Tag Archives: wonder

…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.

Where Dreams Come True

Nearly everyone has a “favorite place” that they like to go.  It may be the place where you were born, a place where history was made/changed or where you proposed/accepted a marriage proposal or the most awe-inspiring, beautiful place you’ve ever seen – even if it was just for a visit.  Chances are that for us adults, it is one of those places, a place where dreams came true for us.

Little kids, however, probably have a different set of criteria for places where dreams come true.  For them, it could be anywhere, anywhere at all.  Children don’t typically dream as big of dreams as adults (at least not little children).  A child can be perfectly happy dreaming of getting an ice cream – they don’t covet Lamborghini’s, Canon 5D Mark II’s, or Kate Upton’s body.  Most of the time, children find magic wherever they are.

My 5-year old granddaughter is quick to point out to you that she is magic, all by herself.  And you know what?  I believe her!  One only needs to be around her for a little while and you’ll be convinced of it yourself!

Still, there are places that are magical, wonderful, amazing and delightful for young and old alike.  Today’s photo is such a place – Disney World in Orlando, FL.  As I walked the grounds twice this past week, I noticed lots of families with children of all ages, but you know what else I noticed?  Lots of older, gray/white-haired men and women, walking hand-in-hand around the place, lost in the wonder of the environment and the person with whom they shared it.  That is perhaps what makes Disney World and Disney Land so special – it makes us all believe once again in magic.

_MG_5910ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1620, the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the Pilgrims reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.

Along the way, the settlers formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law and the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy.
After coming to anchor in Provincetown harbor, a party of armed men under the command of Captain Myles Standish was sent out to explore the area and find a location suitable for settlement. While they were gone, Susanna White gave birth to a son, Peregrine, aboard the Mayflower. He was the first English child born in New England. In mid-December, the explorers went ashore at a location across Cape Cod Bay where they found cleared fields and plentiful running water and named the site Plymouth.
In the first year of settlement, half the colonists died of disease. In 1621, the health and economic condition of the colonists improved, and that autumn Governor William Bradford invited neighboring Indians to Plymouth to celebrate the bounty of that year’s harvest season. Plymouth soon secured treaties with most local Indian tribes, and the economy steadily grew, and more colonists were attracted to the settlement. By the mid 1640s, Plymouth’s population numbered 3,000 people, but by then the settlement had been overshadowed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, settled by Puritans in 1629.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: President Calvin Coolidge, thirtieth U.S. president, liked cats and would often walk around the office with his yellow cat draped over his shoulders like a fur piece.

 

All That Glitters

“All that glitters is not gold.”  Have you heard that before?  It’s line from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.  You know, Shakespeare was a pretty wise man, besides being a passable playwright.  There is much wisdom in that brief line (and yes, know the original is “All that glisters is not gold”).  Throughout history it seems that people are tremendously motivated by gold (or in our age, by “green”), relentlessly pursuing bigger and bigger piles of the stuff in an attempt to get rich.  Some have succeeded spectacularly, but most don’t hit the “big time.”  Sadly, in the process they miss what I believe are far greater riches.

Is there anything in the world that can compare to the feel of a child’s arms running to the door to greet you, leaping up into your arms and throwing their tiny arms around you neck and squeezing as hard as they can?  Or the smile on their face when they open a birthday or Christmas present, or a “just because I love you” present?  Can anything equal the loving smile of a wife or husband, or the hug of support during difficult times?  How about the tail-wagging greeting of a beloved dog who literally dances for joy and spins around in circles because you’re home?  What about the wonder of laying outside at night, gazing up in wonder at the vast expanse of the universe, pondering the size and scope, trying to sense the coldness of the deep, black, empty spaces separating stars and galaxies?  You may not enjoy that, but what about music, photography, reading, being with friends?

In our pursuit of gold/green, it is easy to sacrifice things such as these for a few more coin.  And in the process, we often miss out on the most wonderful treasures of all.

Photography is one of the things that gives me joy and fills my life with riches (not of the monetary kind!)  On those occasions when a picture really “pops” and delights me, I revel in it.  Today’s picture is a reminder to me that all that glitters is not gold…

All That Glitters is Not Gold

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 30 BC the foxy chick known to the world as Cleopatra, died.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the smallest mammal in North America is the pygmy shrew.  It weighs less than 1/14th of an ounce – less than a dime.

 

Mud Pie Maestro

The warm weather has descended on Georgia – quite unlike it was when we arrived here back in mid-December.  This Saturday temps are supposed to hit 93 and be humid.  I’m curious to see how that feels, as it will be predictive of the summer weather.

But one thing is great about summer: it’s the season for playing in the water.  Wednesday evening my son and I took his oldest to the river park to play on the playground, learn to play soccer, and then fool around in the water.  I discovered something: my granddaughter is a mud pie maestro!

Why is it that only kids seem to be mud-pie maestro’s?  Why is it that only kids can be fascinated for hours with a single toy or plaything?  Why is it that kids find such joy in simple things like river-soaked mud and we adults find such things to be rather annoying and troublesome?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the delight of such simple pursuits.  We’ve forgotten how to make mud pies, how to conjure up dragons flying through the treetops, to see dogs, cats and elephants in the clouds soaring far above our heads.  We we are diminished for it. Children are born as mud pie maestros – they seem to instinctively know how to make and bake the fine confection.  I hope to re-learn some of those long-forgotten and long-lost skills in my remaining days!

A mud-pie maestro at the peak of her profession!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge that links Manhattan and Brooklyn in NYC opened.  At the time, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge, held together by 5,296 bound-steel cables.  The bridge, designed by John A. Roeblin, took 14 years to build.  The span is 1,595 feet long and cost $16 million to build.  Try replacing it for that today.  And no, the bridge is not for sale!

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the puffin is a powerful flyer – beating it’s wings between 300-400 times a minute, it can attain speeds of up to 40 mph (64 kph).

I Wonder…

Boy, I gotta tell you that early this morning while I was holding my youngest grand-daughter (6 months old) and rocking her while she slept, I got to pondering some of the world’s mysteries.  I just wonder about things a lot because one thing I’ve learned throughout the years is this: things aren’t always what they seem.  Perhaps you can identify with that!

There are those who think that earth was colonized by advanced aliens at some point in the past.  I can’t help but wonder if maybe those advance aliens were dogs who studied life on this planet and decided we needed to really learn how to love, so they came concealed as dogs to teach us about unconditional love.  I wonder…

Scientists say that when we look up at the sky during the night and see those tiny pinpricks of light that we’re seeing distant stars and galaxies.  Scientists have been wrong before, you know: the earth is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, etc.  But what if instead of stars and galaxies, they’re really large fireflies flitting through the ether?  I wonder…

Geologists tell us that we have earthquakes because of plate tectonics and fault lines under the surface of the earth.  I have another idea: perhaps there’s a race of humanoid-like creatures that live below ground and sometimes they have a party and they turn the bass up to loud and when they do, we shake, rattle and roll because of the loud volume?  I wonder…

If you saw the movie, Men in Black, you may remember a scene where there was a little tiny “alien” living inside of a large machine that looked like a human, but the little critter was really at connected by electrodes and wires and what have you and when he moved his arms, the human-like machine would move his arms, etc.  I wonder if inside of each of us “big people” there’s still a little child hidden away somewhere that’s making us move.  I wonder…

What are some of the things you wonder about?

Lucy sometimes makes me wonder: are dogs perhaps advanced aliens who came to teach us about some things?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1743, Handel’s Messiah debuted in London.  The English king, George II, set a precedent by standing for the Hallelujah Chorus.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Shelta is an esoteric jargon based on Irish and Gaelic, and it is still spoken by tinkers and vagrants in some parts of Ireland and England.

Wonders Hidden From Sight

There are many things that can cause us to gasp in wonder: the beauty of a mountainside meadow in full bloom with wildflowers, the innocence in a child’s eyes who thinks they just heard Santa’s reindeer on the roof, the way a puppy lies down next to his child master for sleep, the selflessness of a mother’s love.  We see those things and our breath seems to be sucked right out of us.

There are some things which we can’t readily see until they are shown to us.  For example, the beauty of a butterfly hidden from our sight inside its cocoon, the flower before it blooms, the beauty of life in a coral reef that we can’t see until someone shows it to us, the glory of deep-space objects that until Hubble were hidden from our eyesight.  Wonders all…and magnificent.

Well, don’t get your hopes up because today’s photo isn’t all that magnificent or beautiful, but it is still a wonder.  It’s a photo of a section of a cable like that which holds up the Golden Gate bridge over the northwestern end of San Francisco bay. So you understand what you’re looking at, inside the round, reddish-orange outside metal that makes up the “cable”, you may be able to distinguish lots of tiny, round looking things.  Those are the 27,572 cables inside the metal sleeve that we think of as a “cable”.  Double click on the picture to see it more closely and you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about.  It’s  amazing.  Each of them is smaller around than your little finger, yet they hold up the entire bridge and all the traffic on it!

I took this on Thursday last, and thought it was a wonder of engineering – an amazing accomplishment.  You can read the statistics for yourself.  I hope when you do, that the wonder of it captures your imagination just a little bit.  And maybe if it does, we’ll be more open to seeing wonder all around us in the natural world and man-made one!

A section of a Golden Gate bridge cable...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term in office by defeating (in an overnight upset) Thomas Dewey.  Unfortunately, he would die only 53 days into his term.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: nano-technology has created a guitar that is smaller than a human blood cell.  It still has 6 strummable strings and is only 10 micrometers long!

Wonder

There are some things in life that just fill us with wonder.  I suppose those things vary from one person to another, and I also think that as a general rule, our age plays a role in the amount of wonder we perceive.  As we get older, we seem to lose some of our capacity, or appreciation, for wonder.  Fewer things capture us and carry us away.  And that is sad.

I am at present in Atlanta visiting one of our sons and his family.  They had a baby girl about 2 weeks ago and this is our first chance to meet her.  Somehow, whenever I see one of my grandkids for the first time, the wonder comes back.  What miracles they are!!!!

This picture seems to me to capture the wonder on both our faces…and the delight on mine.

Captivated by wonder...

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1939, Adolph Hitler, in a speech to the German Reichstag, denied any intention to wag war on Britain or France.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: rice is grown in watered paddies not because it must be, but because it drowns out the weeds.