Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Sewing Needle Bomb...!

The human mind can come up with some strange and wonderful inventions at times. Then, at other times, we can create some really scary weapons and torture devices!

I don't know what twisted individual came up with this one, but it scares me to think the allies actually considered using this contraption on people. How evil can we be?

The Bizarre Sewing Needle Bomb Of World War II
By Nolan Moore on Friday, April 18, 2014

The military scientists of World War II were quite creative . . . in a scary sort of way. One of their weirdest inventions was the deadly sewing needle bomb, a device meant to drop poisonous darts on Nazi troops. And while the bomb never saw any action, it did kill quite a few sheep.

World War II was an exciting time . . . if you were a military scientist. In their quest to defeat the Axis Powers, Allied researchers had a field day dreaming up weird weapons to kill and maim the enemy. Of course, not all their plans made it past the prototype phase, but that was probably a good thing. Take the deadly sewing needle bomb for example.

Developed by British researchers at the Porton Down base in Wiltshire, the idea was simple enough: Make a bomb that would spray the Nazis with thousands of poisonous needles. Teaming up with American and Canadian scientists, the Brits created hollowed-out needles just perfect for holding small amounts of poison. At one end was a knife-like blade, sealed off with cotton and wax. On the other end was a paper tail that would guide the needle as it fell at 76 meters (250 ft) per second. Once the needle hit its victim, a special “inertia ball” would slam forward, driving the poison into the bloodstream.

The sewing needle bomb actually had a successful trial run in Suffield, Alberta, Canada. Several patriotic sheep were drafted to serve as Nazi stand-ins. Quite a few of the ewes were wrapped in double layers of clothing, and some were even placed in actual trenches. When everything was ready, a plane dropped a canister holding up to 30,000 needles. While sources disagree on the kind of poison they were carrying (it might’ve been mustard gas compounds, sarin, or ricin), they all agree it had its intended effects. The sheep keeled over, their blood pressure dropped, their muscles started twitching, and then they went to the great big pasture in the sky. After the tests, the scientists concluded it’d take just one poison-filled dart about five minutes to drop a man and a further 30 minutes to kill him.

However, there were some glaring problems with the sewing needle bomb. First, the needles themselves weren’t that strong. Once the Nazis figured out how the weapons worked, they only needed to duck under a tree or jump inside a car, and they’d be safe. And then there was the problem of finding enough pins. For the bombs to work effectively, scientists needed 30 million needles, so they asked the Singer Sewing Machine Company for a few specialty items. But when they received a request for knife-tipped, hollow needles, the business responded with a letter saying, “We are afraid we do not quite understand your requirements. From your remarks, it would seem the needles are required for some other purpose, other than sewing machines.”

Eventually, the entire program was scrapped for being “highly uneconomical” which is just as well. The world has enough insane weapons without a sewing needle bomb. And as it turns out, the Allies didn’t need all 30 million needles anyway. They went on to win the war without any powerful poisons or wacky weapons. Of course, they ended up inventing something even worse.

We can only wonder what kind of weapons will be created in the future. On second though, I don't want to know!

Coffee out on the patio this morning.OK?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gentleman Bandit For Western Wednesday...!

Not all the bandits in the Wild West were considered bad men. In fact, many of them had a good reputation despite of the way they made a living.

I guess the way you approach any job is what makes your reputation for you, good or bad. Here is a good example of what I'm talking about!


Bill Miner

In many ways, Bill Miner epitomized what it meant to be an Old West outlaw. He was a true highwayman, robbing everything from stagecoaches to trains, and he squandered most of his loot in dusty saloons and dance halls. Except, unlike other outlaws, he wasn’t known for spittin’ or cussin’ or gun-slinging but was instead recognized for his politeness and soft-spoken nature. In fact, after his death, a major newspaper ran a four-column story on Miner, describing him as a “kindly, lovable old man, whose thoughts were humorous, whose manner was that of one who was a friend to all humankind . . . the most courtly, the most kindly spoken, the most venerable man . . . one whom they all regard with affection and something of esteem.”

Those endearing words refer to a known robber who had a 45-year criminal career. Miner had secured that soft spot in so many people’s hearts by stealing almost entirely from corporations, feeling that they robbed the common man. Many agreed, and he became a folk hero in both the US and Canada.

On the occasions when Miner had to steal from an ordinary person to, say, facilitate his way out of town, he often made a point to return at least part of what he had taken. For instance, on one occasion, he stole $80 from a ranch hand and then later returned $10. In another instance, he robbed a driver of $5, his watch, and boots, yet was considerate enough to return the watch and boots after he finished with them. According to legend, he was also the first to say “put your hands up, and nobody gets hurt.” These types of thoughtful acts earned him the nickname “the Gentleman Bandit.”

Miner had an uncanny ability at thievery and recruiting a steady stream of accomplices. What he wasn’t so great at, however, was evading capture. He went to prison seven times, escaped four of those times, yet still spent a total of 35 years behind bars. His criminal career, which spanned between 1865 and 1911, was the longest of any Old West outlaw, even surpassing the legendary Jesse James.

I guess that in those days, if you died with a good reputation for not spitting in the saloon you were good to go! For a bandit, he seemed to be fairly popular, though.

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Breezy and hot!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The "Tome Raider" For Tuesday...!

Here is a little story I thought you might find interesting, especially if you like to read!

Being a bookworm doesn't always mean that you aren't adventurous. In fact in some cases, a love for good books can be very profitable. Such is the case for this gentleman!

William Simon Jacques


The thief William Simon Jacques operated in the genteel world of rare books, manuscripts, and maps. The former accountant and Cambridge graduate has a genius-level IQ. During his days as a bandit, he presented himself as a polite, well-educated man who liked spending his free time in libraries. This innocent, academic persona initially kept folks from realizing he was more interested in stealing books than reading them.

Jacques began pilfering books in the 1990s, around the time he was finishing his degree at Cambridge. The Cambridge Library noticed some of their books went missing, yet they didn’t report the thefts, ashamed at having failed as caretakers of the treasures. Then, in 1996, when two copies of Newton’s Principia Mathematica went missing along with Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius (worth over $500,000 combined), the library decided it could no longer keep silent.

Still, it took a while for authorities to figure out Jacques was the culprit. He continued to frequent libraries throughout the UK, courteously chatting with desk clerks while squirreling precious books under his tweed coat.

Finally, a library worker caught him in the act, and from there, it didn’t take long for police to pin him as the serial antiquarian book thief. He was jailed in 2002 and spent four years behind bars. Then, upon his release, he picked up right where he left off. He concealed his identity with false names and disguises, winning librarians’ confidences with his intellect. By this point, he had made off with over $1 million in books, and his famous exploits caused the media to dub him the “Tome Raider.”
He managed to slip through the hands of police until July 2010, when he was caught and sentenced to another three and a half years in prison.

It's my understanding that this gentleman is still out and about, plying his usual trade. Industrious sort, isn't he?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Watch for the rain, though.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A "Gas" For Monday Mystery...!

Here is a little mystery from way back in the 1930s that has never been solved, at least that I know of!

I have to admit the mysteries like this are the ones I think should be studied more...just because! Besides, it would be nice to find out the reason behind all this action, ya know?

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon was the name given to the person or persons believed to be behind a series of apparent gas attacks that occurred in Botetourt County, Virginia, during the early 1930s, and in Mattoon, Illinois, during the mid-1940s. The first reported gasser incident occurred at the home of Cal Huffman, in Haymakertown, Botetourt County, where there were three reported attacks over the course of a single night.

At about 10:00 pm on December 22, 1933, Mrs. Huffman reported smelling an unusual odor, and was overcome by a feeling of nausea. The odor and the nausea returned again at about 10:30pm, at which time Cal Huffman contacted the police. A third attack occurred around 1:00 a.m., this time affecting the entire house; in total, eight members of the Huffman family were affected by the gas, along with Ashby Henderson, a guest staying at the house.

The next recorded incident occurred in Cloverdale on December 24. Clarence Hall, his wife, and their two children returned from a church service at about 9:00 p.m. They detected a strong, sweet odor and immediately began to feel weak and nauseated. Police investigating the case discovered that a nail had been pulled from a rear window, near where the gas appeared to be the most concentrated, and presumed that the nail hole had been used to inject it into the house. A third incident occurred on December 27, in which Troutville resident A. Kelly and his mother reported similar signs and symptoms to the Huffman and Hall cases. A fourth and fifth incident occurred on January 10, when Mrs. Moore, a guest in home of Haymakertown resident Homer Hylton, reported hearing voices outside before gas was injected into the room through a damaged window. The second attack that night was reported in Troutville, at the home of G. Kinzie.

At least 10 other cases were reported in Botetourt, and 10 years later, over 20 new cases were reported in Mattoon. One witness claimed to have seen the gasser and described “him” as a tall thin woman dressed as a man and footprints belonging to a woman were discovered at some of the scenes.

There is something about these older mysteries that just seem to call out to be answered. But then, that's why they are called mysteries, I reckon!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. I have some macaroons I'll share!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hot Sunday 'Toons...!

Don't know about your neighborhood, but here it is HOT! Too hot to go out, so staying in and reading seems like a good idea. Before we do that, let's watch a few cartoons, OK?

Well, I reckon that's enough fror today. Don't want to overdo it, ya know?

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Some Saturday Humor...!

Since so many of us are in the same age group (so to speak), I thought this might draw a grin or two!

I hope you found this as funny as I did! Coffee out on the patio before it gets any hotter!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Another Freaky Friday...!

I know you guys are just dying to get another freaky yarn from our creepy past, so here is a good one for ya!

Some of these are pretty freaky simply because they are true reminders of our sometimes strange history.You could find other freaky stories just by reading the morning paper, but this is more fun...right?

The Spooner Well

2- spooner well
On July 2, 1778, Bathsheba Spooner gained the distinction of being the first woman to be executed in the United States after the country gained its independence. Her husband also received a unique distinction—two headstones. One was placed over his grave in a nearby cemetery, and the other one marks the location of his death. It reads, “Spooner Well—Joshua Spooner murdered and thrown down this well March 1, 1778, by three Revolutionary soldiers at the urging of his wife Bathsheba.”

In 1777, 32-year-old Bathsheba began an affair with a 17-year-old soldier named Ezra Ross. When Ross got her pregnant, Bathsheba plotted to murder her husband before he could find out. She met two British deserters, and used a combination of rum and promises of sexual favors to rope them into helping her. That night, when Joshua Spooner walked into the house, one of the soldiers ambushed him and beat him to death. Bathsheba helped the soldier and her lover throw the body down the well, which was later named the Spooner Well to mark the dastardly deed.

Everyone involved was arrested within 24 hours, and it didn’t take much longer for them to be convicted. Bathsheba pleaded for a stay of her execution to give her a chance to deliver her baby. It wasn’t granted, and she was hanged while five months pregnant.

Well, I reckon that is freaky enough for just about anyone, don't you? It is for me, I'll tell ya!

Coffee in the kitchen again. Patio is still wet from the rain!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Birth Of CSI Investigating...!

Sometimes we overlook the people that did more for modern day crime solving than ever before.

Just imagine how much more difficult things would be without finger prints, ballistics, and the like. If you want to know who to thank, try the man that started it all!

The Forgotten Creator Of Crime Scene Forensic Science
By Debra Kelly on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the late 19th century, Alexandre Lacassagne was rewriting the way law enforcement looked at crimes and crime scenes. He ushered in a new era of weapon identification and analytical sciences and should be known as the father of modern forensics, but his name has largely been swallowed by unforgiving, cramped history books. A real-life Sherlock Holmes, Lacassagne constructed the first forensics lab and taught countless students how to recreate a crime from the evidence left behind.

For centuries, solving crimes was something of a hit-or-miss field. There was no such thing as forensics, no way to take and compare fingerprints, and no way of analyzing crime scenes or piecing together the events that led up to the crime.

Until, that is, one 19th-century professor teaching at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Lyon decided that his students needed some hands-on experience more than they needed a refresher course on the way things had always been done. Suddenly, for the first time, students weren’t sitting in lectures but they were performing dozens of autopsies every year.

Alexandre Lacassagne single-handedly revolutionized forensic science. He trained his students to look for the pieces that told the story of a person’s murder, from bruises on the body to checking the internal organs of a victim for signs of drowning. He taught them how to use chemical reactions to look for trace evidence, and how to tell the difference between dried blood and rust. He showed them how to examine the insects that were present on a dead body to determine just how long the person had been dead.

Since there was no place suitable for the type of exams and work that he had in mind, Lacassagne created his own laboratory—complete with state-of-the-art equipment, most of which had never been regularly used for police work.

He also constructed a macabre museum of sorts, where students could look at and learn about the human body under different types of conditions. He had skulls that were fractured and broken by different instruments, sketches and plaster casts of crime scene body parts, stillborn babies of different ages, displays of weapons both standard and makeshift. He had vials of poisons and bodily fluids, and even different types of ropes to show students how the rope itself would match the wounds it left behind.

He also developed the idea of ballistics. He’s noted for providing evidence in several cases in which he successfully proved a particular gun was a murder weapon by firing bullets into cadavers then comparing those bullets with ones that were pulled from a murder victim.

Lacassagne even cataloged thousands of different tattoos that were common among the underworld’s unsavory characters. While serving in the military, he became fascinated by the idea of tattoos providing a very visible look into a person’s most innermost feelings. Then he began recording.

If there were any who doubted these newly developed methods, those doubts were erased with Lacassagne’s persecution of a man known as the French Jack the Ripper. Joseph Vacher was a spree killer who raped and murdered his way across the French countryside in 1894 before finally being arrested. Clearly crazy, it was an insanity defense that was making it look likely that he wouldn’t be beheaded for his crimes, but instead committed to life in an asylum.

Lacassagne was, however, able to recreate the heinous acts that Vacher had committed, leaving no doubts that he knew exactly what he was doing. He showed no remorse, was known for torturing and killing small animals, and had all the hallmarks of what we would now call a psychopath. Vacher was deemed culpable and was executed in 1898.

Just think, if it were not for this man and the others that followed in his footsteps, a lot more bad guys would get away with murder...literally!

Coffee in the kitchen again. Heavy rains overnight made the patio a swimming pool!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Annie Oakley On Western Wednesday...!

So many stories and tales have sung the praises of Annie Oakley, but the truth may surprise you just a bit.

Annie didn't look like a cowgirl at all. In fact, she was very lady-like in dress and actions. In case you don't know much about her, this little bit of history may solve that problem.

Aug 13, 1860:
Annie Oakley is born

Annie Oakley, one of the greatest female sharpshooters in American history, is born in Patterson Township, Ohio.

Born Phoebe Ann Oakley Moses, Oakley demonstrated an uncanny gift for marksmanship at an early age. "I was eight years old when I made my first shot," she later recalled, "and I still consider it one of the best shots I ever made." After spotting a squirrel on the fence in her front yard, the young Oakley took a loaded rifle from the house. She steadied the gun on a porch rail, and shot the squirrel through the head, skillfully preserving the meat for the stew pot.

After that, Oakley's honed her sharpshooting talents. She was never a stereotypical Wild West woman who adopted the dress and ways of men. To the contrary, Oakley prided herself on her feminine appearance and skills. She embroidered nearly as well as she shot, liked to read the Bible in the evenings, and favored gingham dresses and demure sunbonnets.

In 1876, a Cincinnati hotelkeeper that heard of Oakley's marksmanship set up a Thanksgiving Day shooting match between Oakley and a traveling exhibition sharpshooter named Frank Butler. Annie managed to outshoot the professional by one clay pigeon. Oakley's skills and attractive appearance impressed Butler, and he continued to correspond with the young woman while he traveled. By June, the couple had married, and Oakley joined her husband's act as "Annie Oakley" the "peerless wing and rifle shot."

In 1885, the couple joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, and Oakley soon became one of the most popular acts. A typical show consisted of Oakley shooting a cigarette out of her husband's mouth or a dime from his fingers. She also did backward trick shots where she sighted her target only with a mirror. Her ability to shoot holes through playing cards led Americans of the day to refer to any free ticket to an event as an "Annie Oakley," a reference to the holes that were often punched in the ticket for validation. When the great Sioux war chief Sitting Bull briefly traveled with the show, he grew fond of Oakley and gave her the nickname Watanya Cicilia—Little Sure Shot.

Oakley stayed with the traveling show for more than 15 years, giving performances around the world. In 1901, a head-on collision with a freight train injured Oakley's back. She returned to performing after a year of rest and toured with several shows for the next decade. In 1913, Oakley and Butler retired, though they continued to give occasional demonstrations for good causes.

In 1921, a devastating auto accident permanently crippled Oakley. She and Butler moved to Greenville, Ohio, her home county, and she lived the remaining years of her life in the quiet countryside. She died there in 1926 at the age of 66.

This woman made quite an impression on many folks over the years, and to this day she is still considered to be one of the better female shooters in our history.

Better have our coffee in the kitchen this morning. More rain coming in.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Some Spooky Car History For Tuesday...!

We don't do many stories about haunted cars here at the Hermit's, but today we will.

The story of this auto is so strange that it bears a mention, I think. Hard to read about something like this and not feel that something isn't right.

The Cursed Car Of Franz Ferdinand

Graft Und Strift

The Graf & Stift company is one of the unsung heroes of the automobile business. Before World War I, their cars were actually quite successful and had some fairly famous clientele.

Sadly, one of their models happened to be the car Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in.

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the final straw in the long-building tension between various European nations, and marked the beginning of World War I. Everyone knows the political and historical consequences of the killing, but not many are aware of the strange ghost story that is associated with it. According to legend, the car (a 1910 Graf & Stift Double Phaeton) itself was so shocked by the events that every single subsequent owner met a violent fate.

During the following 12 years, Franz Ferdinand’s car saw 15 different owners. During the same time, it was involved in several accidents that led to 13 deaths. One owner, an Austrian general, became insane and died in an asylum. Another, a captain, fatally ran into two peasants and a tree (despite attempting to avoid the accident) only nine days after purchasing the car. Yet another owner committed a suicide.

And it gets worse. The governor of Yugoslavia had four separate accidents during his possession of the vehicle—one of which cost him an arm. When his friend, a doctor, later bought the “cursed” car for a dare, but it flipped over, and the doctor was crushed. The same fate later met another owner, a Swiss racing driver. A Serbian farmer never even had a chance to drive the car—the car fell over and crushed him during the towing process.

The last owner of the car, a Romanian man, was arguably the most unlucky: while on his way to a wedding with five friends, the vehicle suddenly spun out of control. All five were killed in the crash.

That’s the legend, anyway. The ”jinxed” nature of the car has been called into question since the story emerged in the 1950s. We may never find out the car’s true nature for certain; these days it’s just a broken-down artifact in an Austrian museum.

We had better have our coffee in the kitchen this morning. Looks like more rain coming.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Balls On Monday Mystery...!

I don't believe that I have had this one here before, but I can't remember! Still, it's another fun one!

Sometimes the strangest stories come from the finds of some ordinary folks. I think this certainly applies to this story.

The Betz Mystery Sphere

When the Betz family was examining the damage of a strange fire that had decimated 88 acres of their woodland, they made a strange discovery: a silvery sphere, about 20 centimeters (eight inches) in diameter, completely smooth except for a strange, elongated triangle symbol. Initially thinking it might be a NASA gadget or even a Soviet spy satellite, they eventually decided it was most likely just a souvenir. On a moment’s whim, they decided to take it with them.

Two weeks later, the family’s son was strumming a guitar in the same room as the sphere. Suddenly, the sphere started reacting to his tunes, emitting a strange throbbing sound and a resonance that deeply disturbed the family’s dog. Soon, the Betz family found the orb had other strange properties. It could stop and change directions when pushed across the floor, eventually returning to the person who pushed it like a faithful dog. It seemed to draw power from solar energy, becoming noticeably more active on bright days.

It started looking like something (or someone) was controlling the sphere: It would occasionally emit low-frequency rattling and vibrations, like there was a motor running inside. It seemed to avoid falling and crashing at all costs, as if to protect something inside it. It even managed to completely defy the laws of gravity and climb up a slanted table to avoid falling.

A media frenzy ensued. Respected papers such as the New York Times and the London Daily sent reporters to witness the miracle sphere, which repeated its tricks to countless people. Even scientists and representatives of the military were impressed, although the Betz family wouldn’t let them take the sphere for closer examination. However, that soon changed as the sphere took a turn for the worse. It started exhibiting poltergeist–like behavior: Doors started slamming shut at night and strange organ music would fill the house out of the blue. At that point, the family decided to find out what the sphere really was. The Navy analyzed it and found it was . . . a perfectly ordinary (if high-quality) stainless steel ball.

To this day, it’s not entirely clear what the mysterious alien sphere is. However, there have been many theories attempting to explain its possible nature. The most plausible of these is, incidentally, the most mundane: Three years before the Betz family found the orb, an artist named James Durling-Jones was driving in the area where it was found. On the luggage rack on his car roof were a number of stainless steel balls meant for a sculpture he was making, some of which dropped off during the bumpy ride. These balls matched the exact description of the Betz sphere, and were balanced enough to roll around at the slightest provocation (the Betz family lived in an old house with uneven floors, so such a ball would appear to behave erratically). These balls could even emit a rattling sound, thanks to tiny metal shavings stuck inside during the manufacturing process.

Although this doesn’t explain all of the reported phenomena, it certainly casts a shadow over all the “mysterious ghost ball from outer space” rhetoric.

While I don't know what this thing is or why it does what it does...I think it would be nice to have one. Not that my life is dull or anything, but it would be cool to have something to scare the cats with!

Coffee out on the patio this morning.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Sunday already...!

Of course, Sunday means the funnies, right? RIGHT!

Here are some that you may not have seen for a while. I hope you enjoy them!

These guys were always funny, if you ask me. I still get a kick out of them!

Somehow I don't think that last one was politically correct, so don't tell anyone...OK?

OK...guess that's all we need today. Time to get back to whatever we were doing, ya know?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Sausage and biscuits sound good?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Watch Out For Falling Cats...!

This is a case of one crazy idea that actually worked the way it was intended. Imagine that!

The UK Airdropped A Squad Of Cats Into Borneo
By Michael Van Duisen on Thursday, August 8, 2013

During the 1950s, Borneo was overrun with rats, an unintended consequence of huge DDT sprays that aimed to kill malaria-spreading mosquitoes. Unfortunately, many cockroaches were also sprayed and were eaten by lizards, which were in turn eaten by cats, many of which died shortly after. The plan? Gather up reinforcement cats and have the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force drop them into the country by parachute. And yes, it totally worked.


In the 1950s, the Dayak people of the island of Borneo were in the midst of a severe malaria outbreak, which was known to be spread by mosquitoes. In order to combat this problem, the World Health Organization decided to utilize DDT, which was not yet seen for the danger that it is. Yes, it was very effective at halting the spread of malaria but an unintended consequence arose. The cockroaches that infested the area were also covered with DDT, but they survived and spread the chemical to the geckos that ate them. Many of them survived, only to be eaten by cats which, because they didn’t have a strong resistance to DDT, succumbed to the pesticide and died.

With their natural predators weakened, the rat population shot up, spreading typhus and destroying many farmers’ crops. To alleviate the problem they unintentionally caused, WHO called upon the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force to assist them in a plan they called Operation: Catdrop.

The plan was pretty simple: Round up a squad of cats in the United Kingdom and ship them to Borneo. Because there was no way to truck them in from the shore and the villages were quite isolated, the RAF used a helicopter to drop the cats to a particularly hard-hit village of Dayak people by parachute, along with some other supplies. When they landed, the cats had a veritable feast of rats and helped restore ecological balance.

I'm glad that the idea was solved in a fairly humane way, since the problem was caused by man to begin with! Someday maybe we'll stop trying to mess with Mother Nature, but I'm not gonna hold my breath!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Fresh apple pie as a side dish!

Friday, July 18, 2014

No Freaky Friday Post Today...!

Sorry, but I have to take Mom across town this morning. That means I won't have a post.

I shopuld have said something sooner, but I ran out of time. You know how that is, right? Anyway, I'll make up for it at a later date, I promise!

Help yourself to the coffee. You all know where the pot is, right?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gold From The Sea...?

We all have heard of some of the strange ideas that Germany and it's leaders had over the years, but there was one that probably was the strangest of all.

After the War, Germany was literally broke and had many debts to repay. Because of this, the absurd idea of the government was to manufacture gold from sea water. Actually, it wasn't manufacturing gold so much as extracting it. On the surface it sounds good, right? Well, the old saying that "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" certainly fits this case!

When Germany Tried To Turn Seawater Into Gold
By Debra Kelly on Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At the end of World War I, Germany was left holding a staggering bill for damages and reparations that needed to be made. All told, it was determined that they owed 50,000 tons of gold to the Allied forces; needless to say, that wasn’t a number that war-torn Germany could easily afford.

So they turned to one of their most brilliant scientific minds, a man named Fritz Haber. Haber had already done a huge service to Germany, overseeing the process that allowed them to weaponize chlorine gas, as well as developing a process that allowed for the extraction of nitrogen from the air; this nitrogen was then used in the manufacture of fertilizers and of explosives. The process wasn’t just hugely successful, it also meant that the British blockade of Germany didn’t curtail the manufacture of gases and explosives as the Allies had hoped.

In fact, his contributions to science were so monumental that the role he played in supporting the German war effort was overlooked when it came to the awarding of the 1918 Nobel Prize; he won, for his work in extracting ammonia from other elements.

He’d already played a massive role in the churning of the German military, and when it came time to pay back the roughly half a trillion dollars (in today’s economy), they were hoping that he’d be able to work another miracle.

Haber turned to the sea. He knew that seawater contained a variety of different chemicals, compounds, and minerals such as chloride, potassium, and uranium, and he knew that there was gold in there, too. For Haber, it was just a matter of extracting the gold to create a whole new source of wealth for Germany—one that would continue on well past the time their debt was paid.

According to his original calculations, Haber figured that one metric ton of seawater would contain about 65 milligrams of gold. That in turn meant that every cubic mile of seawater would yield about 40 pounds of gold.

All that was needed was a way to extract the gold, and Haber’s method included a complicated system of massive centrifuges and not a little bit of scientific know-how. He presented his findings to the Germans, and they authorized a two-year research jaunt in which Haber and his crew would travel the world measuring the different amounts of gold present in the different bodies of water.

Under the cover of conducting oceanographic research, Haber and his team sailed the Atlantic Ocean taking measurements and readings. About two years into the project, he realized that he had made a mistake. A large one.

At his original estimates, the amount of gold that could be extracted from the seawater would have made the project cost-effective. It would have been no small feat to fund the development and manufacture of the equipment needed and to power the whole venture, but the amount of gold would have meant they would have come out on top. Once Haber realized that he had overestimated the amount of gold in seawater—by about a thousand times—it just wasn’t a financially viable operation.

Not too long after, Haber left Germany, not entirely of his own volition. He died in 1934, of heart failure.

Where is a good old fashioned wizard when ya need one? I can't believe that even the German's believed this would be profitable, or even feasible! Sounds to me that they were grasping at straws, I guess when you're desperate you do that a lot!

How about coffee out on the patio this morning?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mad Trapper On Western Wednesday...!

I know that most of you have already heard of this guy. Still, it's one of those stories that bears repeating.

I saw a movie about this man, with Charles Bronson as the fugitive. Of course, the movie was way different than the facts as told by historians, but that's nearly always the case. Anyway, here is what history tells us about the Mad Trapper!

Jul 15, 1904:
The Mad Trapper of Rat River heads for U.S.

Young Johan Jonsen, the future "Mad Trapper of Rat River," leaves Norway with his family and heads for America.

When he was six years old, the Norwegian Jonsen headed for America with his family on this day in 1904. His Swedish father settled the family on a barren 320-acre homestead in North Dakota. At an early age, Jonsen became a skilled outdoorsman and hunter, and by the time he was in his teens was bored with the backbreaking life of a high plains farmer. He struck up a friendship with a local rustler and gunslinger named Bert Dekler who helped him refine his expertise with a pistol.

In 1915, at the age of 17, Jonsen committed his first robbery, seizing $2,800 from the Farmers' State Bank of Medicine Lake, Montana. He managed a successful escape, but was later apprehended in Wyoming for horse theft and returned to Montana. He served three years in the Montana State Penitentiary before being released and quickly returning to a life in crime.

Because he used a variety of aliases, it is difficult to know exactly how many crimes Jonsen committed, but they were apparently abundant. Yet, as he grew older Jonsen began to retreat into the wilderness, where he increasingly became an antisocial hermit. By 1930, he was living in a cabin along the Rat River in an isolated far northeastern section of the Canadian Yukon. There he tolerated no visitors and survived by trapping beaver. He had not totally abandoned his larcenous ways, though--other trappers complained that he pillaged their trap lines.

In late December 1931, an officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and three other men arrived at Jonsen's cabin with a search warrant to investigate the claims that he was pilfering from other trappers' lines. When the Mountie knocked, Jonsen replied by shooting through the door, wounding the officer in the chest. The four men fled, but a larger force returned soon after and began a 15-hour attack with gunfire and dynamite that failed to force Jonsen's surrender. The following day, a blizzard swept in and Jonsen managed to sneak off obscured by the thick curtains of snow. A massive manhunt began that eventually involved scores of men aided by airplanes, dog teams, and skilled Indian guides. Yet, Jonsen-traveling on foot with almost no food-managed to avoid capture for more than month.

On February 17, 1932, the posse found Jonsen and trapped him on the ice in the middle of a frozen river. Still Jonsen refused to surrender. He shot one of his pursuers before the posse killed him with a massive volley of bullets. Having survived 45 days traveling through some of the roughest country in the world with almost no food, the once robust "Mad Trapper of Rat River" was skin and bones. His corpse weighed less than 100 pounds.

Sounds to me like the man just wanted to be left alone. If ever there was a man not to mess with, I think that this was the one!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Anyone want some jello?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Don't Eyeballs Freeze...?

Did you ever wonder about something like that? I mean, it's a fair question, right?

Well, it turns out that there's a good reason why eyes don't freeze. That is if you can believe the guys over at KnowledgeNuts where I found this article. Besides, it's important to know this kind of stuff, although I really can't think of the reason why right now!

Why Eyeballs Don’t Freeze At Subzero Temperatures
By S. Grant on Saturday, July 12, 2014

If our hands, toes, noses, and other body parts are susceptible to freezing and getting frostbitten, it might seem unusual that our eyeballs can survive the cold totally unprotected. But, unlike other bodily extremities, the eyes are constantly pumped with a strong supply of warm blood—even in the coldest situations. Furthermore, our eyes are nestled rather deeply in our heads where bone, tissue, and fat also help keep them warm. Essentially, it’s virtually impossible for the eyes to freeze as long as they are inside a warm, functioning body.

Any time the weather drops below freezing, people quickly don their heavy coats, scarves, and other layers. Yet, for the most part, no one worries about keeping their eyes warm. Even Inuits, Siberians, and Antarctic explorers, who regularly wear Michelin Man–esque clothing, leave their eyeballs exposed. If anyone does put on glasses or goggles, it is mostly to protect their eyes from snow glare or wind—not from the cold. So, what is it exactly about the eyeball that seems to make it immune from freezing?

Although it seems to defy logic that the wet, soft tissue of the eye wouldn’t immediately freeze when the thermometer drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, in truth, the explanation is quite simple. Our eyes don’t ice over because they are almost entirely encased in our warm, well-regulated heads. They are positioned more than halfway inside our noggins and protected by insulating bone, muscle, fat, and eyelids.

Making the eye even less likely to freeze is the fact that it’s filled with numerous blood vessels which continually heat it up with the hot blood from our bodies. In fact, the primary blood source to the eye is the ophthalmic artery, which is a branch off the same, deep artery that supplies the brain. When in cold surroundings, the body diverts even more blood to the brain (and other vital organs) which, in turn, helps keep eyes even warmer.

Because tears are saltwater, they are also resistant to freezing; however, they can solidify in extreme cold and possibly “gum up” the eyelids. Even so, the eye itself will be unaffected. Basically, our eyes will only naturally freeze after our bodies are dead and cold.

That being said, it is technically possible to freeze the eye through unnatural means. There is a medical procedure known as retinal cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze a portion of the eye for the purpose of treating retinal breaks and detachments.

Why is it important to know this st5uff? Like I said, I really can't think of a good reason right now, unless you want to be a champion Trivial Pursuit Player. Sometimes answers to this type of question just come in handy!

Coffee out on the patio today. It's hot but dry!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Tombstone On Monday Mystery...!

I know that many folks enjoy a good puzzle now and then, so today is your lucky day. A mysterious inscription on a tombstone makes for a pretty cool puzzle, if ya ask me.

You have to ask...was it for fun, was it for entertainment, or was it done just to be different? Who knows? Most of all, does it really matter?

John Renie

Photo credit: Robert Cutts
Welsh house painter John Renie died in 1832. The unusual inscription on his grave takes the form of a grid, 19 squares across and 15 squares high. In each square is a letter. The center row, for example, reads “o J s e i L e r e H e r e L i e s J o.” You can make out some clear words. “Here” and “Lies” are in that in that string above, and you can see the start of “John.” But why the jumble?

After 170 years, a local TV station finally analyzed it, determining that it was a type of acrostic puzzle. Starting at the H in the very center and working outward, the sentence “Here Lies John Renie” can be read in 46,000 different ways

Some people say Renie was trying to fool the devil, to keep his soul safe. The local vicar thinks they’re taking the inscription too seriously. He expects it “was just a bit of fun” meant to provide entertainment for those that saw it.

I'll bet that ol' John would get a kick out of the amount of time folks are spending on trying to figure out why the tombstone is done in this manner. Probably getting a big charge out of it!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Fresh peaches anyone?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Stupid Sunday 'Toons...!

I'm back with more of the Sunday version of Saturday cartoons!

Back when I was a kid, the cartoons came on (along with the Saturday serials) on Saturday mornings. The biggest sponsor, of course, was children's cereal...imagine that!

>br/> And of course...gotta have a commercial break!

Last one for today. Another oldie!

Bring back any memories for ya? I can remember all the old jingles, I think. In fact, they had a way of getting stuck in your head, ya know?

Coffee out on the patio if the rain will hold off long enough.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Unusual Pinto Bean Recipe...!

Now let me say this right off the bat. I and my family ate a lot of pinto beans growing up. I like beans! To me, pinto beans and cornbread were like Sunday dinner (and often were!).

See, the main thing about beans is that they are not only filling, but are fairly cheap. Not that we were poor, but beans came in pretty handy many times over the years, ya know? Good thing for my sisters and I that we liked them!

Most folks don't know that besides making a good main course along with cornbread, sliced onion, fried 'taters and sweet tea...beans can be used for many other dishes. Some of those might even surprise ya! Heck, I've even put Grandma King's recipe for "pinto bean pie" on here before. Before you even say it, doesn't taste like beans. In fact, it taste a whole lot like rich chocolate pie to me! Pretty handy for those folks wondering how to make the best of a large supply of pinto beans when the SHTF, know what I mean?

Anyway, Baby Sis sent me this recipe that I wanted to share with you. She's pretty handy at making good stuff! Really, she is!

Muffins are especially easy to adapt, simply replace half the oil or margarine a recipe calls for with one cup well mashed pinto beans, and trust me, no one will know. The muffins will be wonderfully moist, yet not too crumbly, and your family will be getting the benefits of pinto beans while enjoying a snack. Muffins made with whole wheat flour and pinto beans also make a great breakfast, the fiber and protein fill you up and give you lasting energy.

Basic Pinto Bean Muffins, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup mashed pinto beans, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Set aside. Blend eggs, oil, milk and mashed pinto beans well, using a wire whisk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once, stirring only until the ingredients are moistened, batter will be lumpy. Fill muffin tins 1/2 full and bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 12.

I hope you'll try this recipe and see if ya like it. If you don't like it, mail it to me and I'll eat it for ya! Or you could feed it to the chickens! Either way, it won't go to waste!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Sorry, no muffins ready yet!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Freaky (Yawn...) Friday !

Here's something freaky to be thinking about. It concerns yawning, of all things.

What's freaky about yawning, you say? I'm glad you ask! Have you ever tried NOT to yawn when someone else does? Sometimes just a picture of someone yawning can cause the same reaction. Now the really freaky thing about yawning is what causes it. Here's what I mean.

Yawning Has Nothing To Do With Our Lack Of Oxygen
By Debra Kelly on Thursday, July 10, 2014

We all yawn, and now we know we even do it before we’re born. And we’ve all heard that we yawn because our brain is getting a bit oxygen-starved, and the massive inhale is a pick-me-up for the brain. Only science has found that it’s not true—the real motivation behind yawning is that the air intake acts as a cooling system for the brain, helping it work more efficiently.

Yawning is another one of those long-standing biological mysteries. The typical reasoning behind why we yawn is that we’re tired, and our brains need the extra oxygen drawn into our system during the yawn in order to stay awake. Turns out, that’s not exactly how it works.

Yawning does impact the brain, but it’s not the rush of oxygen that matters. When you yawn, you’re inhaling more than oxygen, you’re inhaling air that’s cooler than your body temperature. That air gets funneled into your sinuses, which then push the cooler air over the brain; yawning is essentially a cooling system for your head.

There have been a number of different theories on why we yawn, but this is the only one that stands up to scientific scrutiny. It also answers another long-standing question: What the heck is the point of our sinuses, besides giving us headaches?
It turns out that the air intake and the physical act of yawning all work together; it isn’t just enough to get the rush of air to lower the temperature of our brains. Opening your mouth to yawn makes the walls of the sinus flex, and they act as bellows to push the air through the cavities in your head.

The theory has been backed up in medical research conducted on rats. Researchers have monitored their brain temperature in conjunction with their yawning, and have confirmed that whenever there is a jump in temperature, the rats will yawn to help lower it. People who have the ability to predict their yawns have also participated in studies that confirmed the hypothesis works in humans, too.

That also leads to the question of why we have the overwhelming urge to yawn when we see someone else do it—almost certainly, brain temperature can’t be contagious, can it? The answer seems to be a vague “Sort of.”

Our brains function most efficiently when they’re at a yawn-cooled temperature—it’s why we might yawn when we first get up in the morning, to help speed the waking process. But it’s also why we might be hard-wired to see yawning as a signal that there’s some reason you need to be awake and functioning at your best. When you see someone yawn, that’s a sign that there’s danger, that something’s approaching, or there’s some other reason that you need to be at the top of your game.

And since yawning is silent—for all but the most dramatic among us—that also works with the theory that yawning is a type of in-the-face-of-danger communication.

Interestingly, chimpanzees are the only other animal that has demonstrated contagious yawning. And while they’re frequently afflicted with it, the idea that humans are all subject to yawning when we see someone else do it is also a myth—in fact, only about half of the human population can’t resist joining in when they see a yawn.

I guess my whole point in bringing this up is to try and understand why we do some of the things we do. I suppose that I yawn when I'm trying to Blog late at night it means that my brain is over heating. Either that, or I really am a hot head as many folks have said before!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. No yawning, please!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Very Strange Partnership...!

There are times when man discovers that working with nature is good for himself, not to mention his partner.

While there are some modern day examples of such partnerships, this is probably the most unusual one I have ever heard of. Seems to have worked out for a long time, though.

When Humans And Killer Whales Hunted Together
By Nolan Moore on Friday, July 4, 2014

We all know commercial whaling is a horrible industry. Thanks to over-hunting, many cetaceans are critically endangered. However, in the middle of this gruesome history, there’s a bizarre story of man and whales working together . . . to kill more whales. For nearly 40 years, orcas and Australian whalers tag-teamed baleen whales and happily divided the spoils.

Wild animals and humans rarely get along, let alone work together. Try offering your services to a lion, and you’ll probably end up fertilizing the Serengeti. That’s what makes the story of Old Tom so incredibly weird. Old Tom was an orca who led a sizable pod, sometimes numbering up to the 30 whales. Usually, you’d find these deep-sea mammals chilling near the Arctic, but when fall rolled into winter, the hungry orcas took off for Australia, hoping to stop by their favorite restaurant.

Orcas aren’t particularly picky creatures and don’t mind snacking on their cousins. In fact, some of their favorite meaty treats are the lips and tongues of baleen whales, and it just so happened these particular cetaceans liked hanging around Twofold Bay, a body of water about 6.5 kilometers (4 mi) from the town of Eden. But the orcas weren’t the only whale whackers around. Twofold Bay was also home to the Davidson whaling station, an operation started in the 1860s by Alexander Davidson and his grandson George. Just like Old Tom, the Davidsons made a living off the local whale population and, for the longest time, considered the killer whales to be pests.

You’d think sooner or later the humans and orcas would’ve duked it out for control of the Twofold turf . . . only they ended up becoming allies instead. Much to the Davidsons’ surprise, the orcas started driving baleen whales into the bay and kept them from escaping back into the ocean. While the pod blocked the inlet, Old Tom would swim up to the whaling station and start “flop-tailing.” That’s whaler speak for leaping and slapping his tail on the water. Believe it or not, Old Tom was actually trying to get the humans’ attention. The Davidsons quickly figured out that whenever Tom started thrashing and flailing, it meant his crew had caught a whale and were waiting for the men to show up with their harpoons.

This was the beginning of a beautiful (depending on your point of view) friendship. For nearly 40 years, the whalers and orcas worked together to catch baleen whales. After a successful kill, the men lashed the corpse to their boat and let Tom and his pod chow down on all the juicy parts. When the orcas were done feasting, the humans sailed off with the remaining bones and blubber, the really valuable parts. This little arrangement was known as the “Law of the Tongue,” and according to legend, the two groups started watching out for one another. Supposedly, the whalers freed any orcas they found caught in nets, and in return, the orcas would ward off sharks that got too close to the hunters.

But as we all know, nothing lasts forever. In 1923, a man named John Logan was paddling around the bay with George Davidson when Old Tom drove a whale their way. At first, everything went like clockwork. George killed the whale, and Tom was getting ready for dinner when the men noticed a storm was headed their way. John Logan didn’t want to get caught on the water in the middle of a maelstrom so he decided to sail back to shore without giving the orca his due rewards. Old Tom had other ideas. He sunk his jaws into the whale carcass, and Logan and Tom started pulling back and forth until the King of the Killer Whales lost several of his teeth and swam away. For an orca, this was a death sentence. Old Tom’s gums eventually became infected, and in 1930, his lifeless body washed ashore. Stricken with guilt, John Logan opened the Eden Killer Whale Museum in Old Tom’s honor. You can still see his bones there today, an odd testimony to interspecies cooperation.

Many such cases such as this could probably be found today. I might have to do some research and find some more!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Might be a little warm outside, though.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alaskan "Sky Magic" For Western Wednesday...!

It's true that this entry doesn't seem like the standard fare for Western Wednesday, but it does have some Native Americans , so I reckon it qualifies.

You can imagine the effects of something like this on still primitive folks back in 1869. Got their attention, I'll bet!

Astronomer impresses Indians with eclipse

George Davidson, a prominent astronomer and explorer, impresses Alaskan Native Americans with his ability to predict a total solar eclipse.

A native of Nottingham, England, Davidson immigrated to the United States in 1832. He went to school in Philadelphia, where he proved to be a brilliant student and eventually earned a doctorate in astronomy. In 1845, he joined the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and for two decades, he studied the large-scale geography of California, Oregon, and Washington.

In 1867, Davidson traveled north to the still relatively unexplored territory of Alaska. The United States government was in the midst of concluding negotiations to purchase the area from Russia, and American leaders were eager to learn more about the new territory. Davidson made initial surveys at Sitka, Chilkat, Kodiak, and the Unalaksa Islands. Much work remained to be done, though, and Davidson planned to return to the territory two years later.

In 1869, Davidson began preparations for another scientific trip, to the Chilkat Valley. He was warned, however, that the Chilkat Indians had been angered by some American provocation and might welcome him with guns and spears rather than open arms. Undaunted, Davidson proceeded with his mission. His initial meeting with the Chilkat on August 6 was tense. Davidson explained that he had come for purely scientific reasons, and he meant them no harm. He told the Chilkat that he was especially anxious to observe a total eclipse of the sun that he predicted would occur the following day. The Indians scoffed at Davidson's prediction, but they left the party in peace for the time being.

On this day in 1869, the sky grew dark over the Chilkat Valley as the moon eclipsed the sun, as Davidson had predicted. Apparently dismayed by this frightening display of power--some may have believed Davidson actually caused the eclipse rather than merely predicting it--the Chilkat fled to the woods. Thereafter, they left Davidson and his party alone, leading one historian to speculate that the astronomer's prediction may have saved the entire team from attack.

Davidson continued to be a prominent member of the scientific community until his death in 1911. Several geographic features in Alaska were named in his honor.

Once again, it appears that science saved the day! Still, you can bet the locals were impressed either way!

Coffee in the kitchen again. It's kinda stormy here in Houston.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mark Twain, The Inventor...?

Turns out that some of our best known authors could do a bit more than spin a good yarn. Some of them, like Twain, were inventors as well!

Funny, but I just can't see Mark Twain as an inventor. I don't know why, but it's hard for me to get my head around! Especially when you see what he got the patents for. Ready for a surprise?

Mark Twain Invented The Bra Strap 

Photo credit: US Patent Office

In addition to being one of America’s greatest novelists, Mark Twain held a wide variety of jobs like reporter, prospector, and riverboat pilot. He was also an accomplished inventor, taking out at least two patents during his lifetime. In fact, his first invention netted him $50,000, which isn’t bad, especially by 19th-century standards.

Mr. Clemens’s creation was a new-and-improved scrapbook. Twain loved collecting pictures and newspaper articles, but he got tired of dabbing glue onto each individual clipping. Wanting to speed up the process, Twain devised a self-pasting scrapbook. The process involved adhesive strips pre-pasted to the pages. All you had to do was moisten the sticky stuff, and presto, you were ready to go.
Twain’s most important achievement was a stretchy strap meant to keep loose clothing from falling down. With the help of a handy clasp, the strap prevented “vests, pantaloons, or other garments” from sagging. The device was also detachable, so when changing outfits, you could take it off one pair of undergarments and button it onto the next. 

Billions of people still use Twain’s invention, only it isn’t detachable, and it isn’t on vests. The man who wrote Tom Sawyer came up with the elastic-clasp strap on the back of the bra. Somehow I never figured ol' Mark as a scrape book fella, did you? Guess we all need a hobby.

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Got a few showers coming in!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Old Glyphs In The Desert...!

Here is a little mystery fairly close to home. It's always fun to try and figure out why these types of drawings and carvings were made.

Sometimes it seems like the more we discover, the less we actually know. Sorta the old "one step forward, two steps back" thing, ya know?

The Blythe Geoglyphs

Photo credit: Ron Gilbert
The Blythe Intaglios are a collection of dozens of geoglyphs found in the Colorado Desert near Blythe, California. They show various representations of animals, geometric shapes, and giant humans, the largest depicting a 50-meter (170 ft) man. The true scope of the geoglyphs was unknown until 1932, when it was viewed from the air.

Based on their location, they were likely constructed by the Quechan or Mojave Indians. The etchings are supposed to represent important figures from these respective cultures. Two, for instance, are thought to represent Mastamho and Kataar, two creator deities found in Mojave culture.

But we still know remarkably little about the carvings for certain. They could have been made as long as 10,000 years ago or as recently as 450 years ago.

You just have to wonder who actually made them and why. Another one of those mysteries that we may never know the answer to, I reckon!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's gonna be another hot one!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cartoons For Sunday...Again !

Seems like we do this every Sunday, but that's OK! Some of us like them!

I always wondered why some folks don't like the cartoons. Oh well, to each his own, I reckon.

Well, that's all for this morning. Notice I didn't interrupt with small talk? Figured I'd just let you enjoy the 'toons. You have a nice day, OK?

Coffee inside again. It could rain later, so why take a chance?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bugs And Their Paid Babysitters...!

Sometimes mother nature puts us to shame as far as forming partnerships.

Often these can be very surprising, and can almost stagger the imagination. I'm thinking that we might learn a thing or two from these mutually beneficial team-ups.

Stick Insects Pay Ants To Be Babysitters

Photo credit: Peter Chew

In a strange symbiotic breeding relationship, certain stick insect species lay eggs that resemble seeds sought by roving groups of ants. The ants pick up the eggs and carry them into their own colonies, protecting them from predatory wasps, fire, heat, drought, and numerous other threats to their viability and survival. In return, the ants remove the capitulum of the egg and feed it to their offspring as a highly nutritious food.
The unlikely relationship between these two insects is a fair bargain. The stick insect eggs suffer little or no harm from the ants removing the edible part. After the capitulum is removed, the ants ignore the eggs, which can then hatch in relative safety.

  I find it interesting that insects can act more civilized at times than many folks I know. That's kinda sad, ya know?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Raining again!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Holiday...I Think ?

Sometimes the dates involving important happenings in our history are questionable at best.

Seems there is some different opinions about when the actual Independence Day should be celebrated! Here's what I mean.

Born on the Second of July… or August

“In Congress, July 4, 1776,” begins the Declaration of Independence, pictured above, “a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled.” From this document began the United States, and from that line comes Independence Day, celebrated annually in the U.S. on the fourth of July.

But some believe that July 4, 1776, is not truly America’s independence day. That honor should fall to either July 2, 1776, or August 2, 1776.

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress created a sub-committee of five delegates — Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman — empowered to write a first draft of a declaration of independence. Jefferson took the lead and the quintet delivered their draft on June 28th. After a few days of debates and revisions, the Congress voted to declare independence — on July 2nd, not July 4th. The next day — July 3rd — Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, discussing the Declaration and its significance. In part, Adams wrote:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

While Adams appropriately described the revelry, he whiffed on the date. Instead, we Americans celebrate independence on the 4th, the day the Continental Congress ratified the text of the document.

Ratified — but not signed. According to National Geographic, many of those who signed the famous piece of parchment simply were not present on the 4th of July and the document was not signed until August 2nd. This belief is buttressed by the journals of the Continental Congress itself; as stated by the National Archives, “on August 2, the journal of the Continental Congress records that ‘The declaration of independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed.’ One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration is that it was signed on July 4, 1776, by all the delegates in attendance.”

While the July 4th date is, probably, the least relevant of the three, it does lend itself to a fantastic coincidence. Of the five drafters of the Declaration, Adams and Jefferson would go on to become President of the United States. And both Adams and Jefferson share something else in common: both died on July 4, 1826 — fifty years to the day the Declaration was ratified.

Despite any confusion, the day we all should celebrate is Independence Day, the 4TH of July. We can all be proud that our nation is one where many freedoms are enjoyed. However, freedom isn't free! More than a few good men and women have paid the ultimate price so that we could enjoy the blessings we have today! Remember to thank a vet when you can, and pray for those that still serve today.

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Ice cream for breakfast anyone?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Little Presidential History For Thursday...!

Sometimes we tend to forget that some of the folks in the White House were, for the most part, regular people... sometimes!

Like many of us, they often struggled to become comfortable with the latest technology and that's understandable. I often have some of those same struggles. Here's one story about one such case.

Benjamin Harrison’s Fear Of Electricity

Benjamin Harrison served as president from 1889–1893. While he didn’t have the most remarkable tenure, he embraced the technology of the era. He was the first president whose voice was recorded on a wax phonograph cylinder, and he modernized the US Navy, which only had two warships in its arsenal when Harrison took office. He also introduced electric lighting into the White House, although he and his wife were too afraid of being electrocuted to actually touch the switches.

In historical context, this was not such a silly notion. The 1890s was the time of the so-called “War of the Currents,” when even scientific heavyweights like Thomas Edison staged all kinds of horrifying publicity stunts to demonstrate just how dangerous alternating current electricity could be. On August 6, 1890, the electric chair was used to execute William Kemmler, who had murdered his common-law wife with a hatchet. Unfortunately, the execution was botched, and the first jolt failed to kill Kemmler. He was then hit again, resulting in an “unbearable” stench as his flesh began to singe. The fact that Harrison would rather sleep in a bright room than risk a similar fate hardly seems strange in retrospect.

I guess that being the Prez doesn't exclude you from having a few cases of the jitters with the latest in gadgetry. Sort of makes those guys seem a little more likable...sorta.

Better have our coffee in the kitchen this morning. Rain is coming back today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bison Hunting On Western Wednesday...!

I know that you think you already know what this post is about, but maybe you'll be surprised.

Not everything turns out like we want them to, and that includes some mistaken ideas about the famous "Bison" hunts in the old days. Now, I'm not talking about the hide only hunting done by the whites at times, but some of the tactics used by the native Americans as well!

Native Americans Didn’t Always Use The Whole Bison

By Dustin Koski on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Native Americans are often revered for how in touch with nature they were. One of the things most often cited as evidence of this is how they would use every single part of every bison that they killed. In reality, many tribes engaged in extremely wasteful practices. Some Blackfoot, for example, would drive entire herds over cliffs and pick out the pieces they wanted to use from the pile at the bottom.


In light of the crimes against humanity that the Native Americans endured, their various cultures have been heavily romanticized. They were often portrayed in popular culture as being spiritually in touch with the Earth in a way that most Western societies don’t even really attempt anymore. This image of them is actually of them is actually a fairly recent notion for some tribes.

Take the notorious idea that Plains Native Americans used every part of the bison because they were not wasteful. For centuries this couldn’t have been further from the truth, and not just in terms of parts of bison. Paleoindians in areas like the Rio Grande in the Blackfoot territory of the Northwestern Great Plains areas had a technique of killing large numbers of bison. Through the use of prairie fire or other methods of spooking them, they would cause a stampede which would send as many as 1,000 bison over cliff edges to their deaths. Whole animals would be passed up in favor of cuts of the younger and more delectable catches (and the ones on the bottom of the pile would be crushed beyond use anyway). This system was tolerated because, with the limited speed with which humans could move, there wasn’t a more feasible method available. The belief pervaded at the time that the Earth would provide an endless supply of game even though numerous species had already been driven to extinction on North America by these hunters.

In fact, it was Europeans who put an end to mass bison canyon slaughter and who brought about the extremely efficient use of bison, albeit indirectly. This is obviously not meant to sing the praises of Europeans in anyway or to condemn Native Americans as crude, savage, or any such thing, but the truth of the distant past for many Native American tribes was not one of the complete harmony with nature we are usually taught about.

The first step was the 16th-century arrival of conquistadors who brought horses and horse riding with them (along with plagues and mass murder). Horses actually had lived on America centuries before the Spanish arrived, but were one of the numerous species that had been hunted to extinction. Once the Plains tribes started using horses, they began to hunt much more efficiently.

The idealized notion of ecologically-minded Native Americans seems to be a product of the 1960s. It was a period where anti-modernist ideals were fashionable and where Native Americans were campaigning for more of a political voice. Probably the most notorious image from this period was that of the “Crying Indian” from the Keep America Beautiful public service announcement. In such an environment misconceptions are inevitable.

I'd like to think that the native Americans used as much of the animals they hunted as they could, but in truth how do we really know? Cave drawings and passed down myths can't always be counted on to tell us the whole truth, I reckon.

Coffee out on the rather warm patio this morning. Feels like a storm brewing to me!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Concrete Piece Of History...! (UPDATE)

Once in a great while, I find an article about something I've never heard of before. This is one of them!

Just imagine how important these things were back in their day. If I found one, I'd spend a long time trying to figure out just what it was. Until this article anyway.

The Concrete Arrows That Range Across The United States

By Nolan Moore on Monday, June 30, 2014


Back in the early days of airmail, flying across the US was risky business. Pilots didn’t have radar and had to rely on landmarks to find their way. Wanting to make things easier (and speed up delivery time), the USPS decided to set up concrete arrows across America, pointing the way from one coast to the other.

If you ever take a road trip across America, you might stumble across a peculiar sight. Well, you’ll probably encounter quite a few peculiar sights, but the one we’re talking about looks like a bizarre clue from a National Treasure movie. Strewn across the US are a series of giant concrete arrows, stretching from east to west. If you happen to discover one of these strange landmarks, don’t jump to any weird conclusions. They’re not the work of extraterrestrials or any secret societies. Instead, they’re part of a project devised in the 1920s by the United States Postal Service.

During the early 20th century, the USPS used locomotives to transport letters across the country. All that changed, of course, with the introduction of the airplane. Excited by this new invention, the USPS established the Transcontinental Air Mail Route, a coast-to-coast delivery system that was successfully flown in 1921 by a group of seven pilots. Planes truly revolutionized the mail industry, cutting cross-country mail delivery down from several weeks to a mere 34 hours. However, there was one slight drawback. These were the days before radar and guidance systems. Thanks to these technological constraints, pilots could only fly during the day, assuming the skies were clear. Not only did they depend on good weather, they also relied on landmarks to lead the way.

Wanting to make things easier on the pilots and speedier for customers, the USPS came up with a rather simple plan. They’d just build a bunch of arrows to point from one coast to the other. Beginning in 1923, the government started spreading these 15–20 meter (50–70 ft) concrete arrows from New York to San Francisco, covering a whopping 4,230 kilometers (2,629 mi). Each marker was spaced 16 kilometers (10 mi) apart from the next, and they were all painted a bright yellow, a color clearly visible from the sky. In addition to the arrows, each marker was accompanied by a 15-meter steel tower equipped with a beacon. These lights flashed coded messages so pilots always knew where they were, and if conditions were right, pilots could see the next tower up in the distance. Of course, if the sky was too murky, they could always glance down at the arrows and know which way to go.

While the project was finally finished in 1929, the arrows soon became outdated. When radar and radio systems came along, the project fell into obscurity. Eventually, the Department of Commerce shut the whole thing down in the 1930s. Later on, a few of the towers were converted into TV antennas, but most were scrapped during World War II. However, the arrows are still out there. They’re all faded gray now and don’t serve any purpose other than reminding us of how quickly time and technology changes.

Seems to me that there must have been a better way to give directions, but I reckon they did the best they could with what they had. Still, it seems a better way could be found. Just my opinion, ya know.

Coffee out on the patio this morning...OK?  

(Updated Version)
So many folks have asked for more info on these arrows and their location, I have a link that may be of some use to you. More info can be found right here!