Saturday, April 19, 2014

Remember These Things...?

There may be a whole generation of young folks out there that have never had to use a pencil with an eraser. That's kinda sad when you think about it.

When I was still in school(back in the Dark Ages) wood pencils were the norm rather than the exception. Sure, there some kids that used the newer mechanical pencils, but they were not very common. I guess that my generation made a lot of mistakes because I remember places selling just the erasers without the pencils, know what I mean? Boy have things changed!

In 1770, the first version of the rubber eraser was sold by an English optician and engineer named Edward Nairne. Edward got his invention by accident—he meant to pick up bread crumbs to erase some pencil markings, as was common at the time, but his hands landed on a nearby piece of rubber. After he discovered how well it worked, Nairne began marketing and selling rubber cubes as erasers. br/>
Later that year, coincidentally, British chemist Joseph Priestly made the same observation about rubber’s properties. It was Priestly who named the substance (previously simply referred to as “vegetable gum”) for its ability to rub out pencil marks.

Early versions of the rubber eraser were perishable and smelled foul. Charles Goodyear, the man most associated with rubber, solved both problems in 1839 by adding sulfur, a process he called “vulcanization.” Rubber erasers first found their way onto pencils in 1858, but the US denied Hymen L. Lipman a patent for the combination because it simply joined two existing inventions. Yet in the next decade, Lipman did indeed get a patent, and his Faber company started producing pencils with pink rubber ends.

Today, some rubber is still made from the latex of the rubber tree, Hevea Brasiliensis, but other types use synthetic materials like styrene and butadiene.

Man, I'm old enough to remember using a Big Chief tablet and a No. 2 pencil! You had to be careful on those tablets, because it seems to me that the paper was very easy to tear! Now I really feel old!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Going to be in the 80s the rest of the week!

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Different Way To Become Smarter...!

If you have ever wished that you could take a pill and become a little smarter, then this might be just the thing for you!

According to this article I found over at KnowledgeNuts, there is research that supposedly proves that cannibalism could just be the key to gaining more knowledge. Imagine being able to eat your way to smartness! Might be just the thing for those having trouble in college, ya know?

Some Animals Can Consume Knowledge Through Cannibalism
By Flamehorse on Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The above statement got everyone looking for proof, because even a rotter of a movie can’t throw around scientific statements without there being some truth to them. It turns out that this fact is a fact, true, and very difficult to believe. Experiments from the 1960s show that it even works in rats and mice.

The scientist who came up with this experiment is Dr. James V. McConnell, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan (USA) in the 1960s, who had a hunch that planarians (flatworms) could be trained to run mazes. He proceeded to do so. He first trained them to be afraid of the heat of a bright light, which, after many attempts, made them curl up to protect themselves. Soon they were curling up whenever they felt the heat or saw the light.

Then he chopped them up and fed them to planarians unaccustomed to the bright light and heat. This second group curled up the first time he shone the light on them. McConnell was naturally thrilled and took the experiment to the next level. He taught a group of planarians to run a maze. This took a long time of course, since planarians are very simple animals, and the species in question was microscopic.

After 150 attempts, the flatworms could find their way correctly every time. McConnell pronounced them knowledgeable of how to run the maze. Then he first tried cutting the head off one worm and grafting it onto another. This didn’t work because the head wouldn’t stay on. Then he ground up this batch of worms and tried injecting them into a second group. This failed because the worms were about the same size as the point of the needle, which crushed them.

He might have been stumped at ths point, had it not been for a worm enthusiast named Jay Boyd Best, who wrote him a letter suggesting that feed the worms to a particular species of cannibalistic planarian. So McConnell acquired some specimens of this species of flatworm and fed the trained group to this new group. The new group was able to run the maze correctly the first time, but not correctly every time until they practiced 100 times. He trained a separate control group to run the maze, and this group required about 150, just like the group he ground up.

McConnell became famous for a time, even though the very premise of his research seemed too much like a Frankenstein story to grab the scientific community. He did, however, receive a fast promotion to full professor and made it onto some science shows like Watch Mr. Wizard. Scientists who found his work interesting then took the next step, performing the same experiment with mice and rats, and they found that it still worked.

Such experiments continue to this day and continue to raise eyebrows.

Now I don't know this for sure but I think it might be more than a little time before these "smart pills" would ever be on the market. I have to admit that there are more than a few folks I think would benefit from something along these lines! Heck, we could start with passing them out in D.C. and go from there, ya know? Couldn't hurt!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. I'll share some sausage gravy and fried 'taters!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Raccoons Invade Japan...!

Sometimes the best of intentions can cause the biggest of problems. This story is a fine example of just such a case!

Now for most of us in the states, raccoons are not that big a deal. However, if you are not prepared for the damage they can and will do it can become a big problem very quickly.

The Cartoon That Launched A Raccoon Invasion
By Nolan Moore on Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Baby raccoons might look cute, but when they grow up, they start getting a tad unruly. After all, they’re wild animals. That’s something the Japanese learned the hard way after a popular cartoon encouraged kids to adopt the little critters as pets. When the families tired of them, many were released into the wild although they are not native to Japan. They have been wreaking absolute havoc on the ecosystem ever since.

When you think about Japanese animals, you probably imagine macaques, cranes, or Pikachus. Chances are good you don’t think about raccoons . . . unless, perhaps, you’re Japanese. As it turns out, the Land of the Rising Sun is infested with these North American mammals. These masked troublemakers spend their evenings creeping into homes, eating crops, and just generally wrecking the environment. And it’s all thanks to a little Wisconsin boy named Sterling North.

During the 1910s, Sterling found an orphaned raccoon and decided to adopt it. Sterling named his new pet Rascal, and the two spent a magical year together, roaming through the woods, fishing in nearby streams, and riding on Sterling’s bike. (Rascal sat up front in the basket.) However, things got trickier as Rascal grew older. He started killing the neighbor’s chickens and showed interest in hanging out with other raccoons. Eventually, Sterling freed Rascal in a nearby forest and wrote a story about their friendship, a 1963 tale called Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era.

Since the sappy story was full of children and cute animals, Disney snatched it up and put it on the silver screen in 1969. In 1977, a Japanese company followed suit, turning Sterling’s book into an anime series called Araiguma Rasukaru. And that’s when the trouble really started. The show was a hit, but Japanese children seemingly skipped the parts about raccoons growing up to be mischievous monsters. Instead, all they saw was a little boy frolicking with a cute pet. Suddenly, raccoons became the number one pet in Japan. In fact, they were so popular that, at one point, 1,500 were imported into the country every year. That’s a lot of raccoons.

As you might assume, this didn’t end well. Quite a few children released their pets, and other raccoons escaped on their own. Eventually, the mammals started spreading out, and even though the government eventually banned any more raccoons from entering the country, it was too little too late. By 2004, the masked bandits had infested 42 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and since there aren’t any creatures around that can eat them, it’s only a matter of time before their invasion is complete.

So how exactly has the raccoon invasion affected Japan? Well, the pests help themselves to any crops they can find like corn, melons, strawberries, and rice. They regularly rob fish farms and steal cattle feed. In the cities, they raid garbage cans and snatch carp out of koi ponds. When they need a place to stay, they often creep inside human homes, and it’s estimated they’ve damaged over 80 percent of Japan’s temples. Even worse, they’re pushing out native species and threatening others with extinction. One of their favorite meals is the Tokyo salamander which is considered threatened, and in 1997, they chased a group of grey herons out of their traditional breeding grounds in Nopporo Forest Park. The birds haven’t come back since.

Desperate for solutions, the government announced a plan to cull the raccoons in 2004, but things didn’t exactly work out. Because people don’t like killing cute and cuddly creatures, there was a huge public outcry. Sadly, it looks like raccoons are now a permanent part of the Japanese ecosystem—an ecosystem they’re slowly destroying. But hey, at least they look adorable while doing it.

Guess the folks in Japan should come to the southern states and learn about 'coons first hand! I wonder if they need us to send them a few 'Coon dogs?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Back up to 70 again today!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Recorded Gunfight For Western Wednesday...!

What better topic for Western Wednesday than a good ol' gunfight?

No one is really sure about the fact that this was the first or not, but it seems to be universally accepted as such. Anyway, it makes for a good western story to tell today!

The First Real Shootout In The Wild, Wild West
By Nolan Moore on Saturday, April 12, 2014

We all know gunfighters didn’t really square off against each other like the characters in Shane and Gunsmoke . . . only sometimes they did. While it was extremely rare, a few shootists really did meet in the middle of the street to slap leather and do battle. In fact, the first real Wild West showdown (that we know about) was between a man named Davis Tutt and the infamous Wild Bill Hickock himself.

You’ve seen it in countless westerns. The good guy and the bad guy meet in the street at high noon. They stare at each other for a few seconds, eyes twitching and sweat pouring, before drawing their pistols. They’re both fast, but the hero is faster. He fans the hammer, and the villain crumples over and dies. It’s a classic Western showdown and almost pure Hollywood nonsense . . . almost. While the real West was far less violent than the way it’s portrayed in movies, there were times when gunmen settled their differences by calling each other out and stepping into the street.

The first known, genuine Western showdown took place on July 21, 1865. The setting was Springfield, Missouri, and the combatants were Civil War veteran Davis Tutt and professional gambler James Butler Hickock (who would later earn the nickname “Wild Bill”). While the men were originally friends, their admiration eventually turned to animosity. Legend says the feuding started thanks to the oldest troublemaker known to man: love. Or at least lust. Some claim Hickock impregnated Tutt’s sister, and the ex-soldier was putting the moves on Hickock’s main girl, Susanna Moore. Whatever drove the men apart, the real fireworks got started over a game of cards.

It was July 20, 1865, and Hickock was making his living at the Lyon House Hotel. The evening started getting tense when the gambler refused to play poker with Tutt. In retaliation, Davis aided Wild Bill’s competitors, giving them advice and bankrolling them. However, Hickock was a skilled card player and won nearly $200 of Tutt’s money.

Eventually, an angry Tutt claimed Hickock owed him a sizable chunk of change from a previous game. When the gambler denied the allegation, Tutt reached across the table and snatched Hickock’s prized pocketwatch, explaining he’d keep the timepiece until Bill paid him back. Hickock knew better than to start a fight since the table was full of Tutt’s buddies. However, he made it clear the veteran shouldn’t wear the watch in public. Of course, that’s exactly what Tutt planned on doing. Infuriated, Hickock told Tutt’s friend, “He shouldn’t come across that [town] square unless dead men can walk.”

Tutt accepted the challenge, and the next day, right before 6:00 PM, the men met in the middle of town. Just as he’d promised, Tutt was wearing the pocketwatch. The Civil War vet started striding across the square, but when he was about 70 meters (75 yards) away, Hickock called out, “Don’t come any closer, Dave.” That’s when both men turned sideways, standing like traditional duelists. At nearly the same time, the men pulled their pistols and fired. However, Davis fired single-handed and missed by a wide shot. Hickock, however, rested his Navy Colt on his left forearm, took aim and shot Davis Tutt in the ribs. The mortally wounded gunman staggered away, gasping, “Boys, I’m killed,” before keeling over dead.

Hickock was later acquitted of all charges and went on to a career as a lawman before someone shot him in the back of the head in 1876. As for the Hickock-Tutt showdown, its legend lived on, influencing practically every western novel, movie and TV show ever made. seems that drawing first wasn't always the key to winning a gunfight. Aiming the gun could help a whole lot! That's just my opinion.

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Looks like it's shaping up to be a fine day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Paying The Ultimate Price...!

Once in a great while, some ordinary folks become true heroes by doing what needs to be done, despite of the personal cost!

It takes a rare amount of courage to knowingly take on a job that will certainly cause your death. These 3 men knew what would happen if someone didn't volunteer, so they paid the ultimate price. Like I said, it takes a special person to do something like this!

When Three Divers Swam Into The Jaws Of Chernobyl
By Will on Sunday, April 13, 2014

During the well-documented Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a pool of water used for emergencies in case of a break in the cooling pumps or steam pipes became flooded with a highly radioactive liquid that was in danger of blowing up. The size and specific conditions meant it could have caused virtually the whole of Europe to be enveloped in radiation. Three divers equipped with wetsuits and a faulty lamp dove in to allow the water to drain, with full knowledge they’d die as a result.

Ten days after the initial explosions and resulting disaster, another potential disaster in the making was uncovered among the smouldering debris of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Water that was used to try and fight the flames unsuccessfully had become contaminated and then pooled beneath the reactor core. The reactor had had substances such as clay, sand, and boron dropped onto it by helicopters in an attempt to smother the flames. The resulting mixture was like lava and was slowly burning through the floor. Had it reached the water, the resulting fallout would have turned most of Europe into a nuclear wasteland caused by a mass steam explosion.

The only way to drain this water was by opening the gates. And the only way to do this was if someone dived down into the highly radioactive and contaminated water. Whoever did that would almost certainly die.

Three men volunteered: Valeri Bezpalov and Alexie Ananenko who were engineers from the plant, and Boris Baranov was another plant worker. With full knowledge of the danger and with basic scuba gear and a dodgy lamp, they dived down to find the valve. Despite Boris’ lamp failing while diving down, the trio found the valve to open the gates and swam back up. Twenty-thousand tons of water was drained out, and a report stated that had the dive not taken place to open the gates, a thermonuclear explosion would have occurred as a result.

Valeri and Alexie died two weeks later in a Moscow hospital with Boris succumbing to death not long after. Due to the high radioactivity levels on their bodies, they were buried in lead coffins that were soldered shut.

Their brave actions no doubt saved hundreds of thousands of lives throughout Europe.

Not much else you can say about the action of these men and their actions. Better men than I'll ever be, I think!

Coffee in the kitchen again this morning. Too wet and windy to be outside!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday's Mystery Is The Brain...!

Probably the most mysterious part of all humans is the brain. We know less about the human brain and how it all works than any other part of our make-up.

Countless hours of study and research have yielded a few results, but in many cases we end up with more questions than answers. That probably happens more than we know! Anyway, today's mystery is about one of the aspects of the human brain.

Human Brains Have Nearly Unlimited Storage
By Joshua T. Garcia on Sunday, March 30, 2014

When we learn new facts, we aren’t forced to “delete” old ones. That’s because our brains don’t work like hard drives or bookshelves. In fact, the memory space in our ol’ noggins is so large, that we can’t possibly hope to fill it within our lifetimes. It’s effectively unlimited. The brain is also not as broad a storage unit as a hard drive, as it has different ways of storing memories that help prioritize what’s important and what isn’t (and is unable to delete things at will).

“ ’You appear to be astonished,’ he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. ‘Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.’ ”

It’s perhaps one of the most famous interactions in the Sherlock Holmes franchise: Dr. John Watson, having just explained to Holmes that the Earth revolves around the Sun, is rebuffed by Holmes, who declares that it isn’t important.

Featured in A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes declares that the human brain has a limited amount of space, like an attic, and shouldn’t be crowded with impractical facts. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s totally untrue.

The human brain is very different from an attic, or bookshelf, or, for a more modern analogy, a hard drive. Memories are not stored in a single place but are reconstructed from various areas in the brain. This enables the brain, more or less, to store an unlimited amount of information for an indefinite period of time. During the course of one lifetime, it would be impossible to fill the memory space of the human brain. Some have estimated that the brain is somewhere close to a million gigabytes.

Different types of memory include sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. When something has been moved into long-term memory, your brain will be more effective at remembering it. For example, you’d obviously be better at reciting a poem you’ve memorized instead of one you’ve just read.

What about the crowds of impractical facts? The brain has automatic mechanisms for prioritizing what’s important and what isn’t. The answer to the math question you solved on the third day of eighth grade probably wouldn’t be too easy to recall. Your first kiss, on the other hand, can probably be remembered instantly.

It’s impossible to delete a memory at will, but sometimes memories can be completely forgotten. Complete photographic memory is a bit of a myth, though there are people who have extreme recall abilities. But your brain prioritizes things for a reason: People with eidetic memory can have difficulty making it through a day because of all the information they have to sift through.

I guess that the main part of the brain studies I want to know about, is the actual effects that age has on the memory functions and data storage of our grey matter. That's the part that seems to most affect me as I get older!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning, Showers are in the forecast!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Means Cartoons...!

I was toying with the idea of NOT doing the cartoons anymore, but what the heck...they are fun!

I know a few folks don't like them and think it's a waste, but if you look at it as a history lesson of what used to be entertainment it all makes sense! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

See? Some of these 'toons are older than many of us. Certainly older than I am(snicker...snicker)!

I know that you're smiling! I can almost see it! See...this ain't so bad, is it?

Well, I guess that there always has to be some bad mixed in with the good!

Gosh! Don't you just love a happy ending? I always did! So...that's all the 'toons for today! I hope you enjoyed them!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. If it starts to rain we will run inside to the kitchen, OK?