Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Russia Settlement In The States...!

Sometimes we forget that other countries had designs on the land mass of America, and often made an effort to settle in.

The Russians were one group that had it's sight on America and did their best to get established here. It was tougher than they thought, though. Here's the story of Russia's settlement (or lack there of!).

Feb 2, 1812:
Russians establish Fort Ross

Staking a tenuous claim to the riches of the Far West, Russians establish Fort Ross on the coast north of San Francisco.

As a growing empire with a long Pacific coastline, Russia was in many ways well positioned to play a leading role in the settlement and development of the West. The Russians had begun their expansion into the North American continent in 1741 with a massive scientific expedition to Alaska. Returning with news of abundant sea otters, the explorers inspired Russian investment in the Alaskan fur trade and some permanent settlement. By the early 19th century, the semi-governmental Russian-American Company was actively competing with British and American fur-trading interests as far south as the shores of Spanish-controlled California.

Russia's Alaskan colonists found it difficult to produce their own food because of the short growing season of the far north. Officials of the Russian-American Company reasoned that a permanent settlement along the more temperate shores of California could serve both as a source of food and a base for exploiting the abundant sea otters in the region. To that end, a large party of Russians and Aleuts sailed for California where they established Fort Ross (short for Russia) on the coast north of San Francisco.

Fort Ross, though, proved unable to fulfill either of its expected functions for very long. By the 1820s, the once plentiful sea otters in the region had been hunted almost to extinction. Likewise, the colonists' attempts at farming proved disappointing, because the cool foggy summers along the coast made it difficult to grow the desired fruits and grains. Potatoes thrived, but they could be grown just as easily in Alaska.

At the same time, the Russians were increasingly coming into conflict with the Mexicans and the growing numbers of Americans settling in the region. Disappointed with the commercial potential of the Fort Ross settlement and realizing they had no realistic chance of making a political claim for the region, the Russians decided to sell out. After making unsuccessful attempts to interest both the British and Mexicans in the fort, the Russians finally found a buyer in John Sutter. An American emigrant to California, Sutter bought Fort Ross in 1841 with an unsecured note for $30,000 that he never paid. He cannibalized the fort to provide supplies for his colony in the Sacramento Valley where, seven years later, a chance discovery ignited the California Gold Rush.

Seems like the real estate market was pretty shaky even back then! I'd say that Sutter made out like a bandit on that deal!

Coffee in the kitchen again today. The weather is crazy outside!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sugar Is Better...!

I know that some folks use artificial sweetener all the time, but I have proof that sugar is more better...or should that be "gooder?"

According to this article I found at KnowledgeNuts, the Romans used a substance known as "sugar of lead" and for good reason. Read this article and see if you understand why I say that real sugar is better!

Rome’s First Deadly Artificial Sweetener
By Debra Kelly on Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Health gurus and nutritional experts have been waging a war on artificial sweeteners and the potential long-term health effects of using such products for decades. The idea of artificial sweeteners is nothing new, and neither is the idea that they can be pretty deadly. The Romans were the first to use an artificial sweetener; it was called “sugar of lead,” and was exactly that. This lead-based sweetener was often added to wine, and the rampant lead poisoning it caused has, in some cases, been linked to the beginning of the downfall of Rome.

Today, we know how deadly lead can be if its ingested in any quantity—that’s why lead paints and lead toys are banned. But in ancient Rome, cooks and winemakers only had the flavor of a substance to go on when it came to deciding what was safe for human consumption—and as it turns out, lead acetate is pretty darn tasty.

(Many poisons have a bitter or sour taste that works as a first clue to tell our bodies that we’re eating something that’s not good for us. The opposite is true for sugar of lead, however, and its pleasant taste is one reason why it remained popular for so long.)

Lead acetate was otherwise known as sugar of lead, and it was the first in a long line of artificial sweeteners. Today we know that even though it might look like harmless table salt, it’s actually a highly toxic substance that has all kinds of nasty side effects like infertility and dementia. It can even lead up to organ failure.

It was first used in Rome, when winemakers found it was (theoretically) the perfect thing to add a little sweetness to the Roman’s drink of choice—wine. Not only did it add the perfect flavor, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult to obtain as other sweeteners such as honey. To further add to the sweet taste of the final wine, winemakers often used lead pots to boil the grapes; after adding the sugar of lead, the lead content of the wine was somewhere around 1,000 times higher than what we know is the acceptable limit today.

The use of sugar of lead wasn’t limited to just wine, either. Roughly one-fifth of the recipes in a single fourth-century Roman cookbook called for sugar of lead, and strangely, it remains an actively used ingredient in a number of different compounds—including lipstick—even today.

Sugar of lead has also been implicated in the death of Pope Clement II. In 1047, the pope died under mysterious circumstances which were much, much later revealed to be lead poisoning—a logical conclusion, especially considering the pope liked his wine prepared in the ancient Roman tradition.

Historians have, for centuries, studied the downfall of Rome. While there’s certainly no easy answer as to just what happened to one of the most powerful civilizations in history, it’s been put forth that lead poisoning is one major part of it. In addition to the sugar of lead that was so popular in their diet, Romans also drank their water after it had been filtered through lead pipes and consumed their food and drink from lead vessels. Even our modern word “plumbing” is derived from the Latin word for “lead”—”plumbum.” One of the biggest pieces of evidence that historians point to when they’re discussing the impact of lead poisoning on Roman culture is the widespread, rampant freedom of sexual endeavors and the distinct lack of offspring that came from the various unions. Even Roman emperors renowned for their sexual appetites have only a handful of offspring credited to them, a sign, historians say, that they were suffering from the sterility and infertility that often went along with lead poisoning.

The emperors, clearly a part of the upper-class Roman elite that would have enjoyed a full array of fresh water piped through lead fittings and a steady diet of lead-based wines, also suffered from chronic dementia and not a little bit of insanity, as well as another common side effect of lead poisoning: gout.

Always a surprise at the Hermit's house, wouldn't you say? Well, at least I hope you were surprised!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. I'm gonna bake cookies and you can help!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The "Cicada 3301" Puzzle For Monday Mystery...!

Today, instead of murder and mayhem, we have a very unusual puzzle to talk about.

This particular puzzle shows up in January usually, and as of yet no one has figured it out. According to the folks over at Listverse, this puzzle has been showing up for at least 3 years all around the world. To date no one as solved it.

Worldwide Cicada 3301

Photo credit: Cicada 3301

For the last three years running, the Internet has seen a bizarre puzzle game each January, hosted by someone who calls itself “3301” and uses cicada imagery. The puzzles are enormously complex. They draw on elements of cryptography, mathematics, literature, hidden messages, data security, and philosophy. Physical clues appear in places as diverse as Poland, Hawaii, Spain, Australia, and Korea. 3301 claims that its puzzles attempt to find “intelligent individuals,” for unspecified ends.

Whoever is behind the messages is clearly brilliant, so much so that most people believe the puzzles are meant as a recruitment vehicle. For whom, precisely, is another matter altogether. The most obvious suspects would be intelligence agencies like the CIA or MI6. However, any number of other resourceful entities could be behind the scheme. Major corporations like banks or software manufacturers like Microsoft would also gain from recruiting people with hacking skills and raw intelligence.

As of this writing, the third version of Cicada is underway and seems every bit as baroque and mysterious as its previous incarnations.

Now this is a mystery I'd like to see someone solve. It's cool, causes no harm to anyone (as far as we know), and it's not only interesting but very clever! How about it? Wanna try?

Coffee inside again this morning. Fried ham and biscuits sound OK?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Last Cartoons For 2014...!

Seems a bit strange that it's almost 2015, doesn't it? Yep, the new year is right around the corner!

I'm still toying with the idea of changing things around next year, but we'll wait and see on that. In the meantime, Sunday means 'toons and I just happen to have some ready to go!

I wonder how much fun it would be to fly one of those model planes from the inside? Might be a real blast!

Ya know, that's not just a bad idea! Might be fun...for the rider.

Looks like Donald has some great toys in just the right size for Chip and Dale! One more should do it!

Well, I guess that's enough for today. Don't want to over-do it, right?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Gonna be cold again today!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pretty, But Not Deadly...!

I was one of the folks that always thought the poinsettia was a deadly, poisonous plant. Once again, I was wrong.

According to this article over on Listverse, the plant is not poisonous to have around at all. That's probably a good thing since so many folks use them for decorating this time of the year. Here is the article for your enjoyment.

The Poinsettia Is Incredibly Dangerous

The poinsettia is almost as common a Christmas decoration as a tree in the family room. If you have pets or small children, you’ve likely heard that they’re at risk just by having the plant in the house. The poinsettia is highly toxic and extremely poisonous, according to common belief. Any curious explorers can end up in the emergency room after ingesting the plant.

That’s not true. The poinsettia has only a mild toxicity to pets, and ingesting the white sap of the plant won’t be deadly or poisonous. It might result in a little drooling, some discomfort around the mouth, or (in extreme cases) vomiting and diarrhea—but it’s not deadly.

The rumor goes back to a single unproven story from 1919. According to the urban legend, a two-year-old child of an Army officer died after eating a leaf from the poinsettia. The story has never been established as real, and organizations like the US Consumer Product Safety Commission have found no reason for the plants to even carry warning labels. Yet the myth has persisted.

It also overshadows another Christmas plant that can be more dangerous—mistletoe. Both American and European mistletoe can cause anything from mild poisoning symptoms (vomiting and abdominal pain) to low blood pressure, cardiac issues, and collapse. Pet deaths from eating mistletoe have also been confirmed.

Ya know, even though the poinsettia is not poisonous, I wouldn't eat any, if I were you. Better safe than sorry, I say. You might want to pass on the mistletoe salad while you're at it. Just hang it up and avoid nibbling on it, OK?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Ya'll can help bake some cookies, alright?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Self Talk On Freaky Friday...!

Do you talk to yourself? No, really! This is a real question and you might be surprised to know that it's quite normal to do it!

Seems that research has shown a certain benefit to indulging in "self talk." It's true that some folks might look at you funny, but I wouldn't worry about that. This article from KnowledgeNuts tells all about this particular activity, OK?

Why Talking To Yourself Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy
By Debra Kelly on Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Getting caught talking to yourself is always a little bit embarrassing. There’s a certain taboo attached to it, not the least of which is the suggestion that talking to yourself is what crazy people do. But researchers have now found that talking to yourself not only helps you focus your mind and motivation, but it can help with a healthier self-image and enhance performance.

It’s something we pretty much all do, and when we’re caught doing it, there’s a certain amount of embarrassment that usually goes along with it. We’ve always been told that talking to yourself is the first sign you’re going off the deep, and it’s been associated with mental illness and instability.

But now, research has found that there’s absolutely no need to be shy about talking to yourself. Far from being a sign of mental illness, it’s quite the opposite.

Because everything has to have a new and updated name, the idea of talking to yourself is called self-talk or, in some cases, it’s referred to as private speech.

Different people talk to themselves in different situations and in different amounts—some say something aloud to themselves once or twice a day, some have entire conversations with themselves on their commute home from work. Regardless of how often we do it, it’s been found that it can serve a very positive purpose and certainly isn’t something to be embarrassed about doing.

Researchers first tested people by asking them to find something in a store. One group was told to repeat the name of the item, the other group was instructed not to. The group talking to themselves was much more successful much faster, and a subsequent experiment has found that self-talk can be particularly useful when you already have something of a connection with whatever you’re saying. You’re more likely to have a better success rate practicing repetitious self-talk when you know what it is you’re looking for, as opposed to, say, looking for a business in a plaza when you you have no clue what their sign looks like.

Self-talk might not mean you’re crazy, but it can still be harmful. Researchers from the University of Thessaly in Greece have found that self-talk has a measurable impact on not just mood but motivation. Being positive in your self-talk can make a huge difference in our performance of certain tasks.

Next time you start to talk to yourself, listen to how you’re addressing yourself. If you’re saying “I” a lot, start referring to yourself as “you.” Researchers suggest that simply switching how you refer to yourself might help the brain process the information you’re giving yourself. Rather than scolding yourself in the first person, suddenly the words take on the air of the advice of a trusted friend.

You’re not crazy when you do it, but you can damage yourself emotionally by criticizing yourself too much—especially when you say it out loud.

Self-talk begins when we’re young. Listen to a child just learning how to talk, and you’ll probably hear her repeating words back to herself that she’s learning. It’s a good way for children to start developing language, and as they get older, the role of self-talk changes—but becomes no less important. Toddlers and young children will often reinforce their successes with praising themselves, and we do much the same thing as we get older.

So, it’s a completely natural thing to do, and there’s no reason to be embarrassed about holding an entire conversation with yourself.

Now I don't know about you, but I think that we all talk to ourselves more than we might want to say, especially right after the holidays. Seems pretty normal to me. But then, I've always been considered a tad strange!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. 70 with a slight chance of rain, OK?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Little Christmas History...!


I figured that I would touch on a bit of Christmas history that is a sore spot for many folks. It used to be with me as well! I think you'll find this interesting.

Did You Know?

While some have objected to using the term “Xmas” as an abbreviation for “Christmas,” this particular form of shorthand has been around for hundreds of years. In fact, the “X” in “Xmas” is actually the symbol for “Chi”-the first letter in the Greek spelling of the word “Christos,” or Christ. Use of the letter “X” as an abbreviation for Christ's name is over 1,000 years old, and the term “Xmas” has been used in English as far back as the 18th century.

I thought you might find that tidbit of information interesting. I always figured that it was a sign of disrespect, but it turns out I was wrong. Hey...even the hermit learns something once in a while.

Anyway, I hope that everyone has a Merry Christmas, a good Yule, or whatever you want to name this holiday! Let's just all remember the true reason for the season...OK?

Coffee out on the patio this morning, weather permitting. Ginger snap cookies on the side!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Pardon For Western Wednesday...!

Even though this post isn't about the old west, it does have to do with the pardon given to all of the soldiers of the Confederacy after the war.

Since it took place around Christmas time, I felt it would be a proper post for today.

 1868: President Andrew Johnson issues a final pardon to Confederate soldiers.

At the tail end of his term as president, Andrew Johnson gave a handful of former Confederate rebels a famous Christmas present. By way of Proclamation 179, on December 25, 1868, Johnson issued amnesty to “all and every person” who had fought against the United States during the Civil War.

Johnson’s blanket pardon was actually the fourth in a series of postwar amnesty orders dating back to May 1865. Earlier agreements had restored legal and political rights to Confederate soldiers in exchange for signed oaths of allegiance to the United States, but these pardons exempted 14 classes of people including certain officers, government officials and those with property valued over $20,000. The Christmas pardon stood as a final and unconditional act of forgiveness for unreconstructed Southerners, including many former Confederate generals.

While we may or may not consider this a big deal, I feel it is important to recognize this as an important step to the future of our great country. Helped to ease a lot of hard feelings, I would imagine!

Coffee in the kitchen once again. Too cool out on the patio with a cold front moving in!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The "Thing" At Christmas Time...!

Here is a tale from the U.K. that is baffling, to say the least. Stranger yet is that it takes place on Christmas!

The Warminster ‘Thing’

One of the United Kingdom’s first UFO hot spots was a small town named Warminster. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Warminster was a haven for UFO sightings. However, the sightings were not initially flying objects, but unexplained sounds.

On Christmas morning in 1964, many Warminster residents were disturbed by a series of strange noises, which consisted of strong, pounding vibrations and could best be described as “sonic attacks.” One resident was awoken by the repeated sound of something falling onto her roof. When she looked out the window, she heard a strange humming noise, but the weather was clear and nothing had come into contact with the roof. This same experience was reported by many different residents in different locations that morning, including 30 soldiers at a nearby base camp. However, no one saw anything strange, nor could they figure out where these sounds originated.

The most unusual incident involved a resident named Marjorie Bye. While walking to church for a Christmas service, Bye was so overwhelmed by vibrating noises that she was knocked to the ground and rendered unable to move. In her own words, she was “pinned down by the invisible fingers of sound.” Over the course of the next year, there were numerous reported incidents of strange unexplained sounds in Warminster. These noises were eventually nicknamed “The Thing.” By summer 1965, witnesses started reporting unidentified flying objects in the sky.

Warminster garnered a ton of publicity after a photograph of a flying saucer was published in the newspapers. UFO enthusiasts starting flocking to the town, but the hype eventually died down and there would be no more visits from “The Thing.” Even so, no one has ever been able to explain the origin of the strange sounds heard on Christmas 1964.

Sounds to me lik maybe Santa's sleigh may have needed a tune up, or maybe a new muffler. Either that, or the folks around Warminster had a little too much egg nog! Either way, it seems strange to have something like this show up at Christmas, don't you think? Thanks to the folks over at Listverse, we now have another thing to ponder this holiday!

Better have our coffee in the kitchen this morning. Weather is acting crazy lately!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Jane Doe For Monday Mystery...!

Well, the trip to the V.A. was a good one. At least the results were good compared to what they could have been. Lungs were fine, blood work came back normal, and EKG showed no problems. Blood pressure was good also.

The doctor figured that I had a low level infection of some kind, prescribed some antibiotics and that was that. Why was I coughing up a little blood? I never seem to get a good answer for that one. However, all seems clear right now.

Things didn't turn out as well for our Jane Doe on today's mystery, however. Let's take a look at her case, OK?

The Sycamore Jane Doe

On August 14, 1995, a hiker climbed to the top of a high ridge in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness area in Arizona. He looked down to see a set of skeletal remains on a knife-edged ridge above the canyon floor. The victim had no identification, but it was eventually determined that she was a white female between the ages of 25 and 40. She had been deceased for between six months and a year, but her cause of death was unknown. A one-piece Catalina-brand swimsuit was found hanging from a nearby tree. Skeletal remains of an infant were found with the victim. This meant that Jane Doe had made it to full-term pregnancy before she died, so the big question was: How could a nine-month-pregnant woman make it to such a rugged area in the first place?

The trail leading into Sycamore Canyon is 16 kilometers (10 mi) away from the town of Clarkdale. Jane Doe was discovered 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) from the beginning of the trail, and no abandoned vehicles were found in the area. While it wouldn’t have been impossible for a pregnant woman to hike the trail, it seemed very unlikely that she could have handled climbing to the top of the remote ridge where she was found. On the other hand, it would have been equally difficult for someone to move the body of a pregnant woman to that location. One possible theory is that she was accompanied to that location by someone else who subsequently abandoned her. Even after many pleas to the public for information, the Sycamore Jane Doe has never been identified.

Ya know,sometimes life is just a big mystery...seemingly without an answer. I personally think we are just supposed to deal with it as best we can and then move on. I'm glad that baby Sis was able to drive me over to V.A., but she is good about doing things to help others. Maybe she could help solve some of these mysteries, ya reckon?

Thanks for all the kind concerns and prayers about the visit to V.A.! I really appreciate it!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Supposed to go into the 70s again today!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Small Emergency Came Up...!

I'm posting this as a" just in case post", OK?

Yesterday, after the family get-together, I started coughing up a little blood. Nothing major, but certainly out of the ordinary.

Sis is going to run me over to the V.A. to have it checked out, ad if I don't have to stay then I'll be ready with a decent post tomorrow.

Hopefully all will be well and I won't have to stay there. Nice place to visit, but not a place i want to stay for long, ya know?

I hope to see you all for coffee and an update tomorrow morning!

Party's Over So It's 'Toon Time...!

Now that the family get-together is history, it's time to see if we can find some good ol' vintage cartoons, right?

By vintage, I mean that if I can remember it from when I was a's vintage! Know what I mean? Some of ya do, I know. I reckon that some of you are almost as old as I am! Well, maybe not old but well seasoned. Sound better?

It would be nice if we could capture some of our childhood magic back again, don't you think?

You know, it's hard for me to beleve that Christmas Day is right around the corner already. This year sure is disappearing fast!

I'm really glad that some of the older 'toons are being re-worked. Makes them a real treat to watch again.

Well, guess that's about all for our trip down memory lane this morning. Always fun to reminisce with old friends, isn't it?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Buttermilk pie anyone?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

No Post Today...!

Today is the family Christmas get-together at Mom's house, so I'll be busy helping her get everything together. I hope everyone has a great day and that you all are plenty warm enough.

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mrs. Kent's Cottage For Freaky Friday...!

Somethings seem to be strange at first, then after a while they turn out to be just plain freaky!

This is a tale about a poor woman that went from being just a mystery to being a freaky mystery and remains a pretty freaky mystery to this day. This freaky tale is from the pages of Listverse...which has some pretty freaky stuff in it from time to time, I'm happy to say!

The Skeleton In Ada Constance Kent’s Cottage

Ada Constance Kent was once a prominent English stage actress, but as she grew older, she chose to live as a reclusive spinster at her cottage in the village of Fingringhoe. In 1939, Kent mysteriously vanished and left behind her some strange clues. A supper tray was resting atop the dining table, and a copy of Romeo & Juliet was found open in her chair near the fireplace. Authorities thoroughly searched the cottage and the surrounding area numerous times but could find no trace of Kent. The case remained cold for a decade until police were contacted by a bank. Since Kent still had some money deposited in an account, the bank was inquiring about her whereabouts. The police decided to perform another search of Kent’s abandoned cottage. To their shock, a skeleton was found inside the bedroom.

After Kent’s disappearance, her bedroom had been searched on no less than three separate occasions, the last time in 1942, but there was no corpse. Since then, a bough from an overhanging tree had fallen through the cottage roof, creating a great deal of rubble. In fact, it took police two hours to clear through the rubble to open the bedroom door. Other than that, everything else at the cottage seemed exactly the same as the day Kent disappeared. The skeleton was well-dressed and an empty bottle with a poison label rested beside it. There were no signs of foul play and the victim was tentatively identified as Ada Constance Kent. However, after the remains were sent to Scotland Yard, a forensic investigation concluded that the victim was too large to be Kent. The fate of Ada Constance Kent and the identity of the skeleton found at her cottage remain baffling mysteries.

Some things just seem to become more mysterious over time. I suppose that some mysteries are just never meant to be solved, no matter how old they are!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. I don't have a clue what the weather is going to do, ya know?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Santa Anna Was A Habitual Loser...!

I'm sure most of us have known folks that seem to be destined to lose...all the time! Such was the case with the general, I'm afraid!

This story I found over at KnowdgeNuts shows just what I mean. This guy seem to lose many valuable and important things during his lifetime, including his leg! That he lost twice...that's correct, twice! Now that takes a bit of losing, ya know?

The General Who Lost The Same Leg In Two Different Wars
By Steve Wynalda on Friday, December 12, 2014

General Antonio L√≥pez de Santa Anna played a pivotal role in Mexico’s early years. But his role was to lose more than he gained for his country. He lost half of Mexico’s territory during two of his 11 short presidencies. Extolled for winning an important battle early in his career, he lost nearly every battle afterward. Worse, his right leg became one of the few casualties in a ridiculous conflict known as the Pastry War. And when he got a prosthetic replacement, he lost that in yet another war.

Santa Anna was born in 1794 to a middle-class Spanish family living in Jalapa, Vera Cruz in what was then the massive colony of New Spain. As a teen, Santa Anna won a commission in the Spanish army and rose quickly through the ranks, a colonel by the time he was 26.

In 1821, Santa Anna fought against the rebels in their effort to win independence from Spain. But in the middle of the campaign, Santa Anna sensed the Spaniards were about to lose and switched sides to fight beside the rebels. It was a good gamble.

The years following independence were turbulent, and Spain took the opportunity to try retake Mexico in 1829. Santa Anna quickly put together an army and repelled the Spaniards at Tampico, becoming a national hero.

Santa Anna rode his fame into the presidency in 1833 as the first elected (if unopposed) president of Mexico. But he soon declared himself dictator. As Mexico teetered on civil war, disgruntled Americans and Mexicans in Texas, dissatisfied with the chaos, took the opportunity to sever ties from Mexico.

Santa Anna responded in 1836 by leading an army into Texas. While Santa Anna successfully annihilated a rebel force at the Alamo, the rebels delayed Santa Anna for two weeks and inflicted casualties three times those they bore. Then Sam Houston attacked Santa Anna at San Jacinto River, capturing him and destroying much of his army. Santa Anna was forced to recognize the Republic of Texas.

Santa Anna returned to Mexico in disgrace and retired to his hacienda. He would have remained there, a minor historical footnote if it were not for a French chef named Remontel who had his Mexico City pastry shop ransacked by drunken Mexican soldiers in 1828. Remontel demanded 60,000 pesos for reparations and, after he was ignored by the Mexican government, took his case to the French court. The court was already inundated by complaints from French banks who complained that Mexico had defaulted on their loans. The European press used Remontel’s claim as a symbol for the war that followed, dubbing it the Pastry War.

When France demanded that Mexico pay 600,000 pesos for loan reparations, the cash-strapped Mexico City refused. In 1838, France captured Mexico’s entire fleet and blockaded its single major port, Vera Cruz. Mexico’s economy quickly ground to a halt. Desperate, they turned to Santa Anna.

The general gathered about 3,000 soldiers and attacked the 30,000 French troops at Vera Cruz. Predictably, Santa Anna was beaten, but as he was withdrawing, a cannonball hit his leg. It was subsequently amputated. He made much of his sacrifice for the cause, parading his severed leg through the Mexico City streets and burying it with full military honors. Finally, Mexico agreed to repay France, and the blockade was lifted. The French suffered a total of eight casualties in the Pastry War, while the Mexicans suffered 200.

Santa Anna quickly squandered what little fame he garnered from the Pastry War and found himself in exile when war broke out between the US and Mexico in 1846. The general returned home once more to save his country. In the Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847, Santa Anna was surprised when American forces attacked him. He was forced to escape on the back of a donkey, leaving his prosthetic leg behind. Illinois soldiers found it and took it back to America.

When Mexico surrendered, they were forced to sign a treaty that ceded nearly half its territory to the US in exchange for $15 million.

But Santa Anna wasn’t done with losing Mexican property. Once again dictator in 1854, he sold the US a huge chunk of border territory for $10 million in order to pay off national debts. Mexican citizens were so furious that they deposed him, tried him for treason, and confiscated his property. He would spend the next 20 years in exile until he was given amnesty in 1874. He died two years later.

As for his prosthetic leg, an Illinois veteran sold it to the state; it still resides in a military museum. Mexico has attempted several times to bring Santa Anna’s leg home, but thus far the museum has refused. The curator claims the leg is one of its most popular exhibits.

I guess you could say that if it weren't for bad luck, he would have no luck at all! Certainly would seem to fit!

Better have our coffee out on the patio this morning. I'm tired of being inside, aren't you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mr. Colt On Western Wednesday...!

What would the west have been without a handy six shooter, one that was almost affordable?

Thanks to a young man named Colt, the "pocket Revolver" became a very sought after tool for many in the frontier. It is still much sought after by gun collectors today.

Jan 4, 1847:
Colt sells his first revolvers to the U.S. government

Samuel Colt rescues the future of his faltering gun company by winning a contract to provide the U.S. government with 1,000 of his .44 caliber revolvers.

Before Colt began mass-producing his popular revolvers in 1847, handguns had not played a significant role in the history of either the American West or the nation as a whole. Expensive and inaccurate, short-barreled handguns were impractical for the majority of Americans, though a handful of elite still insisted on using dueling pistols to solve disputes in highly formalized combat. When choosing a practical weapon for self-defense and close-quarter fighting, most Americans preferred knives, and western pioneers especially favored the deadly and versatile Bowie knife.

That began to change when Samuel Colt patented his percussion-repeating revolver in 1836. The heart of Colt's invention was a mechanism that combined a single rifled barrel with a revolving chamber that held five or six shots. When the weapon was cocked for firing, the chamber revolved automatically to bring the next shot into line with the barrel.

Though still far less accurate than a well-made hunting rifle, the Colt revolver could be aimed with reasonable precision at a short distance (30 to 40 yards in the hands of an expert), because the interior bore was "rifled"--cut with a series of grooves spiraling down its length. The spiral grooves caused the slug to spin rapidly as it left the barrel, giving it gyroscopic stability. The five or six-shoot capacity also made accuracy less important, since a missed shot could quickly be followed with others.

Yet most cowboys, gamblers, and gunslingers could never have afforded such a revolver if not for the de facto subsidy the federal government provided to Colt by purchasing his revolvers in such great quantities. After the first batch of revolvers proved popular with soldiers, the federal government became one of Colt's biggest customers, providing him with the much-needed capital to improve his production facilities. With the help of Eli Whitney and other inventors, Colt developed a system of mass production and interchangeable parts for his pistols that greatly lowered their cost.

Though never cheap, by the early 1850s, Colt revolvers were inexpensive enough to be a favorite with Americans headed westward during the California Gold Rush. Between 1850 and 1860, Colt sold 170,000 of his "pocket" revolvers and 98,000 "belt" revolvers, mostly to civilians looking for a powerful and effective means of self-defense in the Wild West.

Guess a lot of cowboys owe a debt of thanks to the government for financing young Mr. Colt in the development of his early handguns. Like I said earlier, this became a very handy tool indeed!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Still a tad cool outside.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Victorian Christmas Custom...!

There are many different customs surrounding the holidays, and many of them stem from the Victorian era.

One thing about the folks back then, they could really put a party type spin on certain things. Strange as someof them seem now days, it might be fun to try and follow their example for a bit.

The Victorians’ Creepy Christmas Eve Tradition
By Katie Bohn on Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ah, Christmas Eve. A time for family, eggnog, and . . . ghost stories? For the Victorians it was. For years, it was tradition for a family to gather by the fireplace the night before Christmas to trade ghost stories—often tales the storyteller himself claimed to have experienced first-hand.

The Victorians essentially invented the modern Christmas, and many of their traditions have stuck around to this day: decorating the evergreen tree, singing Christmas carols, and good old Saint Nick himself. But cozying up to the fire to tell ghostly tales is one custom that has faded from popular culture—although it does make all the ghosts in A Christmas Carol make a whole lot more sense.

But what did they find so creepy about Christmas, anyway? Aren’t ghost stories more suitable for Halloween? Maybe not. Think about it—the sun setting at 4:30 in the afternoon, long shadows sent through the house by candlelight, and the wind whistling through the rafters. Pretty creepy.

Additionally, December 25 was reserved for Christmas not because it was written in the Bible, but because it was connected to Pagan festivals that celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The solstice was also considered the most haunted day of the year due to its association with the death of light. The barrier between the world of the living and the realm of the dead was supposedly lowered on this day. Thus the tradition was born.

True, the Victorians were already pretty preoccupied with death, but they were also romantics. What could be more romantic than the belief that life can extend to another plane of existence? That a lovestruck maiden could come back to search for her lost love, or a wronged gentleman could transcend death to wreak rightful revenge? Victorians enjoyed ghost stories because they gave them hope that their spirit could live on even when their body didn’t.
The spectral tradition shows up in many Victorian novels, A Christmas Carol being just one of them. Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black has a frame narrative; the narrator tells the story to his friends on Christmas Eve. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James also begins this way, and M.R. James wrote his collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary to be read on the eve of the holiday. Much more recently, Christmas was blended with the undead in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

It’s unclear when the tradition faded into obscurity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be brought back into fashion. Go traditional with ghost stories around the fire (or heater, for those not living in Victorian mansions) or watch one of the many Christmas-themed horror movies. Because a man breaking into your house through the chimney isn’t scary enough.

Hey, family time is family time, even if it means telling ghost stories around the fireplace on Christmas Eve. I reckon we should take it whenever we can, right? I have to thank the folks over at KnowledgeNuts for telling us about this custom. They always have some good stuff, know what I mean?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Expecting a high of 79 today...maybe!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Odd Patches For Monday Mystery...!

Secret handshakes, hidden passwords, clandestine activities...all sounds like a spy novel, doesn't it? Something about a few of these activities rings true, however.

This is one of those cases where everything on the surface seems to be harmless and open, but just beneath the surface, that may be a different story. Then there are the strange patches...!

The Top Secret Spoilers On National Reconnaissance Office Patches
By Debra Kelly on Sunday, December 14, 2014

For decades, the members of missions at the National Reconnaissance Office have been creating mission patches for each launch, much like NASA mission crews design their patches. While some are epic in their geekiness, others have created quite a bit of controversy by seeming to give away exactly what the mission is, how many satellites it’s carrying, and exactly where it’s going. Other patches have been accused of flaunting a level of privacy invasion that’s exactly what people are campaigning against.

The National Reconnaissance Office is the portion of the US government that’s responsible for keeping eyes and ears open in places that might seem off-limits or completely inaccessible at a glance. They’re the ones running the satellites overheard, and they’re the ones that are the first to know what’s going on out there. They were originally created in 1966 and declassified in 1992; since their declassification they’ve continued to operate as an elite intelligence agency. And no one can say that they don’t have a sense of humor.

Each time the NRO sends up a new satellite or organizes a new mission, there’s a mission patch created for it, and the patches are often pretty epic.

There’s a handful that look like they were based on the mission’s weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions. On NROL-33′s mission patch, a sword-wielding valkyrie shoots beams of light out of her hands, and on NROL-35, there’s a purple-haired sorceress wielding a trident and a fireball. There was even a three-headed dragon for NROL-38.

They’re not all like that, though, and there are a few that looked like they were drawn by the mission leader’s elementary-school child—especially the bear-shaped patch for NROL-10, complete with multicolored lettering and gold stars.

As adorable and as nerdy as the patches are, they’re also not without some controversy.

The patches are designed by the mission crew, following in the footsteps of NASA when the space agency decided to give astronauts the chance to design their own mission patches in lieu of naming their own spacecraft. Today, while the launches of the satellites are public knowledge, the missions aren’t—although some people say that the patches give away quite a bit.

It started with the patch for NROL-11 in 2000. The black patch shows owl eyes and four arrows that are pointing their way across an outline of the African continent. Satellite enthusiasts jumped on the patch and the idea that it showed exactly where the “secret” mission was headed—and they were right. The satellite appeared in the sky not long after.

News outlets that reported the story were asked not to run with it, but did anyway. In response, patches for future missions got more and more out-there, but they already attracted attention and are still being analyzed.

In 2007, Scorpius was launched carrying an NRO payload of satellites. In case there was any question about where they were going, it was painted right on the mission logo—three massive, orbital rings around the Earth.

The use of the patches certainly hasn’t been without incredible scrutiny, either—outside of the debate on whether or not they’re just inside jokes or they’re giving away top secret information. The 2013 patch for NROL-39 showed something that people thought was pretty telling—especially given all the uproar about privacy issues. The logo showed the Earth wrapped in the tentacles of an octopus with the words, “Nothing is beyond our reach.”

The patch got perhaps the best response from the ACLU’s senior policy analyst, who’s most likely one of the only people who could send the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence agency a tweet that read: “You may want to downplay the massive dragnet spying thing right now. This logo isn’t helping.”

Hey if these guys want to make their own patches then that's OK with me. If I were them, I think I'd tone it down some, though. Know what I mean?

Coffee i the kitchen this morning. It's supposed to start raining soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Visiting Tom And Jerry Again...!

One of my favorite 'toons in the past was the old Tom and Jerry characters. I know not why!

Anyway, I found a couple you might enjoy.

I love the sound effects, that's for sure!

See? We even got some culture here!

Just gotta love the little guys, right?

Well, I reckon that's enough for today. Looks to be another typical Winter day here...high in the 70's.

Coffee out on the patio, OK?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

One Impressive Yew Tree...!

We all like a little truth mixed in with our myths sometimes, right?

The history of this one particular tree has enough of both to make for an interesting study, I'd say. It takes a lot of luck and care for a tree to last as long as this one has. So far, time has been kind to it, without a doubt.

Fortingall Yew
The 5,000-Year-Old Tree

In the heart of Scotland stands one of Europe’s oldest trees, the Fortingall Yew. Experts speculate that the tree may be 5,000 years old. It is named for the small village in which it is found—Fortingall, in Perthshire. The land surrounding Fortingall contains some of the most amazing archaeological sites in Scotland, from plague burial grounds to the remains of a 1,300-year-old monastery. While the Yew first sprouted long after the first people moved to Scotland over 12,000 years ago, it’s probably as old as the first settlements at Fortingall.

The Fortingall Yew is significant not just because of its age, but because of the intriguing folklore surrounding this ancient living entity. Yews are part of the landscape at countless British churches—many times the trees were planted at the same time as the church was founded. The Fortingall Yew predates its sister chapel by thousands of years, leading experts to believe that it was an important site for pagan rituals long before Christianity came to Perthshire. It was common practice for early Christians to build over sacred groves and other existing religious sites in order to promote the dominance of their own religion. Folklore linking the Fortingall Yew to Christianity soon built up around it.

Legend says that Pontius Pilate, the judge and Roman governor who sentenced Jesus to crucifixion, was born by the tree and played in the shade of the Yew during his childhood. This legend, while unlikely to be factual, tied Scotland to the history of Christianity in a tangible (if mythological) way. New Age practitioners have also been attracted to the Fortingall Yew, claiming the tree was important in the rituals of the druids, and that the druids did not built near it because of its immense energy. Today the tree is badly damaged and even had to be cut back to save it from rot, but it still stands strong in the heart of Scotland, reminding visitors of the sacredness of ancient trees.

Pretty impressive tree by any standards, I'd say. What a history we would know, if only the old tree could talk!

Coffee on the patio this morning. Another nice warm day coming up.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Smoky Mountains For Freaky Friday...!

I don't want to mislead anyone here. It isn't the Smoky Mountains that are freaky, but the increasing number of disappearances connected to the area that is.

The really freaky thing about all the disappearances is that they are ongoing. Still, no one has an answer as to why!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Disappearances

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park borders Tennessee and North Carolina and is the most visited national park in the US. Therefore, it’s probably inevitable that the park has its fair share of unsolved disappearances.

On June 14, 1969, six-year-old Dennis Martin went on an outing to the park with his family. Dennis and three other boys split off in separate directions to play a prank, but Dennis did not return and a massive search of the area turned up nothing. A nearby witness recalled hearing a frightening scream sometime that afternoon before he saw a rough-looking man running through the woods.

Years later, a man found what appeared to be the skeletal remains of a child in the park but did not inform the authorities because he was hunting illegally at the time. When he finally reported it during the 1980s, the remains could no longer be found. No one knows if either of these events had any connection to Dennis Martin’s disappearance.

Another unsolved Smoky Mountains disappearance involved 16-year-old Trenny Gibson who vanished during a school trip to the park on October 18, 1976. While the students were hiking, Trenny somehow became separated from them and disappeared, never to be seen again. On September 25, 1981, 58-year-old Thelma Melton was hiking through the park on Deep Creek Trail with two friends when she got way ahead of them and disappeared after walking over a hill. No one could find her afterward.

More recently, 24-year-old Derek Joseph Leuking went missing on March 17, 2012. His vehicle was found in the Newfound Gap parking lot. All his gear had been left behind, but there was a note on the windshield which read: “Don’t try to follow me.” No trace of Leuking could be found anywhere in the park, adding his name to the list of people who have mysteriously disappeared into the Great Smoky Mountains.

I reckon that many places have their share of missing person stories, but so many close in the same area starts me to wondering, ya know?

Coffee in the kitchen again. It's trying to rain and turn colder.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Salt Smugglers..!

I guess that most of us know just how important the correct amount of salt is in our lives, right?

As it is with many things in life, if something is important to us, the government tries to figure out a way to tax it. Such was the situation with the tax on salt levied by Great Britain. Maybe we should look at the efforts made to prevent the salt from being smuggled in.

When Britain Tried To Stop Smugglers With A Hedge
By Debra Kelly on Sunday, November 23, 2014

We’ve all heard stories about how Britain was notorious for imposing taxes on their colonies. One of those taxes was the infamous Salt Tax, which led to the nonviolent protest that kick-started Gandi’s career as an activist. Before that, though, the British needed a way to regulate salt and make sure that all the proper taxes were paid on it—so they built a 3,700-kilometer (2,300 mi) hedge, mostly of dwarf Indian plum.

Salt is something of a surprisingly invaluable resource—it has been all across the globe, and it’s always been something of a commodity. Commodities are often subject to taxes, and under British rule, the Salt Tax was law in India.

India came under direct British rule in 1857; among the laws that were now being enforced were customs laws, and goods coming into British India were taxed. With those laws came a definite need to enforce them. Over the next few decades, there were a series of customs houses built all across India, monitoring all the activity that was going on from the Indus River in the west to the Mahanadi in the east.

But there also needed to be some sort of border to help patrols make sure that no smugglers were slipping through the lines with goods, specifically salt, that hadn’t had their taxes paid.

And, as unlikely as it seems, the answer was a hedge. It was an impressive hedge, no doubt, more than 4 meters (14 ft) high in some places, anywhere from 2–4 meters (6–12 ft) thick. It was composed of whatever native plants were handy, but much of the hedge was dwarf Indian plum. Other plants included the prickly pear, the babool, and the carounda—the resulting hedge was a dense, sharp, thorny mass.

The customs houses were first; they had begun to be built in 1803, and gradually, the hedge popped up between the houses in long spurs. Overall, the hedge ultimately grew to be around 3,700 kilometers (2,300 mi) long, and was patrolled by more than 12,000 men. Its only purpose was to separate areas that produced salt from those that didn’t—and to make sure there was no one able to dodge the tax. The whole thing was a steady work in progress; some areas were destroyed by fires and the weather and needed to be relentlessly repaired.

According to contemporary descriptions of the hedge, it was impossible to pass through, a thick, tangled mass of both living and dry, dead bushes. In places, it was reinforced with lumber, wood, or stone fence, and it wasn’t just the thick brush that deterred potential smugglers—it was the ants that lived in the bushes as well.

By 1836, one estimate states that a single family in the province of Bengal would spend anywhere up to six months of their annual income just on paying for their salt and the associated taxes. Salt wasn’t just something that people could give up, either. Estimates are difficult to pinpoint, but it’s thought that anywhere from 15 to 30 million people ultimately died from salt deprivation, along with countless animals and livestock.

The hedge is one of those monumental undertakings that has been largely ignored in history books. British author and historian Roy Moxham stumbled across a single reference to it in the memoirs of a British officer who had lived in India, and was completely taken aback at how unlikely it was that he was reading it right.

In some ways Britain was (and probably still is) fighting the same taxation battle that She fought against the colonies way back when. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Coffee out on the patio this morning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Gunfight On Western Wednesday...!

As far as one sided gunfights go, this one might just be the champion!

I'd say that this ol' boy did just fine by holding of a rather lopsided attack and probably mad quite a name for himself doing it.

Frisco Shoot-out

As far as one-sided shoot-outs go, there is probably none greater than the gunfight that took place on December 1, 1884 in Reserve, New Mexico. On one side, we had just one lawman by the name of Elfego Baca. On the other we had a group of angry cowboys numbering anywhere between 40 and 80 people.

It all started when Baca arrested a drunk by the name of Charlie McCarty for shooting his guns randomly. However, McCarty had a lot of dangerous friends who soon came demanding his release. Baca managed to fend off this initial attack when the leader was killed by his own horse toppling onto him.

By this time, word started spreading that there was some kind of Mexican uprising, so an angry mob formed to deal with it. When the mob arrived in town, Baca was holed up inside a small house belonging to a local. When William Hearne, the leader of the mob, tried to break down the door, Baca killed him with two shots, officially starting a shoot-out that would last a staggering 36 hours.

Supposedly, up to 80 people took part in the gunfight and shot up to 4,000 rounds into the house. None of them hit Baca. The reason: The house had a dirt floor, and he’d dug a hole into it, lending himself cover. Eventually, the posse ran out of bullets. When proper authorities arrived, they surrendered, leaving Baca victorious.

Sounds to me like the Lawman had a few Angels on his side this particular day. He also must have had some nerves of steel, I reckon!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Remember The Eggnog Riots...?

Everyone knows that college students have a way of getting out of hand from time to time. Even the guys at West Point had some wild times long ago.

It might surprise you to know that even the great Jefferson Davis was involved in one such incident. Over eggnog...with alcohol, of course!

When Eggnog Started A Riot At West Point Academy
By Debra Kelly on Monday, December 8, 2014

Even George Washington had a recipe for eggnog that included brandy, sherry, whiskey, and rum, but he probably didn’t intend for it to be used quite like this. In 1826, a group of West Point cadets decided to break one of the school’s cardinal rules and secure some whiskey for their Christmas Eve eggnog. The drunken party soon turned violent, with shots fired, buildings destroyed, and cadets expelled. Leading the pack—but not expelled—was future Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

West Point is known as the premier military academy of the United States. Presidents have gone there, generals were trained there, and the face of the US military has largely been shaped by the West Point graduates.

It wasn’t always so, though, and in 1826, the entire school was almost demolished by a riot started by eggnog and, in large part, future President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis.

At the time, West Point was little more than a handful of buildings; it had only been around for 14 years, and when it had opened, it had been with little of the grandeur it would see later. There were 10 students and three teachers, but by 1826, the man who would transform it had become superintendent.

Part of Colonel Sylvanus Thayer’s plan for overhauling West Point into a respectable school was the abolishing of alcohol on the premises. He didn’t have much control over the nearby taverns that were off school property, so in one case, he bought the property and changed the building from a tavern to a hospital.

But then, like today, college students are nothing but resourceful and (also like today) believed that no holiday party was complete without some liquid libations of the alcoholic variety. So, a handful of cadets decided that they needed some whiskey for their eggnog.

Jefferson Davis had already set up something of a relationship with one of the nearby taverns. Benny Haven’s would allow students to barter personal items for alcohol—they were expensive, though, and what the cadets needed was some serious quantity. So they bribed some guards, headed across the Hudson River to another tavern, and brought back not a few gallons of whiskey.

It was only a few hours into Christmas Eve that the two officers appointed to keep an eye on Christmas Eve festivities were awakened by something of a ruckus. They burst into a dormitory to find a handful of cadets, visibly drunk, with a party continuing in the next room over. One of the cadets yelled instructions for others to get their dirks, their bayonets, and their pistols . . . and it went rather downhill from there.

One of the officers ran into Davis in a hallway—Davis, also drunk, led him back to the party where he promptly tried warning his cohorts that the officer was on his way. Davis went on his way at this point, presumably to sleep it off, when someone fired a shot at one of the officers. Officers called for the artillery men stationed at the school; there was already something of a rivalry between the cadets and the regular Army men, and their presence allowed the riot to gather even more steam. Soon, the cadets were protecting their buildings against the intrusion of the enlisted men.

At the time, there were 260 cadets at West Point. Ninety-some of them were involved in the riot, but knowing that it could be the end of the school, only 19 were put on trial and 11 were expelled. Three left of their own accord. The building that had been the North Barracks was largely destroyed, windows were broken, and among the charges leveled against the expelled was the assault of two officers. Building were rebuilt, and future buildings were constructed specifically with a design that would allow for easier crowd control.

Among those that testified on behalf of the holiday revelers were Jefferson Davis and the man who would become his most famous general, Robert E. Lee.

Sounds like it must have been quite a "spirited" ruckus! Nice to know that the young men at West Point knew how to blow off some steam now and then! Nothing like a good, lively holiday party to liven things up, right?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Sorry, but there is no eggnog!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ghost Story For Monday Mystery...!

While ghost stories are nothing new here, one coming from a church building might be a tad different.

This story is more about a disappearance than a ghost, to tell the truth. However, it is a mystery all the same! Besides, we all like the unexplained mysteries the most, right?

The Ghost Of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, built in 1868, is considered a historical landmark in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It’s also rumored to be haunted, and its alleged resident ghost has a bizarre origin story.

In 1886, plans were made to construct a new tower for the church. Two Swedish stonemasons were hired for the job, but they both mysteriously disappeared before the tower was finished. Because of this setback, the tower went unfinished until 1927.

The problem was the unexplained eerie happenings that started to occur inside the church, along with sightings of a mysterious ghostly figure. Whenever construction was planned on the tower, workers often became too frightened to finish the job. The workmen were even granted permission to build a private isolated room to accommodate their ghostly friend.

Decades later, Reverend Eugene Todd was serving as pastor at St. Mark’s when he received a surprise explanation for these supernatural occurrences. He had been summoned to a nursing home in Denver, where an elderly dying patient had requested confession with him. The man claimed he was one of the two Swedish stonemasons who had mysteriously vanished while working on the church many years ago.

Apparently, the other stonemason had accidentally fallen to his death in the unfinished bell tower. His partner was terrified that he would be blamed for the death, so he decided to entomb the body under cement inside an unfinished wall section before fleeing the area. Although the missing stonemason’s body has never been found, many people found the old man’s story credible and believe that the stonemason’s ghost haunts the church.

I don't think this is the "spirit" folks are expecting when they attend services. It might actually put a few folks off, know what I mean?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Anyone have a cookie to share?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cartoons? You Betcha...!

One more Sunday already, and another day closer to Christmas.

Actually, we have the family gathering on the 20th this year. Seems to me that we change it every year but what do I know? Back in the stone age, when I was a youngster, we actually celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day! Imagine that! Now we do it when folks can find the time, I guess.

Hard to believe these things are still around after all this time, right?

I wonder how they chose which animals to make into cartoons?

Three should be enough for today, don't you think? Enjoy the rest of the day!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Looks like rain coming back!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Glow Little Glowworm...!

I've never seen a glowworm, but I can remember several sons about them.

Another thing about glowworms is that they can live in caves. Who knew? I picked up this interesting article at Listverse about one cave where the glowworm lives, and I thought I would share it with you!

Waitomo Caves

The Waitomo Caves are home to a species of glowworm native to New Zealand: Arachnocampa luminosa. They glow in order to draw insects closer, luring them into the silky threads that the glowworms produce and their inevitable tangled doom. Thousands of these glowworms live in the Waitomo Caves, which have become one of the main attractions of New Zealand’s North Island. The Glowworm Grotto is navigable by boat—under the lights of the hundreds of glowworms on the ceiling. The upper chamber includes the Organ Loft and the Catacombs, while the lower level is home to the Cathedral Chamber, whose acoustics are acknowledged by international opera stars.

This cave might just be a very interesting place to visit someday, who knows!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Biscuits and honey are available!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ponder This For Freaky Friday...!

Ever wonder if maybe we all are living in a dream world? Some kind of virtual reality maybe? Ponder this one.

Just something to think about on this chilly and wet Friday!

Is It All Just An Illusion?

Photo credit: Falcorian/Wikimedia

We think we understand more and more about our universe. But scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are using a laser analysis project called the Holometer to see if we actually live in a hologram. That would mean our 3-D world is merely an illusion, with everything really encoded in tiny 2-D packets.

It would be similar to how TV show characters believe they live in a 3-D world, but they’re trapped on a 2-D screen. Scientists believe the information in our universe may be contained in packets like how the pixels on a TV screen contain data points. When you stand close to your TV, you can see individual pixels. But when you move farther back, all the pixels seem to form one image.

It’s possible that our world is defined that way, with our “pixel” of space equal to an area about 10 trillion trillion times smaller than an atom. “We want to find out whether space-time is a quantum system just like matter is,” said Craig Hogan of Fermilab. “If we see something, it will completely change ideas about space we’ve used for thousands of years.”

Maybe it will be our world’s Twilight Zone moment.

I have to thank the folks over at Listverse for giving something to mess up my already confused head this morning!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Starting to rain some.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

DUI In A Chair...!

I reckon there will always be folks that will test the limits of some laws.

Sometimes I believe folks ar crazy enough to try just about anything. I'm sure you know someone like this guy!

The La-Z-Boy Lounge Chair

Photo credit: Dennis LeRoy Anderson

Dennis LeRoy Anderson, in his early sixties, converted a La-Z-Boy lounge chair into a motorized vehicle complete with steering wheel, stereo, cup holders, and headlights. He even slapped on a power antenna and a “Hell Yeah It’s Fast” bumper sticker. The 8-horsepower Kohler lawnmower engine gave it a top speed of 30 kilometers (20 mi) per hour, just fast enough to make it a menace when Anderson drove it drunk through Minneapolis one August night.

After drinking at home and in a bar until his blood alcohol content was 0.29 (more than three times the legal driving limit in Minnesota), Anderson crashed his decked-out La-Z-Boy into a parked car. He failed a field sobriety test, and police discovered that his license had been revoked for an earlier DWI conviction.

Anderson pleaded guilty in court to driving while intoxicated. The sentence: six months and a fine of $2,000. But the jail time and $1,000 of the fine were stayed upon Anderson’s successful completion of two years of supervised probation on certain conditions. The La-Z-Boy lounge chair was impounded and sold at police auction.

All I can do after a story like this is to shake my head in wonder. Scary world out there, folks!

Coffee out on the patio again this morning!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Charles Siringo For Western Wednesday...!

Not many of the stories we know about the old west come from the folks in the story itself. However, there are some exceptions.
Charles Siringo wrote his first book about his struggles as a real live cowboy. It was an instant success! Guess nearly everyone wanted to be a cowboy at one time or another.

Feb 7, 1855:
Cowboy celebrity Charles Siringo is born

Charles Siringo, one of the most famous contemporary chroniclers of the cowboy life, is born in Matagorda County, Texas.

When Siringo was only 30 years old, he published the first authentic autobiographical account of the cowboy life, A Texas Cowboy, or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Cow Pony. The book was an immediate success and played a pivotal role in creating the enduring American fascination with the Western cowboy.

Unlike some of the subsequent popular accounts of western ranching written by eastern greenhorns, Siringo based his memoir on his authentic experiences as a Texas cowboy. While still only a teen, Siringo had registered a brand and begun building his own ranch by the then still acceptable practice of claiming "mavericks," unbranded cows wandering the open range. Siringo was never able to build much of a herd, but his years spent on trail drives and roundups provided perfect material for a genuine, if somewhat romantic, portrait of the short-lived golden era of the open range.

A few years before he wrote A Texas Cowboy, Siringo had abandoned the footloose cowboy life to become a husband and storekeeper in Caldwell, Kansas. Siringo, though, seemed incapable of staying out of the action for long. In 1886, he hired on as a detective for the infamous Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Working out of the Pinkerton's Denver office, Siringo's career as a detective for hire was every bit as dramatic as his earlier years on the open range. In 1892, he infiltrated the radical labor movement in the mining region near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where conflicts with management had become bitterly violent.

Around the turn of the century, Siringo spent four years pursuing the famous Wild Bunch at the behest of the railroad companies angered by the gangs' repeated train robberies. Siringo traveled more than 25,000 miles around the West chasing after Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and other gang members. When Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fled to South America, the Pinkertons finally forced Siringo to abandon the case.

In 1907, Siringo left the Pinkertons and turned again to writing about his past adventures. In 1912, he published A Cowboy Detective, an account of his 20-year career as a detective. Three years later, Siringo attacked the often violent and illegal Pinkerton methods he had witnessed in Two Evil Isms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism. Legal threats from the Pinkertons forced him to eliminate such overt attacks from his subsequent books, and he instead returned to the Wild West themes that had won him his first success.

Siringo lived out his later years in California, and died in 1928 at the age of 73.

You have to give the guy credit...he just didn't know when to quit. I wouldn't want him on my trail, that's for sure!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's still a bit cool, but we'll be OK after the first cup!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Immortal Jelly Fish...?

I think I've had this one on here before, but Let's look at it again.

This is probably one of the most studied creatures around, for obvious reasons. How long do you think it will be before they try and use it to help us live longer? Not long, I'll bet!

Immortal Jellyfish

Turritopsis NutriculaThe immortal jellyfish (turritopsis nutricula) has to be item one on this list because of the fact that it is immortal. That isn’t hyperbole – it really is immortal. After reaching sexual maturity, this jellyfish is able to reverse its aging process and become a polyp again. The ability to reverse the life cycle is probably unique in the animal kingdom, and allows the jellyfish to bypass death, rendering the Turritopsis nutricula biologically immortal. Lab tests showed that 100% of specimens reverted to the polyp stage.

This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains quotations from Wikipedia.

I have to we really want to live forever? I believe it's more the quality of life rather than the quantity that really matters, ya know?

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. It's chilly outside!

Monday, December 1, 2014

One Solved On Monday Mysteries...!

While most of the time we have some unsolved or lingering mystery hereon Monday, I thought you would like a change of pace.

It isn't often that we get to read about a family mystery being solved after such a long time, so this makes for a nice study.

Bluejacket Boy

This touching mystery has the distinction of having finally been solved. In 1949, a woman living in Kirkwall, a town on the Orkney Islands, found a letter behind her fireplace. She had no idea how it had ended up there, but it looked very old and was addressed to Wales. When she opened it, she saw that it was dated 1916. The author had signed simply as “Bluejacket Boy.”

The letter seemed to be a general update on family life. The author wrote about a toddler named Ethel, and the description suggests she was his niece. Bluejacket Boy also referenced a sister named Hannah. The addressee was a man named John Phillips. In November 2013, historians from the Orkney Archive made a public request for help in the Welsh town the letter was intended to reach.

Internet sleuths were able to track down a woman named Mary Hodge, who turned out to be the granddaughter of the Bluejacket Boy. His name was David John Phillips, and he’d been stationed on Orkney with the navy during World War I. He married a local woman, whose family lived on the street where the letter was found, before the two of them moved to Wales to start a family. In 2014, 98 years later, the letter was finally delivered.

Now after reading this story from Listverse, how could anyone say that the Internet isn't good for something? Here is a case where the collective folks on the 'Net teamed up and solved a long time real life mystery. I'm sure the family was grateful!

Coffee out on the patio this morning.