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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ball Lightening

    Whether lore is full of rare phenomenon. Amphibians raining from the sky happens when frogs, fish or small waterborne animals are caught in a waterspout. They are picked up and unceremoniously dropped off on land, assuming the waterspout ventures to shore. I remember once seeing a small fish in a puddle in my employer's parking lot after a thunderstorm.
     Then there are triple rainbows. While double rainbows are impressive, they're not that unusual. Triple rainbows are a big deal though because you can only see two of the rainbows with the naked eye; the third occurs behind you and is obscured by the sunlight. They are so rare that no convincing photographic evidence even emerged until 2011.
     A rare weather event also occurred in the Grand Canyon in 2014 when the entire basin of the giant canyon was fogged in. As the ground cooled after a hot day and cold, humid air rolled in, low stratus clouds filled the canyon from the ground up. The result? The 277-mile long, 18-mile wide and 1-mile deep canyon was completely filled with thick, foggy clouds.
     Another rare phenomenon is ball lightening. Some people have been skeptical of accounts of ball lightening. Were these balls actually lightning? The skepticism began to wane in 1963 when a group of scientists flying from New York to Washington, D.C., witnessed a blazing orb drift down the aisle and disappear through the rear of the plane. That began their research.
     While some people may believed they didn't exist, I know better. Many years ago during a thunderstorm when I was in elementary school a ball of lightening about the size of a basketball passed through the classroom window and exploded in a cloud of smoke. I also remember my father, who worked on the railroad, telling me of the time he saw a ball of lightening bouncing down the railroad track and exploding in a cloud of smoke.
     Ball lightning appears as glowing orbs that seem to occur during thunderstorms, usually following a lightning strike. These floating fireballs shine as brightly as a 100-watt light bulb and they can be white, yellow, orange, red or blue in color and are typically about the size of a small grapefruit, although sightings suggest they can range in size from golf ball to beach ball.  Emanating from the fireball are little tendrils that seem to jerk the ball around and they move slowly and erratically and are followed by smoke trails that form spirals around them. And after a moment, they disappear. There's no scientific explanation for balls of lightning, although there are several proposed theories.
     Speculations about the cause have ranged from the existence of standing waves of electromagnetic radiation to plasma clouds and from short-circuiting power lines to St. Elmo's Fire. While no theory has yet to explain ball lightning, a promising theory focuses on silicon.
     The most popular current theory, proposed by John Abrahamson at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, suggests that ball lightning is the result of a chemical reaction of silicon particles burning in the air.
     When lightning strikes the ground, silicon that occurs naturally in soil combines with oxygen and carbon and turns into pure silicon vapor. As the vapor cools, the silicon condenses into a fine dust. The particles in this fine dust are attracted to each other by the electrical charge created by the lightning strike, binding together into a ball. The glow and heat come from the energy created as the silicon recombines with oxygen in the air. And once the silicon has burned out, the ball lightning disappears.
     This theory also suggests materials such as aluminum and iron metals may also cause the orbs, and that any atmospheric discharge, not necessarily lightning, may explain why ball lightning has been sighted near power poles, electrical fitters, and even active faults.
     Researchers Antonio Pavao and Gerson Paiva of the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil have been working with the silicon hypothesis and believe they have verified the theory with silicon substrate and a high-voltage arc. They applied 140 amps of electricity to silicon substrate, which vaporized the substrate and sometimes produced golf ball-sized fireballs.
     Also, two scientists at Tel Aviv University accidentally created ball lightning with a device they call a "microwave drill." This microwave drill was made from a 600-watt magnetron taken from a conventional kitchen microwave oven and a powerful microwave beam capable of penetrating solid objects. The tip of the drill aims the beam at a solid substance and creates a hot spot in the solid. When the drill is pulled away from the hot spot, the drag produces a fireball resembling ball lightning.
     Recently researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, have proposed that the bright glow of lightning balls is created when microwaves become trapped inside a plasma bubble. At the tip of a lightning stroke reaching the ground, a electron bunch can be produced, which in turn excites intense microwave radiation. The eerie orb-light glow is created when microwave radiation given off during a lightning strike becomes trapped inside a plasma bubble. While ball lightening usually appears during thunder storms, it has been know to form inside closed rooms and, as mentioned above, inside aircraft. Exactly how ball lightning seems to float through walls or windows, however, is still up for debate.

Dream Serenity Cool Breeze Memory Mattress Topper

     Consumer Reports mattress pricing reports that Sealy makes models at a wide range of prices, from $500 for a queen to more than $4,000 for a foam mattress. A plush pillow-top (queen mattress only) can range from $800 to $3,000. See Consumer Reports.
     Obviously, buying a mattress can be an expensive proposition and a while back someone mentioned to us that they had purchased a mattress topper and were very pleased with it. It was like sleeping on a new mattress, they said. So, we purchased a Dream Serenity 3" Cool Breeze Memory Mattress Topper at Walmart for $130 and love it. Highly recommended!
     Memory foam consists mainly of polyurethane as well as additional chemicals increasing its viscosity and density. Higher-density memory foam softens in reaction to body heat, allowing it to mold to a warm body in a few minutes. Newer foams may recover more quickly to their original shape. A memory foam mattress is usually denser than other foam mattresses, making it both more supportive and heavier. 
     The Dream Serenity comes packaged in a box and upon removal it took about an hour to expand and it fit the bed perfectly and did not slide around. It also came with a cloth cover that fit very well. We have gotten a good night's sleep and there has been no aching back upon awakening. 
     A common complaint about memory foam mattresses is the unpleasant chemical smell produced by the topper which for some is unbearable. 
     Memory foam mattress toppers are manufactured using chemicals such as polyurethane, so it isn’t surprising that it emits an unpleasant odor. Even if some other material is used, they still have to be treated with flame-retardants comply with the federal standards concerning flammability of toppers. These compounds are called volatile organic compounds. This off gassing is a well-documented property of the toppers and mattresses. Also, some wonder if there are health issues related to this off gassing, but most people have reported that they didn’t face any health issues due to their usage of memory foam toppers but a minority of people reported the contrary. 
     Emissions from memory foam mattresses may directly cause more respiratory irritation than other mattresses. Memory foam, like other polyurethane products, can be combustible. Laws in several jurisdictions have been enacted to require that all bedding, including memory foam items, be resistant to ignition from an open flame. 
     Manufacturers caution about leaving babies and small children unattended on memory foam mattresses, as they may find it difficult to turn over, and may suffocate. 
     Short-term exposure to high concentrations of some chemicals in memory foam irritates the nose and throat. The effects of long-term exposure in humans involve the central nervous system, and include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and memory loss. Animal studies indicate that inhalation of some chemicals affects the liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system. The Dream Serenity we purchased did not have any odor at all. 
     There are some solutions to the smell problem though:  
Air it out – remove all the plastic packaging and place it outdoors for a few hours on a non humid and dry day. If you are unable to take it outside at all, just prop it up in a well ventilated room against a chair so that it releases the smell from all sides. Open all windows and turn the fan on. 
Baking Soda – after airing out, sprinkle baking soda all over the topper and let it sit for a few hours. The vacuum the baking soda. 
Patience – the won’t last long. How long depends on the finishing of the product, the type of foam, the room ventilation or the sensitivity of the person.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eric Reid

I am surprised at how little some people claiming to be Christians actually know about the religion they claim to belong to. Christians believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, but few recognize the fact that the first Christians were a sect of Judaism. 
Opry Winfrey has called herself a Christian, but believes there is more than one way to God which is in direct opposition to the Christian belief that nobody can come to God except through Jesus Christ. Something Opry does not believe as she is on record as saying there is more than one way to God. I am not even sure that when she talks about God, she means the God the Bible speaks of. Of late she has been taking people on a "spiritual" journey that includes many faiths and is really nothing more than a marketing plan for her books and spiritual classes. 
Now comes a football player for the San Francisco 49ers named Eric Reid who says he is a Christian. I don't know anything about Eric Reid's spiritual condition or his devotion to Christianity, but he is sadly misinformed about the purpose that Jesus had.

In support Colin Kaepernick's social justice movement, Reid has demonstrated by kneeling at the playing of the National Anthem before the start of the game. He also brought Jesus into the controversy by claiming people should ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” Reid says he wants to be a ''voice for the voiceless,'' quoting a Bible verse found in Proverbs and he wants speak up for those who can't do it for themselves. This is a noble desire, but I doubt Jesus would get involved by kneeling at a football game. As a sidebar, some people think that linking Jesus with the protest is acceptable, but when another football player, Tim Tebow, expressed his Christian faith he was mocked and vilified.

Reid, along with many Christians, want to bring Jesus into this protest, but it may come as a surprise to them that Jesus did not get involved in the politics of the day and there was plenty with which to get involved.

 Roman Emperor Tiberius was unpopular and spent his last years in a life of debauchery on the island of Capri; one of his infamous appointees was Pontius Pilate. Tiberius was followed by his grandnephew and the great-grandson of Augustus, Gaius Caligula who became absorbed with power, demanded that he be addressed as a god, and proposed that his horse be made a consul. He also drained the treasury to pay for his life style and reckless building activities, and he caused a crisis among the Jews by demanding that statues of himself be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem.

The Romans kept slaves. When the Romans went to the circus it was to view brutal spectacles such as chariot racing where drivers were hurt in spectacular crashes, wild beasts tear each other apart, or gladiators fighting exotic beasts or each other to the death. If an emperor wanted rid of a particular senator, he would simply write him a letter ordering him to kill himself or else send someone to do the job. Rome was brutal in its enforcement of its religious views. Several wars were fought with the Jews in order to try and get them to accept the worship of the deceased Roman emperors as gods. The fighting was so fierce Jerusalem was destroyed and with it the ancient temple of Solomon was razed. All this among other things. And yet Jesus chose not to become involved in any of the political factions of the day, the Jewish government or the government of Rome.

When it came to politics, the message Jesus preached was about government, but one He would bring to the earth, not one that would come about through human effort. It was about a government of God that will rule the world and that will bring about world peace.

When Jesus was on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, Pilate asked Jesus about His political aspirations, asking “Are You the King of the Jews?” The answer...”My kingdom is not of this world...My kingdom is not from here.”

The biblical record shows that Jesus was not involved in politics, so when the people ask what Jesus would do in this situation, the answer is, “Nothing.” That was not his purpose. His purpose, and the purpose of His disciples, was to proclaim Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and the concern was for men's souls and how they might be made right with God.

Also, when Vice President Mark Pence left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers last month after some players knelt during the National Anthem, saying he did not want to "dignify" the demonstration, both he and President Trump were heavily criticized. Eric Reid, who has participated in the kneeling protests, criticized the walkout saying it was a planned political stunt. Is Reid stupid? Isn't that what he is doing when he kneels during the National Anthem and doesn't Vice President Pence have the right to counter-protest by walking out?

My issue is that if Eric Reid has a complaint there exist many ways he can register it. Start a blog, go on Facebook, tweet about it, organize a political movement or a peaceful demonstration, but don't do it on the job. For all the lip service these guys are paying their cause and all their kneeling, it's not costing them anything. They still go out and play the game, drive their expensive cars, wear expensive clothes and jewelry, live in multi-million dollar homes and draw a salary that's more than most people make in a lifetime. When I think of an athlete like Curt Flood or someone like Rosa Parks, it's hard to take somebody like Eric Reid seriously.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Effective Immediately You Probably Have High Blood Pressure

     The new lower threshold for determining high blood pressure is expected to add 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults. High pressure, which for decades has been a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, drops to 130 over 80 in advice announced Monday by a dozen medical groups. A major study two years ago found heart risks were much lower in people who were around 120. Canada and Australia have already lowered their cutoff to that reading. In Europe is still 140, but is due to be revised next year. 
     What is considered normal in children varies with age, height and gender. After age 13, the levels defining high pressure are the same as for adults. The reason the age of 13 was selected was because it was reasoned that when a person turns 18 they shouldn't suddenly have a new definition of what constitutes high blood pressure. So, the age was lowered and now when a kid turns 13 they suddenly have a new definition of what constitutes high blood pressure.  
     The change means an additional 14 percent of U.S. adults have the problem, but only 2 percent of these newly added people need medication right away; the rest should try healthier lifestyles, which get much stronger emphasis in the new advice. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure. Currently, only half of Americans with high blood pressure have it under control.
Dr. Paul Whelton of Tulane University was head of the guidelines panel and stated that he expects there will be a controversy. Naturally, the risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems drops as blood pressure improves but the new advice "is more honest" about how many people have a problem, he said. 

The guidelines::
Normal: Under 120, over 80
Elevated: 120-129, less than 80
Stage 1 Hypertension: 130-139, 80-89
Stage 2 Hypertension: at least 140 or at least 90 

     The new guidelines mean 46 percent of U.S. adults have high pressure versus 32 percent under the old levels and those having high blood pressure will triple in men under 45, to 30 percent, and double in women under 45 to 19 percent.  
     For those over 65 the guidelines reverse a controversial adjustment made three years ago that relaxed the standard and the decision not start medicines unless the top number was over 150. Now, everyone over 65 should be treated if the top number is over 130 unless they're too frail or have conditions that make it unwise. 
     Dr. Jackson Wright, a guidelines panel member from University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center stated the evidence is so solid and convincing that it's hard to argue with the new levels. Older people have a 35-to-50-fold higher risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke compared to younger people. Duh...no kidding. Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Steven Nissen said he's worried because more vulnerable patients who get treated very aggressively may have trouble with falls because too-low pressure can make them faint. 
     The decision as to whether to start medication will no longer be based just on the blood pressure, but should consider the overall risk of having a heart problem or stroke in the next 10 years, including factors such as age, gender and cholesterol. Unless one has high risk factors the advice is to improve lifestyle: lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, limit alcohol, avoid smoking. There's not enough proof that consuming garlic, dark chocolate, tea or coffee helps, or that yoga, meditation or other behavior therapies lower blood pressure long-term. 
     One might be skeptical of these new guidelines because they mean more money for doctors and the drug companies now that more people will be diagnosed with high blood pressure. On the positive side, the U.S. government no longer writes heart guidelines, leaving it to medical people. It's claimed that unlike previous guideline panels, none on this new study have recent financial ties to industry, although some on a panel that reviewed and commented on them do. While it can't be argued that lower is better, this alone is cause for suspicion.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Simplified Search for FREE Kindle Books

     You can read Kindle books on your computer, tablet, or mobile phone with Kindle reading apps. The best way to search for FREE books is by going to one of the sites listed below.

JungleSearch is a search engine designed for searching at Amazon. The link is for the USA search, but they also have a search engine for France, Germany, United Kingdom and Canada.

AuthorMarketing Club- monitors Amazon (USA) for daily free ebook offerings. The amount listed varies from day to day. They do offer genre selection.

BookGoodies monitors Amazon (USA) for limited time free ebooks offerings. They list several free ebooks daily and have an individual description of each ebook.

DailyFree ebooks UK monitors Amazon (UK) for its daily free offerings. They offer genre selection as well as sorting by time (including since your last visit). They also offer free listings from Smashwords, which can be viewed with the Amazon offerings, alone or not at all (Amazon only). They have over 6,000 free ebooks listed.

You can download a Kindle reading app for free HERE.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Eat More Celery

     Celery is an unsung health food. Recent research has greatly increased the knowledge about celery's anti-inflammatory health benefits, including its protection against inflammation in the digestive tract itself. Some of the unique chemicals in celery appear especially important in producing anti-inflammatory benefits. Scientists have identified at least a dozen types of antioxidant nutrients in celery.
     Celery is a great choice if you are watching your weight because one large stalk contains only 10 calories, but it has many other values:

•Celery reduces inflammation. If you are suffering from joint pains, lung infections, asthma, or acne, eating more celery will bring relief.
•It helps you calm down. The minerals in celery, especially magnesium, and the essential oil in it, soothe the nervous system. If you enjoy a celery-based snack in the evening, you may sleep better.
•It regulates the body’s alkaline balance, thus protecting you from problems caused by an overly acidic diet.
•Celery aids digestion. The high water content of celery, combined with the insoluble fiber in it, makes it a great tool for easy passage of stool. Note: because celery has diuretic and cleansing properties, avoid eating it if diarrhea is a problem.
•It contains good salts. Celery does contain sodium, but it is not the same thing as table salt. The salt in celery is organic and natural.
•Celery is good for your eyes. One large stalk of celery delivers 5 percent of your daily need for Vitamin A, a group of nutrients that protects the eyes and prevents age-related degeneration of vision.
•Celery reduces bad cholesterol: There is a component in celery which gives the vegetable its flavor and scent. But the compound also reduces bad cholesterol. A Chicago University study profiled by the New York Times shows that the compound found in four stalks of celery a day can reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 7 percent.
•It lowers blood pressure. An active compound in celery has been proven to boost circulatory health. Raw, whole celery reduces high blood pressure.
•It could amp up your sex life: According to Dr. Alan R. Hirsch, Director of the Smeel and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, two pheromones in celery boost arousal levels that are released when chewing on a celery stalk.
•Celery can combat cancer: Two studies at the University of Illinois show that a powerful flavonoid in celery inhibits the growth of cancer cells, especially in the pancreas. Another study suggests that the regular intake of celery could significantly delay the formation of breast cancer cells.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ICON A5 and Misleading Advertising

    When retired baseball player Roy Halladay was killed when his new ICON A5 plane crashed it has been raising a lot of questions about the aircraft. The first model of the ICON A5 took flight in 2008, but as the plane moved closer to mass production, complications mounted...delays, price hikes, layoffs. Today the price for a fully equipped A5 will be $389,000, while the base price will rise to $269,000, although base models will not be delivered until 2019 at the earliest. Halladay isn't the first pilot to be killed in an ICON A5. The plane has now been involved in three crashes, two fatal, in the last eight months. This past May, an A5 carrying two of the company’s top engineers crashed in a California canyon, killing both men and subjecting Icon to fresh scrutiny. That crash was the result of the pilot mistakenly entering the wrong canyon with no exit and was then unable to perform a necessary 180-degree turn to get out.
     The plane has been described as a Jet Ski with wings, a high-performance sport aircraft. Technically, it is NOT a high performance aircraft. The powerplant is a fuel-injected, air and liquid cooled four cylinder aircraft engine that generates 100 horsepower. Federal aviation regulations require pilots to have a high-performance airplane endorsement in order to act as pilot-in-command of a high-performance airplane. Any airplane with an engine of more than 200 horsepower is considered “high-performance.” An airplane with a 200-horsepower engine does not qualify. On a multiengine airplane, the engines are evaluated individually (horsepower ratings are not added together).
     The problem is most likely marketing and lack of pilot training and experience. People have been lead to believe this plane is a toy. They see it as a pleasure craft, used for flying on water, which it seems what Halladay was doing. It’s to play around in and have some fun. Flying close to flat ground or water is always very dangerous because it is easy to lose one's depth perception and fly into the ground. I personally know of one pilot who was flying over a frozen Lake Erie and about 50 feet when he hit the ice at 100 miles per hour and ending up sliding for a mile.
     The ICON A5 is sleek and sporty, amphibious aircraft. Its wings fold up and the cockpit mimics that of a sports car. You can roll it out of the garage, haul it to the nearest boat launch, hop in and take off for a joy ride. The plane has been described as easy to fly, it has a no-stall wing design and it’s designed to be a safe airplane. When I learned to fly it was in a Cessna 152 which, if memory serves, had 90-100 horsepower engine, about the same as the ICON A5. A real wimp engine that generated speeds of around 100 mph, again, about the same as the ICON A5.
Cessna 152

     The problem is that Jet-Ski-with-wings description. It’s one thing to rip around on a Jet Ski and get tossed around. It's quite another to skim low over the water at a high rate of speed (the ICON A5 tops out at 121 mph). And, that is exactly what the demo video shows the plane doing.
     Halladay got his pilot’s license in April 2014, took ownership of the ICON A5 less than four weeks ago and apparently only flew the plane a few times. He tweeted, “I keep telling my dad flying the ICON A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet!” And that, I think, is the problem. A combination of poor advertising that misleads people, especially inexperienced pilots, into thinking this airplane is a fun toy and lack of pilot education and poor judgment on the part of the pilot.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

     The other day I read about something called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) which is a You Tube phenomenon with over 9.6 million videos. 
     Some people claim it gives them “braingasms” and tingling sensations in their heads and necks.  Five percent of those studied in a Swansea University study claimed they get sexually stimulated watching them. Most of the videos on You Tube feature people doing rather mundane things, but quite a few feature things like shaves and haircuts for men and applying makeup and doing hair for women.  Head massages seem popular, too.
     ASMR is a term used for an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia. ASMR signifies the subjective experience of "low-grade euphoria" characterised by "a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin". It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli.

Stimuli that can trigger ASMR include the following:
Listening to a softly spoken or whispering voice
Listening to quiet, repetitive sounds
Watching somebody attentively execute a mundane task
Loudly Chewing, Crunching, Slurping or Biting Foods, Drinks, or gum.
Receiving altruistic tender personal attention

     Watching and listening to an audiovisual recording of a person performing or simulating the above actions and producing their consequent and accompanying sounds is sufficient to trigger ASMR for the majority of those who report susceptibility to the experience. Apparently not everyone, myself included, is susceptible.
     Psychologists discovered that whispering was an effective trigger for 75 percent of the subjects who took part in an experiment. That explains why most of the You Tube videos I watch had people whispering to the point that headphones were required to hear what they were saying.
     Many of those who experience ASMR report that some specific non-vocal ambient noises are also effective triggers including those produced by fingers scratching or tapping a surface, the crushing of eggshells, the crinkling and crumpling of a flexible material such as paper, or writing. Many YouTube videos that are intended to trigger ASMR responses capture a single person performing these actions and sounds.
     Role playing is also an important part of many You Tube videos: hair cutting, applying makeup, head massages, nails painted, ears cleaned, or back massaged, all accompanied by quiet or ehispered speech. You Tube AMSR “artists” speak into the camera as if they were giving the viewer personal attention. This personal attention worked for 69 percent of those taking part in the study.
     Not surprisingly, for some viewers ASMR helps with inducing sleep for those susceptible to insomnia, and relieving symptoms such as those associated with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
     Some ASMR videos use binaural recording techniques to simulate the acoustics of a three dimensional environment. Binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation of actually being in the room. Some of the microphones come in the shape of a human ear with about the distance of a human head to achieve the desired effect and can cost upwards of $500.
     These recordings are made to be heard through headphones rather than speakers. When listening to sound through speakers, the left and right ear both hear the sound coming from the speaker. But when listening to sound through headphones, the sound from the left earpiece is audible only to the left ear, and the sound from the right ear piece is audible only to the right ear. When producing binaural media, the sound source is recorded by two separate microphones, placed at a distance comparable to that between two ears, and they are not mixed, but remain separate on the final medium. The result is a more realistic sound. The listener perceives being in close proximity to the performers and location of the sound source. Secondly, the listener perceives what is often reported as a three dimensional sound.
     Not everybody experiences ASMR. Researchers say that if you're not blown away by listening or if you only feel some vague sensation, then it's probably deep relaxation but not necessarily ASMR. Not everybody has the sensory wiring to have ASMR experiences.
     Creating an ASMR video isn't as simple as just filming. Complex videos take about three days to create as scripts with specific soothing words have to be written and the sounds to be incorprated have to be researched. Then testing has to be done on such things as microphone positioning and lighting levels. Then there's post production editing that needs to be done. This is important because one of the first ASMR videos I checked out on You Tube was done by a young girl with, obviously, no experience. It was funny because the lighting was such that you could see shadow of the camera and microphone on the wall behind her.
     But, why so many ASMR videos on You Tube? Because it is possible to make money on them.  Good ASMRtists, as they are called, can see subscriptions numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and views in the millions and many collect ad revenue,and accept donations through PayPal. One lady on You Tube has an estimated net worth of $420,000. Her channel’s content is basically just her whispering different things into a mic, but it has over 350 million views and gets an average of 350,000 views per day. This gives an estimated revenue of around $630 per day ($230,000 a year) from the ads that run on the videos. Of course, most You Tube ASMR videos don't make that kind of money, but they can get paid between $2 – $5 per 1000 views after YouTube takes its cut. That could add up to some extra spending money.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Cats Eating Mice

   Given the opportunity cats will chase a mouse...sometimes kill it, too. In fact, many farms have barn cats whose job it is to kill rodents. The cats have food available and the farmer's grain is undisturbed.
     In addition to barn cats sometimes an indoor-outdoor cat will occasionally bring home a small kill to proudly display to its human. Our cat has never been outside, but there's a vagrant cat I named Elvis that frequently shows up at out backdoor looking for a handout and on a couple of occasions she has left me a gift, apparently in appreciation for her food. Once it was a dead field mouse and once a dead garter snake.
     Both “gifts” were scooped up with a shovel and thrown over the back fence into the woods. You have to be careful of the mice. Depending on the region, mice may be loaded with a variety of diseases that neither nor Elvis would want to encounter. Of course, she doesn't know any better. A cat catching and eating a mouse can get toxoplasmosis which can lead to uvitis, which in turn can lead to glaucoma. Although most cats are exposed to toxoplasmosis at one time or another, the usual reaction is mild, but the potential for far worse is there.
     In May, 1993 a new hantavirus, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) was identified in New Mexico after forty-two people were infected, resulting eleven fatalities. Since that time, the new strain has been discovered in other parts of the U.S., with various rodents, including the common house mouse acting as hosts and the incidence of disease in humans has become widespread.
     Several other hantaviruses that affect humans exist worldwide and have been found responsible for outbreaks among animal caretakers and laboratory workers in Korea, China, Japan, Scandinavia, the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Soviet Union.
     HPS can be transmitted to humans by handling infected mice, inhaling aerosols produced directly from the saliva or excreted waste of the animal is the most virulent means of transfer. For that reason, it's always a good idea to wear not only rubber gloves when handling a mouse the cat has brought home, but also a mask, and to thoroughly scrub any surface area the mouse may have contacted with a disinfectant.
     Early symptoms of HPS in humans are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, and may consist of:
■ Headache
■ Gastrointestinal complaints
■ Fever
■ Muscle pain
■ Variable respiratory symptoms
     The condition can quickly progress into acute respiratory distress and pulmonary edema. Since the incubation period for HPS is from one to three weeks, symptoms may not be readily associated with the dead mouse.
     The Center for Disease Control is unsure whether other animals that prey on rodents may be carriers, but has stated that cats themselves are not carriers of the hantaviruses that cause HPS in the United States, nor can it be transferred from one person to another.
     Toxoplasmosis has long been dreaded among pregnant women who live with cats. Cats can become carriers of the parasite from hunting and catching mice. The virus is in the cats' excrement and pregnant women can contract it from emptying the litter box and pass it on to the unborn baby with potential for birth defects and/or death. Healthy adults very seldom are even aware that they have been exposed to toxoplasmosis, however immunocompromised people (HIV or transplant patients) are at risk. Normally though, fear of toxoplasmosis is not sufficient reason to throw the cat out with the liter.
     Other sources of toxoplasmosis are eating under cooked meat and handling garden dirt that may contain the parasite. So, pregnant women and others at risk should always wear gloves when gardening and make it a habit to cook meat thoroughly.
     Mice carry other diseases that are far worse. The Plague, or Black Death. This is the disease that wiped out twenty-five percent of the world's population from the 14th through the 17th centuries.
     By far the most prevalent cause of salmonella in humans is by eating improperly prepared foods, but it is thought that the house mouse may also be a host of the infection and may play a role in human and animal salmonellosis.
     Rickettsialpox is found most often on the East Coast of the U.S. in rodent-infested housing and is transmitted by a mite carried by the common house mouse. This disease causes ulceration of the area surrounding the mite bite, fever, and a rash over the body and limbs.
     The obvious conclusion is that mice are not our friends, nor are they suitable cat food. Thta's probably why barn cats life expectancy is pretty short. It's also a good reason not to let pet cats roam outdoors.
     However, and I was unaware of this, if you want to treat your cat to an occasional mouse snack, they are available for sale online and are shipped frozen, usually in lots of 25 or 50. Honest. For example, day old frozen “pinky mice” cost $0.50 apiece and a Jumbo 3.5 inch to 4.25 inch mouse (I'd call something this big a rat) will set you back $0.90 apiece.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Medicinal Value of Urine

    It's been claimed by some that one's own urine is the body's own medicine and Urine Therapy can be a very effective in healing certain diseases. The claim is that oral intake of freshly voided morning urine has been recommended for many diseases such as viral or bacterial infections. Symptoms reported during the first days of oral intake of urine include nausea, vomiting, headache, palpitations, diarrhea or fever. Side effects notwithstanding, it's claimed that several substances in the urine are believed to be important for oral intake such as urea, uric acid, cytokines, hormones or urokinase. Local urine therapies include embrocations, compresses for local tumors, whole body bath or foot bath in the urine, use of urine as eye drops, ear drops or nose drops and the use of urine for wound cleaning.
     There was even an episode of the TV series My Strange Addiction that highlighted a "medical" practice that caused many viewers to turn away in revulsion. The feature described drinking one's own urine and using it to massage, irrigate, or coat body parts, as an attempt to fight off cancer.
    Urine therapy, urotherapy or urinotherapy, are terms that have been used to refer to the use of one's own urine as a medicinal aid. There are no medical or scientific data to support this dubious practice, but it has roots in history and in some religious and spiritual traditions. In certain cultures, urine has been used as a skin protectant, an anti-infectious agent, and a tooth whitener, among many other uses, but none of these claims have ever been substantiated by medical research. Even the popular folk remedy of urinating on jellyfish stings has no medical basis and may actually worsen the injury. There have been rare reports of people drinking their urine as a way to prevent dehydration in catastrophic situations when there was no water supply, such as being lost at sea.
     In the TV series, a cancer patient opted for urine therapy to treat her cancer. She not only drank her own urine, she used it to irrigate her eyes and sinuses, brush her teeth and applied it to her skin. The idea of this treatment as a cancer therapy probably comes from the fact that certain tumor proteins are present in the urine of cancer patients. By introducing urine into the digestive tract and other sites in the body, the erroneous belief is that the body will begin making antibodies against the tumor proteins to try to destroy the cancer.
     While it is true that urine can contain tumor antigens, there is no evidence to show that drinking, massaging with, bathing in, or any other application of urine will stimulate antibody production or in any way fight off a cancer. The quantities of substances, including tumor antigens, present in urine are typically minuscule compared with those already present in the blood and elsewhere in the body. The bottom line is that drinking your own urine isn't likely to be harmful, but it has no known medical benefit.
     That's not to say that urine is worthless. Looking back in history urine has been used to whiten teeth. Ancient Romans used urine to brighten their teeth. The Roman poet Catullus wrote, "Egnatius, because he has snow-white teeth, smiles all the time...in the country of Spain what each man pisses, he’s used to brushing his teeth and red gums with, every morning, so the fact that your teeth are so polished just shows you're the more full of piss."
     Before scientists were able to synthesize chemicals, urine was a rich source of urnitrogen-based compound that when set aside for long periods decays into ammonia. Ammonia acts as a weak base when in water, making it the perfect substance for the ancients to use when softening and tanning animal hides to make leather. Soaking the animal skins in urine also made the process of removing hair and bits of unwanted flesh from the skin.
     Ammonia is a prominent ingredient in many household cleaners as it is is a powerful cleansing agent and helps fight dirt and grease. Ammonia is also found in urine and the early Europeans often used it clean their homes. In ancient Rome, vessels were placed on streets as urine collectors. After the buckets were full from people passing by to relieve themselves, the vats were taken to a laundry and used to wash dirty clothes.
     During the 1500's, families dedicated chamber pots to collecting their pee to be used in developing brighter colors when dying fabric. Urine was so important to the textile industry in England that an "estimated amount equivalent to the urine steam of 1,000 people for an entire year were shipped across the country to Yorkshire" to be used in dying fabric according to the Smithsonian.
     Urine can be used to make gunpowder. The main ingredient, potassium nitrate was only made available on a large-scale in the early 1900's. Until then, gunpowder manufacturers used the nitrogen found in urine to make their product.
     Recently a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University has developed a technology to generate hydrogen fuel from urine.
     Urine contains proteins and other substances that are useful for medical therapy and are ingredients in many prescription drugs (e.g., Ureacin, Urecholine, Urowave). Urine from postmenopausal women is rich in gonadotropins that can yield follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone for fertility therapy. One such commercial product is Pergonal.
     Urine from pregnant women contains enough human chorionic gonadotropins for commercial extraction and purification to produce medication. Pregnant mare urine is the source of estrogens, namely Premarin. Urine also contains antibodies, which can be used in diagnostic antibody tests for a range of pathogens, including HIV.
     Urine is very high in nitrogen, low in phosphorus and moderate in potassium, so if urine is to be separated and collected for use as a fertilizer in agriculture, then the easiest method of doing so is with sanitation systems that utilize waterless urinals, urine-diverting dry toilets or urine diversion flush toilets.
     Undiluted urine can chemically burn the leaves or roots of some plants, particularly if the soil moisture content is low. For this reason, urine fertilizer is usually applied diluted with water.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Roy Bean, the Hanging Judge

     Hanging Judge Roy Bean, who held court sessions in his saloon along the Rio Grande River in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, was one of the Old West's most fascinating characters. According to myth, his saloon was named after the love of his life, Lily Langtry, a British actress he'd never met.
    Judge Bean didn't call himseld the Hanging Judge though; he called himself the Law West of the Pecos and is reputed to have kept a pet bear in his courtroom and sentenced dozens to the gallows, saying "Hang 'em first, try 'em later." Separating fact from fiction though proves very difficult.
    Bean was born in Mason County, Kentucky about 1825. At age 15 he left home to follow two older brothers west seeking adventure. With Brother Sam, he joined a wagon train into New Mexico, then crossed the Rio Grande and set up a trading post in Chihuahua, Mexico. After killing a local man, he fled to California, to stay with his brother Joshua who would become the first mayor of San Diego.
    While living in San Diego, Roy had a reputation for bragging, dueling and gambling on cockfights. As mayor, his brother appointed Roy a lieutenant in the state militia and bartender of the Headquarters, the mayor's saloon. In 1852, Roy was arrested after wounding a man in a duel, but he escaped and after his brother, the mayor, was killed a few months later by a rival in a romantic triangle, Roy headed back to New Mexico where brother Sam Bean had become a sheriff and also owned a saloon.
     In New Mexico, Roy tended bar in Sam's saloon for several years while smuggling guns from Mexico through the Union blockade during the Civil War. Afterward, he married a Mexican teenager and settled in San Antonio, Texas where throughout the 1870s he supported 5 children by peddling stolen firewood and selling watered-down milk. His nefarious business practices eventually earned his San Antonio neighborhood the nickname Beanville.
     Then in 1882, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad hired crews to link San Antonio with El Paso, Texas across 530 miles of the scorching Chihuahuan Desert. The desert was a miserable place that was infested with bobcats, rattlesnakes and scorpions, called vinegaroons by the locals.
    Fleeing his marriage and illegal businesses in San Antonio, Roy headed to to the area, known as Vinegaroon to become a saloonkeeper, serving railroad workers their whiskey from a tent. Bean was his own best customer and was often drunk and disorderly.
    Because the nearest courtroom was a week's ride away the County Commissioners, wanting to establish some sort of local law, appointed Roy Bean as Justice of the Peace for his precinct in Pecos County, Texas. Roy accepted the appointment and packed up and moved north from Vinegaroon to a small tent city on the Rio Grande named Langtry in honor of a railroad boss who had run the Southern Pacific's tracks through it.
    The name Langtry also happened to be the name of a beautiful British actress that Bean had read about and become enchanted with. He built a saloon and named it the Jersey Lilly, as Ms. Langtry was known. He hung a picture of her behind the bar, and above the door, posted signs proclaiming "ICE COLD BEER" and "LAW WEST OF THE PECOS." From his bar Bean dispensed not only liquor, justice and tall tales which included the fact that he had named the town for actress Lillie Langtry.
    When it came to “justice” Bean wasn't too concerned with legalities. He was more concerned with things like greed and prejudice mixed in with a little common sense and a lot of colorful language.
    One of Bean's most outrageous rulings occurred when an Irishman was accused of killing a Chinese worker. Friends of the accused threatened to destroy the Jersey Lilly if he was found guilty. After thumbing through his law book, Bean proclaimed he found the law very explicit on murdering one's fellow man, but there was nothing in the law books about killing a Chinaman and the case was dismissed.
    According to legend, Judge Bean was merciless and was called "The Hangin' Judge." But that title goes to Isaac Parker of Fort Smith, Arkansas, who sentenced 172 men to hang although in fact, only 88 of them actually ended up swinging. Bean threatened to hang hundreds, but one researcher claimed there's no evidence to suggest that ever hung anybody. One or two were sentenced and taken to the gallows, but allowed to escape.
    Like many politicians of questionable repute today, Bean was elected to the office in 1884 and often reelected, so that between 1882 and 1902, most of Roy's bizarre rulings stood. Except for an occasional murder, his cases consisted mostly of misdemeanor offenses such as drunkenness and crimes committed by petty criminals.
    Most days found him sitting on the porch of his saloon with rifle in his lap. In the saloon his favorite customers were railroad passengers who wanted a drink while the train took on water. His favorite trick was not to give them change and then when the train's warning whistle blew, customers asked for their change which was refused. The result was that there were usually a few curse words utter and then Bean would fine them for swearing. The fine was the exact amount of their change. There was nothing customers could do except “pay” the fine and hustle back to the train.
    In 1896, prizefighting was illegal, as it was in Mexico, and promoters couldn't find anywhere to hold the world championship title bout between Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher.
    In February of 1896, Bean's saloon was packed with 200 fight fans and after a few rounds they followed Bean over a bridge he had built to a sand bar in the Rio Grande River. While Texas Rangers watched from shore, Fitzsimmons knocked out Maher in only 95 seconds. After returning to the saloon for more drinks, the fans and sportswriters headed for El Paso, where news stories were filed to papers throughout the US. It was after this that Bean became a national legend and his exploits were recounted in newspapers and dime novels. Many of the “details” came from Bean himself.
Dime novels were popular

    For years, Roy boasted of his acquaintance with Lillie Langtry and promised that she would one day arrive and sing in in town. 1896, after his first saloon was destroyed by fire, Roy rebuilt the Jersey Lilly and constructed a home for himself across the street, which he called the Opera House, anticipating the day when Lillie would perform there. Roy never met Miss Lillie, but he often wrote her, and she is purported to have written back, even sending him 2 pistols.
    Some novels and the movie Streets Of Laredo portrayed Bean as being gunned down by a Mexican outlaw on the steps of the Jersey Lilly, but his end was anti-climactic. In March 1903, he went on a drinking binge in Del Rio, Texas and was found dead in his bed the following morning.
    Lillie Langtry finally did take Judge Bean up on his invitation to visit. Unfortunately, it was tem months after old Roy died. Traveling on the Southern Pacific Railroad on her was from New Orleans to San Francisco she made a stop and visited the saloon and listened as locals told her how Judge Bean had fined a corpse, freed a murderer and lined his pockets by shortchanging train passengers. She wrote of the visit in her autobiography calling it, “...a short visit, but an unforgettable one."
    There's a whole lot of nothing on those west Texas roads, but you can still visit Langtry, Texas which in 2016 had a population of...twelve people. You probably won't want to visit the museum during the months of Jun, July and August though; the average daytime high approaches 100 degrees.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Speaking of Teeth

      As Seen On TV ads are popular and when visiting the local drug store I always stop by to see what they have to offer. Somehow when you see the actual product you always have the gut feeling that it's not as amazing as it's advertised on the commercials. There's also the feeling that somehow you're getting cheated because the commercials almost always offer two items with the second one being free...just pay a separate postage fee. Of course, the second postage fee covers the cost so you're getting ripped off in any case.
     The other day I saw some false teeth (uppers only) that promised to give you an amazing smile for only $20. To be honest, they looked pretty cheap, sort of like Halloween teeth, but if your teeth look like this…

and you don't have dental insurance or can't afford dental work then I suppose they might be OK.
     Do they really work? In the following Youtube video you can see a lady testing them. To be fair, I saw a couple of videos where this product was tested and they weren't really fair tests because the people testing the product already had decent looking teeth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How Teeth Are Pulled

  Back in the day when barbers, wig makers and even blacksmiths dabbled in dentistry getting a tooth pulled was fraught with danger. There's always some danger even today, but in those days there was no anesthetics and they just grabbed the tooth tightly with forceps, twisted and pulled. If you were lucky only the tooth came out and not pieces of you gum and bone and you didn't walk way with a broken jaw.
     These days tooth extraction is usually relatively straightforward, and the vast majority can be usually performed quickly while the individual is awake by using local anesthetic injections to eliminate pain. Still, pulling a tooth involves more than just numbing the patient, grabbing the tooth and yanking it out.
     First the dentist will anesthetize both the tooth, bone and gum tissue that surround it. There's no way to do this except by injection which will hurt a bit and usually there's a momentary sensation of tsting something metallic, but it can't b helped.
     You're feel pressure during your extraction procedure, usually a whole lot of it. The sensation of pain is transmitted by different nerve fibers than those that transmit pressure and only the nerves that transmit pain are the one that have been numbed. No amount of anesthetic will eliminate the sensation of pressure.
     Also, it's not surprising to hear snap or breaking noises when teeth re being pulled. A study done in 2015 determined that the level of force that resulted in tooth fracture was sometimes only slightly greater than that required for routine tooth removal, so it doesn't take much to break a tooth during extraction. The consequences of having a root break can vary and range from a piece proving to be difficult to “fish” out with the result that the time in the chair is increased, or if you're lucky, the dentist can just tease it out.
     When a tooth is pulled, the root portion is firmly encased in bone (aka the socket), and tightly held in place by its ligament which is a fibrous tissue between the tooth and bone that binds the two together. To get the tooth out the dentist must both widen and enlarge the socket and separate the tooth from its ligament before it can actually be removed.
     If you've ever tried to remove a tent stake that's been driven deeply into the ground, you know that you can't just pull the stake straight out. You have to rock it back and forth to widen the hole. The dentist does the same thing. Fortunately the bone that encases a tooth's root is relatively spongy. This rocking process also loosens the tooth's ligaments.
     They'll use tools like extraction forceps and an elevators which looks like a screwdriver. The tip of an elevator is wedged into the ligament space between a tooth and its surrounding bone and twisted around and the tooth is rocked around to both expand the shape of the socket and separate the tooth from its ligament. In some cases, the dentist may be able to completely remove the tooth just using their elevator, but if not they'll use the forceps.
     A dentist will usually have a number of different ones, each having a design that's tailored to the specific shape of the tooth he's removing and the location of the tooth in the mouth. They grab the tooth with the forceps and then firmly rock it back and forth as much as it will move. While he's rocking it, he's also rotating the tooth back and forth. This helps to rip and tear the tooth away from the ligament. Sometimes all this twisting and rocking won't be real gentle. An assistant may be required to hold you head in place.
     It's during this process that you can be thankful for lidocaine, the most commonly used local anesthetic. They used to use procaine, also known as novocaine. Lidocaine is a faster-acting and longer-lasting local anesthetic than procaine. Its half-life in the body is about 1.5–2 hours.
     The numbing drug is only one part of what's injected. Included can be can include a type of drug called a vasoconstrictor which narrows your blood vessels and makes the numbness last longer. It can also include a chemical that keeps the vasoconstrictor from breaking down, Sodium hydroxide, which helps the numbing drug work. Another ingredient is Sodium chloride which helps the drugs get into your blood.
     There are two kinds of numbing injections. A block injection numbs an entire region of your mouth, such as one side of your lower jaw. An infiltration injection numbs a smaller area. This is the area near where the injection was given.
     The dentist begins by drying part of your mouth with air or cotton then swab the area with a gel to numb the skin. Then they will slowly inject the local anesthetic. Here's a surprise. Most people don't feel the needle; they only feel a sting caused by the anesthetic moving into the tissue.
     If the patient is nervous, some dentists may also use Nitrous oxide, a sedative agent that is mixed with oxygen and inhaled through a small mask that fits over your nose to help you relax. Nitrous oxide, sometimes called “laughing gas,” is one option your dentist may offer to help make you more comfortable during certain procedures. You may feel light-headed or a tingling in your arms and legs and some people say their arms and legs feel heavy. It also feels cold. Ultimately, you should feel calm and comfortable. The effects wear off soon after the mask is removed.
     Contrary to popular belief, laughing gas is not a pain reliever and is never used to fully sedate a patient because the concentration needed to completely anesthetize a patient is close to the amount that would lower blood oxygen level to a point where a state of hypoxia results.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Steam Locomotive Engineers

    Steam engines always are a thrill to see. The locomotive engineer's job is fascinating to boys and men of all ages because it is a romantic job. A powerful, throbbing piece of equipment, the steam locomotive is a symbol of dynamic energy and strength.
     The locomotive engineer must not only know how to run his engine, but he must also know a great deal about how it is built and how each part works, so that he will know what must be done if anything goes wrong. Therefore, one who aspires to become an engineer usually started as a machinist's or boiler maker's apprentice, or in some other beginner's job in a shop or roundhouse where locomotives were repaired. His next job may have been that of a hostler, who runs the locomotives in and around the shops and repair yards but who does not drive an engine in main-line service, or his next job could have been that of a locomotive fireman. The fireman's job furnishes the final training ground for the engineer's job and every locomotive engineer was selected from the ranks of firemen.
     An engineer's first assignment was usually running a switching engine, pushing and pulling cars back and forth and making up trains in rail yards. Then he was assigned to a local freight run, and finally, he got a fast or long distance freight or passenger run.
     Because of efficiency and safety concerns engineers, and every other member of the crew, had to be trained for his job but also had to be healthy and have good eyesight. Before the engineer was allowed to run a locomotive he had pass a rigid examination to prove that he was familiar with the technical details of locomotive operation, air-brakes, signals, etc., and also that he was thoroughly familiar with the rule book. For safety reasons no crew mwmber was allowed to start work unless he has been off duty for at least eight hours.
     Crew members were assigned to different runs on the basis of seniority, the man with the longest service record having the first choice, the man with the second longest service record having the second choice, and so on.
     Engineers sat on the right side of the cab and kept his eye on the track, observed signals and making sure the track was clear. When the train approached a signal, its message had to be confirmed by the fireman. to make certain that it was read it correctly. The engineer and fireman also watch the train to the rear to see that it was intact and to note any signal from the conductor or brakemen.
     The steam engine's cab, situated behind the boiler and firebox, contained all of the controls required in the operation: the throttle, the air-brake controls, the sand controls, and several gauges and indicators which tell the engineer how well the engine was performing. Many locomotives were equipped with automatic stokers whereby coal was conveyed from the tender into the firebox.
     The whistle was used to signal the train crew and sounds warnings upon approaching crossings, stations and persons or animals on the track. When the train was approaching a station, the engineer sounded one long blast. On approaching a grade crossing, he sounded two long, one short and one long blast. Several short blasts were sounded to warn persons or animals to get off the track. The engineer also has several whistle combinations for communicating information to the conductor and other members of the train crew.
     On passenger trains the train crew communicated with to the engineer by means of a signal cord extending through the entire length of the train and attached to a little whistle beside the engineer in the cab. When the train was standing, two short pulls on the signal cord told the engineer to start the train; three shorts told him to back up; four shorts told him to apply or release air-brakes. When the train was moving two short blasts signaled the engineer to stop at once; three shorts, stop at next passenger station; four shorts, reduce speed. Freight trains were not equipped with signal cords so the conductor and crew signaled the engineer by means of hand, flag and lantern signals.
    Although steam engines are long gone some scenic railroads still operate them and it is possible to attend classes to learn to be a fireman and engineer. One scenic railroad, for example, offers classes in which individuals must complete the Fireman Steam School Class before advancing to the Engineer Steam School Class. Both the Fireman and Engineer courses must be completed before signing up for the Advanced class and class sizes are limited. But it's not cheap:
     The fireman's class costs $2250.00 and is available to first-time students. Emphasis is on “firing” a K-36 Baldwin locomotive and textbooks, rule book, and timetable are furnished in advance to all students. On day one students view safety videos and review course materials. After the classroom session, students meet in the yard where they receive hands-on training.
     On day two they become familiar with the art of firing the locomotive and then practice the actual firing of the locomotive while it is making its run. Days three and four are test that are actually made during a 64-mile run.
     The engineer's class cost $2750.00 and is open to those that took the Fireman's class. Emphasis is on the use of the throttle, brakes, setting valves, injectors, lubricators, lights, and repairs and maintenance, along with specific studies relative to use of the air on the locomotive and much more. Homework is required and students are tested beginning at day one, the material having been supplied in advance.
     Day two includes the practice, familiarization and understanding of the operation of the locomotive. Days three and four test the students’ proficiency and skill by actually driving the engine on a run.
     The Advanced class cost is $5,000.00. This class focuses less on road trips and more on the everyday tasks of railroading and covers such things as yard operation rules, yard operation, yard switching, air brakes and operating a local freight with switching.
     During training students must pay for their room and board and supply steel toed shoes, eye protection, overalls, long sleeve shirts, caps and work gloves.
     These days a diesel locomotive engineer's salary ranges between $60,000-$130,000 with the average being around $92,000. The route to becoming an engineer is not easy. Generally one starts in an entry-level position such as a Switchman or Brakeman. You do not need any previous railroad experience. These jobs directly lead to becoming a Conductor or an Engineer.
     These are not fun jobs! They require a non-standard 40-hour week that require variable work hours with irregularly scheduled days off. Employees are always on-call, even nights, weekends and holidays, and are typically required to report to work within 90 minutes of notification. I once considered applying for such a position and was told we would be required to be reachable by phone at each shift change (7am. 3Pm and 11pm). I was also informed that the pay was so many dollars per week (I don't remember the exact amount). They phrased it as a dollar amount per week to try and hide the fact that it was actually minimum wage. I wasn't interested! Travel is required and crews sometimes spending a day or more away from home.
     This entry level job requires working outdoors in all weather conditions, including snow, ice, rain, cold and heat and frequently more than 12 feet above the ground. Employees are affected by the amount of work available and it's not unusual to be placed on furlough status and no longer be on the active call list. As work demand increases, individuals are taken off furlough status as needed. Furloughs are based on seniority.
     One railroad claims that as a beginning crew member on can expect to earn about $41,000 a year, but actual pay depends on location and union agreements. The first 14 weeks are dedicated to formal training both in the classroom and on the job. Afterward, you will be assigned to either a switch person, brake person or conductor.