept shooting.

Across the lake is a weeping willow that is lit with a spotlight, and a series of spotlights that line the causeway that divides the two lakes.  There are two fountains in the lake that are lit up with green lights that shoot up into the fountains. I think it’s peaceful and pretty.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much light there is out there even when we think it is very dark!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1947, despite strong Arab opposition, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and to create an independent Jewish state.

The modern conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine dates back to the millennia, but rose again in the 1910s, when both groups laid claim to the British-controlled territory. The Jews were Zionists, recent emigrants from Europe and Russia who came to the ancient homeland of the Jews to establish a Jewish national state. The native Palestinian Arabs sought to stem Jewish immigration and set up a secular Palestinian state.

Beginning in 1929, Arabs and Jews openly fought in Palestine, and Britain attempted to limit Jewish immigration as a means of appeasing the Arabs. As a result of the Holocaust in Europe, many Jews illegally entered Palestine during World War II. Radical Jewish groups employed terrorism against British forces in Palestine, which they thought had betrayed the Zionist cause. At the end of World War II, in 1945, the United States took up the Zionist cause. Britain, unable to find a practical solution, referred the problem to the United Nations, which on November 29, 1947, voted to partition Palestine.

The Jews were to possess more than half of Palestine, though they made up less than half of Palestine’s population. The Palestinian Arabs, aided by volunteers from other countries, fought the Zionist forces, but the Jews secured full control of their U.N.-allocated share of Palestine and also some Arab territory. On May 14, 1948, Britain withdrew with the expiration of its mandate, and the State of Israel was proclaimed by Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion. The next day, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded.

The Israelis, though less well equipped, managed to fight off the Arabs and then seize key territories, such as Galilee, the Palestinian coast, and a strip of territory connecting the coastal region to the western section of Jerusalem. In 1949, U.N.-brokered cease-fires left the State of Israel in permanent control of those conquered areas. The departure of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from Israel during the war left the country with a substantial Jewish majority.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxemburg, is per capita the biggest meat eater. Luxembourgers eat on average about 300 pounds of meat annually per person. The U.S. comes in second with about 276 pounds of meat–mostly beef–per year. Austria is third with about 267 pounds of animal protein per person.

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.

…and HDR

Double click for a larger image...
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.

…a Georgia Mornin’

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Double click for a larger image

Life is full of fine things.  I don’t mean fancy things that cost a lot of money.  I mean truly fine things: the love of family, the song of a bird, the laughter of a grand child, the gentle touch of a loved one’s hand, the music that uplifts and soothes, a cold drink on a hot day.  These are all fine things – they are good things.  And I love them all.  The images that dance in my memories of my children, grand children, best friends, my wife, of sights and sounds and smells – fine, fine things, indeed.

Although I am not a morning person by nature, once I have managed to drag myself out of bed and head out with the dog for her morning walk, I find the air is full of possibilities for the new day.  The birds are singing again after a night’s sleep just as the frogs are bedding down for the day.  The early morning light is spectacular and golden and the reflections on the lake outside our front door are lovely.

What is there not to like about a spring morning in Georgia?  Can’t think of a thing…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, the first day of the first modern naval engagement in history, called the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese invasion force succeeded in occupying Tulagi of the Solomon Islands in an expansion of Japan’s defensive perimeter.

The United States, having broken Japan’s secret war code and forewarned of an impending invasion of Tulagi and Port Moresby, attempted to intercept the Japanese armada. Four days of battles between Japanese and American aircraft carriers resulted in 70 Japanese and 66 Americans warplanes destroyed. This confrontation, called the Battle of the Coral Sea, marked the first air-naval battle in history, as none of the carriers fired at each other, allowing the planes taking off from their decks to do the battling. Among the casualties was the American carrier Lexington; “the Blue Ghost” (so-called because it was not camouflaged like other carriers) suffered such extensive aerial damage that it had to be sunk by its own crew. Two hundred sixteen Lexington crewmen died as a result of the Japanese aerial bombardment.

Although Japan would go on to occupy all of the Solomon Islands, its victory was a Pyrrhic one: The cost in experienced pilots and aircraft carriers was so great that Japan had to cancel its expedition to Port Moresby, Papua, as well as other South Pacific targets.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  On August 28, 1991, the first true email message from space was sent by the crew of the space shuttle STS-43 Atlantis using a Mac Portable and specifically configured AppleLink software. The message?  “ET phone home” (nah, just kidding about that last bit!)

…17-Mile Drive

Double click to see a larger version of the image.
Double click to see a larger version of the image.

There can’t be many coastlines that are more beautiful than northern California’s Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur area.  It is home to spectacular golf courses (Pebble Beach, Spyglass, Poppy Hills…to name a few), rocky coast, raging seas and extremely expensive real estate!  I, needless to say, will never live there unless someone gives me a winning lottery ticket of prodigious proportions.  But, that doesn’t prevent someone like me from taking photographs there.

When we were last there in December of 2014, it was a wild, windy day, with contrasts of dark clouds alternating with patches of sun.  The surf was high and wild…it was, in a word, gorgeous.

Today’s photo was taken along the 17-Mile Drive.  To even get on the drive you have to pay money.  I wonder who it goes to?  Probably the city, but maybe it is clandestinely routed to some governmental retirement fund for Congresspersons and Senators.  (Wouldn’t surprise me!)

I will share several pictures taken on the Drive in the next few days.  I hope you enjoy them!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1946, six-year-old Suzanne Degnan was kidnapped from her home in an affluent Chicago neighborhood. Her father found a note on the floor asking for a $20,000 ransom. Although James Degnan went on the radio to plead for his daughter’s safety, the kidnapper never made any contact or further demands. Later, a police search of the neighborhood turned up the girl’s body. She had been strangled to death the night of the kidnapping, then dismembered with a hunting knife. Her remains were left in five different sewers and catch basins.

At the scene of the attack, the killer had written a message in lipstick on the victim’s wall, “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more, I cannot control myself.” The ransom note at the Degnan house was the best clue that investigators had to tracking down the serial killer.

The note had indentations from an adjoining page on the pad that led them to a University of Chicago restaurant. But detectives ran into a dead end and didn’t receive much help from the college administration. Just as it looked like the lead was dead, a 17-year-old student named William Heirens was arrested after being caught red-handed during a burglary. When police searched his dorm room they found suitcases full of stolen goods, pictures of Hitler and other Nazis, and a letter to Heirens signed “George M.”

Authorities soon learned that some of the stolen items had come from the victims’ homes. However, they couldn’t track down Heirens’ apparent partner, George. Heirens was given sodium pentathol and interrogated. During questioning under the truth serum, Heirens claimed that George Murman had killed Suzanne Degnan. However, it quickly became evident that George wasn’t a real person at all, but an alter ego of Heirens himself.

Slowly, investigators pieced together the pathology that drove Heirens. Apparently, he could only find gratification through burglaries. He later found that killing during the burglaries added to the thrill. While doubtful that he was a true schizophrenic, prosecutors decided not to risk losing to an insanity defense and agreed not to seek the death penalty against Heirens. He pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Heirens continues to assert his innocence, and there are some who believe he is not guilty of the crimes.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  China is often considered the longest continuous civilization, with some historians marking 6000 B.C. as the dawn of Chinese civilization. It also has the world’s longest continuously used written language.

 

…a New Year

Double click the image to see a larger size
Double click the image to see a larger size

Hopefully, if you overdid it last night, your headache has worn off!  What did we do?  Stayed home, watched movies, read.  But, from about 11:30 on until I supposed 12:30, it sounded like a war zone outside.  I guess that Georgia rednecks love their fireworks!  Just yesterday evening we had gone to Costco for some stuff and they had huge packs of fireworks on sale (probably 4-5 feel tall and 2-1/2 feet wide)!

There is a verse in the Bible that encourages us not to let the sun go down on our anger – in other words, if you’re angry, work it out before the day is over.  Pretty good advice, if you ask me (I know you didn’t, but I’m throwing it out there anyway!)

Today’s photo was shot from the pier at Pismo Beach in California a couple of weeks ago as the sun was getting really low over the Pacific.  I thought that, in light of the end of one year and the start of another, it might be a good idea to take that verse and ask ourselves a few questions: 1) Am I still really bitter and angry with someone about something that they did or said this last year?  2) Is there someone who might be really angry with me from this past year?  3) How can I make either situation better heading into 2015?

Someone once said that unforgiveness is like mixing up a poison for your adversary to drink, but then drinking it yourself.  Think how much better of a place the world would be in 2015 if we would learn to forgive one another, if we sought out those we’ve hurt and asked them to forgive us (whether they deserve it or not).  Wouldn’t it be great if this year was the year to end wars?  Wouldn’t it be great if no one hurt you this year?  Well, that’s not going to happen…but we can choose how we will respond in return.  I hope this year we will all resolve to not be so petty, so small…and to rise above the hurts and angry each day so the world can be a better place.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  “Folsom Prison Blues” gave Johnny Cash his first top-10 country hit in 1956 (but that’s not what happened on this day in history), and his live concert performance at Folsom—dramatized memorably in the film Walk The Line—gave his flagging career a critical jump-start in 1968. But the prison with which Johnny Cash was most closely associated wasn’t Folsom, it was San Quentin, a maximum-security penitentiary just outside of San Francisco. San Quentin is where Cash played his first-ever prison concert on this day in 1958—a concert that helped set Merle Haggard, then a 20-year-old San Quentin inmate, on the path toward becoming a country music legend.

Haggard was a product of Bakersfield, California, a hard-bitten Central Valley town that was the final stop for tens of thousands of poor, white farmers and laborers who migrated west during the 1930s, 40s and 50s seeking work in the factories, farm fields and oilfields of California. These Oklahomans, Texans and others referred to by the blanket term “Okies” brought with them a love of country music, and not just any country music, but “Loud music that plays until all hours,” as Wynn Stewart sang in his 1962 country hit “How the Other Half Lives.” Merle Haggard would eventually become an architect of the hard-driving, no-frills Bakersfield Sound, which shook the Nashville establishment in the 1960s. But not before he ran afoul of the legal establishment in ways that most country singers only sing about.

Haggard did his first stint in jail at age 11, when his mother turned him over to the juvenile authorities as “incorrigible.” As a teenager, Haggard went into jail at least three more times, and went out via escape at least once. In 1957, at the age of 18, Haggard was arrested on a burglary charge and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin. He ended up serving only two years of that sentence, though, and he credits Cash with giving him the inspiration to launch a career after prison that included 38 #1 hits on the country charts, including “Sing Me Back Home,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Today I Started Loving You Again.” Of Johnny Cash’s prison debut, Haggard said this: “He had the right attitude. He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards—he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  for all you red-heads out there: Mark Twain once quipped that “while the rest of the human race are descended from monkeys, redheads derive from cats.”