Thursday, November 27, 2014

Some Avocado History For Thanksgiving...!

Since today is primarily a food based holiday, let's ave a little food history to keep things interesting.

I found an interesting article about avocados that surprised me. I thought I knew a lot about the avocado, but I didn't. Guess I'm not as well informed as I thought!

Avocados, The Toxic Berry
By Jamie Frater on Monday, July 15, 2013

Avocados are toxic to almost all animals (including cats and dogs). Humans are a rare exception. It is the only fruit to contain persin, a fatty acid, which, when eaten by animals causes vomiting, diarrhea, and other nasty symptoms. Consumption of large quantities can cause death within twelve hours.

Avocados are berries (fleshy fruits coming from a single ovary). Interestingly, this broad definition of a berry means that bananas, pumpkin, tomatoes, watermelon, and coffee are also berries (you can tell that to the next person who tries to argue that tomatoes are vegetables). Curiously this also excludes strawberries as berries.

Eighty percent of modern avocados originate from one “mother” tree which was patented by mailman Rudolph Hass from California in 1935. The tree survived until 2002 when it died of root rot. Unfortunately Hass only made $5,000 in his lifetime from his patent on the tree because his partner sold cultivars to anyone who wanted to buy them. Subsequently Hass spent the remainder of his life working for the California Mail Service.

Avocado also has an interesting characteristic: it is the only berry with no living animal large enough to spread it through consumption and release as dung. This has led scientists to believe that it co-evolved with prehistoric megafauna that were large enough to eat the fruit whole. The megafauna went extinct but the avocado remained as an unusual monument to an unknown dinosaur.

Well, I hope you found this article as interesting as I did. One thing about Listverse, they always have interesting topics to discuss!

I hope you all have an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day, and can make it back home safely if you are traveling.

Coffee out on the patio today. Sweet potato pie sound OK?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fake Photos For Western Wednesday...!

Long before photo-shop and the like, making photos look like more than they were in real life took some talented (and shady) photographers.

While hey thought they were doing a good job telling the stories of the day, their actions could be considered questionable at best. From KnowledgeNuts, here's the whole story!

The Bizarre Practice Of Staging Civil War Photographs
By Debra Kelly on Monday, November 24, 2014

During the American Civil War, photography was just coming into its heyday. For the first time, civilians were able to see the horrors of the battlefield—days, weeks, and months after the fighting. Photographers, most notably Alexander Gardner, saw their documentation of the battles as a duty to capture the most moving images they could. And when they couldn’t find the right shot, they’d make it by moving the bodies and occasionally adding props.

Alexander Gardner was one of the most famous photographers from the American Civil War era. He photographed battlefields, he photographed Abraham Lincoln, and he photographed the execution of the men who had conspired to kill the president. His work had been largely forgotten for decades, only relatively recently rediscovered, along with a practice that seems pretty chilling today.

Today, fake photos are certainly nothing new. We see them every time we look at a magazine, after all, and we’re well aware that we probably shouldn’t believe anything we see on the Internet. Compared to today’s faked photos, at least those that were faked during the Civil War had authentic subjects and the best of intentions.

In 1975, historian William Frassanito was looking through some photographs of Gardner’s from the Battle of Gettysburg. They were described as showing Confederate sharpshooters lying dead on the battlefield, but Frassanito noticed something odd. There were several photos of the same man lying in different positions and even in different locations.

In one, the soldier lay on the flat battlefield. In another photo, the same dead man was in a trench, propped up, facing the camera, next to a rifle. Additional research uncovered some eerie truths.

In 1893, an assistant to Gardener had been showing some of the photographs to a reporter. According to the man, J. Watson Porter, he’d heard the story of his mentor’s work at Gettysburg. Travel being what it was during the Civil War, the photographers didn’t make it to the battlefield until some time after the fighting had come to a halt. When they did get there, they found that many of the dead had already been buried or removed from where they had fallen . . . and many of those that remained unburied weren’t in much of a recognizable condition. Then, they had come across the body of the Confederate soldier in an area called Devil’s Den.

The photographers documented where he had fallen (as pictured above), then decided that they needed some better shots if they wanted a particular reaction to their photos. So they dragged the dead man to the second location, added in a few props to make him a sharpshooter, and took more photos.

Gardener had released a book of his photos, called Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, in 1865. He included both photographs of the unidentified man, along with descriptions of the scene. In the first, he describes how the dead man had chosen that particular spot to wait, how he had probably lay there for some time, waiting for a clear shot at the enemy until he was killed by the violent shock of a bullet. In the second photograph, the staged one, he talks about the disarray of the scene, the spot where he had taken his fatal wound, and spoke of how the soldier had clearly laid down on his blanket and waited to die from his wounds.

While that’s considered pretty unethical today (and disturbing on so many levels), at the time, photography was still a newly discovered art form. Civil War photographers knew that they weren’t just bringing the war into the homes of civilians, they were taking pictures that could be used to send a very particular message about the war, its causes, and whether or not it should be supported. Today, Gardner’s photographs are still among the best and most well-known from the war, but viewers have to wonder how many were real and how many of the dead were adjusted for artistic reasons.

I guess in this age of jaded journalism, his tactics would be considered mild. Still, if the truth is altered in the least little bit, is it still the truth?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Hopefully it will be a nice day!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Dutch Got Had...!

Regardless of what we were all taught in school, the sale of Manhattan was a bigger deal than we thought!

Seems as though the "clueless" native Americans were not as dumb as we thought. In fact, I'd say they were pretty slick sales people. Guess the old saying is true...if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't!

Native Americans Didn’t Sell Manhattan For $24 Of Beads
By J. Wisniewski on Sunday, October 20, 2013

In a single landmark real estate deal, Dutch settlers supposedly purchased the entire island of Manhattan for some worthless glass beads. But what actually happened in 1626? Dutch settlers bought the use of Manhattan in exchange for iron kettles, axes, knives, and cloth. And as it later turned out, the tribe who sold the land at such a deep discount were taking payment for lands which didn’t even belong to them.

The story of the $24 Manhattan purchase is a myth which insinuates that the settlers, by virtue of being so darn clever, “deserved” the land. Of course, the valuation of anything at $24 should be immediately suspect as the dollar obviously didn’t exist in the 17th century. The idea that the goods were worth only $24 stems from a flawed currency conversion made by a 19th-century historian. And records from the time suggest it is actually the Dutch settlers who were tricked.

Letters from the period, detailing other Dutch purchases, make it clear what goods were typically exchanged for land in the American Northeast. The manufactured goods, while not extremely valuable to the Europeans, were obviously scarce in America and thus valuable to Native traders. In similar fashion, discarded beaver pelt clothing was garbage to Native Americans, yet European traders couldn’t get enough, because they used the fur to make stylish hats. Determining a trade’s winner and loser is really just a matter of perspective. “Glass beads” is a pernicious exaggeration of the idea that Manhattan was purchased for worthless goods.

Of course, the biggest problem with the Manhattan purchase isn’t the price: It’s the identity of the sellers. The Dutch conducted their business with the Canarsee tribe who were actually based out of what is now Brooklyn. However, we should be fair to perpetrators of the glass beads myth: The Canarsee probably would have taken anything in exchange for the use of Manhattan, as the island actually belonged to the Wappinger Confederacy, another group of Native Americans. As a result, the Dutch claim to Manhattan was later contested, and the Dutch compensated the rightful owners. Thus, the Dutch settlers actually paid for Manhattan twice.

Sounds to me as though the Dutch got punked...big time! Gotta watch out for those pesky native types and their wares, ya know?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Pumpkin pie and cool whip anyone?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Saturn's North Pole Mystery...!

Today for Monday Mystery we have something that is out of this world...literally!

It seems that Saturn has a shape at it's north pole that isn't often found in nature. All of the other planets have their own mysteries that we haven't discovered yet, but this one is amazing to look at, that's for sure!

Saturn’s Mysterious North Pole Hexagon
By B.G. Medul on Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When we talk of space, we almost instantly think of globes and spheres and random-shaped debris floating around. So it came as a surprise when scientists discovered what seems to be a giant hexagon cloud formation at Saturn’s north pole. Apparently, the gas giant has more to offer than just its infamous rings, but no one is really certain what is causing the weather pattern.

Saturn’s north pole hexagonal weather pattern was first observed when scientist combined the images captured by Voyager spacecrafts in the Saturn flyby missions in the early 1980s. It is a rotating cloud formation about 24,000 kilometers (15,000 mi) across. The sides of the hexagon are estimated at about 14,000 kilometers (8,600 mi) in length. Basically, it is a giant storm that can envelope four Earths inside. Another spacecraft, the Cassini, orbited and observed Saturn since 2004 but only thermal and infrared images were available then until the 15-year Saturnian dark winter ended and the springtime came in 2009.

Higher-resolution images from the Cassini spacecraft revealed that the hexagon goes down deep into the atmosphere, some 95 kilometers (60 mi) below the visible clouds from space and houses many smaller storms and a local cloud system inside. The sides of the hexagon are walls and jet streams of wind going as fast as 325 kilometers per hour (200 mph). Other features observed are concentric circles and a giant vortex in the middle not unlike Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. From the images, it appears that it has a rotational period the same as Saturn’s, a little over 10 hours and 30 minutes.

The reason for the existence of the hexagon still baffles scientists up to this date. Answers regarding the driving conditions that force the streams to form the walls are still unclear. It is also unclear how the winds maintain their momentum at such weird motion track, and ultimately, how and when the hexagon will fade from the planet’s surface. It seems that after the first time Voyager caught a glimpse of it, it still remains constant with the rotational pattern of the planet. It is significantly unchanged 30 years it was first photographed. Since it was only observed recently, we don’t know if it persisted longer than the famed Red Spot (the Great Red Spot was first observed in 1831). Saturn’s tilt relative to Earth, the 30-year-long revolution around the Sun, and the long winter nights kept the shape from our curious telescopes, so it is always necessary to employ a spacecraft like the Cassini to orbit directly above the pole.

What is notable about this formation is that the opposite pole of Saturn has an entirely different cloud pattern. On its south pole lies a great storm with what appears to be an enormous eye.

There is no other planet in the solar system that has this kind of display. Currently, scientists are still exploring the characteristics of the structure. They are presently into observing the waves that are created when the wind streams hit the hardest at the corners of the hexagon. They are also looking into a dark spot that shifts position inside the perimeter. Saturn’s hexagon is one of the few natural hexagon-shaped objects known, joining honeycomb, snowflakes, rare cloud formations, and possibly some diatoms.

Almost enough to make you dizzy, isn't it? Wonder what other mysteries are waiting out there for us to find?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. The sun is shining and temps are on the way up to the 70's.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rainy Sunday Cartoons...!

Man, it started raining late last night and hasn't stopped yet! It's wet, that's for sure!

Still, we won't let a little rain stop the 'toons, right? RIGHT!

As you can tell, these are some really old ones.

See? I told ya these were oldies!

One more for the road, I reckon.

OK...that's it for today! Time to get out a good book , sit back, and listen to the rain!

Coffee in the kitchen this wet morning!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Remember This Guy...?

Sometimes someone comes up with a radical new idea and it works out great! Trouble is, sometimes they try too hard to repeat the same thing again!

You have to wonder if the man responsible for the Heimlich maneuver might have been more than a little off-balanced. After reading a little of his history, you might agree.

The Strange Story Of Henry Heimlich
By Nolan Moore on Monday, September 22, 2014

You’ve probably don’t know Henry Heimlich, but you definitely know the life-saving maneuver that bears his name. Without a doubt, the man has saved thousands of lives around the world. However, Henry Heimlich’s story is incredibly complex, and future generations might remember him as a nut who did more harm than good.

You’re at a dinner party, enjoying a nice steak while chatting with friends. That’s when a chunk of beef gets lodged in your larynx, and all your oxygen disappears. Fortunately, a heroic guest slips up behind you, puts his or her hands under your rib cage, and gives your gut a nice, firm squeeze. A mushy piece of meat goes flying across the table, and suddenly, you can breathe again.

Known as the Heimlich maneuver, this simple yet effective method has saved thousands of lives around the world. Even your humble author once found himself called upon to rescue a coworker in distress (although it turns out the coworker wasn’t actually choking, and it ended up being a horribly embarrassing situation). But while we all know how to perform the maneuver, not many know about the man who thought it up. So who exactly is Heimlich?

Born in 1920, Henry Heimlich was a chest surgeon who’s saved more people than you’ll ever meet. During his days as a Navy medical officer, he invented a valve that keeps blood and air from rushing into chest wounds and crushing the lungs. He created a special catheter to help people with breathing difficulties and devised a way to help people with damaged food pipes swallow their food by replacing the esophagus with a piece of the stomach. He even saved a guy who was pinned under a train and whose head was submerged underwater.

And, oh yeah, he came up with the world-famous maneuver that bears his name.

Heimlich was inspired to save choking victims after learning over 2,500 people choked to death in restaurants each year. Figuring there was enough air in the lungs to force an object out of the throat, the doctor ran a few tests on man’s best friend. After sedating a dog, Heimlich took a ball of meat and shoved it down the animal’s throat. (Don’t worry—there was a string around the ball just in case things got hairy.) Practicing on the pup, Heimlich discovered if he placed his hand under the ribs, he could send the chunk of beef soaring.

Excited, Heimlich sent a report to a medical journal, and soon it showed up in newspapers like the Seattle Times. That was good news for Irene Bogachus. This Washington woman was enjoying dinner when a piece of chicken got stuck in her throat. According to the Times, Mrs. Bogachus was turning blue, and her husband ran outside for help. Fortunately, Isaac Piha lived next door. He’d recently read about the Heimlich maneuver in the paper, and several pumps later, he became the first person to save someone with the doctor’s new method.

Thanks to his technique, Heimlich became a superstar. He appeared on TV with Johnny Carson and David Letterman, and more and more people started using his method. Even famous figures like Carrie Fisher, Cher, and Ronald Reagan were saved thanks to the doctor’s work. Today, the name “Heimlich” is synonymous with “life,” but unfortunately, there’s a darker and much more dangerous side to the doctor’s story.

Heimlich eventually started preaching that his maneuver was a magical cure-all. He claimed the Heimlich could prevent asthma by expelling mucus build-up and announced it could save a drowning victim’s life. Unfortunately, both of those claims were patently false. Asthma is caused by chronic inflammation, and no amount of pushing and shoving can fix that. And as to drowning, the Heimlich maneuver has actually been proven to do more harm than good.

Surprisingly, when someone is drowning, their lungs don’t fill up with water. The throat actually seals off to keep us from swallowing water, and performing CPR restores all the air we lost. By practicing the Heimlich first, lifeguards waste precious seconds. Sadly, many groups started teaching the Heimlich was the best way to save a drowning victim. Believe it or not, things got much, much worse.

In the 1980s, Heimlich announced he’d discovered a cure for cancer, Lyme disease, and AIDS. According to the doctor, the solution was actually . . . malaria. The idea was to infect patients with the Plasmodium parasite, bringing about an extremely high fever that Heimlich left untreated for three weeks. Supposedly, the fever would kill off any viruses or cancer cells, and to prove his point, Heimlich conducted unregulated tests on human patients in China and Ethiopia.

As you might expect, doctors were horrified by this risky procedure and condemned Heimlich’s practices. Even the doctor’s own son, Peter, claimed his father was a fraud. But Heimlich’s life took an even crazier turn when the Red Cross changed their policy on his eponymous method. Not only has the organization concluded that back slaps are more effective and should be performed first, they renamed the technique “abdominal thrusts,” removing the controversial doctor’s name completely.

What was the doctor’s response? In a Radiolab interview, Heimlich declared, “Creative ideas are often attacked because people oppose change or do not understand new concepts.” One can only wonder how history will ultimately judge Henry Heimlich. Will he be remembered as a savior? Or will he be cast as a quack who did more harm than good? Only time can tell.

So what do you think? Is this guy a hero or a quack...or maybe a little bit of both? Kinda hard to say, I reckon!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Big storm is headed our way!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stone Corpses For Freaky Friday...!

I found something really bizzare the other day over on Listverse. One more way to preserve dead bodies! Just what you wanted to hear, right?

Actually, the method described in this article is unique as far as I can tell and to date no one has been able to copy it. That makes it pretty freaky to me!

Corpses Of Stone

Photo credit: Universita degli Studi di Firenze

Mankind has been taken with the idea of preserving corpses. The oldest known mummy is that of a child of the Chinchorro people, a prehistoric fishing culture that lived along the arid coast of present-day Chile and Peru. It was carbon dated to approximately 5050 B.C., long before the Egyptians began their practice.

Born in 1792, Italian anatomist Girolamo Segato was rather obsessed with Egyptian funerary practices. He went on several archaeological expeditions to Egypt, where he became intimately acquainted with the process of mummification. Upon his return to Italy, Segato unveiled an extraordinary technique of preserving flesh—artificial petrifaction.

According to pioneering American surgeon Valentine Mott, who spent some time in Europe in the company of Segato, the Italian “had discovered a chemical process by which he could actually petrify, in very short time, every animal substance, preserving permanently, and with minute accuracy, its form and internal texture, and in such a state of stony hardness that it could be sawed into slabs and elegantly polished!”

Segato died in 1836, destroying all his notes before his passing. His collection of preserved remains was scattered, with the largest concentration located at the Museum of the Department of Anatomy in Florence. Despite extensive study, Segato’s petrification method remains a mystery to this day.

One more thing to add to our growing list of mysteries we don't know the answer to, I guess!

Well, since today is my birthday, I'm taking the rest of the day off! Yep, I hit the big "70" today! I don't know how I managed to last this long, but here I am!

Coffee in the kitchen. It's warm, but rainy outside!