Friday, August 31, 2012

Let's Go To Chestnut Hills...!

Sometimes, despite all our scientific knowledge, we lose some or all of a particular species of plant or animal.

Some things are just beyond our meager understanding. For a whole population of Chestnut trees to die off is very sad, but at least we do know the cause!

Chestnut Hills

The chestnut blight is a devastating disease that has struck the American chestnut tree and caused the mass extinction of the tree from its historic range in the eastern United States. The disease was accidentally introduced to North America around 1900, either through imported chestnut lumber or through imported chestnut trees. By 1940, almost all of the American chestnut trees were gone. These marvelous trees once grew as tall as 200 feet (61 meters), with a trunk diameter of 14 feet (4.2 meters).

The chestnut tree is known to grow beautiful flowers in late spring or early summer. The blight was caused by the C. parasitica and destroyed about 4 billion American chestnut trees. The fungus kills the tree by entering beneath the bark and killing the cambium all the way round the twig, branch, or trunk. After the blight was first discovered, people attempted to remove the effected trees from the forests, but this proved to be an ineffective solution.

The largest remaining forest of American chestnut trees is named Chestnut Hills and sits near West Salem, Wisconsin. Chestnut Hills holds approximately 2,500 chestnut trees on 60 acres of land. The chestnuts are the descendants from only a dozen trees planted by Martin Hicks in the late 1800s. The trees are located to the west of the natural range of American chestnut, so they initially escaped the onslaught of the chestnut blight. However in 1987, scientists found the fungus in the trees and the blight has been slowly killing the forest. Scientists are working to try and save Chestnut Hills, as there is a strong desire to bring the American chestnut back to the forest.

A large collection of surviving chestnut’s are being bred for a resistance to the blight by The American Chestnut Foundation, which aims to reintroduce a blight-resistant American chestnut to its original forest range in the early 21st century. The disease is local to a range, so it is possible for some isolated trees to exist if no other chestnuts with the blight are within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). A small stand of surviving American chestnuts was found in F. D. Roosevelt State Park near Warm Springs, Georgia on April 22, 2006.

I have to thank the fine folks over at for all this information. Very interesting place, for sure!

Let's have our coffee in the kitchen again this morning. Much too hot to have it out on the patio!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The State That Never Was...!

Starting shortly after the Civil War, there were many folks that wanted to start their own states. Even today, there are many that toy with the idea of doing that very thing!

Today we are going to look at only one such place. Probably one of the most interesting of the "wanna be states"!


Often called the “state that never was,” Absaroka grew out of the political discontent of the Great Depression. The statehood movement first began in 1939 in Sheridan, Wyoming. Frustrated with the U.S. government—and in particular the New Deal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt—a group of politicians and businessmen led by a former baseball player named A.R. Swickard hatched a plan to create a new state they called Absaroka. The would-be state included large swaths of Wyoming, *-++++Montana and South Dakota, and encompassed famous landmarks such as the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Swickard soon appointed himself governor and began hearing grievances from the “citizens” of his state. To garner support, he distributed Absaroka license plates and photos of the first (and last) Miss Absaroka.

Despite its initial popularity, the statehood movement’s novelty quickly wore off, and an official proposal for secession was never drafted. The story survives today largely thanks to the Federal Writers’ Project—ironically, one of FDR’s New Deal programs—which chronicled the Absaroka phenomenon while compiling travel guides to the American West.

There were another 4 "would be" states on this list! You can read about them right here!

Let's have our coffee on the patio this morning. Weather isn't too bad yet!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rest In Peace, Ishi...!

Here is a story for Western Wednesday that is a little different than usual.

It just goes to show that we aren't all that far removed from what we consider our distant past. Sad to see the passing of a true "last of his kind!"

Aug 29, 1911:
Ishi discovered in California

Ishi, described as the last surviving Stone Age Indian in the contiguous United States, is discovered in California.

By the first decade of the 20th century, Euro-Americans had so overwhelmed the North American continent that scarcely any Native Americans remained who had not been assimilated into Anglo society to some degree. Ishi appears to have been something of an exception. Found lost and starving near an Oroville, California, slaughterhouse, he was largely unfamiliar with white ways and spoke no English.

Authorities took the mysterious Indian into custody for his own protection. News of the so-called "Stone Age Indian" attracted the attention of a young Berkeley anthropologist named Thomas Waterman. Gathering what partial vocabularies existed of northern California Indian dialects, the speakers of which had mostly vanished, Waterman went to Oroville to meet the Indian. After unsuccessfully hazarding words from several dialects, Waterman tried a few words from the language of the Yana Indians. Some were intelligible to Ishi, and the two men were able to engage in a crude dialogue. The following month, Waterman took Ishi to live at the Berkeley University museum, where their ability to communicate gradually improved.

Waterman eventually learned that Ishi was a Yahi Indian, an isolated branch of the northern California Yana tribe. He was approximately 50 years old and was apparently the last of his people. Ishi said he had wandered the mountains of northern California for some time with a small remnant of the Yahi people. Gradually, accident or disease had killed his companions. A white man murdered his final male companion, and Ishi wandered alone until he reached Oroville.

For five years, Ishi lived at the Berkeley Museum. He and Waterman became close friends, and he spent his days describing his tribal customs and demonstrating his wilderness skills in archery, woodcraft, and other traditional techniques. He learned to understand and survive in the white world, and enjoyed wandering the Bay area communities and riding on the trolley cars. Eventually, though, Ishi contracted tuberculosis. He died on March 25, 1916, at an estimated age of 56. His body was cremated according to the customs of his people.

Think of all the things that someone like this could teach us. Many skills for surviving and making do in the often unfriendly wilderness, that's for sure! Think of all the history that was lost with the death of this one individual!

Coffee on the patio this morning. We can move inside if it starts to rain! Let's toast to Ishi, may he rest in peace!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's Talk "Skeeters"...!

With the pending tropical storm dropping so much rain on so many places, this is something we all know is coming!

Here on the coast, we have come to accept these pest as a part of life. However, I don't think that many of us have any idea just how dangerous they can be! This writeup from explains more about this major problem in pretty good detail!

The mosquito is possibly responsible for more deaths throughout history than any other macroscopic animal. They’re easy to kill, but typically not until they bite you. Then you smack them but the damage is done. Usually, all that happens is you itch for a little while. This is because the mosquito’s saliva contains histamines, which irritate the skin.

The reason they are extremely dangerous is because they transmit diseases infectious to humans and livestock, many of them fatal without treatment. Malaria is the most well-known, which can kill 20% of the time in severe cases, even with treatment. They also transmit West Nile Virus, lymphatic filariasis (roundworms), tularemia, dengue fever, yellow fever, and others. All of these can kill.

In addition to the lethal diseases they carry, mosquitoes can kill on their own. They are feared throughout the Australian outback (just one more reason not to go there) and the southern Sahara, where shallow deluges provide them excellent breeding in the water. When the larvae hatch, they attack in swarms of over 1 billion insects, descending on cows and camels and draining them of blood within 10 minutes.

Just a little something to keep in mind during the wet season where you live!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. How about some fresh 7-up cake? Great with butter on it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

I Love The Monday Mysteries...!

There has always been something about a good mystery that fascinates me!

When I can find those mysteries that even the experts can't solve, that's even better! This is one of those truly remarkable ones.

Vitrified Forts

In 1777, a man named John Williams, who was one of the earliest British geologists, described the phenomenon of vitrified forts. Vitrified forts are the name given to a type of crude stone enclosure or wall that shows signs of being subjected to intense heat. The structures have baffled geologists for centuries because people can’t figure out how the rocks were fused together. There is currently no accepted method for the vitrification of large scale objects. “The temperatures required to vitrify the entire fort structures are equal to those found in an atomic bomb detonation.” Hundreds of vitrified fort structures have been found across Europe and 80 such examples exist in Scotland. Some of the most remarkable include Dun Mac Sniachan, Benderloch, Ord Hill, Dun Creich, Castle Point, and Barra Hill.

The forts range in age from the Neolithic to Roman period. The structures are extremely broad and present the appearance of large embankments. The process used to develop the walls is thought to have involved extreme heat and many structures show signs of fire damage. However, vitrification is usually achieved by rapidly cooling a substance. It occurs when bonding between elementary particles becomes higher than a certain threshold. Thermal fluctuations break the bonds, therefore, the lower the temperature, the higher the degree of connectivity. The process of vitrification made headlines in 2012 when scientists used it to preserve organs and tissues at very low temperatures.

Many historians have argued that vitrified forts were subjected to carefully maintained fires to ensure they were hot enough to turn the rock to glass. In order to do this, the temperatures would have been maintained between 1050 and 1235°C, which would have been extremely difficult to do. It is also uncertain why people would have exposed the structures to such intense heat because when rock is superheated, the solid becomes significantly weaker and brittle. Some scientists have theorized that the vitrified forts were created by massive plasma events (solar flares). A plasma event occurs when ionized gas in the atmosphere takes the form of gigantic electrical outbursts, which can melt and vitrify rocks. During solar storms, the Sun is known to occasionally throw off massive spurts of plasma. As of 2012, vitrified forts remain one of the strangest anomalies on Earth.

I've seen the walls of stone cottages in Scotland that are surfaced with glass (vitrified) but never anything as large as the walls of a fortress! Pretty amazing stuff, if you ask me! It does certainly qualify as a mystery!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. How about some brownies to go along with it?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meet Buddy, The New Roomie...!

It's now official! I have a new "roomie!"

Little bitty guy, but he will get bigger when he grows a bit. He came to me at 3 months old with a name of Shadow, but we decided to call him Buddy instead! He seems to like that OK!

Here is the first picture of him. Sorry for the blurry picture, but I took it with my phone. I'm sure that many more will follow.

Don't worry! I didn't forget the 'toons! After all, it is Sunday, right?

And here is another one from 1944! That's the year I was born, ya know?

Guess it's true...they sure don't make 'em like they used to!

That's all I have for today. Buddy and I will see ya again tomorrow!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Raining again outside, thanks to the storms out in the Gulf.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sorry, But I'm Taking A Day Off...!

I am supposed to get a new "roomie" today, and I want to spend a little time getting ready.

As soon as we can get acquainted I'll post some pictures. No way I could ever replace either C.B. or Smokey, but it will be nice to have a little fur ball around again! Those of you with pets know what I mean!

This is called a "Ragdoll" cat and is similar to the one that I am being given!

Coffee on the patio! You know where the pot is, right?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wanna Make Mudpies...?

I thought for our Friday travels, we would go to one of the many mud volcanoes on the earth!

If you like playing in the mud, then this might be right up your alley. Remember though, this isn't your typical mud hole. This place could get really nasty, really fast! This is almost as scary as seeing the ex in the morning without her make up on!

Mud Volcanoes
Azerbaijan, 40°06′20″N 49°23′20″E

Mud Volcanoes are basically formed when underground mud deposits are forced to the surface, expelling gasses and muddy liquid mixtures. Of the 700 known mud volcanoes around the world, over 400 can be found in Azerbaijan, along the countries Caspian coastline. All the mud volcanoes are fed by a giant underground mud lake. 86% of all the gas released by the pits is methane, which caused quite a stir in 2001, when one of the pits started spewing fire up to 15m into the air. It is estimated that every mud volcano should have at least one large eruption every 20 years, and for the rest of the time they create nutritional mud baths, to which tourists flock.

I don't know about you, but I have never seen the point of taking a "mud bath!" Kinda seems to defeat the purpose, ya know?

Coffee on the patio this morning. We can have some apple pie with our coffee and watch the hummingbirds feed!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Emus Flip 'Em The Bird...!

This is the story of just how arrogant humans can be sometimes.

Mother Nature sure has a way of showing the "smarter than you" types that she has a big bag of tricks to call on. I think this was a true case of underestimating your enemy and losing the battle as well as the war!

The Emu War

This is perhaps the only formal war where one of the belligerents was not human, but rather avian. In 1932, the emu population in Australia was growing out of control, with an estimated 20,000 emus running around the Australian desert and causing havoc among crops. In response, the Australian military sent out a task force of soldiers armed with machine guns to kill the emus and even jokingly declared war on them. In mid-November they drove out into the desert and proceeded to hunt down any emus they could find. However, they ran into complications; the emus proved remarkably resilient, even when struck by multiple machine gun bullets they continued to run away, easily outstripping the heavily laden soldiers. The Emu War lasted for nearly a week before Major Meredith, the commander of the emu-killing task-force gave up in disgust after the soldiers only bagged a fraction of the elusive birds.

War duration: (November 11-18 1932) Seven days.
Casualties: 2,500 emus.

I would say that this time the Emu warriors got the best of the Australian Task Force! Guess it might be said that the avian troops flipped them the bird!

Let's have coffee in the kitchen this morning. I just watered the plants on the patio, and the furniture is a little wet!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Good And Bad In The Old West...!

Back on track for Western Wednesday, I think.

Sometimes, back in those days, the lines between the good and the bad were very say the least! The good guys were not always angels and the bad guys were not always as bad as they seemed. One of the big exceptions was Jim Miller, as shown in this story from the folks at

Aug 22, 1898:
Hired killer Jim Miller joins Texas Rangers

The hired assassin Jim Miller briefly joins the Texas Rangers, demonstrating how thin the line between outlaw and lawmen often was in the West.

Many lawmen in the Old West had never been on the wrong side of the law themselves, but more than a few moved easily between the worlds of lawbreaker and law enforcer. James Brown Miller was one of the latter. During his 47 years, Miller worked as a deputy sheriff, a city marshal, and Texas Ranger. He was also a gambler, a swindler, and one of the deadliest professional killers in Texas.

As a young man, Miller was accused of committing several murders-including the double killing of his own grandparents-but the charges never stuck. By age 27, he was living in Alpine, Texas, where he reportedly offered to kill a local judge for $200. That offer was apparently rejected, but thereafter he became a professional killer, charging between $50 to $2,000, depending on the victim and the client's ability to pay. By his own account, he committed more than 50 murders.

Although Miller was arrested on several occasions, he proved hard to convict. The wealthier clients who hired him often provided expert legal counsel, and he was a careful killer who took pains to cover his tracks. Law enforcement agencies also found men like Miller useful, and they often were willing to overlook his checkered past if they needed help in capturing or killing a dangerous outlaw. The famous Texas Rangers even hired Miller, temporarily appointing him a Special Ranger on this day in 1898.

Miller's luck eventually ran out. In 1909, two Ada, Oklahoma, ranchers paid Miller $2,000 to kill August Bobbitt, with the promise of an additional $3,000 to pay for his defense in the event Miller was arrested. Miller killed Bobbitt with a shotgun, his favored weapon for assassinations. This time, however, Miller's victim was a well-liked man who left a widow with four children. Local citizens were outraged by the cold-blooded murder and demanded action. Miller and his two clients were quickly arrested and jailed, but none of them had a chance to mount a legal defense. A mob of Ada vigilantes stormed the jail, extracted the men, and lynched them in a nearby barn. Miller was 47 years old

Guess this is a lot like politics. The good guys are way too often nothing more than wolfs in sheep's clothing! Maybe we could solve part of this problem if we used the same type of action as the folks in Ada!

Just a thought, ya know?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. This heat is making it way too hot to sit outside!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Best Friend Is Missing And I'm Bummed...!

Those of you that have been following me for a while can remember when I got the "Roomies!"

I got the two brother Siamese when they were just kittens and they became my (almost) constant companions. One day back in 2010, Smokey, the biggest of the two, went missing. I wrote about it in a post right here!

Well, today I'm sad to say that C.B., the smaller of the two, is also gone. I've been looking for him and waiting for almost a week now, but it appears that he is just gone. Guess I'll have to admit that, and just learn to deal with it.

Damn, I sure am going to miss that guy, ya know? Sometimes life sucks!

Let's have a cup in the kitchen this morning. I'm feeling a little down.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Good Mystery For Monday...!

This is one I don't think we have discussed before!

This one even has the experts guessing at the answers. That makes it really worthy for our consideration. Things like this make the ol' grey matter work overtime!

Disappearance of the Indus Valley Civilization

The ancient Indus Valley people, India’s oldest known civilization had a culture that stretched from Western India to Afghanistan and a populace of over 5 million. le—India’s oldest known civilization—were an impressive and apparently sanitary bronze-age bunch. The scale of their baffling and abrupt collapse rivals that of the great Mayan decline. They were a hygienically advanced culture with a highly sophisticated sewage drainage system, and immaculately constructed baths. There is to date no archaeological evidence of armies, slaves, conflicts, or other aspects of ancient societies. No one knows where this civilization went.

Makes you wonder just where these folks went and more importantly, why did they disappear! Guess t6hat's why they call it a mystery, right?

Coffee in the kitchen again this morning. There's fresh fruit on the table, so just help yourself!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy Sunday...!

Ready for some grins this morning? I hope so!

Today we are going to stay with our old friends,Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner! I don't know why, but these guys are favorites with a lot of folks! My Dad, bless his heart, used to laugh out loud at these cartoons!

I can't help it! I want another one!

Well, I do hope that I've helped to start your week on a good note. Waking up is a good thing, waking up and smiling is even better! Happy Sunday, everyone!

Coffee in the kitchen again today. We did get some rain yesterday and maybe we'll get some more today! I'll take whatever we can get!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your Reading Assignment For Saturday...!

If you like to read as I do, you are always looking for something a bit different, something that will hold your interest!

This might just do the trick for you, if that's the case. It might just take you a bit longer than just a day, however! I have a feeling that this little book might make for some interesting reading, if you have the time to spend trying to get through it.

Oera Linda Book

The Oera Linda Book is a controversial Frisian manuscript covering historical, mythological, and religious themes that first came to light in the 19th century. Themes running through the Oera Linda Book include catastrophism, nationalism, matriarchy, and mythology. The text alleges that Europe and other lands were, for most of their history, ruled by a succession of folk-mothers presiding over a hierarchical order of celibate priestesses dedicated to the goddess Frya, daughter of the supreme god Wr-alda and Irtha, the earth mother. The claim is also made that this Frisian civilization possessed an alphabet which was the ancestor of Greek and Phoenician alphabets. The current manuscript carries a date of 1256. Internal claims suggest that it is a copy of older manuscripts that, if genuine, would have been written by multiple people between 2194 BC and AD 8

I told you this might take a little longer than a day! Could be some dry reading, if you ask me...but what do I know?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Biscuits and sausage patties on the side, OK?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Traveling...!

If your area is like ours here on the Texas coast, the 'skeeters are a big problem.

Short of spraying the entire area with poisons, we can only count on natural solutions for some relief. Bats and different kinds of birds are the most effective predators of mosquitoes that I know of. The problem is that a lot of areas, Houston being one of them, don't have a very large bat population.

The idea of getting more bats into an area with a lot of mosquitoes is not a new one and has been tried several times before in different locations, sometimes successful and sometimes not! That's why today we are going to go to a "Bat Tower!"

Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower

A historic site in Monroe County, Florida, the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower (also known as Perky's Bat Tower) has been on the U.S. Register of Historic Places since 1982. Built in 1929 by Richter Clyde Perky, a fish lodge owner, the tower was designed to control the Lower Keys' mosquito problem. The problem: When the bats were put into the tower, they all flew away and never came back.

Built using plans purchased from Dr. Charles Campbell of Texas, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the tower was a complete failure. It was supposed to be a deluxe bat house that the animals would continue to come back to so they could feast on the mosquitoes in the area. This tower is only one of fourteen Campbell towers that were built around the world (only three remain standing); the other two are in Texas.

Even though the tower is on the register of historic places, maintenance is rarely, if ever, undertaken. While still in sturdy condition, local teens and vandals often make their tower their own with carvings and litter. But ultimately the tower appears much the same as it did when it was first erected.

Maybe I should build one of these towers in my backyard, ya reckon?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. They say it might rain, but I'm not holding my breath!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How About Goats On The Roof...?

Once in a while, what starts out as a joke becomes a really good idea!

Such was the case here. This idea has been used in Europe and other places for many, many years. It may have started as a joke, but it turned into a very good thing both for the owners and the tourists!

Old Country Market has a family of goats that live on the roof

The original market was created by Kristian Graaten. Kris and his wife, Solveig, emigrated with their children to Vancouver Island from Norway in the 1950s. Kris, who grew up in the small community of Lillehammer, was inspired to include a sod roof in his design of the market. Many Norwegian homes and farm structures are built directly into the hillside with the sod roof becoming an extension of the hillside. With the help of sons, Svein and Andy, and son-in-law Larry, Kris unwittingly began to build what would become perhaps the most famous sod-roof building in all of Canada.

On the weekend of the Coombs Fall Fair, the grass was getting rather long. Legend has it that, after a few glasses of wine, Larry suggested that they 'borrow' some goats to ‘mow’ the grass and perhaps provide some entertainment for passing cars.

Needless to say, the goats became permanent tenants of the Coombs market that weekend and have been there for more than thirty years. Each spring, a family of goats make their home on the roof, entertaining both locals and visitors from all over the world.

See what a blessing it may be having a few cute little farm animals around? Not only are they cutesy and a tourist draw, but once in a while they can actually come in handy for mowing the roof (or yard)!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. I have a few white meat peaches to nibble on!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chuckwagon On Western Wednesday...!

I think we can all agree that the Chuckwagon played a big part in our early western history!

There were probably as many designs for these portable pantries and kitchens as there were wagons, but the purpose was very much the same. Keeping the cowboys fed and happy over a long trail drive was the intent. No one works for long on an empty stomach, and isn't happy for long without some good grub to carry them through.

Something sweet from time to time was almost necessary and served as a real treat for those on the trail, I'm sure!

Some interesting names were given to the objects and dishes of the Chuckwagon. Here are just a few!

Chuckwagon Terms

Wreck pan:
The pan in which cowboys placed their dirty dishes following a meal.

Squirrel can:
The large can in which cowboys scraped the food scraps before placing them in the wreck pan.

Cook’s last job of the evening:
Point the tongue of the chuckwagon toward the north so the herd could “follow the tongue” the next day.

Gut robber, greasy belly, biscuit shooter:

Cowboys names for both the ranch house and trail drive cook.

Coffee recipe:

A hand full of coffee for every cup of water.

Possum belly:

A rawhide apron attached to the underside of the chuckwagon in which wood and buffalo chips are stored for the dinner fire.

Why cooks threw dirty dishwater under chuckwagon:

This helped protect the cook’s domain by discouraging cowboys from taking a nap in the shade under the chuckwagon.

Cowboys are noted for developing their own vocabulary.

Sometimes it was because they couldn’t pronounce the word correctly as used in the language of origin. They were famous for perverting Spanish words.

Cowboys also named items because the item reminded them of something else. However they came about, cowboys had a vocabulary that was colorful and their own.

Below are some words used in reference to chuck, or for the non-cowboy, food, while they were on the trail.

Calf Slobbers –Meringue on a pie.

Fried Chicken – Bacon rolled in flour and fried.

Chuck Wagon Chicken – Fried bacon.

Charlie Taylor – A substitute for butter. A combination of molasses and bacon grease.

“Man at the Pot!” – Term yelled at a person pouring himself a cup of coffee. A cowboy’s way of saying, “Pour me a cup too.”

Spotted Pup – Cooking raisins in rice.

Stacked to a fill – Compliment to the chief following a great meal.

Dry Camp – A camp that has no water available.

Prairie or Mountain Oysters
– Calf’s testicles.

Just goes to show you that many slang terms still in use today came from the era of the ol' faithful Chuckwagon!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. I'll get us all some glazed donuts, OK?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Should Have Been A Wake-up Call...!

Probably there were many of you that went through this disaster.

When something like this happens, it should serve as a BIG wake-up call to those in charge to make sure this never happens again! What do you want to bet that nothing much has changed? How many more times are we going to go through this or something like it, until the threat of such happenings causes someone to address the problem?

Aug 14, 2003:
Blackout hits Northeast United States

On this day in 2003, a major outage knocked out power across the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET, 21 power plants shut down in just three minutes. Fifty million people were affected, including residents of New York, Cleveland and Detroit, as well as Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. Although power companies were able to resume some service in as little as two hours, power remained off in other places for more than a day. The outage stopped trains and elevators, and disrupted everything from cellular telephone service to operations at hospitals to traffic at airports. In New York City, it took more than two hours for passengers to be evacuated from stalled subway trains. Small business owners were affected when they lost expensive refrigerated stock. The loss of use of electric water pumps interrupted water service in many areas. There were even some reports of people being stranded mid-ride on amusement park roller coasters. At the New York Stock Exchange and bond market, though, trading was able to continue thanks to backup generators.

Authorities soon calmed the fears of jittery Americans that terrorists may have been responsible for the blackout, but they were initially unable to determine the cause of the massive outage. American and Canadian representatives pointed figures at each other, while politicians took the opportunity to point out major flaws in the region's outdated power grid. Finally, an investigation by a joint U.S.-Canada task force traced the problem back to an Ohio company, FirstEnergy Corporation. When the company's EastLake plant shut down unexpectedly after overgrown trees came into contact with a power line, it triggered a series of problems that led to a chain reaction of outages. FirstEnergy was criticized for poor line maintenance, and more importantly, for failing to notice and address the problem in a timely manner--before it affected other areas.

Despite concerns, there were very few reports of looting or other blackout-inspired crime. In New York City, the police department, out in full force, actually recorded about 100 fewer arrests than average. In some places, citizens even took it upon themselves to mitigate the effects of the outage, by assisting elderly neighbors or helping to direct traffic in the absence of working traffic lights.

In New York City alone, the estimated cost of the blackout was more than $500 million.

Luckily, I wasn't affected where I was living. It could have moved this far south without too much trouble, though. I have noticed the city and the county crews go around making sure that tree limbs are not touching, or getting close to power lines. That's a good thing for us here, but unless this happens all over the country it won't help much!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. It's just way too hot to sit on the patio, ya know?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Is For Mystery...!

It's actually quite a bit of fun trying to find a new mystery for Monday! I learn a lot!

The main thing I've learned in all the searches I've done, is that there will always be a mystery or two that we haven't solved yet! That in itself makes the study even more fun. Just wondering what's around the next corner, ya know?

The London hammer – a tool older than history

The next is of the wood turning to coal...

In June 1936 (or 1934 according to some accounts), Max Hahn and his wife Emma were on a walk when they noticed a rock with wood protruding from its core. They decided to take the oddity home and later cracked it open with a hammer and a chisel. Ironically, what they found within seemed to be an archaic hammer of sorts. A team of archaeologists checked it, and as it turns out, the rock encasing the hammer was dated back more than 400 million year; the hammer itself turned out to be more than 500 million years old. Additionally, a section of the handle has begun the transformation to coal. Creationists, of course, were all over this. The hammer’s head, made of more than 96% iron, is far more pure than anything nature could have achieved without an assist from modern technology.

How's that for something to ponder over this week? Certainly will give the ol' grey matter a workout, don't ya think?

Let's have our coffee on the patio this morning. It's dry and just a little hot, but we won't melt (I hope!).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday! The Day For...You Know !

First day of the week means a fresh start.

What a better way to start the week than with our favorites...cartoons!
So many good ones out there, it's hard to choose! Why don't we have a mixture? OK?

Notice how some of these characters just never fade away?

Hope I look this good when I'm as old as they are!

Well, that's all the fun I can stand for one day. Now I have to go and do my laundry! That's always a lot of fun! (NOT!)

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. It's a lot cooler in there!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Fight To Be Remembered...!

Most of us were taught that we should not fight, unless there was just no other choice!

In this case, I would say that there was no other way out. This poor old farmer was older than his attacker, shorter than his attacker, and probably a lot slower! Still, I think we can all be proud of the way he handled himself!

Minnesota man is bloodied, bruised after deer attack

Article by: CHUCK HAGA , Associated Press
Updated: August 9, 2012 - 5:04 PM

FERTILE, Minn. - The way Mark Christianson tells it, in his lilting Old Country accent, the deer started the fight.

"I was going out to finish spraying the soybeans," he said. "I stepped out a side door, and we saw each other, and he started coming closer.

"He was pummeling me, standing on his hind legs and hitting me with the front ones. He hammered me good, rapid fire, and I thought, `Well, this isn't good.' I wasn't winning, so I grabbed him and tackled him and we both went down on the ground."

We don't have the deer's account because, after losing the kick-boxing and wrestling portions of this North Woods triathlon, Christianson shot the eight-point whitetail buck, which had brought antlers and attitude and a strong left hoof to the fight but nothing to match Christianson's 30-06 rifle.

The confrontation, which left Christianson, 66, with black eyes and pink-to-purple bruises over his arms, shoulders and chest, occurred last Thursday as he stepped outside his farm home about 10 miles southeast of Fertile.

Mark and his wife, Judy, 65, had seen the deer days before, brazenly hanging out in their yard, sampling Judy's potted impatiens and ignoring all attempts to shoo it away.

"We sometimes have 17 or 18 deer in the yard here, but we have a hard time getting a picture," she said. "You open the door a little and — phfft — they're gone. They're usually so sensitive.

"But this one, I would stomp my feet and it wouldn't go away.

Oh well, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose! This old guy should change his name to "Timex!" You know, "takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'!"

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. It's supposed to start raining, and I don't want my hair to get wet! (he said as he grinned!)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Again, It's Travel Friday...!

As hot as it's been for most of us lately, today I want to go some place to cool off.

Notice I didn't say anything about cold, but just cool. I don't do cold very well. This place looks like a good place to spend a night or two, I think. It has an interesting history as well! In fact, a lot of you might have been here at one time or another!

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is a beautiful caldera lake found in South-central Oregon State, USA. It has a stunning deep blue color and brilliant water clarity, and forms the main feature in Crater Lake National Park. The lake has almost no signs of pollution, and is one of the purest bodies of water in the States, with a record clarity of 43.3 meters. The lake was formed about 7,700 years ago when volcano Mount Mazama, fell into the caldera beneath it. It is believed that the Native American Klamath tribe saw Mount Mazama fall and the formation of Crater Lake. Their legends and stories tell of a great battle between the sky god, Skell and Llao, the god of the underworld. The Mountain was destroyed during the battle and the lake was created. The Klamath people used the lake for vision quests, and the lake is still held in high spiritual regard by the tribe. The lake is also known for the “old man of the lake”, which is a full tree, now a stump, which has been bobbing around, vertically, in the lake for over a century. It has been very well preserved due the cold water inside the lake.

Very nice looking place, isn't it? I'd sure like to go there for a visit if nothing else! Gotta be cooler than here in Houston, ya know?

Fresh coffee on the patio this morning. How about some fresh baked bread from yesterday, along with some apple jalapeno jelly from Old Farmer's Almanac?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Things Are Not What They Seem ...!

For something a bit different this Thursday, I offer up this collection of some mundane facts that are not what you might think!

Strange I know, but the truth is often more interesting than fiction!

1. A firefly is not a fly – it is a beetle

2. A prairie dog is not a dog – it is a rodent

3. India ink is not from India – it is from China and Egypt

4. A horned toad is not a toad – it is a lizard

5. A lead pencil does not contain lead – it contains graphite

6. A douglas fir is not a fir – it is a pine

7. A silkworm is not a worm – it is a caterpillar

8. A peanut is not a nut – it is a legume

9. A koala bear is not a bear – it is a marsupial

10. An English horn is not English and it isn’t a horn – it is a French alto oboe

11. A guinea pig is not from guinea and it is not a pig – it is a rodent from South America

12. Shortbread is not a bread – it is a thick cookie

13. Dresden China is not from Dresden – it is from Meissen

14. A shooting star is not a star – it is a metorite

15. A funny bone is not a bone – it is the spot where the ulnar nerve touches the humerus

16. Chop suey is not a native Chinese dish – it was invented by Chinese immigrants in California

17. A bald eagle is not bald – it has flat white feathers on its head and neck when mature, and dark feathers when young

18. A banana tree is not a tree – it is a herb

19. A cucumber is not a vegetable – it is a fruit

20. A jackrabbit is not a rabbit – it is a hare

21. A piece of catgut is not from a cat – it is usually made from sheep intestines

22. A Mexican jumping bean is not a bean – it is a seed with a larva inside

23. A Turkish bath is not Turkish – it is Roman

24. A sweetbread is not a bread – it is the pancreas or thymus gland from a calf or lamb

See what I mean? Things are not always what they seem! Take for instance the old saying "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." (cue alarm bells!)

Let's have our coffee out on the patio this morning. Smell that fresh bread baking?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Once Again It's Western Wednesday...!

This one is about a gentleman that is not too well known.

Way too many names in the history of those days for us to ever be aware of most of them, but thanks to folks like the History Channel, we get a glimpse of the lesser knowns once in a while!

Aug 8, 1839:
General Nelson Miles is born

Nelson Miles, one of the most successful but controversial officers in the Plains Indian Wars, is born on a farm in Massachusetts.

Unlike many of his future colleagues in the army officer corps, Miles was not born into a life of privilege. As a teen, Miles worked as a clerk, spending his few moments of leisure pursuing a disciplined program of self-improvement through lectures, night school, and reading. When a war between the states seemed imminent in 1860, he concentrated his efforts on studying military tactics. He joined the Union Army as soon as the conflict erupted, and his gift for making effective tactical use of terrain won him rapid advances in rank.

In 1869, Miles assumed command of the 5th Infantry at Fort Hays, Kansas, and began his career as an Indian fighter. Miles was a courageous and bold officer, with an outstanding ability to organize and supply a large army. He was also arrogant and pompous, and he shamelessly maneuvered to advance his own career at the expense of his fellow officers. He considered many of his colleagues incompetent fools—especially those who had graduated from West Point-and was equally disliked in return.

Following the disastrous defeat of Custer's 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn in late June 1876, Miles was given the task of running down the offending Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. Miles proved a highly effective opponent, craftily mixing threats of force with offers of good treatment if the hostile Indians agreed to surrender. Eventually, Miles succeeded in winning the surrender of thousands of Plains Indians.

Miles most celebrated victory came in 1886, when he secured the peaceful surrender of Geronimo and a small band of renegade Apache warriors. Although many other officers had played a role in encouraging Geronimo's surrender, Miles characteristically accepted full credit for winning the surrender of the last hostile Indian in the U.S. He was less eager to accept blame for the massacre of at least 200 Indians at Wounded Knee four years later. Although Miles was not at Wounded Knee and regarded the massacre as an unforgivable blunder, the soldiers who participated had been under his command.

After 1895, Miles left the West and was appointed to a variety of prestigious posts in Washington, D.C. He eventually achieved the rank of lieutenant general before retiring. When the United States entered World War I, he volunteered to resume active duty. The war department tactfully declined to give the 77-year-old retired warrior a position. He died on May 15, 1925, at the age of 85 and was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

One fact seems to always pop up during these investigations, the government nearly always awarded the jerks with a series of pretty soft positions. You would think that over the years the PTB would have stopped that practice, but it seems to be done that same way in way too many cases! Know what I mean?

Coffee on the patio this morning, with maybe some banana cream pie to go with the java!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Let's Talk People Paper...!

I know that we discuss a number of different things here at the Hermit's, but this is different even for me!

I may have approached this subject before, but it's definitely worth another look. After all this is a subject that touches us all (no pun intended)! And if nothing else, toilet paper has a very interesting history! Read on and you'll see what I mean.

Toilet paper, in case you're wondering, was in use in China as early as the fourteenth century and it was made in 2′ x 3′ sheets. Everywhere else, and in China before then, people made use of what their environment offered. Leaves, mussel shells, corncobs were among the more common options. The Romans (what have they ever done for us!) used a sponge attached to the end of a stick and dipped in salt water. And yes, as you may have heard, in certain cultures the left hand was employed in the task of scatological hygiene, and in these cultures the left hand retains a certain stigma to this day.

Until the late-nineteenth century, Americans opted for discarded reading material. It's not clear if this is why Americans still today often take reading material into the bathroom, or if the practice of reading on the toilet yielded a eureka moment subsequently. In any case, magazines, newspapers, and almanacs were all precursors to the toilet paper as we know it today. It has been claimed that the Sears and Roebuck catalog was also known as the "Rears and Sorebutt" catalog. The Farmer's Almanac even came with a hole punched in it so that it could be hung and the pages torn off with ease.

Toilet paper in its present form first appeared in 1857 thanks to Joseph Gayetty. It was thoughtfully moistened with aloe. In 1879, the Scott Paper Company was founded by brothers Edward and Clarence Scott. They sold toilet paper in an unperforated roll. By 1885, perforated rolls were being sold by Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company.

In 1935, Northern Tissue advertised its toilet paper to be "splinter-free." Apparently, early production techniques managed to embed splinters in the paper. Three cheers for innovation! And finally, in 1942, two-ply toilet paper was introduced in St. Andrew's Paper Mill in the UK. An odd development considering wartime austerity and rationing. Speaking of rationing, the Virtual Toilet Paper Museum (you're learning all sorts of things in this post) reports that the first toilet paper shortage in the US took place in 1973. Presumably, it was overshadowed by the oil embargo.

The point is that all technology has a history and that what we now take to be innovative and revolutionary will one day become ordinary and commonplace. This, of course, borders on cliche. The key, however, is to remember that before any technology became a naturalized and taken-for-granted part of society there were choices to be made. Forgetting that technology has a history is a way of refusing responsibility.

This is an excerpt from an article I found at Gizmodo! You can read the rest of the article there!

Did you notice that there has already been a shortage of the T.P. supplies before, and we were not even in an emergency situation! maybe that means that those of us that prepare for the future are NOT necessarily paranoid, right?

Coffee on the patio this morning. It's thundering, but it's not likely to rain.

Monday, August 6, 2012

One More Monday Mystery...!

I'm starting to wonder just where the past couple of months went. That's pretty much a mystery in and of itself!

However, that is a mystery for another day. For today, we are going to look at a mystery right here in our own back yard. This is one of those disturbing stories, mainly because it has been around for quite a while and is still unsolved! That sort of makes me a little nervous, ya know?

Fourteen Feet Deep
Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca make up part of the Pacific coasts of the American state of Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Collectively, they make up the Salish Sea. Their beaches are like most other ones, with one disturbing feature:

For some reason, disembodied feet keep washing up on shore.

In August of 2007, a 12 year-old Washington girl was visiting British Columbia's Jedediah Island. As reported by CBC News, she found a black and white Adidas sneaker with a sock and foot still inside -- with no other body parts to be found. Later that month, a couple found a Reebok sneaker on nearby Gabriola Island -- again, with human remains somewhat preserved inside the shoe. Both shoes were size 12, men's, and right feet. Two different people meeting very similar fates.

And the feet just kept on coming. A third foot was found in February of 2008, again a male right foot. A fourth foot was discovered in May -- the first one of a woman -- and a fifth one in June. The fifth foot, uniquely to this point, was a left foot, and DNA tests confirmed that it belonged to the same person as the first foot found. The locations of where the first six feet were found are flagged on the map below. Over the next four years, another eight feet would wash up on the shores of the Salish Sea. Fourteen total feet belonging to a dozen people.

No one is sure why the feet are washing up while the rest of the bodies never emerge. The most likely theory is that when submerged bodies decompose, the hands, feet, and head detach, as they are the parts most loosely connected to the rest of the body. In most cases, these detached parts would sink soon after, but in the case of the fourteen Salish Sea feet, the foot/sneaker combination has enough buoyancy to keep it afloat.

As for the identities of the people who once walked using the discovered feet? Investigators have used DNA tests of the human tissue and forensic analysis of the shoes to come up with answers. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The currents in the area draw from across the Pacific and the body fat in the feet forms a soap-like substance which interferes with scientific testing. With one exception, there are more questions than answers. In November of 2011, the Canadian Press reported that two of the feet belonged to a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge in New Westminster, British Columbia, seven years earlier. To date, the owners of the other dozen feet are unidentified.

I don't know about you, but partly solved just doesn't work for me! I would like to find out the rest of the story, wouldn't you?

Where is Paul Harvey when you need him?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning, as the rain has started up again!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Means Cartoons...!

Somehow I seem to be stuck on showing cartoons on Sunday!

I think that ol' Ben is the one that got me started, and it seems to me that a lot of folks enjoy here we are!

And another one, just because I want to!

Hope you enjoyed these as much as I did. Let me say this, I don't see anything wrong about showing some silly cartoons on one day a week. I know that some might think it's silly, but if you can't be silly at least one day a week then you need some help! Besides...I like cartoons, even at my age!

Coffee on the patio this morning. Might be the last chance to enjoy the dry before a storm moves in!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Some Beauty For Saturday...!

Sometimes beauty can last forever, but it isn't likely without help.

Call it fate, call it luck, call it divine intervention! Whatever you call it, you have to admit that it's sort of a minor miracle that the plant is still here!

Ghost Orchid
Epipogium aphyllum

The Ghost orchid is a fascinating rare plant that was presumed extinct for almost 20 years, only recently did it rear its head again. The plant is so rare because it is basically impossible to propagate. It has no leaves, does not depend on photosynthesis and does not manufacture its own food. Like the Lady slipper, it needs a specific fungus in close contact with its root system, which feeds it. The Ghost orchid never grows leaves, and will therefore always depend on the fungus for its nourishment. The Ghost orchid can live underground for years, without showing any external signs and will only bloom when all conditions are optimum. This explains why some orchid enthusiasts search for years and years just to have a glimpse of this elusive flower.

You know, when something like this just refuses to go away you have to consider that it is here for a reason. Some force, some hand is partly responsible for the long lasting beauty that only shows itself from time to time. Maybe we should just leave well enough alone!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. There is a bowl of fresh fruit on the table, so help yourself!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Trip To 9 Hells...!

That sorta got your attention, right?

As much as I hate to admit it, I would like to at least see this place. I'm not sure I want to get too close, though. Man, some of these springs are HOT!

So, what do ya say? Want to take this trip with me?

Nine Hells of Beppu

Beppu is home to over 2,800 hot springs and is found on the island of Kyushu. The Nine hells of Beppu are some of the more unique springs in the area. Hell 1 is Umi Jigoku meaning “sea hell”. The pool is a turquoise blue and is hot enough to boil eggs. Hell 2 is Oniishibou, meaning “shaven head hell” and gets its name from the boiling gray mud. The mud bubbles to the surface and resembles the shaved head of Buddhist monks. Hell 3 is Shiraike Jigoku meaning “white pond hell” and is filled with boiling white water caused by the high calcium concentrations. Hell 4 is Yama Jigoku meaning “mountain hell". Yama Jigoku was made by a mud volcano that spewed so much that it created a small mountain surrounded by small pools. Hell 5 is Kamada Jigoku “cooking pot hell”. This is a collection of boiling hot springs that are flanked by a red devil statue featured as the cook. Hell 6 is Oniyama Jigoku, meaning “devil’s mountain hell”. Oniyama is a very strong stream that can pull 1 ½ train cars, and is also home to about 100 hellish crocodiles. Hell 7 is Kinryu Jigoku “golden dragon hell”. This spring is featured with a steaming dragon. The steam is supplied by the steam of the spring and is directed out of the dragon’s nostrils. The dragon gives the illusion of flying when water spouts out at sunrise. Hell 8 is Chinoike Jigoku, meaning “blood pond hell”. Chinoike gets its name from the bright reddish colored water caused by ferrous (containing iron) minerals in the pond. Hell 9 is Tatsumaki Jigoku, meaning “spout hell”. Tatsumaki is a geyser that spouts every 30 minutes and has a temperature of about 105 degrees Celsius.

I'm sure that not many of us would want to accidentally fall into one of these springs. Might be a way to loosen up those tight and achy muscles, though.

Let's have our coffee in the kitchen this morning. It's really way too hot to sit outside and the ceiling fan is on in the kitchen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bizarre Thursday...!

We often talk about some of the beauty of nature, but by the same token there are some truly bizarre critters out there!

This is a new one for me, I'll admit! Everyday when I'm doing research and run across something like this, it just amazes me. Looks a little like my ex mother-in-law, ya know?

Sea Pig

Sea pigs are sea creatures closely related to sea cucumbers, belonging to the kingdom Animalia. These aquatic organisms are about four inches in length, and have 10 tentacles with tub like feet that are used not for swimming, but for marching along the ocean floor. Sea pigs are bottom feeders and detect food by scent; they remove organic particles from the mud with their deflating and inflating tentacles and eat the particles trapped in their tentacles. These sea creatures obtained their name from their pink-tint and chubby body, do not fall short of idiosyncrasy.

Ya know, the more I read about this thing the more it sounds like the ex MIL! Strange, but true!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Want some blueberry cheese cake?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Movie For Western Wednesday...!

I know that most of you have seen this movie, probably more than once.

Seems like it comes on nearly every year on TMC and the western channel. It is, in my opinion, one of the best of the early western films, mainly because of the character development. I like strong characters in books and film!

Aug 1, 1953:
Shane released by Paramount

Shane, considered by many critics to be the greatest western movie, is released by Paramount Pictures.

Based on Jack Schaefer's 1949 novel of the same name, Shane was a new type of western. After World War II, Americans began to crave books and films that offered more realistic and complex characters. Simple two-dimensional heroes like Hopalong Cassidy no longer seemed believable to adults who had lived through the horrors and hardships of World War II. Schaefer's book, and the movie based on it, created a western hero for a more mature and sophisticated America.

Alan Ladd played a drifting gunfighter who goes by only one name, Shane. In the opening scene, Shane rides down out of the rugged Teton Mountains into a fertile valley (the movie was filmed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming) where he meets a homesteading family: Joe and Marian Starrett, and their son, Joey. Eager to give up the rootless gunfighter's life, Shane hires on as a farmhand. Soon, however, he learns that the local cattle baron is trying to run the Starretts and other homesteaders off their land so he can continue using it for grazing.

Shane is initially reluctant to use his guns to help the homesteaders. However, when the cattle baron hires a famous gunslinger named Wilson (played by Jack Palance) who kills one of the farmers, Joe Starrett is determined to take revenge. Realizing the stubborn Starrett will almost certainly be killed, Shane knocks him unconscious and goes in his place. After killing Wilson, Shane reluctantly concludes that he cannot escape his violent past and must leave the settled valley. In one of the most memorable scenes in movie history, Shane rides off into the wild mountains, the boy Joey's voice echoing after him: "Come back, Shane!"

Simultaneously mythic and realistic, Shane created one of the first fully rounded western heroes. Shane lives by his gun, but he is essentially a good man who envies Joe Starrett's settled family life. Ironically, Shane's fate is to use violence to create civilized communities where violence is no longer acceptable or necessary.

One interesting thing about this film is the fact that the hero wants to change, but is forced to use his talent to protect those weaker than himself. A very similar fate may be ahead for some of us, having to decide just how far we are willing to go to protect the weak or unprepared. Hard choices ahead, I'm thinking!

Coffee on the patio this morning, if you don't mind the heat. All I can offer is a little shade!