Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The XIT Ranch For Western Wednesday...!

Ya know, sometimes the folks in Texas have a tendency to slightly exaggerate how big things are here. In some cases though, big really is big!

This story from tells of the biggest ranch in Texas. This place was BIG, even for Texas folks. No exaggeration needed here,'s all documented history!

Nov 2, 1912:
XIT Ranch sells its last head of cattle

On this day, the XIT Ranch of Texas, once among the largest ranches in the world, sells its last head of cattle.

Despite the popular image of the cattle rancher as an independent and self-reliant pioneer, big-city capitalists and stockholders owned many of the most important 19th century ranches. The Chicago capitalists behind the XIT—also known as the Capitol Syndicate Ranch—were trying to get rich by catering to the growing American passion for fresh western beef. They received the land in exchange for financing a state capitol building in Texas.

Given the aridity of the region, the Chicago capitalists determined that ranching would be the only profitable use for their new land. They quickly built up a massive but highly efficient cattle-raising operation that stretched over parts of nine Texas counties. At its peak, the XIT had more than 160,000 head of cattle, employed 150 cowboys, and encompassed nearly 3 million acres of the Texas panhandle—an unusually large tract of land even by western standards.

As land prices increased in Texas and cattle prices fell, the owners of the XIT realized they could make more money by selling their land. By 1912, the XIT abandoned ranching altogether with the sale of its last herd of cattle. The corporate managers gradually sold the remainder of their property to farmers and smaller ranchers throughout the first half of the 20th century. By 1950, the once-mighty XIT had control of only 20,000 acres

The truly amazing thing is that they only had 150 cowboys working for them. That's not many to cover 3 million acres, if ya ask me! Lots of time in the saddle, I'm thinking!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Rain is still in the area!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

So Wheaties Started The Whole Thing...!

You know those annoying commercial jingles that get caught in your head and refuse to go away? We can thank Wheaties for that!

Seems as though the Wheaties jingle was the first commercial jingle to show it's face in public. It really started something, I'll tell ya! Trying to get one of those jingles out of your head when it's stuck there is almost impossible, but you already know that, right?

The First Commercial Jingle Saved A Cereal Icon
By S. Grant on Saturday, September 13, 2014

Long before jingles on TV commercials became mainstream, these short, memorable tunes made their debut on radio stations. Of course, advertisements, and even musical ads, were around since the very beginning of radio, but it wasn’t until 1926 that General Mills introduced the first, legitimate commercial jingle. The ditty was promoting Wheaties breakfast cereal and was so successful that it saved the brand and motivated businesses everywhere to create their own jingles.

Similar to the Internet today, early radio broadcasters were operating in a new industry and faced the challenge of figuring out how to make money while giving away free content. It seemed selling ad space was the best (and perhaps the only) way to monetize their stations. And so radio ads were born, after which melodies naturally worked their way into the ads, and then those tunes gradually evolved into jingles. Thus, jingles have been around in one form or another since the start of commercial radio in the 1920s.

Since they were developed gradually over time, no one can claim to have “invented” the jingle. However, General Mills is recognized as being the first company to create a stand-alone, commercial jingle. It aired on Christmas Eve 1926 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and featured an a cappella group, known as the Wheaties Quartet, who sang the following lines in a rhyming, albeit somewhat slow tempo (especially compared to today’s jingles):

Have you tried Wheaties?
They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.
Won’t you try Wheaties?
For wheat is the best food of man.
They’re crispy and crunchy
The whole year through,
The kiddies never tire of them
and neither will you.
So just try Wheaties,
The best breakfast food in the land.

The jingle was such a success that it saved the now-famous breakfast cereal from being discontinued. In 1929, General Mills was going to put the kibosh on the failing brand until the advertising manager pointed out that over half of all Wheaties boxes were sold in the Minneapolis area—the only place the jingle was being aired at the time. Instead of giving up on the cereal, General Mills decided to run the ad nationwide, and it didn’t take long for Wheaties’ sales to skyrocket. Even after 80 years, it is still one of the most popular cereals out there.

The success of the “Have You Tried Wheaties” song was the spark that lit the fire of the jingle movement, and by the 1930s businesses were using catchy, repetitive melodies to advertise everything from food to tobacco to personal hygiene products. Besides being an easy, memorable way to expose potential customers to brands, advertisers also liked jingles because it allowed them to skirt a certain broadcasting rule. Radio stations were forbidden from broadcasting direct advertisements during prime time hours, but because these songs were often placed at the beginning or end of radio programs and viewed more as entertainment than a sales pitch, advertisers could get away with playing them any time of day.

Ultimately, we have Wheaties to thank for launching the genre and ensuring certain songs never (ever) get out of our heads.

If you want to hear the original jingle, you can find a recording of it, you can find it right here. Don't let it get stuck in your head...OK?

Coffee in the kitchen once again. C'mon in...plenty of room!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Watery Monday Mystery...!

Sometimes a good mystery can come from somewhere far away, just like the one today. This little gem comes all the way from China!

Like many of our mysteries, this one has never been figured out. Unsolved is the way we like 'em here at the Hermit's, right?

Poyang Lake, China
The Place Of Death

Poyang Lake

Poyang Lake is located in the north of Jiangxi Province, China. It is the largest freshwater lake in the country, measuring 3,500 square kilometers (1,350 mi2) with an average depth of 8 meters (26 ft). The lake is home to an amazing variety of aquatic life and migratory birds, including the finless freshwater porpoise.

Despite its relatively shallow waters, Poyang Lake is known for being deceptively dangerous. Since the early 1960s, more than 200 boats have been swallowed up by the lake, resulting in the disappearance of over 1,600 people. The disappearances are so frequent that the lake is often referred to as the “Bermuda Triangle of the East” or “The Place of Death” by locals.

The mystery of Poyang Lake also lies in the fact that despite the high number of missing vessels on the lake (including a massive Japanese Navy ship), no wreckage or artifacts, including human remains, have been found. The Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology has devoted a great deal of time and effort over the last few years, to unraveling the mysteries of Poyang Lake. Their last expedition at the lake took place in 2012 but yielded few results and so the mystery endures.

We can thank the fine folks over at Listverse for finding this mystery for us to ponder. Good source for all manner of facts and stories!

We better have our coffee in the kitchen again today. How does some fresh baked bread sound?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wet Sunday 'Toons...!

Rain or shine, come Sunday you can count on the 'toons here at the Hermit's place.

I never could understand Donald, ya know? Talks like a duck!

Guess some things never change, even in the 'toons!

Gotta have a happy ending at some point, right?

OK...that's enough for this morning. Guess we ought to do something constructive today, right?

Coffee inside again today.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Let's Hear It For The Ladies...!

Women have been first in many things in our history, though many of their accomplishments are just now coming into focus. We've had a few on here before, but this one was news to me!

The First Computer Programmers Were Women

By Kristin Lovett on Friday, September 12, 2014
In today’s universities, computer science course work is statistically dominated by men. However, the study of computing and automated arithmetic has not always been so male-dominated. In fact, the person regarded as the “world’s first programmer” was Ada Lovelace  the daughter of writer Lord Byron. Her contributions included designing an algorithm for execution on a theoretical adding machine.

The idea of a mechanical device to compute arithmetic faster than the human brain’s capability was once a dream. Nowadays, it’s a forgotten feature of a device we all carry in our pockets. However, it is an unfortunately buried fact that many of the pioneers in automated computing were women. Another entry in the long list of things women accomplished but lack recognition for due to historical (and indeed modern-day) sexism.

In the early days, most of what we would now call “computer science” was all theoretical. With electricity still in its early days of adoption, the capacity for mechanical devices to perform computations wasn’t quite there. Few would have imagined that machines would soon have the capability to perform computations independently, rather than aiding a human like an abacus would.

One of the earliest ideas for a computing device was Charles Babbage’s adding machine. Mainly a conceptual device, it fell to Ada Lovelace, daughter of the great writer Lord Byron, to present a potential algorithm to run on this adding machine in a lecture. She was chosen for her mathematical ability, making her an early pioneer of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Her work with Babbage also grants her the honor of being considered the first programmer. The modern programming language ADA is named after her, though her recognition seems to be minimal, considering her place as the first computer programmer.

Later, in World War II, when computing became more and more important in regard to code-breaking and code-making, groups of brilliant women skilled in mathematics were used to calculate various tasks, which could be written into algorithms and eventually programmed into early, vacuum-tube computers. However, history scorned many of these women due to an unfortunate tradition of sexism and discrimination. They were not even invited to a celebratory dinner following their work.

Even the more modern concept of wireless data transmission is a creation in part by a forgotten woman, Hedy Lamarr, who patented the concept of wireless signal cryptography, meaning that signals intercepted by malicious individuals could not be deciphered, making transmissions between distant individuals much safer and more secure. These advances are considered to be the backbone of modern telecommunications, but little credit or recognition was given to these ladies in their lifetimes.

Women in STEM fields are certainly present, though far too often their work seems to be buried or the credit stolen. Currently, the wage gap between men and women in STEM fields is quite large, and women are less likely to be hired for a position in the first place. We can only hope that this is something that will soon change.

Seems like we tend to forget that women made a lot of very useful discoveries for us in the past, and continue to do so even today! Let's give a big round of applause to the women of the world!

Coffee inside this morning. Raining some outside, ya know?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hidden Shoes For Freaky Friday...!

I don't really know if this could be considered as Freaky, but I'd have to admit it does seem a little strange to me.

Imagine finding something so out of place that you couldn't come up with a logical explanation as to why they were where you found them. Even the experts had no answers, only guesses. Of course, that's often the case, right?

Hidden Shoes In Egyptian Temple

Photo credit: Franco M. Giani
Archaeologists discovered an unusual “treasure” during an expedition in Egypt in 2004. In a jar, placed in the middle of two other jars and set into a small open space between two mud-brick walls, were seven shoes. Two of the pairs were children’s shoes, and the remaining shoes belonged to an adult that possibly had a limp. Archaeologist Angelo Sesana stated that this “shoe jar” had been hidden deliberately more than 2,000 years ago.

Andre Veldmeijer, an expert in ancient footwear, has called the discovery of the shoes “extraordinary” because of the excellent condition they were found in. He analyzed the shoes and theorized that they were quite expensive and meant for status. He added that there’s mystery surrounding the hiding of the shoes and how the owners never retrieved them. Veldmeijer speculated that there may have been some form of unrest in the area, causing someone to hide their shoes for reasons unknown and flee the scene.

It's not like this was something that the original mummy was taking to the afterlife, ya know? Still, there are lots of questions as to why these shoes were hidden, and by who! That makes it freaky enough for me!

Coffee out on the patio this morning!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Now...About Those Taxes !

Here's a little bit of history about the revolution times that you may not know.

While most of what we know about early taxation was correct, there were certain things left out of most history books. I reckon it was because of the reference to that ol' "Demon Rum!"

American Rum And The Revolution

Schools teach us that the colonists living in America rebelled because of unfair taxation, which is a pretty accurate statement. They also teach that a tax on tea fired the colonists up, culminating in 1773′s Boston Tea Party. In reality, it didn’t all start there. First came a tax on molasses—molasses used for making rum.

Rum was a hugely popular drink in the American colonies, with hundreds of distilleries all manufacturing their syrupy version of the Caribbean drink. As North America’s climate was ill-suited for growing sugar, most of it was imported, to the tune of about six million gallons of molasses in 1770.

Molasses and sugar came from British- and French-ruled areas. To secure trade for themselves, the British used the Molasses Act of 1733 to slap a heavy tax on molasses that didn’t come from their own colonies. A revised act in 1764 imposed the tax on both sugar and molasses, allowing for the seizure of any cargo imported in violation of the law.

Suddenly, tax was having a very real impact on the success of a major colonial business, leading to the beginning of the rebellion against the idea of taxation without representation.

No matter how you look at it, the colonies were tired of being charged all those high taxes, especially when it came to sugar, tea, and molasses. Seems like the makings for some wild and fun parties were being taxed, and businesses started to hurt. Sounds like a good reason to revolt to me, ya know?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Another hot and dry day here.