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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Last Flight of the Airship USS Shenandoah


    On September 3, 1925, the airship USS Shenandoah crashed in the hills of Southeast Ohio. Fourteen crew members were killed, the wreckage was torn apart by local looters, and the whole disaster foreshadowed the beginning of the end for dirigibles.
      The Shenandoah was the first of four Navy rigid airships. It was constructed during 1922–23 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and first flew in September 1923. It made the first crossing of North America by airship. On the 57th flight Shenandoah was destroyed in a squall line over Ohio in September of 1925. 
     In the 1920s, dirigibles and airships populated the skies alongside airplanes. European countries had long used airships for military purposes, so in 1923 the US Navy launched the nation’s first rigid dirigible, the USS Shenandoah. The Shenandoah would be the first dirigible in the world to use helium, instead of dangerous and highly volatile hydrogen. When completed, the Shenandoah was housed in Lakehurst, New Jersey. 
     The Shenandoah gained notability in 1924 when it completed a transcontinental flight. Due to this well-publicized adventure, the airship, once conceived as a scouting vessel, quickly became more useful to the Navy as a promotional tool. The Shenandoah was scheduled to spend the late summer of 1925 visiting state fairs in the Midwest. It was a mission that apparently did not sit well with the airship’s commanding officer. 
     Lieutenant Commander Zachary Lansdowne was from Greenville, Ohio and was aware that late summer brought sudden, severe and unpredictable weather to the Great Lakes region, and when he icded his concerns to his superior officers, they were only partially heeded; the Navy delayed the flight to September, but refused to cancel it. 
     On September 3, 1925, as the Shenandoah started on the publicity tour, it ran into a powerful squall line that tore it in half. Due to the violent destruction of the Shenandoah while it was still airborne, the ship’s crash site is actually three crash sites. The stern section crashed near Ava, Ohio, the bow section was blown along the wind until it landed near Sharon, Ohio over 2 miles away. The ship’s control car fell near Ava on what is now Ohio State Route 821. Forty-three officers and men were aboard. Fourteen died. 


     Almost immediately after the crash locals started looting the crash site. Two weeks after the crash, Justice Department agents and prohibition agents conducted a series of raids in West Virginia and Ohio to recover stolen artifacts from the Shenandoah. Among the recovered article were personal luggage of several members of the ship’s crew and a cap said to have been worn by Commander Zachary Lansdowne. 

     The Shenandoah crash would be the first of several crashes that would ultimately push the United States, and the world, away from lighter-than-air flight and toward sole reliance on planes for air travel. In 1933, the USS Akron, another navy airship, crashed in a storm off the coast of New Jersey, killing 73 people. Two years later, another storm crashed Akron’s sister ship USS Macon, killing two crew members. Two years after that, the Hindenburg exploded over New Jersey, killing 36 people and effectively ending the common use of airships.
     At 3:30 am on September 3, 1925, Lieutenant Commander Lansdowne, was worried because it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the 690-foot airship steady in the mounting turbulence over southeastern Ohio. 
     Charles B. Rosendahl, who had just come on duty as navigator, asked their position, but Lansdowne didn't because he was watching the altimeter and the bubble on the inclination scale bouncing back and forth crazily as the dirigible rose and fell in gigantic columns of air. After checking the chart, Rosendahl was surprised at how little progress they had made during the stormy night. Their position was somewhere near Cambridge, Ohio. Their airspeed was 65 miles per hour, but the estimated ground speed was zero! 
     Aviation Pilot Franklin Masters was on duty and was fighting the control wheel that controlled the giant tail fin. Masters informed Rosendahl that they had encountered the squall line an hour earlier and were still in it. 
     Rosendahl knew Lansdowne was the Navy’s most experienced officer in lighter-than-air craft and how he had done his utmost for more than a year to discourage the secretary of the Navy from foolishly scheduling dirigible flights over the American Midwest, where they were frequently at the mercy of unpredictable local storms just like this one. He also sensed that the Captain was worried about this storm 
     In the radio shack, Chief Radio Engineer George C. Schnitzer had the best radio equipment available; it had a range of 3.000 miles, but trying to pick up weather reports was useless because of the static in the atmosphere. 
     For the next hour Lansdowne and Rosendahl tried to keep the ship on the proper heading at an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet, but it was useless. Even with its six 300-hp engines at full throttle, the Shenandoah barely responded to the controls. It's fabric-covered frame, aluminum girders and equipment came loose and was making a terrible racket. 
     At 4:30 am Pilot Masters was relieved and as he made his way to the bunk room he saw that the interior framework twisting and straining so violently that the dirigible’s silk skin was alternately tight as a drum, then wrinkled . Meanwhile, fuel drums had snapped their cables and were rolling against the delicate skeleton. From his post in the gondola of engine No. 3, Aviation Machinist’s Mate Ralph Jones sensed trouble mostly because of the constant erratic signals coming from the control car. 
     They should have been over mid-Pennsylvania, but instead, they were battling terrific winds over farmland in Noble County, Ohio that belonged to Andy Gamara and his neighbors. 
     At 5 am Gamara’s wife woke him to say she thought she had been hearing airplane engines overhead for the last half hour. Gamara expected the sound top fade away, but when it didn't he and his wife got dressed and went outside to have a look. During lightning flashes they could barely make out the Shenandoah. 
     In the control cabin at 5:25 am the ship was between 2,600 and 2,700 feet when, without warning, it ran into a gigantic current of warm air rising and the altimeter registered an ascent of 2,100 feet. The dirigible was careening heavily to the port side with its nose pointing skyward until it looked as though it might soon stand on its tail. The ship kept climbing out of control, then for about three minutes they were at around 4,600 feet and were almost on an even keel.
     By 4,800 feet they were slowly climbing, but everything looked under control.  Then they started climbing again and they couldn’t check the vertical ascent. When the air inside the control cabin suddenly changed from cold to warm, moist and heavy, Rosendahl realized they were caught in a powerful mass of rising air. 
     By this time they were at 6,200 feet. And, their control valves that bled off hydrogen began getting stuck. Rosendahl shouted that they had to get the nose down or they would break up. 
     The aluminum girders that made up the frame had already started to twist out of shape from the strain. The Cpatain gave orders to jettison all water and fuel possible to lighten their tail. As Rosendahl ventured inside of the dirigible he heard unbelievable noise: a sound like the roar of surf, sharp snapping noises, straining and squeals. It was then he realized they were doomed. 
     At 7,200 feet the airship showed no signs of responding to any control inputs. Lansdowne then ordered that all men turn to and start manually turning valves releasing hydrogen to get the nose down. Once outside the cabin he heard the helmsman shout that the control cable had snapped and then there was a tearing, snapping noise and when he looked back, he saw the control cabin had fallen off the ship and plunging to earth. 
     The aluminum girders started buckling and there was a high-pitched, ripping scream as the fabric started tearing to shreds and the airship was simply torn apart. As Rosendahl and another crewman watched, the entire bow section in which they clinging broke away from the rest of the airship and started to float away. 
     At 5:35 am Aviation Machinist’s Mate Ralph Jones sensed the entire ship was falling. Opening the hatch on the engine gondola where he was stationed, he was greeted with a terrible sight...entire nose of the dirigible had completely disappeared and above the aircraft was in shreds. It was light enough for him to see patches of farmland as the ground rushed up at great speed. 
     At the same time, other crew member also realized the ship had disintegrated and the also could see the ground rushing up; all the could do was hope there was enough gas left in the bags to let them down safely. 
     Thirteen men had been killed in the control cabin, eight were floating in space in the cleanly sheared off bow section and 17 more were in the main part of the ship. 
     That main part of the ship was dropping fast, blown along by the wind at about 20 knots as it began to skim the treetops. On the ground Gamara and his wife had watched the gondola separate and the rest of the ship start falling.
     Trapped in the gondola which was still attached to the main framework Jones had no way to escape. But, the engine was still running and he hoped the forward motion might give some lift to the doomed ship. Then the gondola glided over some bushes, plowed into the ground and somehow Jones miraculously survived. 
     Those aft had a harder time. They hung on tightly and watched trees whizzing past and when the dangling engines struck the ground and wrenched loose, the momentarily lightened main section rose 100 feet into the air and drifted down through a clump of trees. 
     It was 6 am, cold and rainy when the survivors, none of them badly injured limped onto a knoll where farmer Gamara arrived and advised them where the gondola had landed. Lieutenant Richardson then headed for the control car knowing what he would find. 
     While all this was going on, the nose section was still about 1,500 or 2,000 feet up with eight people in it, including Rosendahl who ordered that the gas be bled off by hand and that the crew rig trailing lines that would, hopefully, catch hold of something on the ground. He estimated their forward speed to be around 30 miles per hour. 
     By 6:10 am they were only 200 feet above the ground and what was left of the ship was bucking like crazy. Looking down at the trailing lines, Rosendahl saw saw what he thought to be a piece of equipmen,t but it was a man swinging not more than 50 feet above the ground.  Then the whole nose section flipped upward in an air current, gyrating wildly, and the man at the end of the line began spinning in ever-tightening circles. It was one of the lieutenants who thought maybe he could get low enough to skid to the ground and snag the trailing end of the line around a tree trunk. Then the line broke and the lieutenant was flung to his death. 
     At 6:32 am two walking along the road near the town of Sharon two miners saw what seemed like a dirigible coming in for a landing, but then they noticed that most of the ship was missing. For a minute the ship slowed, hovered directly over them at about 75 feet. A man shouted downward telling them to secure the trailing lines to anything they could. The miners failed, got tangled in the ropes and were drug along the ground for 200 yards before they got loose.
     A farmer finally managed to seize one of the trailing lines after the section smashed into his out buildings and ran around a large tree with it. When they finally landed, one man broke his leg and shoulder; the others were uninjured.
     The date was September 3. Captain Lansdowne was to transfer to sea duty on the 15th. Navy officials were strongly censured for their irresponsibility in risking lives and equipment in dangerous weather conditions. Army Lt. Col. Billy Mitchell — already in trouble because of his criticism of military leaders — made a statement claiming the Navy and War departments were guilty of ‘incompetency, criminal neglect and almost treasonable administration of the National Defense; he would face a court-martial as a result of his comment).

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Maps Are Deceiving

Old Magazines

Cover of February 1920
     Old magazines are always interesting. Back in my military days while stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, I visited the library one Sunday and discovered a pile of Life magazines from the 1940s. They made fascinating reading because I could read about World War II in “real time”, before the outcome was known. 
     Another time at the flea market I bought a stack of Popular Mechanics magazines from the 1920s for $20. If you didn't mind the musty smell, they were captivating reading. I remember seeing a new invention… 

Yes, it's a coat hook. 

     Radio was coming into its own and there were a lot of articles on them, and cars, too. In the letters to the editor section there was one letter from a college physics professor that particularly stood out. He explained why space travel would never be possible. 
     Google "Life Magazine Google" and you will discover many old issues that you can click on and read.  If you Google “Popular Science Google” you will get a lot of pages of early issues. Here is a partial list of the contents of the February, 1920 issue: 
Aeronautics 
Two All-Metal Airplanes 
Feather Weight Air Mail 
Cranking the Airplanes 

Industrial Progress 
Cutting Steel Bars With Giant Scissors 
The Machine With a Dipper That Digs and Dumps 
Taking Shorthand on a Machine 
An Electric Divining Rod 

Motor Vehicles and Accessories 
An Automobile Ambulance for Injured Cars 
A Special Hitch for Pulling Wagons and Trailers 

Natural Science 
Is Yellow Light Best 
How Fast Does a Bird Fly? 
Wood That Competes With Steel 
Meet the Cattalo, a New American Half Breed 

Here's an idea that didn't fly...an airplane with folding wings. It flew later, but not with so many folds!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Muckleheads

     These harmless, but annoying, boogers are also known as midges, lake flies, sand flies, muffleheads, Canadian soldiers or American soldiers. Many species superficially resemble mosquitoes, but they lack the wing scales and elongated mouth parts. They don't bite and are harmless. 
     In their adult stage, they have no mouth and they are only alive for about 24-48 hours. Larval stages can be found in almost any aquatic or semiaquatic habitat, including tree holes, vegetation, soil and in sewage and artificial containers. In this neck of the woods they are found around Lake Erie, beginning in early June. 
     While a pest to humans, they are a primary food source for walleye, perch and bass and on shore birds eat them. 
     They have about a two-year life span, most of which they spend in the sediment at the bottom of Lake Erie. The larvae swim ashore, shed their outer layer and sprout wings and a long tail and that's when the fun begins. They are annoying. They can damage paint, brick, and other surfaces with their droppings. When large numbers of adults die, they can build up into malodorous piles, sometimes a couple of inches thick and they crunch when you walk on them. They can provoke allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. 
     Swarms can be so big that they show up on radar as seen on this screenshot of radar near Toledo, Ohio.
 Muckleheads swarming over Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland weatherman Andre Bernier and muckleheads.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Scratch-Built 1903 Wright Flyer


    Here is a fun project for anyone who enjoys building models, especially airplanes. This site has plans for a simple, scratch-built 1903 Wright Flyer that was developed by Roger Storm at the NASA Glenn Research Center.
     The model uses foam meat trays for the wings, toothpicks for most of the wooden parts and a small piece of balsa wood or bamboo  skewers for longer wooden parts. You canprobably get everything you need at the grocery store.
     There are also plans for the rigging and you are shown how to make a model pilot using parts from three plastic soldiers. Templates can be printed out in pdf format. The best 12 page instructions can be downloaded at Teacher Link

   The 1903 Wright Flyer was a strange bundle of wire and cables that had little in common with today’s planes, but the Wrights’ ingenuity in identifying and controlling the complex forces that act on an aircraft in flight are still amazing.
     The pilot laid prone facing the two-surface horizontal elevator. On modern aircraft the elevator and rudder are combined in the tail, but on the Flyer the elevator was in front and the rudder behind. 
     The two elevator surfaces generated lift and provide a reference point to the horizon. They also served to give the pilot some protection if he crashed. The reason for the pilot lying prone was create slightly less drag than a seated pilot.
     The half a gallon of fuel on board was calculated to be enough to fly for 20 minutes. They engine, at the pilot's right, was started by moving a horizontal lever using the pilot's right hand to the center position. This opened the cock connecting the fuel line to the engine. Assistants then pulled the propellers, mounted in the rear and rotating I opposite direction, through in unison. The rotation in opposite directions canceled torque which tends to pull an airplane in the opposite direction of its propeller’s rotation. 
     Once the engine was running an assistant released the restraining wires and the plane rolled on the two hubs made from bicycle wheels along a single rail. Once the airspeed reached 20 knots, which took about 40 feet, the pilot, using his left hand pulled back very slightly on the elevator which increased lift enough to get the plane airborne. 
     Aviation pioneers attempted to control flight in only two axes: pitch—nose up and down, and yaw—nose side-to-side, but the Wrights were the first to understand the third: roll. They used a wing-warping system controlled the aircraft's movement around its longitudinal axis by use of a sliding hip cradle. The hip cradle deflected the edges of the wings’ outboard sections and caused the airplane to bank while the center section stayed rigid to support the propeller shafts and transmission chains. 

     By sliding his hips, the pilot could tip one wing up and the other down causing the plane to roll in the desired direction. In the roll one wing produces slightly more lift while the other produces a slight drag. This causes the plane to roll. Today this is accomplished by ailerons. This creates an adverse yaw...the plane's nose is pointed away from the turn. The Wrights corrected for this by connecting the rear rudder to the wing-warping system. 
     As the airplane rolled, say to the right, the cables pivot the rudder so that its trailing edge points right. The rudder resists the yaw caused by the slowed left wing, holding the airplane so that the nose points into the turn. Even today when making a coordinated turn it is necessary for the pilot to coordinate the turn using both the rudder and ailerons.
     At the end of the flight the plane landed on the sand using skids which usually ended up breaking something. The ash-and-spruce frame then had to be repaired.

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Strange (and Rare) Clouds


     In June of last year stormchaser Mike Olbinski, who chases storms across the United States to collect footage of supercells, lightning, tornados, was northeast of Bismarck, North Dakota and as storms were dying out, he and his crew decided to check out a lone cell on the backside of a line of storms. They knew it had a hail core on it and was hoping for some nice sunset colors and some lightning. 
     There appeared undulatus asperatus clouds, a rare phenomenon. The Cloud Appreciation Society was formed to get recognition for a new category of cloud called the undulatus asperatus. 
     For years, individuals from across the world had been sending its founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, pictures of the unusual formations which had no official name, trying to figure out what they were. It took nine years, but the World Meteorological Organization finally recognized Pretor-Pinney’s clouds in the updated version of the International Cloud Atlas, though the name was shortened to “asperitas.” 
     The formation is described as “localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features, sometimes descending into sharp points, as if viewing a roughened sea surface from below. Varying levels of illumination and thickness of cloud can lead to dramatic visual effects. Asperitas clouds tend to be low-lying, and are caused by weather fronts that create undulating waves in the atmosphere. 
     In Olbinski's case, they crew had a storm with hail in front of them and flashing lightning. Then the sun slowly appeared from behind some clouds to the west and lit up the storm like nothing they had ever seen before.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Hazel Carter

     During the American Civil War, an unknown number of women disguised themselves as men and fought on the front lines. These women were looking for adventure, higher wages, involvement in a cause they believed in, or they wanted to follow sweethearts or family members. While it may be difficult to fathom how a woman could get away with passing herself as a man during the Civil War day in and day out, stories and books have been written about the women who did just that. It seems impossible that women could get away with disguising themselves as men what with medical examinations (unknown in the Civil War) and the closeness that living in the field involves, but it happened as late as World War One. 
     Hazel Carter (nee Blauser) was born in 1894 and died July 12, 1918. She was a stowaway and writer from Douglas, Arizona. During World War I, she stowed away on a ship to France to stay with her soldier husband, Corporal John J. Carter. Later, she wrote about her experience for the Bell Syndicate. 
     Carter was born in the Huachuca Mountains outside of Douglas, Arizona and was known as a skilled hunter and farmer. According to her father Peter Blauser, she graduated from college but chose to live a life on a ranch where she tended to 200 cattle and 16 horses.
     She married John J. Carter on December 12, 1916. When her husband was sent to France with the first American contingent of soldiers, she first tried to join the Red Cross in Douglas, but was not accepted. She then cut her hair short and stole an Army uniform and went to the train station where she mingled with the men. She boarded the same train as the one carrying her husband and went undetected for two days. Carter claimed her husband did not know of her presence on the train until they neared Chicago. 

     When she was discovered and forced off the train and told to go back to Douglas. However, she got back on the train and when it arrived at the port she was able to get onto a ship as a stowaway. The ship was five days at sea when her identity was discovered; her voice aroused suspicion and when a Captain asked her to remove her shirt the secret was out. 
     Hazel was then held in a stateroom and upon arrival in Europe she was not permitted to disembark from the ship. Her request to remain as a nurse was refused. Her husband was demoted from corporal to private as a result. 
     Carter said her mother did not know she was stowing away until after she left. Her mother wrote to her saying, “If you wanted to be a soldier and fight with your man, it was all right with us. We’re proud of you. You’re an honor to the blood, and that has been fighting blood since before the Civil War.” Her Civil War veteran grandfather remarked how proud he was of her stating, "I knew she would do it…That girl sure has grit. I wish she could stay and fight the Germans. You ought to have seen her in uniform. She made a better looking soldier than John, I do believe. She can handle a rifle better than most men. They sure should have let her stay." 
     After arriving back in the States she was detained and questioned by the police in Hoboken, New Jersey. She then moved on to Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was provided women’s clothes and a wig prior to being sent home to Arizona. In some old newspaper articles she was even referred to as Private Hazel Carter (retired). 
     Back home she received a hero's welcome and was met by a brass band and supporters. She also wrote about her experiences and her account was published by The Bell Syndicate. She also authored a series of four articles detailing her experience that were serialized nationally by several newspapers.
     She intended on earning enough money to return to France to serve as an Army nurse, but she died in Lordsburg, New Mexico, on July 11, 1918, after being ill for two days. Her husband was still fighting overseas when she died.
     Friends claimed that her health declined after her return and they believed she died of a broken heart. Her body was returned to Douglas for burial and she was given a military funeral with a military chaplain and six soldiers as pallbearers. In 1918 after the funeral it was reported that Carter's was the first military funeral held in the United States for a woman. 
     For further reading about the 400 women who are known to fight a men in the Civil War, the following sites are of interest.
A Civil War woman soldier
American Battlefield
Smithsonian

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Mysterious Track 61

     Track 61 is an abandoned subway station beneath the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. It was built along with the rest of Grand Central Terminal and it was intended to be a powerhouse and storage area for unused New York Central Railroad cars and not a passenger station. That's interesting because contrary to popular belief, Track 61 is not part of the New York City Subway system, but is actually part of the old New York Central Railroad. This explains they so called “mystery” of why it does not appear on subway maps. 
     Today everything at the station is coated with grime and dirt and there is still an antique train car permanently parked in the hidden powerhouse. Back in the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt had his armor-plated Pierce Arrow car transported to the station which was then lifted right into the Waldorf’s garage. Roosevelt is also rumored to have entered and exited via the station in order to hide his worsening case of polio. 
     Track 61 likely hid the comings and goings of a number of Presidents over the years and was confirmed to be prepped for a quick getaway route for George W. Bush while he attended meetings at the Waldorf. Rumor has it that military generals to celebrities have uses Track 61 for clandestine movements, but given all the secrecy involved, the rumors are hard to confirm. Some claim that the unmarked brass door at the Waldorf’s street level which leads to the station proves that important people still use it. 
     Track 61 has been out of service for decades, but in September of 1929, the NY Times reported on the new hotel's private railway siding underneath their building. The Times described how guests with private rail cars could have them routed directly to the hotel instead of to the Pennsylvania Station or the Grand Central Terminal. There was a special elevator that would take them directly to their suites or to the lobby. 
     This was made possible because the New York Central tracks passed directly beneath the block and it was obtained by the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria on a sixty-three-year leasehold, the lease being only for the "air rights" on the site. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Fax Without A Fax Machine

     If you have a document in electronic format, you can fax it using the Internet and your laptop's Wi-Fi connection. There are a number of sites from which a fax can be sent, but one of the easiest to use is FaxZero, a Web-based service for sending faxes, for free, in the United States or Canada. 
     It's not the most polished and the service is somewhat slow, more on that shortly. But...FaxZero will get your fax out free. You will have to put up advertisements or pay per fax to make them go away. It is a lightweight option if you have infrequent faxing needs. It is not a site you will want for heavy faxing, nor can you receive faxes. 
     You can only send three pages plus the cover page for free, however FaxZero gives you up to five faxes a day. Of course, the pages will be branded with a FaxZero logo. The alternative is to pay $1.99 per fax (via PayPal), for up to 25 pages and a choice of a cover page or no cover page; paying means you'll get no FaxZero branding. 
     Since you don't have a fax number to receive faxes, you go to the Web page, enter the required information, and you're good to go. If you pay for the branding-free service, or for an international fax, you'll do so using a one-time PayPal payment. 
     On the site you will be shown a form that supports DOC, DOCX or PDF files, but you can also attach ODT, RTF, PNG, XLS, XLSX, TXT, HTML, TIFF, BMP, GIF, PPT and VSD files. You're limited to three attached files.
     The online form is easy to follow. Simply enter the required sender information (your name, email and phone number) and receiver information (name and fax number). Then choose the files to attach, enter text for the cover page, and enter a confirmation code generated by the site to prove you are a human. 

     To send, you choose the free or paid option at the bottom of the screen. If you're sending a free fax you can send only three pages, plus the cover page. Tap the button on the lower left page to send your free fax (up to five free faxes per day). That’s a total of 15 pages. 
     On the down side, you fax doesn't send instantly. You have to wait for an email with a link to your fax and then click on the link to deliver it.  Waiting on the confirmation fax can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. 
     FaxZero may suit your needs adequately if you don't mind a little branding, a limited number of pages or file types and don't mind waiting a few minutes to actually send it. If you are looking for more, then there are other sites that offer much more...for a price.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dark Chocolate...Good Stuff!!

     There is in Loma Linda, California a university, Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, that is a nonprofit religious corporation (Seventh-day Adventists) that is the umbrella organization for its core and affiliate organizations. They have recently published findings from two new studies that show dark chocolate consumption reduces stress and inflammation, while improving memory, immunity and mood. 
     Findings show that consuming dark chocolate that has a high concentration of cacao (minimally 70 percent cacao, 30 percent organic cane sugar) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.
     While it is well known that cacao is a major source of flavonoids, this is the first time the effect has been studied in human subjects to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health. For more information and a buyer's guide to dark chocolate you can visit the Healthline. 
     The head of research at the School of Allied Health Professions pointed out that for years, researchers have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content, but this researcher looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar. 
     These studies show that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact. Some natural remedy sources have long made claims for dark chocolate, but now they are being shown right by research at Loma Linda.
     Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. Good quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals. A 3-1/2 ounce bar of dark chocolate with 70-85 percent cocoa contains iron, magnesium, copper, manganese ranging from 58 to 98 percent of the recommended daily require and smaller amounts of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Of course, 3-1/2 ounces is a pretty good sized bar that comes with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar, so eating that much every day is over doing it. By comparison, the extra large Hershey Bar weighs 4-1/4 ounces. 
     The fatty acid profile is excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee. 
     Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, even more than blueberries and Acai berries. Some studies reported that dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, but the effects are usually mild and in some cases ineffective. 
     It also increases HDL and lowers LDL in men with elevated cholesterol and reduces insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes. 
     It is plausible that regular consumption of dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it against sun-induced damage. Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It also improves verbal fluency. Cocoa also contains stimulants which may be a key reason cocoa can improve brain function in the short term. 
     So, while there is considerable evidence that consuming dark chocolate in modest amounts is good for you, that does not mean you should be eating it every day because it's still loaded with calories. 
     Also, most of the stuff on the market is crap; you need organic, dark chocolate with 70 percent or higher cocoa content. Visit Livingstrong's site to read about the best dark chocolate gars.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tinkertoys

     Stonemason Charles Pajeau and partner Robert Petit dreamed up the “Thousand Wonder Toy” in the early 1910s after watching children create endless abstract shapes with sticks, pencils, and old spools of thread. They improved on the kids' idea by adding holes for the sticks on a round spool and named their invention “Tinkertoy.” 
     The main part of the set is a wooden spool roughly two inches in diameter with holes drilled every 45 degrees around the perimeter and one through the center. Different length sticks were intended to be based on the Pythagorean progressive right triangle. 
     After that, it was just a matter of creating advertising displays in the Chicago area in which shop owners built elaborate displays and Tinkertoy was off to match other construction toys in the early 20th century such as Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets. The toys were promoted to parents as toys that would help kids to learn by exercising what is now called spatial intelligence. The fact is though, they were just plain fun to play with. 
     Originally Tinkertoy was intended for younger boys, but after 1919 Tinkertoys attracted budding engineers through the addition of an electric motor. The toys even came with instruction for creating elaborate mechanical tools such as printing presses, lathes, airplanes, and power saws. 
     Color was introduced in the postwar boom years of the 1950s. The new version featured colored plastic parts with each set designed to create particular objects. 
     Tinkertoys were used by Danny Hillis to build a computer that plays tic-tac-toe-playing computer (!) and they have been used to create other equally complex machines. 

     Originally they came packaged in mailing tubes to reduce shipping costs. The early versions even had an address label and space for postage. The packages came in different sizes and had numbers and names so customers could distinguish sizes. 
     In addition to the spools, the now standard Tinkertoy set includes wheels, which are thinner than spools, but larger in diameter, caps (cylindrical pieces with a single blind axial hole), couplings (small cylindrical pieces with a blind hole in either end and a through hole crosswise through the center of the part), pulleys, a "Part W" (a spool, but with perimeter holes 90 degrees apart, loose-fitting center holes, and four tight-fitting through-drilled holes parallel to the center hole) The Part W allows for free-spinning parts and gears. There are also fan blades and various other small parts. Most of the larger sets also include a driveshaft, an unfinished wooden rod without slotted ends that can be turned with a small plastic crank. 
     Sticks are slotted on each end, both to provide some give when inserted into snug-fitting holes, and to allow thin cards, flags, and strings to be inserted into the slots. They are color-coded by size.  
     While only a toy, there are benefits to kids who play with Tinkertoys, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs and other similar toys. They help sharpen focus and patience as they ponder how to build whatever it is in their imagination. These toys develop motor skills that can be used in everyday mundane tasks like buttoning clothes or zipping up a jacket. Building toys is hands on and teaches children to use their imagination and helps them develop problem solving skills. 
     Another major advantage is that they are just plain FUN...even for adults. When I received not one, but two, Erector Sets for Christmas one year, I couldn't play with it Christmas day because my Dad was playing with it...he built a huge Ferris wheel. 

Take a gander at THESE Tinkertoy sculptures.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Windbags and Blowhards and Sophists

     Blowhard and windbag have slightly different definitions. A windbag is someone who talks a lot without saying anything worth hearing. A blowhard is someone who talks too much and is a braggart. A sophist is a person who reasons with clever but fallacious arguments.
     Hundreds of years BC Sophists had considerable influence in their time and were largely well-regarded. Instead of finding out the truth, they were more interested in winning arguments or making their point at all costs against anyone who challenged them. They argued for sheer triumph and, worse, charged fees for their services at the expense of the truth. 
     The Sophists challenged, criticized and destroyed the foundations of traditions, moral and social order and had nothing to put in place of what they destroyed, nor did they care too. 
     Sophists believed each person should decide for himself what true, good and beautiful. This approach appealed to the unthinking and conflicts were resolved through the use of power...might makes right. Does all this sound familiar? 
     The Sophists were silver-tongued orators and public speakers for hire who were highly skilled in the art of effective or persuasive speech. They challenged, questioned and did not care about arriving at good answers. What they cared about was winning public speaking contests, debates and lawsuits and they charged fees to teach others how to do what they did. The idea was that whoever presented the best case would win. 
     They were so good that they were able to convince a crowd that up was down, day was night, the wrong answer could be the right answer, good was bad and bad is good, even that injustice is justice and justice would be made to appear as injustice. 
     Among the courses they taught were topics that can be found in any bookstore in the self-help section. Things such as: 

# How to win no matter how bad your case is 
# How to win friends and influence people 
# How to succeed in business without really trying 
# How to fall into a pigsty and come out smelling like a rose
# How to succeed in life
# How to play to win 

     Many modern day televangelists are Sophists; they use references and quotations from the Bible for their own purposes and are not true believers in what they preach.  They put the individual human being and their wants and desires at the center of everything. To them there are no universal truths or values. 

     Politicians are Sophists.  They aim to convince voters they are the best man or woman for the job, but once they get elected, personal or party interests take over. When campaigning issues are unimportant, the goal is to make their opponent look bad and truth appear as falsehood and vice versa. They can turn a weak (or non-existent) argument into a strong one. They rely on misleading but persuasive arguments and appear to support of whichever side they believe will best serve their interests, or whichever side they are paid to argue for. They are concerned only with convincing voters to believe them, not with the truth.
     Lawyers are literally Sophists for hire. A defense lawyer is legally obligated to argue as persuasively as possible in the client’s best interests while the prosecution is duty bound to convince the court of the guilt of the accused. The truth isn't important. They argue for victory and for money. 
     Some things never change.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The M1 Rifle and the M1 Thumb



     The standard issue rifle for US Army and Marine Corps Infantry from 1936 to 1957 was the M1 Garand. During World War II approximately 5.4 million M1s were made. They were used by every branch of the United States military and General George S. Patton called it "the greatest implement of battle ever devised. 

     The M14 rifle replaced the M1 as the US Army's standard service rifle in 1957, but the M1 continued to see usage through the 1970s. Additionally, the M1D was the official sniper rifle for the US Army until its replacement with the 7.62mm M21 Sniper Rifle in the mid 1960s and M1s saw service in Vietnam until the early to mid-1960s. The Army Reserve, Army National Guard, and Navy, continued to use Garands at least into the 1970s. The Fleet Marine Force finished a change from the M1 to the M14 in late 1962. 
     In 1968, that rat, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara closed the Springfield Armory, in a decision that was personal, political, and controversial. The former armory is now a National Historic Site run by the National Park Service. 
     That was the same year he ordered the destruction of the tooling used to manufacture the SR-71 Blackbird. The Springfield Armory had its beginnings in 1777 when Springfield was chosen as a site for an arsenal to manufacture cartridges and gun carriages for the American Revolution. Then, in 1794, George Washington chose Springfield as site for a permanent armory. Production of arms began in 1795, as 40 workers produced about 245 flintlock muskets each month. Over the next 174 years, the armory was a key to the city's economic health, and for much of the 20th century, it was the region's largest employer. During World War II, as many as 15,000 people made arms there for American troops. 
     In 1964, McNamara announced that the armory was "excess to the needs of the federal government," believing that private arms suppliers would be more efficient. Because of the growing war in Vietnam, the snide and arrogant McNamara was hated by those who opposed the war. He could not have cared less about other people's opinions, including Congressmen, as he began closing military bases and slashed over 81,000 jobs with more to follow. 
     With the original Springfield Armory shut down by McNamara's decision in 1968, a small company in Texas used the name for its manufacturing of its M1A rifle series, a line of civilian models of the M14. Six years later, in 1974, the company was sold to a family that expanded its product line to include custom M1911 pistols. The company is Springfield Armory, Incorporated. It's located in Illinois, with no connection to the original federal armory. They manufacture and import a number of firearms. 
     In my day it was referred to as the plain old “M1.” And, I well remember the smashed thumbs, aka “M1 thumb.”

Friday, June 1, 2018

Vile and Filthy Words Are Not Funny

     ...at least not in my opinion. 
     While channel surfing the other day I stopped for a few minutes to watch a program on the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) called Full Frontal with Samantha Bee that featured a woman named, well, Samantha Bee. 
     I never heard of her, but Samantha Jamie Bee (born October 25, 1969) is a Canadian-American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actress, and television host. 
     Bee rose to fame as a correspondent on The Daily Show, a late-night talk and news satire television program that describes itself as a fake news program drawing its comedy and satire from recent news stories, political figures and media organizations. In 2015, Bee left The Daily Show after 12 years to start her own show. 
     Bee became a US citizen in 2014, while retaining her Canadian citizenship. In 2017, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world on their annual Time 100 list. I find it hard to believe that she has that much influence, but if Time says so, it must be true, right? 
     Bee recently has been taking flak for making a nasty comment about Ivanka Trump. One wonders why she can get away with what she says, but Roseanne Barr got fired for a racist “joke” about Valerie Jarrett, a former advisor to President Obama. Political advisors study topics such as public opinion, political decision-making, and ideology, analyze the structure and operation of governments, and various political entities, conduct public opinion surveys, analyze election results or analyze public documents then brief the President. 
     I never cared for Roseanne Barr and never watched any of her television programs because, to me, she seems rather crude and unfunny. Watching Samantha Bee for a few minutes left me repulsed. Words that come to mind are: rude, offensive, vituperative, caustic, vulgar, filthy and a host of other words I can think of, but funny isn't one of them.
    I don't have a problem with satire, but it's not clear to me why profanity is considered funny. Some time back we stopped briefly at a comedy show appearing on television and about one minute convinced us that the guy wasn't funny at all. The audience was busting a gut even though all the guy was doing was standing there shouting the F-word into the microphone. What's funny about that?! As I told my wife, I can hear that all day at work. Why is it funny when somebody screws up his face and shouts it into a microphone on stage?
     An article in The Telegraph opined, “A new generation of comedy shock jocks has substituted a tirade of filth and abuse for the subtleties of wit and wicked innuendo.” I can't really blame the comedians because it pays their bills and they make a lot of money doing what they do.