Saturday, February 28, 2015

Explaining How Life Works...!

In case you ever wondered how life was supposed to work, here is a good explanation. Baby Sis sent this to me, so now I can understand!

On the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"

And God saw it was good.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God, again saw it was good.

On the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?"

And God agreed it was good.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information. I'm doing it as a public service. If you are looking for me I will be on the front porch.

When you come out, I'll try and not bark at ya, OK?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's supposed to get warmer.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hand Print For Freaky Friday...!

Many of us search actively for signs that a friend or loved one can send signs to us after they pass. This is such a story.

Pretty compelling article from Listverse, if you ask me. I have no reason to doubt it, considering the origin of the tale and the people involved.

Francis Leavy’s Handprint

Francis Leavy was a dedicated firefighter during the 1920s. He loved his job, and his peers loved him. He was a pleasant man, always ready with a smile and a helping hand. On April 18, 1924, Francis’s colleagues became aware of a change in his demeanor. Suddenly, he was an unsmiling, grunting guy washing a large window at the Chicago Fire Department, not looking at anyone or talking.

After a few minutes, Leavy suddenly announced that he had a strange feeling—a feeling that he might die that very day. At that very moment, the phone rang and broke the heavy atmosphere brought on by the fireman’s words. A fire was raging at a building quite a long way from the fire department, and no time was to be wasted.

In just a few minutes, Francis Leavy and his fellow firefighters were on the scene, assessing the situation and helping those trapped on the top floors. Everything seemed to be on track to rescue everyone from the building. Then, suddenly, the flames engulfed the lower part of the building, and the roof caved in. As soon as this happened, the walls came crashing down, pinning many people under the rubble—including Leavy. Leavy’s grim premonition came true. He lost his life that day trying to save others.

The very next day, trying to come to terms with the loss of Leavy, his colleagues sat at the firehouse thinking about the events of the previous day. Suddenly, they noticed something strange on one of the windows. It looked like a handprint smudged onto the glass. Eerily, it was the very same window that Francis Leavy was busy washing the day before.

The firemen cleaned the window again, but the print stubbornly refused to disappear. For many years, the handprint remained on the window in spite of chemicals used to try and remove it. The strange mystery remained unsolved, but came to an abrupt end when a newspaper boy threw a paper against the window in 1944, causing it to shatter into pieces.

I don't know about you, but I find this story both sad and joyful at the same time. Call me strange, but I do!

Coffee in the kitchen today!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spooky Forest...!

Here is a good little spook story for you to consider today! We all like a good spook story and a great mystery, so I figured why not have a two for one today?

Even if you don't believe in ghost and such, you'll have to admit that this story is strange. This would probably make a great movie. Gotta be better than some of the crap out there right now, right?

Hoia Baciu

Believed by many to be the most haunted forest in the world, Hoia Baciu in Transylvania is the setting for many unexplained, spooky tales. It also doesn’t help that the trees are bent and twisted in seemingly unnatural ways, giving the woods a horror movie feel.

Several visitors to the Hoia Baciu have returned from their trip terrified, claiming that burns and rashes have appeared on their bodies for no apparent reason. Some even claim to have skipped a few hours during their exploration among the creepy trees. They have no explanation for why they cannot remember what happened during the ”missing” hours.

Many people are truly convinced that ghostly apparitions hang around in the forest, and the locals absolutely refuse to set foot in it. Especially since rumors of floating heads and voices emanating from the darkness started making the rounds.

It all seems to have started back in 1968 when Alexandru Sift took a photograph inside the forest of what many continue to believe was a UFO. Another persistent story tells of a shepherd venturing into the woods with 200 sheep, never to be seen or heard from again.

Ongoing ghost hunts have turned up no clue as to what might be behind all the weird events taking place here, but paranormal experts are not giving up the ghost just yet when it comes to studying Hoia Baciu and revealing its creepy secrets to the world.

Better have our coffe in the kitchen this morning! Still a little chilly out on the patio!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Train Story For Western Wednesday...!

There is no doubt that the railroad did a lot to help settle the land in the western United States.

Before the time of planes and cars, the railroad became the very life-line for many people. With rail lines connecting the eastern and western states, our country finally started to become the place that visionaries like Thomas Jefferson dreamed it could be.

Jun 4, 1876:
Express train crosses the nation in 83 hours

A mere 83 hours after leaving New York City, the Transcontinental Express train arrives in San Francisco.

That any human being could travel across the entire nation in less than four days was inconceivable to previous generations of Americans. During the early 19th century, when Thomas Jefferson first dreamed of an American nation stretching from "sea to shining sea," it took the president 10 days to travel the 225 miles from Monticello to Philadelphia via carriage. Even with frequent changing of horses, the 100-mile journey from New York to Philadelphia demanded two days hard travel in a light stagecoach. At such speeds, the coasts of the continent-wide American nation were months apart. How could such a vast country ever hope to remain united?

As early as 1802, Jefferson had some glimmer of an answer. "The introduction of so powerful an agent as steam," he predicted, "[to a carriage on wheels] will make a great change in the situation of man." Though Jefferson never saw a train in his lifetime, he had glimpsed the future with the idea. Within half a century, America would have more railroads than any other nation in the world. By 1869, the first transcontinental line linking the coasts was completed. Suddenly, a journey that had previously taken months using horses could be made in less than a week.

Five days after the transcontinental railroad was completed, daily passenger service over the rails began. The speed and comfort offered by rail travel was so astonishing that many Americans could scarcely believe it, and popular magazines wrote glowing accounts of the amazing journey. For the wealthy, a trip on the transcontinental railroad was a luxurious experience. First-class passengers rode in beautifully appointed cars with plush velvet seats that converted into snug sleeping berths. The finer amenities included steam heat, fresh linen daily, and gracious porters who catered to their every whim. For an extra $4 a day, the wealthy traveler could opt to take the weekly Pacific Hotel Express, which offered first-class dining on board. As one happy passenger wrote, "The rarest and richest of all my journeying through life is this three-thousand miles by rail."

The trip was a good deal less speedy and comfortable for passengers unwilling or unable to pay the premium fares. Whereas most of the first-class passengers traveled the transcontinental line for business or pleasure, the third-class occupants were often emigrants hoping to make a new start in the West. A third-class ticket could be purchased for only $40--less than half the price of the first-class fare. At this low rate, the traveler received no luxuries. Their cars, fitted with rows of narrow wooden benches, were congested, noisy, and uncomfortable. The railroad often attached the coach cars to freight cars that were constantly shunted aside to make way for the express trains. Consequently, the third-class traveler's journey west might take 10 or more days. Even under these trying conditions, few travelers complained. Even 10 days spent sitting on a hard bench seat was preferable to six months walking alongside a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail.

Railroad promotions, however, naturally focused on the speedy express trains. The arrival of the Transcontinental Express train in San Francisco on this day in 1876 was widely celebrated in the newspapers and magazines of the day. With this new express service, a businessman could leave New York City on Monday morning, spend 83 hours in relaxing comfort, and arrive refreshed and ready for work in San Francisco by Thursday evening. The powerful agent of steam had effectively shrunk a vast nation to a manageable size.

Just imagine what a trip like that would cost in this day and age! All things considered, this was an exciting chapter in America's history!

Coffee in the kitchen again. Early morning showers are expected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fooling The Nazis With Carrots...!

You have probably heard of the old saying "all's fair in love and war", right? Here is proof of that!

One of the best tools of war is misinformation and this article from KnowledgeNuts is a prime example! Talk about confusing the enemy!

Carrots Won’t Improve Your Night Vision, But They Will Fool The Nazis
By Debra Kelly on Saturday, January 4, 2014

Almost everyone’s been told to eat their carrots, because the Vitamin A–rich vegetables will help protect and improve their vision, allowing them to see better in the dark. While Vitamin A is important in maintaining healthy eyes, the idea that carrots will noticeably improve vision—nighttime or otherwise—is a complete myth. It’s a misconception that was started on purpose, to explain how the Royal Air Force could be so successful at shooting down enemy bombers during the nighttime raids on the English coast during World War II. The real secret was not carrots, but radar.

Vitamin A is good for your eyes, there’s no denying that. Without a healthy supply of Vitamin A in your system, photoreceptors in the eyes can begin to deteriorate and interfere with just how well the eyes process information. But that’s a far cry from carrots improving your vision and even allowing you to see better in the dark—that’s a complete misconception that we’ve all heard.
But as it turns out, that myth isn’t just our parents trying to get us to eat our vegetables.

In 1940, German bombers frequently ran nighttime raids against England. More successful than the German pilots were the Royal Air Force pilots, many of whom chalked up impressive numbers of kills during these nighttime raids. The British Ministry of Information cited a somewhat bizarre reason for their success: carrots.

England was running low on food stores, but one thing that it wasn’t running low on was carrots. The British Ministry of Food started a campaign that encouraged those at home to do all they could to support the war effort—and that meant growing their own food, including carrots. Carrot pudding, carrot marmalade, curried carrot, carrot fudge, and carrot top soup: They were all recipes that were handed out across England to help mothers, housewives, and cooks make the most of their carrot supplies. So it would seem logical that eating all these carrots could be helping the pilots who were flying in defense of the country spot the enemy sooner. Wouldn’t it?

The carrot story was just a cover for what the British pilots were really using—radar. Radar technology was being fitted to RAF planes, and the military certainly didn’t want the Germans finding out about it. The obvious answer was a bit of tongue-in-cheekery.

Just how much stock the Germans put in the carrot cover story is up for debate, but ironically one place that it did take off was in England. The government had issued orders for city-wide blackouts to prevent the German bombers from easily targeting important places and buildings. So it wasn’t just the pilots that needed a way to see in the dark, it was civilians, too—and carrots were going to give it to them. With German blockades severely limiting supplies like sugar, meat, and butter, the carrot story provided an added, unexpected bonus by encouraging people at home to re-think how they were eating and what kind of food they were preparing. There were carrot cookbooks and carrot competitions, where people were encouraged to show off their carrot-based concoctions. Even Disney got on board to help sell carrots to the public with a series of cartoons promoting the benefits of the carrots and the leaves.

The country-wide campaign of how carrots improved eyesight and helped everyone see in the dark—especially important during the blackouts—went hand in hand with rationing and making do with foods that weren’t typically in a normal diet but could be efficiently grown at home. Dig for Victory Gardens became incredibly important, and people were reaping the added benefits from carrots even as they were making the best out of a bad situation and doing their part to help the war effort.

And the belief hung on, even well after the war.

The way I look at it, whatever works to help the good guys, ya know? Of course, there has to be some moral guidelines to go by.

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Too cold to sit outside.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Another Ghost Ship Story For Monday Mystery...!

One thing about the ea, it has more than it's share of mysterious ship stories.

Anyone that deals with the sea much is very much aware of this, and could probably spin many a tale for ya at any time. This one does have a curious twist to it, though.

The SS Baychimorsz_

Some would call it a ghost ship, but the Baychimo was real—and she could still be out there.

Built in 1911, the Baychimo was an enormous steam-powered cargo ship owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Mainly used for transporting furs from northern Canada, the Baychimo’s first nine journeys were relatively uneventful. But on its final journey, in 1931, winter came early. Totally unprepared for the bitter weather, the ship eventually became completely trapped in the ice.

Most of the crew were rescued by plane, but the Baychimo‘s captain and a few crew members decided to stick it out, making camp in sight of the ship. One day, a fierce blizzard blew up, obscuring the ship. When the storm abated, the Baychimo had vanished. A hunter eventually spotted the steamer and alerted the remaining crew. After salvaging what they could, they set the ship adrift, fearing it wouldn’t last the winter in the thick pack ice.As it turned out, the Baychimo was tougher than anyone gave her credit.

Over the next few decades, she was repeatedly sighted all across the Arctic, often drifting aimlessly out to sea. The last sighting was in 1969, a full 37 years after she was abandoned.

In 2006, the Alaskan government finally launched a “ghost ship” project to track down the Baychimo. Despite their efforts, the ship has not been found. For all intents and purposes, the Baychimo has now disappeared without a trace.

To think that this ship was last spotted 57 years after reported being lost is amazing by itself. Imagine the story if this vessel were to be found today!

Another great story from Listverse

Coffee in the kitchen today. Cold and rainy is forecast for this area!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Want Some Cartoons? Of Course You Do...!

After all, it is Sunday and every Sunday we do cartoons!

Some of these are even in black and white. That should tell you how old they are! Of course, back then most of us only had black and white televisions anyway!

And then there's this guy! Remember him?

Well, another Sunday's edition is history. Feel free to go read a book or something now, OK?

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Gonna be a nice day...supposedly!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hate Parking Meters? Blame This Man...!

The invention of one individual has made made a lot of money for a lot of cities, that's for sure!

Actually, I never knew or even thought about who invented the parking meter. Now, thanks to KnowledgeNuts, I know who to blame! In truth the parking meter was a very good idea for many businesses.

The Reporter Who Invented The Worst Part Of Every City
By Nolan Moore on Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Carl Magee was quite an interesting character. He exposed some of America’s most corrupt politicians, shot a man to death, and created one of the most irritating inventions of all time. Every time you have to pay for parking, you can thank this guy.

You’ve probably never heard of Carl Magee, but if you’ve ever parked your car in a major city, chances are good you’re going to hate his guts. Originally an Albuquerque reporter, Magee was kind of like a 1920s version of Bob Woodward. He played a key part in uncovering the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal, and when he wasn’t busting the feds, he was busy rooting out corruption in his home state of New Mexico.

However, things took a really weird turn when Magee ran into a corrupt judge he’d recently lambasted in his newspaper. After a brief scuffle, Magee actually pulled out a pistol and fired at the judge. Only problem was that he missed and killed a curious bystander. After he was (somehow) acquitted of manslaughter, Magee packed his bags and headed for Oklahoma City. However, once he showed up, he found the Sooner State was plagued by an issue far more serious than corruption.

Like many big American towns, Oklahoma City had a parking problem. People just parked their cars along the curb and left them there all day long. If you didn’t show up for work in the wee hours of the morning, well, good luck trying to find an empty space.

Fed up with congested streets and desperate motorists, the Oklahoma City council appointed the newly arrived Magee as head of the city’s traffic committee. As you might’ve guessed, his first goal was to come up with a solution to the parking pandemic. So in 1932, Magee drew up the plans for a device that would revolutionize the world: the parking meter.

Of course, Magee wasn’t a mechanical genius. That’s why he marched over to Oklahoma State Engineering Department and asked Prof. H. Theusen and a recent graduate named Gerald Hale to make his masterpiece. As the two brains worked on all those intricate gears, Magee hired a local plumber to design a watertight exterior so the meter could survive those tempestuous Okie thunderstorms.

Finally, in July 1935, Oklahoma City was introduced to the world’s first “Park-O-Meters.” It took a nickel per hour to placate these hungry machines, and as you might expect, there were quite a few people who took issue with the invention. Some even claimed the devices were un-American. Nevertheless, the parking meter worked like a charm. Now that people were forced to pay up or move on, more and more customers were able to frequent local stores and employees could actually get to work on time. Business started booming, property values started to rise, and soon the parking meter was a common sight in cities around the world.

Darn you, Magee.

If this guy got a royalty for each time a meter was used, he would have been a very rich man. I'm glad he didn't get any such thing!

Coffee in the kitchen. Trying to rain on the patio.

Friday, February 20, 2015

War Plan Red For Freaky Friday...!

Now this is the stuff that nightmares are made from, in my opinion.

I don't know why, but the PTB have always been more comfortable either fighting a war, or planning one. Scary! If we spent as much pursuing peace as we do jumping into another war somewhere...what a blessing that would be! Luckily this is one that hasn't actually taken place...yet!

War Plan Red: United States v. Britain
By Will on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Despite fighting on the same side as Britain at the end of World War I, in the 1920s and ’30s the US drew up several plans for wars against other countries—even the British Empire. The plan included an invasion of Canada, use of chemical weapons, and a naval blockade of Britain herself. The scenario that would have led to war was predicted to come about due to a trade disagreement. If the plan had gone ahead, US troops would have occupied any colonies captured in the event of a peace agreement.

Despite years of hostility and warfare between the two nations, the US and the British Empire ended up fighting side by side against the German army at the end of World War I. This didn’t stop the US from making a backup plan afterward, though. Named “War Plan Red” (with plans for war against other countries named after other colors), the main aim was to remove Britain from her status as a world superpower. (Relations between the two countries weren’t helped at the time by the fact that Britain owed the depression-hit US $14 billion in wartime loans.) The plan was approved in 1930 and was active until the start of World War II.

And in case you thought it was just war gaming, it was the only war plan to receive funding during this time period. The money was spent on airfields along the Canadian border, to the tune of $1 billion in today’s money.

Among the concerns the American planners faced was the might of the Royal Navy, the manpower the British could draw from its colonies around the world, and (of course) America’s neighbor Canada, which at the time was still strongly influenced by Britain. In the event of war, Canada would provide a useful base for an overland or amphibious attack for British forces on America.

The initial step in the American plan was to invade Canada, first heading for Halifax to capture the vital port situated there and prevent it being used to land reinforcements. American troops would also attack Montreal, Quebec City, Ontario, and Manitoba in an attempt to stop the Canadian movement of troops to repel the invasion. A naval blockade would have been put in place to keep the British out of the fight. There were also plans to use chemical weapons, akin to the horrors in the trenches of the First World War. This would have violated the Geneva Convention and amounted to a war crime.

Even with all that, a quick victory was not expected. As noted by the planners, Britain certainly had the “ability to fight to a finish.” Although there were no plans to attack the British Isles themselves, an American conquest of Canada and other British bases in the North Atlantic would have severely crippled Britain economically, thus reducing her reach. As a result, Britain’s role as a superpower would have diminished prematurely, potentially losing control of many of her colonies and possibly negatively affecting the outcome of World War II.

Had a peace agreement been reached after War Plan Red was in action, the American planners had designated any areas occupied by American troops “blue,” meaning they were to become part of the US, possibly including Caribbean islands such as Jamaica. This would have prevented a possible British future build-up to resume hostilities.

We’ll never know how this would have ended, but a war between the two superpowers a few years before Hitler’s rise and Japan’s Asian expansion could have allowed the two future Axis nations to conquer whatever they pleased. The British and American economies would have been damaged massively, diminishing their respective abilities to stop Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The outcome for the world could have been terrifying.

Thanks to the people at KnowledgeNuts for putting this out there for us to learn about. Never know what you might find on the ol' web!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. We can handle the high 50s, right?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Spooky Science For Thursday...!

Many of you might be able to relate to this story a little.

It's scary just what science can do with us, or maybe I should us! I for one do not nee for them to vreate a "Shadow Person" for me. I have enough problems as it is! Know what I mean?

You Can Be Shocked Into Having A Sinister Shadow
By Heather Ramsey on Monday, February 16, 2015

When electrically stimulating the left hemisphere of an epileptic’s brain, doctors discovered that they could create a sinister shadow person for the patient much like the type of illusion a schizophrenic may experience. It’s that creepy feeling you get when you think someone is watching you or following you. Neurologists believe they can build on this knowledge to reveal how the brains of schizophrenics and paranoiacs conjure up these sensations.

You’re alone. You get the strange feeling that someone is following you. Maybe you simply feel like you’re being watched. But when you look around, no one’s there. Is someone hiding or are you imagining things?

Even people without mental health problems can have fleeting moments of strange sensations. But for individuals who suffer from schizophrenia or paranoia, the experience is often much longer and more intense. Schizophrenics may feel like someone is mimicking their movements. Other mental health patients may feel as though they’re controlled by aliens or being persecuted in some way. Some people even believe that aliens have abducted them.

In the mid-2000s, doctors accidentally found that they could reproduce delusions in patients with no previous psychiatric problems. At University Hospital in Geneva, neurologist Olaf Blanke was trying to find the source of a 22-year-old woman’s seizures before she underwent epilepsy surgery. With dozens of electrodes implanted into the young woman’s brain, Dr. Blanke applied mild electrical stimulation, or shocks, to different areas of the brain to identify where seizures were triggered. He also wanted to know which areas controlled hearing, speech, or other brain functions that he didn’t want to disturb in surgery.

As each electrode stimulated a different area of the brain with a mild electrical current, the patient was asked how she felt. The procedure was fairly uneventful until the doctor shocked the woman’s left temporoparietal junction (TPJ), an area of the brain located approximately above the left ear.

Immediately, she sensed the presence of a “shadow person” behind her. She didn’t realize that it was just an illusion, an imagined double of her own body. She really felt as though someone else was there. “He is behind me, almost at my body, but I do not feel it,” she told doctors.

The creepy shadow person mimicked her bodily positions and actions. He lay beneath her when she was lying down and sat behind her when she was sitting. When the woman was instructed to lean forward and hold her knees, she felt a disturbing sensation of the shadow person hugging her. When she was asked to do certain activities, the shadow person attempted to interfere. For example, when she was holding a language-testing card in her hand, the shadow person tried to take it. “He doesn’t want me to read,” she said.

Fortunately, the effect was temporary for her. When the electrical stimulation stopped, the shadow person disappeared. Shadow people can also appear to people experiencing sensory deprivation, such as mountain climbers at high altitudes or sailors alone at sea. Patients with blood flow disruptions to their brains, such as those who’ve had minor strokes, may also perceive shadow people.

The young epileptic’s experience raises interesting questions about how our brains recognize our bodies and perceive “self.” The TPJ is associated with self-perception, which allows us to distinguish ourselves from the people around us. By processing sensory cues like sight, sound and touch, it helps us to understand how our bodies are positioned and how they relate to what’s around us. When the function of this area of the brain is disturbed, we may perceive two bodies rather than one, with the second mistaken for a stranger.

Schizophrenics often feel their bodies belong to someone else or that someone else is responsible for their actions. Frequently, they feel like they’re being followed or controlled or manipulated, whether by strangers or aliens. In some of these cases, hyperactivity has been noted in the TPJ. But schizophrenics often have much more complex delusions than the young epileptic did. They see and hear things all around them, not just in a shadow position.

Nevertheless, neurologists believe they can build on this knowledge to reveal how the brains of schizophrenics and paranoiacs conjure up these sensations. Perhaps it will even lead to more effective treatments for people suffering from these disorders.

Ya know, I can understand that science may just want to help, but I wonder if some areas are best left alone. I don't want them experimenting with what little brain I have!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's sweater weather!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bat Masterson On Western Wednesday...!

Some names from the days of the Old West never truly fade away. Such is the name of Bat Masterson.

This man was so well know, he had his own television show. Of course, the show was long after Bat's passing. In some circles, he is still a famous person.

Apr 16, 1881:
Bat Masterson's last shootout

On the streets of Dodge City, famous western lawman and gunfighter Bat Masterson fights the last gun battle of his life.

Bartholomew "Bat" Masterson had made a living with his gun from a young age. In his early 20s, Masterson worked as a buffalo hunter, operating out of the wild Kansas cattle town of Dodge City. For several years, he also found employment as an army scout in the Plains Indian Wars. Masterson had his first shootout in 1876 in the town of Sweetwater (later Mobeetie), Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded.

Found to have been acting in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his rough ways and become an officer of the law. For the next five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a tough and reliable lawman. However, Masterson's critics claimed that he spent too much as sheriff, and he lost a bid for reelection in 1879.

For several years, Masterson drifted around the West. Early in 1881, news that his younger brother, Jim, was in trouble back in Dodge City reached Masterson in Tombstone, Arizona. Jim's dispute with a business partner and an employee, A.J. Peacock and Al Updegraff respectively, had led to an exchange of gunfire. Though no one had yet been hurt, Jim feared for his life. Masterson immediately took a train to Dodge City.

When his train pulled into Dodge City on this morning in 1881, Masterson wasted no time. He quickly spotted Peacock and Updegraff and aggressively shouldered his way through the crowded street to confront them. "I have come over a thousand miles to settle this," Masterson reportedly shouted. "I know you are heeled [armed]-now fight!" All three men immediately drew their guns. Masterson took cover behind the railway bed, while Peacock and Updegraff darted around the corner of the city jail. Several other men joined in the gunplay. One bullet meant for Masterson ricocheted and wounded a bystander. Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung.

The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns to stop the battle when a brief lull settled over the scene. Updegraff and the wounded bystander were taken to the doctor and both eventually recovered. In fact, no one was mortally injured in the melee, and since the shootout had been fought fairly by the Dodge City standards of the day, no serious charges were imposed against Masterson. He paid an $8 fine and took the train out of Dodge City that evening.

Masterson never again fought a gun battle in his life, but the story of the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson's lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City.

Isn't it funny how some names from the past stay with us? Guess we always will need our heroes, right? Right!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. W'll take a chance on the weather!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ever Been Overshadowed...?

With so many things to be reported on now days, it's almost easy to see how some stories get lost in the shuffle.

Some of the news stories that got lost were big, but the attention of the public was focused elsewhere. That's a shame, really. Who knows how the media determines what's important and what isn't?

Queen Isabella Causeway Disasters

The Queen Isabella Causeway is a seemingly innocuous 3-kilometer (2 mi) stretch of road connecting the island of South Padre to the Texas mainland. During its brief 40-year existence, it was the scene for two unfortunate tragedies that went largely unnoticed by the media.

First, on August 13, 1996, a small Cessna airplane crashed into the bridge, killing the pilot and his passenger. As tragic as that might be, more important stuff was happening in the world. On that same day, the Galileo space probe indicated the then-shocking idea that Jupiter’s moon Europa might have liquid water. On the political front, two days later, Bob Dole was announced as a nominee for the presidency. And on an international front, the world finally saw a happy ending to the 1995 Airstan incident when a crew of Russian pilots made a successful escape after being held captive by the Taliban for over a year.

A more serious event took place in 2001 when a barge crashed into the causeway, causing entire sections of the bridge to collapse. Eight people died because they were unable to escape their cars, which fell into the water. However, this tragedy occurred on September 15, 2001, and from the date alone, it becomes pretty obvious what world-changing event took place just four days prior.

The focus of the media is often more concerned with ratings that with news affecting a large number of the population, in my opinion. I guess the rest of us will often have to keep up with the lesser news stories as best we can.

At least we can keep up with political scandals and the latest from the whacko world of the "stars". Certainly wouldn't want to miss that!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Just a tad chilly and wet outside!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Strange Note For Monday Mystery...!

Here is another unsolved mystery from the folks over at Listverse. This might be a good one for those readers that like to solve puzzles!


Gunther Stoll was found severely injured in his car in the early hours of the morning in 1984. The car was in a ditch on the side of the autobahn. He’d been out drinking the previous night, and the case seemed like nothing more than a simple traffic accident. Unfortunately, he died on the way to hospital before he could give an explanation for the accident. The subsequent examination of Stoll’s injuries led authorities to conclude that he’d been run over before being placed back in his vehicle.

Another puzzle came from a note found beside Stoll. On a scrap of paper, he had written “YOGTZE.” It’s not a word in any language that anyone has been able to find. It may be an acronym or possibly an encryption, but if that’s the case, nobody’s cracked the code. The day before he died, Stoll had declared to his wife, “Now I get it!” before he made the note and left the house.

Two decades later, the death and the note both remain a mystery. People have speculated that it may have been YO6TZE, a Romanian radio call sign. It could also be a reference to the yogurt flavoring TZE (Stoll worked as a food technician). Neither of those ideas, however, give any insight into how Stoll ended up apparently murdered in his own car, and the case remains unsolved.

Many of these mysteries could be solved if we only had some better clues. However, if the pros can't solve them, how can we?

Thanks to everyone for the kind words for Mom after her fall. I really appreciate it!

Better have our coffee inside today. It's supposed to rain here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

No Post Today...!

Had a rough day yesterday. Spent about 10 or 11 hours at the emergency room with Mom. She had a fall the night before and bruised her lower left ribs and her left ankle.

We had to have it all checked out just in case, ya know? Anyway, no cartoons for today. Sorry about that!

Mom checks out OK, but I just didn't have the energy to do the 'toons. However, everyone is welcome to come have a cup of coffee out on the patio. OK? OK!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Something Pretty For Winter...!

Most folks, especially up north, are getting pretty tired of Winter. Grey skies, bleak landscapes, gloomy forecast and the like.

I found an article about something I've never seen or heard of before. It's extreamly pretty and could help you forget about Winter for just a minute or so.

Frost flowers: The most beautiful natural phenomena?
By erika | 12/23/12 10:06am

I had never heard of frost flowers until a few days ago, when someone sent me a link to this page explaining all about them. How can I have not known about something so amazingly beautiful?

Frost flowers (scientifically known as crystallofolia) are as ephemeral as they are breathtaking. Imagine something as delicate as one giant snowflake, and you're close. Frost flowers form under very specific conditions: the ground has to be warm enough for plants to not be dormant, and yet the air must be cold enough for frost to form. It's a difficult balance, and it means that most people will go their entire lives without seeing a frost flower in person.

The physics of frost flower formation are intricate. Active (i.e. non-dormant-for-winter) plants are constantly sucking water up from the ground through their stems. If the plant has not gone dormant when the air falls below freezing, the sap in its veins can freeze. When sap freezes, it expands. When this happens, it bursts the cells and stems of the plant and creates microscopic cracks.

Under a particular set of conditions, the plant continues to draw water up into its stem after it has been cracked by ice formation. The water flows out of the microscopic cracks and freezes as it hits the air. More water is drawn up the stem, flows out of the cracks pushing the previously-frozen stuff forward, and freezes itself.

This essentially creates a situation where frost is being extruded from the leaf or stem of a plant. The shapes that it forms are called "frost flowers," and they are as amazing and as unique as snowflakes. Some of them look like puffy clouds of cotton candy; others like small trumpets made of ice, and still others form bizarre curlicues and rams' horns.

If you find one, the Kuriositas site recommends that you do not try to touch it. They are so fragile that they break at the slightest touch, and melt from the warmth of your fingertips. Instead, take a picture - and take it fast, because frost flowers dissolve quickly as the sun hits them or the day warms up.

There is another kind of phenomena called "frost flowers" which grow on newly-formed sea ice. Although these two phenomena have nothing in common but their name and the fact that they are formed by freezing water, the sea ice frost flowers are gorgeous as well.

- See more at:

I guess that even the most dreary of seasons contain some beauty, if we just take the time to look!

Coffee out on the patio OK this morning?

Friday, February 13, 2015

An Ancient Lightbulb For Freaky Friday...!

I figure a few of you have heard of the oldest burning bulb in the U.S. If not, then this is your chance to find out a little about it.

How did this bulb make it to Freaky Friday, you ask? Good question. See, this bulb has been burning since 1901! Man, this thing is far older than most people. As far as that goes, it's probably a lot brighter tan some folks I know. But that's a story for another day!

California’s Mysterious (And Immortal) Lightbulb
By Nolan Moore on Thursday, February 12, 2015

If you were to visit the fire department in Livermore, California, you’d find an oddly shaped lightbulb hanging in the garage. The bulb dangles from the roof by a cord and only gives off about 4 watts. So what’s the big deal? Well, aside from a handful of interruptions, this lightbulb has been shining 24/7 since 1901.

It’s safe to say the lightbulb is one of the most important inventions in the history of, well, inventions. It’s also safe to say most of us probably take these little glass balls for granted, at least until they burn out. Then we just get irritated.

Things were a lot different in 1901. Only 3 percent of Americans actually had electricity, so when the volunteer fire department in Livermore, California got their first bulb, it was a pretty big deal.

The bulb was a gift from the Livermore Power and Water Company, and it made things a lot easier when fires broke out in the middle of the night. Instead of stumbling around in the dark, firefighters could actually see all their gear. Suddenly, hitching up horses to the hose carts became a lot easier.

In 1906, the fire department moved into a new building, so they loaded up their equipment and trucked it down the street. And of course, they took along their lightbulb. It was the only one they had, and after all, it was still burning. In fact, they kept it on 24/7. That’s pretty impressive as the average American incandescent bulb only lasts between 1,000 and 2,000 hours.

But in the words of Al Jolson, you ain’t seen nothing yet. As the firefighters ditched their hose carts for fire trucks, the lightbulb continued to illuminate their garage, dangling from the roof by a long cord. Finally, in 1971, Fire Chief Jack Baird asked a reporter to dig around and see what he could learn about the mysterious bulb that never burned out.

As it turns out, this particular bulb was invented by the Shelby Electric Company, a US business founded in the late 1890s by a French immigrant named Adolphe Chaillet. Chaillet was a pretty sharp guy, having graduated from both French and German academies, and was something of a master showman. To prove the superiority of his product, Chaillet would take several kinds of lightbulbs, screw them into a theater marquis board, and turn up the juice.

Invariably, each and every lightbulb would blow up . . . except for his. Thanks to these demonstrations, the Frenchman could boldly declare his merchandise lasted 30 percent longer than any other bulb on the planet. Well, up until he was bought out by General Electric anyway.

Jumping back to the ’70s, Chief Jack Baird was duly impressed by Chaillet’s long-lasting lightbulb. So naturally, when the firefighters moved to a new station in ’76, the bulb was brought along in grand style. It was placed in a special red box and given an escort complete with sirens and flashing lights.

The “Centennial Light” is still burning away in Fire Station No. 6, and with very few exceptions (power failure, moving, and remodeling), it’s been giving off light for over 113 years. As you might expect, this eternal light has attracted quite a bit of attention over the years. It was featured on MythBusters, was honored in the Guinness Book of World Records, and was even honored by George W. Bush on its 100th anniversary. The bulb even has its own webcam.

But why this is particular lightbulb so special? How has it lasted so long? Well . . . nobody knows for sure. Some think it’s actually a prank, but those doubters and naysayers are in the minority. One researcher theorizes perhaps it has something to do with the bulb’s unique design. As it turns out, Shelby bulbs have filaments that are eight times thicker than average. On top of that, they’re made out of carbon instead of your typical tungsten.

Of course, that doesn’t really explain how the Livermore light has outlasted the average human and survived two world wars, the rise and fall of the USSR, the invention of the Internet, and 9/11. Perhaps the only way we’ll find out the lightbulb’s secret is to wait for it to finally burn out and then crack it open and investigate. But when the Centennial Light finally fizzles out, the world will become a little darker and little less magical. Let’s hope it keeps on shining for years to come.

If you want to read more about this Freaky bulb, you can find out more right here...or here!

What I want to know is...with all our "advances" in science and technical knowledge, why can't we come up with something that is even half as good as this lightbulb? Pretty freaky, don't you think?

Coffee is gonna be out on the patio again. I got some Danish that I'll share!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Last Confederate Holdout...!

Surprisingly, the last holdout of the Confederacy didn't give in until 1946. That's not all, either! This holdout was not as far south as you might think.

This is an interesting little bit of history that I never knew about. It might be a surprise to you as well!

The Confederate Town In New York That Held Out Until 1946
By Larry Jimenez on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Unusual for a town so near the Canadian border, Town Line, New York voted to secede from the Union in 1861 and join the Confederacy. While the circumstances surrounding the treasonous act is shrouded in urban legend, the secession—ignored by the Union government—remains a curious aberration. Town Line was the only Northern town to turn rebel during the Civil War, and didn’t rejoin the US until 1946, making it the last stronghold of the Confederacy.

Town Line in Erie County, New York is only a few miles from the Canadian border. Go to the local fire station and until recently, you might have seen the personnel wearing shoulder patches reading “Last of the Rebels 1861–1946.” During Civil War celebrations, townsfolk display the Confederate flag and wear the Confederate gray. Any visitor would be baffled. It is well-known that the loyalty of towns farther south, near the Mason-Dixon Line, wavered along the divide between North and South during the war. But in upstate New York a few minutes from Canada? In a town populated in the 1860s by first- and second-generation German immigrants with no kinship ties to the South?

Nobody really knows the reason why, in late 1861, the men of Town Line gathered in a schoolhouse and voted 85–40 (or by some accounts 80–45) to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. They clearly supported Abraham Lincoln in the previous election. Among other provocations, perhaps the most likely was President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 men, to which the German farming community refused to comply.

The secession was largely symbolic, as the government did not recognize it. It never sent troops in to compel the town to return to the US, the Post Office continued its business and taxes were still duly paid. That didn’t mean, though, that the entire thing was a sham. There were real rebels in the town, and a few even left to actually enlist in the Confederate army. On the other hand, some of the men also fought for the Union. By 1864, as the tide of war turned against the South, the town’s secessionists were being harassed, forcing some to flee to Canada.

Things settled back to normal at the end of the war. The secession was conveniently forgotten until 1945. In a wave of patriotism accompanying American victory in World War II, residents realized that they were technically not part of the US. Returning veterans were chagrined and infuriated that they were not American. A special committee wrote to President Harry Truman about the situation. Truman responded good-naturedly, “Why don’t you run down the fattest calf in Erie County, barbecue it and serve it with fixins, and sort out your problems.” The matter was once again put to the vote. Incredibly, the first vote held on December 1945 still failed to secure unity. The town had by now become national news, and the next attempt at reunion was attended by celebrities like movie actor Cesar “the Joker” Romero. Finally, on January 26, 1946, Town Line officially voted to be readmitted into the Union. (Still, 23 rebels decided against the measure—truly the town’s last Confederates.) The rebel flag that had flown for 85 years was hauled down, and the residents took the oath of allegiance.

Whatever the reasons for Town Line’s secession, be it grievances against the government, or just plain stubborness and a streak of independence, the episode might just be the most curious anomaly to come out of the Brothers’ War.

Boy, just when you think you are familiar with the Confederacy, a story like this pops up. If it weren't for the folks over at KnowledgeNuts, I would have never known about this. Never too old to learn something new, I reckon!

Coffee out on the patio again today. The neighbor lady brought over some really good cookies I'll share!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Kansas Quarantine Of Texas Cattle...!

This was probably one of the final straws in the long cattle drives from Texas to Kansas. It marked the virtual end of long drives and the demise of the cattle business as it wa known.

There is no doubt that the completion of the rail lines into the cattle lands of Texas made the long and dangerous cattle drives unnecessary. Just another end of an era, I think.

Mar 7, 1885:
Kansas quarantines Texas cattle

The Kansas legislature passes a law barring Texas cattle from the state between March 1 and December 1, the latest action reflecting the love-hate relationship between Kansas and the cattle industry.

Texans had adopted the practice of driving cattle northward to railheads in Kansas shortly after the Civil War. From 1867 to 1871, the most popular route was the legendary Chisholm Trail that ran from San Antonio to Abilene, Kansas. Attracted by the profits to be made providing supplies to ranchers and a good time to trail-weary cowboys, other struggling Kansas frontier towns maneuvered to attract the Texas cattle herds. Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top "Cow Town" of Kansas.

As Kansas lost some of its Wild West frontier edge, though, the cowboys and their cattle became less attractive. Upstanding town residents anxious to attract investment capital and nurture local businesses became increasingly impatient with rowdy young cowboys and their messy cattle. The new Kansas farmers who were systematically dividing the open range into neat rectangles of crops were even less fond of the cattle herds. Although the cowboys attempted to respect farm boundaries, stray cattle often wreaked havoc with farmers' crops. "There was scarcely a day when we didn't have a row with some settler," reported one cowboy.

Recognizing that the future of the state was in agriculture, the Kansas legislature attempted to restrict the movement of Texas cattle. In 1869, the legislature excluded cattle entirely from the east-central part of the state, where farmers were settling most quickly. Complaints from farmers that the Texas cattle were giving their valuable dairy cows tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease eventually led to even tighter controls. On this day in 1885, the Kansas legislature enacted a strict quarantine. The quarantine closed all of Kansas to Texan cattle for all but the winter months of December, January, and February-the time of the year when the diseases were not as prevalent.

These laws signaled the end of the Kansas role in the Texas cattle industry. The open range was rapidly closing, hemmed in by miles and miles of barbed wire fence. With the extension of rail lines into Texas itself, the reason for making the long drives north to Kansas began to disappear by the late 1880s anyway. The Kansas quarantine laws became irrelevant as most Texans could more easily ship cattle via railheads in their own states.

I'd be willing to bet that the cattle had a lot more meat on their bones when shipped from the Texas railheads. Probably made the price of steaks a little better as well!

Coffee out on the patio again this morning. OK with you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When Hatpins Were Weapons...!

Probably not many younger folks even know what a hatpin is! One reason is that they aren't used much anymore!

There is an interesting bit of history behind the hatpin and thanks to the folks over at KnowledgeNuts, I can share this article about those "weapons of the past" with you.

When Large Hatpins Were Declared A Menace To Society
By Debra Kelly on Monday, February 9, 2015

Fashion accessories aren’t usually dangerous, but in the early 1900s, the media was comparing the incredibly sharp, incredibly dangerous, foot-long hatpin to firearms. Women were using the hatpins to defend themselves against molestation and unwanted advances, but they were also accidentally injuring—even killing—innocent people with their hatpins. It wasn’t long before it became completely legal to arrest a woman for wearing an illegal hatpin. By the time World War I started, though, the whole thing had died down a bit—and when fashions changed, no one was wearing hatpins any more for any reason.

Hatpins have been around since the Middle Ages, when they were used to securely hold coverings over women’s hair. It was a sign of modesty, but by the time hatpins were declared a public menace, they had taken on a very different purpose.

They were, in theory, still used to hold a woman’s hat in place. By the turn of the 20th century, hats were huge, ungainly things that needed a lot of help to stay in place. Hats were an impressive bit of wardrobe, and the pins needed to hold them in place were just as huge.

And sharp.

By at least 1903, hatpins were taking on a whole new role—defense. For women now out and about, doing things like riding public transportation, it wasn’t unheard of for them to find themselves the uncomfortable victim of a “masher”—a fellow public transport rider who would take the opportunity given by the close quarters to sneak in a grope before going about his daily business.

Women were understandably fed up with it, and the hatpin became a defense.

They were nothing to laugh at, either. Hatpins were incredibly sturdy, incredibly pointed, and many were about 30 centimeters (12 in) long. Mashers that found themselves rubbing up against the wrong woman could also find they suddenly had a length of sharp metal plunged into their arm.

For the women who were able to successfully fend off sometimes violent attackers and sexual predators, it was a huge win. Those who did it were commended for their bravery and their resourcefulness. The focus of most media attention wasn’t on the weapon, how dangerous it was, or women overstepping boundaries, but the spotlight was put squarely on the inappropriate behavior that caused the retaliation on the first place.

But by 1909, hatpins had turned more dangerous than praiseworthy.

Accidents were common. In Scranton, a teenager accidentally killed her boyfriend with a poke from a hatpin, and the ordinary public transportation rider was also at risk. A young man on a streetcar in New York was poked by someone’s hatpin, and ultimately died after slipping into a coma from the head injury.

In 1912, the Chicago Police Department were well within their rights (and acting in accordance with an actual drafted and approved ordinance) to not only administer fines to women with hatpins that stuck out more than an inch from their actual hat, but to arrest them for it. They had been deemed a hazard to public safety, and a plethora of complaints made by people who had been injured by hatpins started a public outcry.

It’s wasn’t just in the United States, either. Cities like Paris, Hamburg, and as far away as Sydney, Australia saw hatpin ordinances pass, and women weren’t happy about it. At the same time, there were headlines about wives and mistresses facing off against each other in the streets, armed with hatpins. Sixty women were even arrested for refusing to pay the fines they’d gotten for wearing illegal hatpins.

There were attempts at making hatpins safer, including hatpin protectors that were designed to completely cover the dangerous accessories while keeping the same functionality that they were originally created for. Women refused to wear them, though, while newspapers were comparing the effects of hatpins to firearms.

The whole hatpin thing had kind of an anti-climactic resolutions. World War I happened, fashion changed, hats got smaller, and being a flapper became the more rebellious thing to do.

I can only imagine whatwould happen if hatpins made a comeback. First of all, hats (large hats) would have to fall back into favor. To tell the truth, I don't see that happening anytime soon, know what I mean?

Coffee out on the patio again this morning. We better enjoy this weather while we can, ya know?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Another Maritime Mystery For Monday...!

Nothing like starting out the week with a long unsolved mystery, right?

Seems like there were a lot of maritime mysteries, especially right after the war. Of course, ships and light houses have always been a good source for unsolved mysteries. Wonder why that is?

Death Ship

In the summer of 1947, in the calm straits off the Malaysian coast, several ships received chilling distress from a Dutch transport Ourang Medan stating “the entire crew was dead”, before the caller stated he too was about to die. Upon boarding the ship, a ghastly and up to this day, unexplainable discovery was made. According to official US maritime reports the crew were “lying on their backs, staring towards the sun with expressions of horror, twisted into strange positions with their hands clutching outward.” The investigators hastily evacuated the ship and cut the ropes, just in time before the ship exploded. Theories include a leak of cyanide based nerve gases concocted by Japanese military scientists pardoned in exchange for collaborating with US weapons developers.

Thanls to the fine folks at Listverse, you can always find an interesting tale or two. Good to know, right?

Coffee out on the patio today. The high expected is around 77 with sunshine!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cartoons Anyone...?

In keeping with a long standing tradition here at the Hermit's, today we have cartoons.

It's no surprise, 'cause we have cartoons every Sunday. I know some folks don't like cartoons and that's OK. But for the folks that enjoy them, on Sunday we have cartoons...and that's just the way it is!

At least I don't have the same ones all the time, right?

See? Most of the time it's something a little different!

Maybe just one more to start the day.

OK...that's enough for now. Time to go and enjoy some sun!

Coffee out on the patio this morning!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Helpful Hints For Saturday...!

I had someone send me these helpful hints and some of them are so good I wanted to share.

AMAZING, SIMPLE HOME REMEDIES: and good for a laugh, too










Did any of these sound useful? I certainly hope so!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. I need some sunshine!

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Quilting Codes Of Old...!`

I'm sure that many of you have heard of the "Underground Railroad" and it's use in helping slaves escape. This story involves one of the reported ways of communicating with the runaways.

Many quilters, including my own mother, have no doubt these stories are true Regardless of the factual history, I thought you might like to know a little of the history of the "Codes in the Quilts!"!

The ‘Secret Code’ Of The Underground Railroad
By Debra Kelly on Thursday, February 5, 2015

According to the popular story, slaves running north on the Underground Railroad were often sent secret messages through quilts. Conveniently and casually hung on a clothesline or over a railing, the pattern on the quilt would tell them valuable information, like whether or not it was safe to stop. Thing is, it hasn’t really been found to be true, and the earliest reference we have to the idea come from a 1999 book with a single source—a woman who, conveniently, sold quilts.

If you’re a part of the Underground Railroad, responsible for the safety of slaves fleeing oppression in the South for freedom in the North, it seems like a pretty logical thing that you’d devise a way of relaying messages and information without raising the suspicion of slave-hunters, slave-owners, and nosy neighbors that might want to make a few bucks.

According to the story, these secret messages were embedded in the designs of handmade quilts that would be hung in windows or draped over a railing. Those that knew the code would recognize the patterns that meant someone was watching, or that it was going to be safe to try to escape, or that it was a good time to stay hidden for a bit.

Patterns have even been given names—the zigzag pattern that was supposed to tell people that they needed to throw pursuers off their trail became known as the Drunkard’s Path pattern, and the pattern that was supposed to indicate that it was almost time to make an escape was called the Monkey Wrench.

The whole code system was outlined in a 1999 book called Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad.

It’s a very cool idea, but there’s really not much to show that it was ever a thing.

The book recounts the family stories of one woman, named Ozalla McDaniel Williams. A retired quilt-maker herself, it was Williams who told the authors all about the secret codes that were built into quilts. That’s been the only source for anything of the sort, and most historians agree that there’s absolutely nothing to it. But the myth has taken off, to such a degree that it’s making some people downright angry.

In 2007, New York City was planning a massive, $15.5-million project that was going to be paying tribute to speaker, abolitionist, and writer Frederick Douglass. An escaped slave himself, Douglass was going to be honored by the installation of a 2.5-meter (8 ft) statue that included a granite quilt. The quilt was going to be patterned with the secret codes and messages that designers thought Douglass would have relied on during his journey North. (If the codes had actually existed, that is.)

The book was elevated to something bizarrely loved, even being featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It supporters seemed strangely willing to overlook the fact that there was no other historical evidence for the secret, coded language, and even the book’s authors have said that the whole thing has been blown pretty far out of proportion.

There have been no other supporting stories, no appropriately patterned quilts have ever been found that date back to the Civil War, and no songs that reference the phenomenon, either.

There are, however, a huge amount of modern-day books that have been written about it—including children’s books that highlight the idea of secret codes in quilts guiding slaves to freedom. In only a few short years, the whole concept has been firmly cemented into the idea of what was going on during the years of the Underground Railroad.

Ultimately, the statue of Douglass was redesigned, a step that historians have said went a long way in trying to undo what might become one of America’s next great historical myths.

Myth or fact, this story might just be another one of those that we will never find a satisfactory answer to. Many little bits of our history are like that, ya know?

Coffee in the kitchen once more. Might rain again!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tree Of Death...!

Most all of us like having trees around. We like the shade and, in some cases, like the fruit the trees provide.

That being said, this is one tree you should avoid at all cost. It has a very nasty reputation and for good reason!

The Tree So Deadly It Was Used As A Torture Instrument
By Debra Kelly on Friday, January 24, 2014

The manchineel tree is one of the deadliest plants in the world. Even coming into contact with the bark or leaves will leave a person suffering from severe burns, and eating any of its sweet-smelling fruits is a potentially lethal choice. The tree has long been used for supplying sap for poison darts, and as a place to tie—and torture—Spanish conquistadors.

The manchineel tree is named after the Spanish word for “little apple,” which is manzanilla. That’s appropriate enough, as the tree sports green fruits that look like small apples. But it had another, even more appropriate name—the Spanish call it the arbol de la muerta, or “tree of death.” The tree’s genus, Hippomane, was assigned to its line after noting that horses were driven mad after eating it.

It looks unassuming enough, often little more than a shrubby bush, but sometimes growing into a tree that’s around 15 meters (50 ft) tall. It’s found mainly in the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and Central America. Its bark is gray-brown, and its leaves are a bright and shiny green. The fruits of the tree are sweet-smelling and attractive.

Every part of the tree is poisonous, and just coming in contact with the tree can be potentially lethal. The leaves and bark contain a poison that will irritate the skin and cause severe blisters. The milk-white sap that leaks from wounds in the tree will also cause severe blistering. If sap touches a person’s mucous membranes, it can cause severe burns.

The fruit makes the tree even more deadly. The fruits look like small green apples, only an inch or two in diameter. The fruits are very sweet-smelling, and those who are brave—or foolhardy—enough to eat them say that they even taste good. But eating just a small amount will leave blisters and burns on your mouth and throat. In addition, the raw, soft tissues of your digestive tract will begin to swell and blister after eating just the smallest bite of the fruit. Larger amounts are deadly.

As if that isn’t enough, the tree can also cause serious damage if you so much as stand under it. If it’s raining, water falling off the leaves will carry toxins and burn the skin of anyone it touches. In fact, there are accounts of 16th-century Florida natives pressing invading Spanish conquistadors to stand beneath the trees during the rain to burn and even blind them.

Many indigenous peoples have used the poisonous, deadly tree to their advantage. The sap of the manchineel tree was often used for poisoning arrows and darts, which in turn were used to control captives. Tying people to the tree and leaving them with any exposed skin would result in excruciating pain and burns.

Removing the tree from populated areas proves problematic. Cutting the tree releases the squirting, spraying sap, and burning the tree turns the toxins into a vaporous form that’s carried in the smoke. Even contact with the smoke can leave burns on the skin and can sometimes result in blindness.

Strangely, the wood of the tree has been highly prized in the making of colonial furniture. Once the wood has been left to dry in the sun, its poisonous qualities largely disappear. Drying the fruits has a similar effect, and these dried fruits have been known to be used as a diuretic. In Jamaica, manchineel tree gum has been long used to treat various venereal diseases. There’s also an iguana native to Central America that is completely immune to the poisonous qualities of the tree, and often lives among its branches.

I think the message here is fairly clear. If you see one of these trees around, avoid it. Certainly don't even think about picking and eating any of the fruit! I don't think it would make a very good pie, do you?

Coffee on the patio this morning. Fresh baked cookies are close by!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Silver Dollars For Western Wednesday...!

Believe it or not, at one time the silver dollar was outlawed as money! Hard to imagine, right?

Actually, there is an interesting little bit of history behind the use of the silver dollar. Of course, I felt the story should be told once again. With that being said, here's some silver history for ya!

Feb 16, 1878:
Silver dollars made legal

Strongly supported by western mining interests and farmers, the Bland-Allison Act—which provided for a return to the minting of silver coins—becomes the law of the land.

The strife and controversy surrounding the coinage of silver is difficult for most modern Americans to understand, but in the late 19th century it was a topic of keen political and economic interest. Today, the value of American money is essentially secured by faith in the stability of the government, but during the 19th century, money was generally backed by actual deposits of silver and gold, the so-called "bimetallic standard." The U.S. also minted both gold and silver coins.

In 1873, Congress decided to follow the lead of many European nations and cease buying silver and minting silver coins, because silver was relatively scarce and to simplify the monetary system. Exacerbated by a variety of other factors, this led to a financial panic. When the government stopped buying silver, prices naturally dropped, and many owners of primarily western silver mines were hurt. Likewise, farmers and others who carried substantial debt loads attacked the so-called "Crime of '73." They believed, somewhat simplistically, that it caused a tighter supply of money, which in turn made it more difficult for them to pay off their debts.

A nationwide drive to return to the bimetallic standard gripped the nation, and many Americans came to place a near mystical faith in the ability of silver to solve their economic difficulties. The leader of the fight to remonetize silver was the Missouri Congressman Richard Bland. Having worked in mining and having witnessed the struggles of small farmers, Bland became a fervent believer in the silver cause, earning him the nickname "Silver Dick."

With the backing of powerful western mining interests, Bland secured passage of the Bland-Allison Act, which became law on this day in 1878. Although the act did not provide for a return to the old policy of unlimited silver coinage, it did require the U.S. Treasury to resume purchasing silver and minting silver dollars as legal tender. Americans could once again use silver coins as legal tender, and this helped some struggling western mining operations. However, the act had little economic impact, and it failed to satisfy the more radical desires and dreams of the silver backers. The battle over the use of silver and gold continued to occupy Americans well into the 20th century.

I guess the government finds it confusing to mint money without having to use real silver or gold. BTW, have you priced any real silver coins lately? Not cheap, let me tell ya!

Coffee in the kitchen again today. Hot chocolate instead, anyone?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Getting Sick For Food Safety...!

Just how far would we go to insure that the public was aware of poison being included in their food? Look at the "Poison Squad!"

These men were all volunteers that let themselves be poisoned to help keep the public safe. Their story is worth telling, I believe!

The Men Who Poisoned Themselves For Food Safety
By Debra Kelly on Monday, February 2, 2015

We’ve heard the horror stories about unregulated foods and unscrupulous manufacturers that were slowly poisoning their consumers, and change came about in large part because of a pretty amazing group of young men called the Poison Squad. Organized by a doctor and chemist working for the Department of Agriculture, the Poison Squad spent several years eating food tainted with chemicals like sulfuric acid and borax—all things that manufacturers were using on a regular basis. The public outrage following the release of the findings led to the birth of the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906.

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as standards when it came to food preparation, storage, and control over ingredients. That all began to change in the 1880s and 1890s, when a chemist and doctor named Harvey Wiley (pictured above) moved from his teaching positions at Purdue University and went to work for the Department of Agriculture.

There, he took up a number of causes, campaigning for regulations that would make food safer. Getting anything through the red tape of the government is a challenge, so he decided to prove his points in a very public way. In 1902, he assembled a group of volunteers who were willing to put themselves through some pretty horrific things, all to make the rest of the nation safer.

He called them the Poison Squad, and that’s exactly what they were signing up for. There were 12 young volunteers, all men, all healthy, who were volunteering to eat meals laced with chemicals and poisons to monitor just what happened to them. They signed up for a year-long experiment, where they would only eat what they were given and subject themselves to countless tests and monitoring. They also promised not to pursue recompense should anything go horribly, horribly wrong.

Their vitals were recorded before each meal, and then they were given meals that were tainted with things like borax, sulfuric acid, and formaldehyde. In order to get around the problem of having volunteers avoiding certain foods because of the taste of the chemicals, they were also given capsules of the poisons to eat in the middle of the meal, allowing researchers to monitor just how much they were ingesting and how long it took to enter their systems and make them sick.

And—obviously—they got really, really sick.

The experiment ended up lasting for five years, with researchers collecting data that showed just how dangerous the chemicals in foods really were. Every kind of food-based illness you can possibly imagine was recorded, with the young men suffering from everything from nausea and headaches to pretty severe vomiting. With manufacturers interested more in the bottom dollar than safe products, Wiley decided to take his findings to the public.

The response was massive. Wiley began sharing his data with reporters and the media, who passed it along to the consumer. They relayed stories of illnesses we recognize as poisoning, and Wiley stopped the experiments when several of the volunteers were so sick that they could finally do nothing besides be sick.

By that time, the public had found out about it and the government got the message. The Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed in 1906. Written with Wiley at the helm, it was one of the first steps in food safety, and all because of a handful of volunteers who knowingly subjected themselves to months of poisons and illnesses.

Over the next decades, Wiley would continue his crusade in food safety, campaigning for stricter regulations in the meat industry. He also helped crack down on turn-of-the-century weight loss cures that were doing more harm than good, and he was one of the first to speak out on the dangers of smoking.

Thanks to this group of volunteers, the government was forced into action. It's a shame that the PTB didn't act before these men put their health on the line for the public. Some things don't seem to change much.

If you want to read more about this action, you can find it here!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's chilly, so bring a sweater!

Monday, February 2, 2015

An Island Puzzle For Monday Mystery...!

Nothing like a good old fashioned mystery to start a new week, right? Well, this one could make your week then!

This story almost sounds open and shut at first glance, but gets a little weird towards the end. The fact that so many questions still remain is enough to make it a genuine mystery in my book!

The Crew of the Sarah Joe

On February 19, 1979, five men from the Hawaiian island of Maui – Benjamin Kalama, Ralph Malaiakini, Scott Moorman, Patrick Woesner, and Peter Hanchett—went on a fishing trip on a vessel called the “Sarah Joe”. The boat and its crew all vanished after a terrible storm hit the area. It would seem obvious that the five men probably got lost at sea and drowned, but things got really weird in 1988 when pieces of the “Sarah Joe” were found on an island over 2000 miles away.

An unmarked shallow grave was also found on the island where the remains of Scott Moorman were buried under a pile of rocks. However, no trace of the other four men was found, so if they were the ones who buried him, what happened to them afterward? And if they didn’t bury him, then who did? To make things even weirder, this island had apparently already been searched a couple years beforehand and no one found the pieces of the Sarah Joe or the grave at that time. The fate of the four other missing men and the mystery of how Scott Moorman was buried remains unsolved.

Ya know, if it wasn't for the folks over at Listverse, I would never find these wonderful mysteries to share with you. You really should check them out someday.

Coffee inside this morning. Looks a little nasty outside!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

'Toons For February 1st...!

Hard to believe that January is already gone, isn't it. Seems like the tie passes faster all the time.

I wonder if they will still be watching the 'toons in the future?

Mixing them up a bit today. OK?

Some of these artist were really good, weren't they?

I reckon that's enough for today. Maybe it's time to go read a book! Better yet, I'll bake some cookies!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. Rain is on the way!