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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Streetcars of Mansfield, Ohio

     Mansfield is a city in and the county seat of Richland County, Ohio and the city is located midway between Columbus and Cleveland via Interstate 71. 
     Geographically, it is part of Northeast Ohio and North-central Ohio regions in the western foothills of the Allegheny Plateau. Elevations vary greatly in the Allegheny Plateau, relief may only reach one hundred feet or less. In the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau in southeastern Ohio and westernmost West Virginia, relief is typically in the range of two hundred to four hundred feet. Absolute highest elevations in this area are often in the range of 900 to 1,500 feet, but be the Allegheny Front elevations may reach well over 4,000 feet.


     In 2010 the greater Mansfield population was 124,475 residents. Its official nickname is "The Fun Center of Ohio". But, it is also known as "Carousel Capital of Ohio," "Danger City," and "the Racing Capital of Ohio". 
     It was founded in 1808 on a fork of the Mohican River in a hilly region surrounded by fertile farmlands, and became a manufacturing center owing to its location with numerous railroad lines. After the decline of heavy manufacturing, the city's industry has since diversified into a service economy, including retailing, education, and healthcare sectors.
     The era of streetcars and trolleys is closely related to the history of Mansfield. The city had one of the first electric trolley systems in the US, but more importantly, manufactured the electrical mechanisms that made it possible for streetcars to run all over the country. 
     Before streetcars Mansfield had a public transportation system that relied on horse-drawn buses. The electrical rails had their beginning in Mansfield in 1887. The tracks for the electric transportation system were laid during the summer of 1887. The lines spanned 4.5 miles of city blocks, but getting things to run correctly resulted in a number of false starts. The day finally arrived on August 6, 1887, when Mansfield became the 4th city in America to successfully begin using electric trolleys. Those first cars were originally for use as horse-drawn vehicles with 15 horsepower electric motors installed. 
     This new technology wasn't without its detractors though. First, there was the fear that the streetcars would terrify horses, but that fear proved unfounded when the horses largely ignored them. 
     It seems funny today, but there was also the fear that pocket watch carrying passengers would have their watches lose time because of the electrified rails underfoot and overhead wires which would magnetize the watches. Experiments using finely tuned watches were conducted just to make sure it didn't happen. 
     The streetcars also gave new life to a major manufacturing business in Mansfield, the Ohio Brass Company which originally was a foundry that made brass harness fittings for various horse drawn vehicles. With advent of street cars Ohio Brass retooled and began manufacturing components for the electric streetcars. 
     In 1937 the last streetcar made a run carrying a few dignitaries and old time riders. The next day public transportation transferred to the city bus system. Ohio Brass exists to this day as a Hubbell Power Systems and is the market leader in polymer insulators and arresters used on transmission and distribution lines and lightning protection.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Railroad Brakemen

     The early brakemen held one of the most dangerous occupations in railroading, being required to walk atop moving cars and manually apply brakes. 
     In the early days of railroading the railroading journals were full of odes dedicated to brakemen. The job of the freight train brakeman was not glamorous and it was dangerous. Before the use of airbrakes in the late 1800s, trains were stopped through the application of brakes on each of the train’s cars. Even after airbrakes came into use, the brakeman still had to be ready to climb on top of the cars and manually set the brakes either when the airbrakes failed or when a section of cars had to be cut from the train. 
     Sometimes there were three brakemen; front middle and rear. In the interest of safety, if there was a middle brakeman he would ride on top of the cars in order to be ready to manually apply the brakes if needed. Middle brakemen were used on long freight trains as well as on local freight lines where freight cars had to be cut loose or added on a regular basis. 
     To apply the brakes, the brakeman had to turn a large wheel located on top each freight car of the train. Every brakeman carried a brake club to help give them leverage in turning the wheel. This meant that they would have to run along the top of the cars and leap from one to another in order to apply or release the brakes on each car. 
     Generally, the rear brakeman, or flagman as he was also known, would advance from the end of the train and the head brakeman or the conductor would advance from the engine to apply the brakes on each car. On a moving train, especially in bad weather, this could be extremely dangerous. The brakeman could easily fall to his death between the cars. This could be even more dangerous at night and in bad weather. Running across car roofs could be slippery with rain or ice and snow. Add rocking cars and brakeman could be thrown to his death even in good weather. 
     In parts of the country where there were railroad tunnels, the tunnels themselves could pose lethal hazard. Besides the possibility of falling rocks, thick black coal smoke and steam from the engine would linger in the tunnel. F the train had to stop in the tunnel for any reason, a stay inside the tunnel would expose them to toxic fumes. 
     Before the advent of an enclosed cabin for the brakemen, they would ride on metal ladders on the sides or ends of the rail cars. Even after the brakemen’s cabin arrived on the scene in the 1880’s, the cabins were open to the elements so that the brakemen could hear the braking signals from the train’s whistle. Exposure was also bad for engineers and firemen who rode on an open platform at the rear of the smoke and steam spewing engine.
     Besides the responsibilities of the brakes, the brakeman also was responsible for coupling and uncoupling the train’s cars. In the days of link and pin coupling, switching cars was dangerous because the brakeman had to stand between two cars. The risk of being crushed or having arms or fingers cut off while lining up pins was always present. 
     Even after automatic signals came into use, when a train had to stop it was the brakeman's job to display a flag or lantern at night some distance generally two miles back (!), from the end of the train. In foul weather it was a dangerous and unhealthy job.
     Throwing switches was also the brakeman's job. This often required running ahead of the train to throw the switch. At the rear of the train, the rear brakeman would have to jump off the train, close the switch and then run back to the train and jump on board. Running alongside the tracks and over the rock ballast then climbing aboard a moving train had hazards of its own. 
     The brakemen was often require to perform a risky and dangerous procedure called the “flying switch” where cars were uncoupled and allowed to roll onto a siding. This required split-second timing by both the engineer and the brakeman. Needless to say, getting killed was a very real possibility. If you were a brakemen, buying life insurance was almost impossible. At some point unions set up insurance plans for their members. 
 
tell-tale
    Tell-tales. These were cantilevered poles with dangling ropes, chains, or some other material hanging over the track to warn brakemen on top of a car of an approaching low clearance such as a tunnel or bridge. Once he was smacked by the tell-tale he would have only seconds to drop to the roof or risk being crushed or decapitated. Getting smacked by a tell-tale while traveling at a high speed could be dangerous in itself.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Running Fits in Cats

     If you have a cat you've probably experienced them lying quietly then suddenly tearing around the room. What causes a cat to all of a sudden start acting like a crazed lunatic?
     Sometimes it's just bottled-up energy. Cats spend lots of time sleeping, but it may be they are just burning up energy. Or, it could be other animals either inside or outside the house. It may be they saw a bird, squirrel or another cat outside and because they are territorial they don't cotton to strangers tromping around on their territory. And, if they can't get outside to chase off the intruder, they can get very frustrated. 
     Or, Heaven forbid, they are reacting to the scent of prey like a mouse in the house. Fleas are another possibility. That sharp little pain that comes with every bite will drive them nuts.
     If none of the above seem to apply it’s never a good idea to talk to a cat doctor because there is a bizarre disorder known as Hyperesthesia syndrome. This condition is a mysterious one, but it can cause a cat to act like it's going crazy. 
     One sign of this disease is that it can cause the skin along the cat's spine to ripple or roll. Other behaviors the cat can manifest are excessive grooming, licking, biting or scratching itself, racing around the house or chasing her tail. Not much is known about the condition. 
     The clinical signs occur in brief bursts of odd behavior lasting perhaps only a minute or two at most. Signs are after waking up from dozing the cat tail starts twitching, its eyes are wide open, pupils dilated and it begins scratching itself like crazy with its back paws. Then cat abruptly stops, stretches out and goes back to sleep. Instead of scratching some cats will obsessively lick or bite at their flank, back or tail. Many of these cats will follow up the scratching or grooming behavior with a frantic run. 
     Other signs may include salivation, alarming vocalization, and uncontrolled urination. Although no one knows what prompts this behavior, some vets believe it's a general obsessive-compulsive group of conditions. Others believe it is a seizure disorder. In any case, the reason remains unknown. 
     Some of the behavioral manifestations associated with hyperesthesia resemble disorders affecting the nervous system, skin, and muscles. Painful spinal problems that can cause similar signs include arthritis, pinched nerves or slipped disks. Skin disorders include flea or food allergies, fungal infections and mite infestations. Categorically ruling out the presence of such disorders will require a variety of diagnostic steps, including a general physical and neurologic examination, blood chemistry and urine analyses, x-rays and perhaps magnetic resonance imaging. 
     Other measures may be needed as well. For example, to determine if muscle disease is present, a muscle biopsy must be done. 
     Recommended treatment for hyperesthesia syndrome is likely to include a behavioral component aimed at reducing any anxiety that the animal might be experiencing. Regularly scheduled feeding times and play periods may help keep an insecure cat be and well exercised. And any type of activity that may irritate or overstimulate the cat, such as scratching its back, must certainly be avoided. A veterinarian may prescribe medications to relax the cat or give it an analgesic. 
     Generally, Hyperesthesia is a relatively mild condition and there are no known cases where a cat has ever died from it. Once it has established itself, it doesn’t progress very much and the prognosis is pretty good as long as the scratching doesn’t result in a serious infection.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lasik Eye Surgery

     Until contact lenses were popularized in the 1950s, eyeglasses had been the only practical way to correct refractive vision errors. Nowadays refractive surgery, the term used to describe surgical procedures that correct common vision problems (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia), to reduce a person's dependence on prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses has become very popular. 
     To see clearly, the cornea and the lens must bend light rays so they focus on the retina which converts the light rays into impulses that are sent to the brain, where they are recognized as images. If the light rays don’t focus on the retina, the image is blurry. Glasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery try to reduce these errors by making light rays focus on the retina. Refractive errors are caused by an imperfectly shaped eyeball, cornea, or lens — or in the case of presbyopia, a lens that can't change shape enough to focus on close objects — and are of these basic types: 

1) Myopia (nearsightedness) where only nearby objects are clear or distinct 
2) Hyperopia (farsightedness) where only objects far away are clear or distinct 
3) Astigmatism is when images are blurred, regardless of whether they are near or far 
4) Presbyopia is a condition that typically develops between ages 40 and 50 and makes it more difficult to see very close. It can be corrected with bifocals or reading glasses, but usually can't be corrected by LASIK or some other refractive surgery. 

     During the 1980s Radial Keratotomy (RK) was used in the United States. It involved cutting spoke-like incisions to flatten the eye's surface mainly to correct nearsightedness, but results, especially long-term, created problems for some individuals. The main problems were glare, regression, fluctuating vision and other side effects such as night vision problems were common in patients who had RK for higher prescription strengths, while such side effects were less frequent in patients with lower prescriptions. RK is now virtually obsolete.
     Currently, a laser procedure called LASIK is the most popular refractive surgery performed in the United States. But there are other types of refractive surgery — including other laser procedures and intraocular lens procedures — that might be an even better choice. 
     In LASIK and similar procedures, a laser reshapes the curvature of the cornea to alter the way light rays enter the eye. Over the past 25 years, surgical techniques, tools, and procedures for vision correction have evolved rapidly. 
     In a LASIK procedure, a laser is used to reshape the cornea to improve the way your eye focuses light rays onto the retina and it sounds like the perfect solution if one wants to eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses. However, before singing up for the surgery there are a few things to think about. 

1) The surgery is on a very delicate part of the eye and once performed, it cannot be reversed.
2) As with any surgery, there are risks and possible complications. 
3) LASIK may not give you perfect vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports that nine out of 10 patients achieve somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40 vision, but 20/40 vision may not be sharp enough for certain work or leisure activities. Even 20/20 does not always mean perfect vision. After cataract surgery about a year ago my vision is technically 20/20. I can read the 20/20 line on the eye chart, but it is fuzzy. 
4) Even with LASIK to correct your distance vision, you are likely to need reading glasses in your mid-40s. LASIK surgery cannot correct or prevent presbyopia, the age-related loss of focusing power for seeing near objects. 
5) If you are nearsighted and don't need reading glasses, having LASIK may mean you will need reading glasses earlier than if you had not had the surgery. 
6) The benefits of the LASIK procedure may diminish over time. More than 10 percent of LASIK patients in the U.S. require a second surgery to restore vision correction. This is more likely for people who were more nearsighted or farsighted, or had higher astigmatism before LASIK. 
7) Most insurance plans don’t cover the surgery.  

LASIK isn’t for everyone 
1) It's not recommended for those under 18 because the vision of people younger than 18 still is changing. 
2) Pregnant or nursing. These may change the measured refraction of the eye. 
3) You can't be on certain prescription drugs, like Accutane or oral prednisone. 
4) Your eyes must be healthy and your prescription stable. 
5) General health should be good. LASIK may not be recommended for patients with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, glaucoma, herpes infections of the eye, cataracts, disorders of the cornea, and retinal disease. 
6) A history of dry eye from wearing contact lenses, taking certain medications, or some other reason could impact LASIK. You should be screened for dry eye before you have LASIK or other refractive surgery. 

     One very important consideration is that LASIK surgery corrects one eye for distance vision and the other eye for near vision.  During the five weeks between cataract surgeries on my eyes last year, I had this problem and it was certainly annoying.  But, I was informed by someone who had LASIK surgery that eventually your eyes (or brain) adjusts and you don't notice it.  If you can adjust to this situation, fine.  In this case the two eyes no longer work together which causes lower quality vision and a decrease in depth perception. These effects are most noticeable in low lighting conditions or when performing tasks requiring very sharp vision. As a result, the need to wear glasses or contact lenses for distance or near vision when performing visually demanding tasks, such as driving at night, operating dangerous equipment, or performing occupational tasks requiring very sharp, close vision my still be necessary. 

Risks and Complications 
1) Blindness and irreversible eye damage. In rare cases, errors during surgery or complications after surgery may cause irreversible damage to the eye, including permanent blindness. 
2) Vision loss. Even with glasses or contacts it is possible you may not see as well after the surgery as you did with glasses or contacts before the surgery. Or, you may still need glasses or contacts. 
3) Severe night vision problems, particularly glare, halos, and/or double vision that can seriously affect nighttime vision. 
4) Decrease in sharpness. Objects may appear fuzzy or grayish. Even with good vision on the vision chart, you may not see as well in situations of low contrast like at night or in fog after treatment compared to before. 
5) Severe dry eye syndrome. Your eye may not be able to produce enough tears to keep it moist and comfortable. Dry eye not only causes discomfort, but can reduce visual quality due to intermittent blurring and other visual symptoms. This condition may be permanent.
6) Post-surgery infections are always a possibility. 

What to Expect Before, During, and After Surgery Before 
     You’ll need a complete eye examination by your surgeon. LASIK is an outpatient surgical procedure. The only anesthetic is an eye drop that numbs the surface of the eye. The surgery takes 10 to 15 minutes for each eye. Sometimes, both eyes are done during the same procedure; but sometimes, surgeons wait to see the result on one eye before doing surgery on the other. 
     During surgery the eye is moistened and suction ring is positioned to keep the eye from moving and the cornea in the correct position. A hinged flap of thin corneal tissue off the outer layer of the eyeball is sliced and lifted out of the way and laser reshapes the underlying corneal tissue, and the surgeon replaces the flap, which quickly adheres to the eyeball. There are no stitches and healing is relatively fast.
     Just my opinion...vision is too precious to take any unnecessary risks, no matter how small, just to avoid wearing glasses. 

Watch on YOUTUBE
LASIK surgery horror stories 
LASIK surgery falling out of favor 
LASIK surgery stories, good and bad

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rogue Waves

     A rogue wave is large, unexpected, and dangerous. Rogue, freak, or killer waves have been part of marine folklore for centuries, but have only been accepted as a real phenomenon by scientists over the past few decades. 
     Rogues, called extreme storm waves by scientists, are those waves which are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves, are very unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves. Most reports of extreme storm waves say they look like walls of water and they are often steep-sided with unusually deep troughs.
     Exactly how and when rogue waves form is unknown, but there are several known causes: 
Constructive interference. The waves often form because swells, while traveling across the ocean, do so at different speeds and directions. As these swells pass through one another, their crests, troughs, and lengths sometimes coincide and reinforce each other which can form unusually large, towering waves that quickly disappear. If the swells are traveling in the same direction, these mountainous waves may last for several minutes before subsiding. 
Focusing of wave energy. When waves formed by a storm develop in a water current against the normal wave direction, it results in a shortening of the wave frequency. This can cause the waves to join together, forming very big waves. The currents where these are sometimes seen are the Gulf Stream and Agulhas current. Extreme waves developed in this fashion tend to be longer lived. 
Wave terminology

     Off the coast of Georgia, early on Saturday, April 16, 2005, a giant, seven-story wave appeared out of nowhere and crashed into the bow of a cruise ship, sent deck chairs flying, smashed windows, raced as high as the 10th deck, flooded 62 cabins, injured 4 passengers and sowed widespread fear and panic. On passenger claimed the "ship was like a cork in a bathtub.” 
     Over the decades oceanographers were skeptical and doubted their existence and tended to lump them together with sightings of mermaids and sea monsters. But, as is sometimes the case, the "experts" were wrong. Scientists are now finding that rogue waves are far more common and destructive than once imagined. 
     In the past twenty years, freak waves are suspected of sinking dozens of big ships and taking hundreds of lives. It is now estimated that at any given moment 10 rogue waves are developing in the world's oceans. 
     In size and reach these waves are quite different from earthquake-induced tsunamis, which form low, almost invisible mounds at sea before gaining height while crashing ashore. Rogue waves seldom, if ever, hit land because they cannot get into shallow water. 
     By one definition, rogue waves rise to heights of at least 82 feet, about the height of an eight-story building. Scientists have calculated their theoretical maximum at 198 feet, but so far they have documented nothing that big. Large rogues seem to average around 100 feet.
     Most waves, big and small alike, form when the wind blows across open water and the wind’s force, duration and sweep determine the size of the swells. Waves of about 6 feet are common, though ones up to 30 or even 50 feet are considered unexceptional; frightening if you have ever seen one. As waves gain energy from the wind, they become steeper and the crests can break into whitecaps. The trough preceding a rogue wave can be quite deep, called a “hole in the sea.” For a ship, it is a roller coaster plunge that can be disastrous. 
     In 1933 in the North Pacific, the Navy oiler Ramapo encountered a huge wave with an estimated its height at 112 feet. In 1966, the Italian cruise ship Michelangelo was steaming toward New York when a giant wave tore a hole in its superstructure, smashed heavy glass 80 feet above the waterline, and killed a crewman and two passengers. In 1978, the München, a German barge carrier, sank in the Atlantic. Surviving bits of twisted wreckage suggested the cause was a rogue wave. Even with these eyewitness accounts many oceanographers were skeptical; people tend to embellish, they said. Another factor causing doubt was the fact that bobbing ships don't make good reference points for trying to determine the size of a wave. 
     Scientific models predicted that giant waves were statistical improbabilities that would happen only once every 10,000 years or so. Then on New Year’s Day in 1995, when an oil platform in the North Sea, which had a laser designed to measure wave height was hit with a rogue wave that was 84 feet high. In February 2000, a British oceanographic research vessel caught in a gale west of Scotland measured waves up to 95 feet, making them largest waves ever recorded by scientific instruments. These two incidents convinced scientists that rogue waves were real. 
     It was found that rogue waves regularly form in regions where there are powerful currents: the Agulhas off South Africa, the Kuroshio off Japan, and the Gulf Stream off the eastern United States; the Gulf Stream also flows through the Bermuda Triangle, famous for the disappearance of large numbers of ships.
     One way that rogue waves apparently form is when the strong currents meet winds and waves moving in the opposite direction with the result that due to a concentration of forces, rogue waves form. For example, when a small, fast wave catches up with a large, slow wave, the energy of both can combine to create a single, high-intensity mutant wave. 
     There is one area in particular where big oil tankers coming from the Middle East ride the Agulhas current around South Africa. There, the westward-flowing current meets prevailing easterly winds, at times disastrously. Three or four tankers a year there get badly damaged in the area. In September 2004 when Hurricane Ivan swept through the Gulf of Mexico it passed directly over six wave-tide gauges that the Naval Research Laboratory had placed about 50 miles east of the Mississippi Delta and the waves measured more than 90 feet from trough to crest. Even the best physical protections may fail under assault by tons of roiling water, so the best precaution is to learn how to avoid rogue waves in the first place, but there prediction is still not possible. 
     In addition to wind-current interactions, is the amplification that occurs when different storms come together. Sometimes the waves cancel each other out, but sometimes they get much larger. Another cause is choppy seas where several waves moving in different directions merge. In that case scientists claim a giant wave would normally last for no more than a few seconds or minutes. However, some are suspected of lasting for hours and traveling long distances. 

Get information, facts, and pictures about Waves at Encyclopedia.com.
Watch a rogue wave hit a US Navy ship on Youtube.
US Naval officer Dan Butterfield relates what happened in 1961 when his submarine encountered a rogue wave.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Insane Salaries

    In the September 2014 Census Bureau report the median household income in America across all jobs was $51,939. We all know about the insane salaries the professional athletes make, but the salaries of TV games show hosts is equally insane! 
     Wheel of Fortune's host, Pat Sajak, rakes in $12 million a year and hostess Vanna White pulls down $8 million for flipping over the letters. Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy makes $10 million. Family Feud host Steve Harvey makes $12 million and Howie Mandel of Deal, No Deal gets paid $14 million and he won't even shake a contestants hand because they are covered with filthy, disgusting germs that could make Howie sick. Lovable Drew Carey makes $8.5 million for hosting The Price is Right. 
     On the popular Dancing With the Stars, judges are rumored to make $1.2 million per season. Head judge Len Goodman's net worth is reported to be $12 million. As for the other judges, Carrie Ann Inaba has a net worth of $8 million, Bruno Tonioli net worth is $10 million. Julianne Hough's net worth is $7 million. The show's host, Tom Bergeron gets $150,000 per episode and his net worth is placed at $16 Million. Bergeron bought a $1.9 million house in Calabasas, California in 2004. He also owns a home in Greenwich, CT. 
     The dance pros were said to make around $5,000 per week back in 2009. What is known that dancer Derek Hough is worth $4 million. Maksim Chmerkovskiy is worth $3 million and brother Val Chmerkovskiy, half that. Mark Ballas is worth $2 million and in 2015 he bought a house...a $2.5 million five bedroom fixer upper. Tony Dovolani is worth $2 million and Peta Murgatroyd is poor as a church mouse with a net worth at a paltry $400,000. Sharna Burgess has been a little more successful; her net worth is $750,000. 
     American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest pulls in $55 million a year. Although strictly speaking it's not a game show the world's highest paid TV show host is Dr. Phil ...$88 million a year.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Free e-book and audio-book downloads

     Gizmo's Freeware has a listing of free eBooks and audiobooks in the format of the ebooks, Kindle, ePub and Online Reading. There are well over a million free e-books and audio-books at the sites listed within these pages. As far as the publisher knows all of the websites listed offer only content that they are legally entitled to offer for downloads and are malware free.

e-book genres: Arts, Crafts and Hobbies-Biography, Autobiography and Memoir-Business-Children's-Comics-Computer and Internet-Cooking, Food and Wine-Health, Fitness and Medicine-History-Horror, Ghost and Gothic-Humor, Comedy and Satire-Math-Mystery, Detective, Thriller and Crime (Fiction)-Philosophy Religion and Spirituality-Romance-Science Fiction and Fantasy-Teen and Young Adult-Textbooks-Travel-Western Fiction 

Audiobooks genre: Arts, Crafts and Hobbies-Video Instruction-Biography, Autobiography and Memoir-Business-Children's Motion Comics-Computer and Internet-Cooking, Food and Wine-Health,-Fitness and Medicine-History-Horror, Ghost and Gothic-Comedy-Humor and Satire-Audio and Video-Math Books and Courses-Mystery, Detective, Thriller and Crime (Fiction)-Philosophy and Courses-Religion and Spirituality-Romance-Science Fiction and Fantasy-Teen & Young Adult-Audio & Video Courses-Travel-Western Fiction

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Equator

     The Equator is the most famous imaginary thing on earth. It's nothing but an imaginary line equal distance from the North and South Pole, that divides the Earth into the northern and southern hemisphere. 
     Twice a year, during the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun passes directly over the Equator, but equatorial regions often have little seasonal variation. Many equatorial locations have only wet and dry seasons. Oddly, humid weather means that equatorial regions are not the hottest in the world even though they are among the closest to the sun. The water in the equatorial air cools it slightly. 
     Not all equatorial regions are hot and humid. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, is only 205 miles from the Equator, but its elevation creates a climate with cool, dry weather and even glaciers. The Andes are another region lacking the hot, humid climate. The mountain range includes a desert with almost no rain as well as some of the tallest peaks on Earth. 
     The highest point on the equator is the south slopes of Volcán Cayambe in Ecuador at 15387 feet and it has a permanent snow cap. 
     According to journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology if you live at or near the equator, you are at higher risk of getting asthma and other breathing related allergies because people living near the equator have a high risk of ultraviolet –B exposure from sun rays.  This exposure can effect their immune system making them prone to allergies. 
     Only twenty percent of the world's population lives below the equator. There are more countries in northern hemisphere than southern hemisphere, but what really gives the north the edge are the highly populated countries like China, India, and USA. Only two out of the top ten populated countries lie south of the Equator: Brazil and Indonesia. 
     Alert, in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world, 508 miles from the North Pole. Its permanent population was reported as zero in the 2011 census, but military and scientific personnel on rotation live there. Alert has what is called a nautical polar night—where 24 hours are in effect completely dark with only a marginal astronomical twilight—which occurs from November 19 to January 22. Days and nights are 12 hours each at the equator...no long or short days and nights. 
     Twilight is shorter at the Equator because at low latitudes, the sun sets perpendicular to the horizon, while at higher latitudes, the sun can set at a more oblique angle, allowing it to remain close to the horizon after sunset for a longer period of time. 
     The Earth bulges outward at the Equator because of the planet's rotation and its tendency is to stay in a straight line while moving. This creates a gravitational field with more pull on the poles than in the middle. It is due to this bulge that a person standing at the Equator is further from the majority of Earth's mass than a person standing at either of the poles. The result is you will weigh about a half percent less at the Equator. 
     The slightly weaker gravitational pull and momentum of the spinning Earth makes equatorial regions ideal places for space launches. It takes less rocket fuel to launch in lower gravity and the spinning Earth is already giving the satellite a push 1,038 miles per hour.
     The rotational speed at the Arctic Circle is slower than the spin at the Tropic of Cancer, because the circumference of the Arctic Circle is much smaller and a point doesn't have to travel as far to complete a revolution. The spin at the Tropic of Cancer is much slower than the spin at the Equator. Near the poles, the Earth's rotational speed, or spin, is near zero. At the Equator, the spin is about 1,038 miles per hour. 
     The distance around the Earth at the Equator, its circumference, is 24,901 miles. The Earth's diameter at the Equator is about 7,926 miles, but at the poles, the diameter is about 7,900 miles. The equatorial bulge means that people standing at sea level near the poles are closer to the center of the Earth than people standing at sea level near the Equator. The equatorial bulge affects the ocean, making sea levels slightly higher in equatorial regions than near the poles.
Marker in Quito
     Although the equator runs through hundreds of places, one country that takes particular pride in its unique geographical location is Ecuador. In fact, the official name of Ecuador - the Republic of Ecuador literally translates to "Republic of the Equator".  Its capital city of Quito, lies right on the Equator.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

How Infomercials Convince You to Buy

     Infomercials seem harmless, but they are carefully constructed to grab attention and separate people from their money. Call right now! Operators are standing by to take your order. Call in the next 10 minutes and we’ll double your order! Not available in stores, and limited quantities apply! are familiar attention grabbers. 
     Back in the old days television stations signed off the air late in the evening and resumed early the morning, but in 1984 the FCC deregulated broadcast television which allowed stations to remain in the air 24 hours a day. Because not too many people were watching in the late night and wee hours of the morning stations offered those time slots dirt cheap and giving tremendous growth opportunities for the infomercial business. 
     Today, the infomercial market is a multi-billion dollar industry and even though most people view them negatively, they are still an enormous money maker and manufacturers are willing to take advantage of their customers by misleading advertising, poor quality products, high shipping and handling fees and poor customer service. What they want is your credit card number
     Infomercials are formatted in one of two ways: 
1- They look like talk shows where an actor portrays the host and interviews one or more so called experts. 
2- The pitchman demonstrate the product. 
     What makes them so successful? Huge profits! For example, if you pay $19.95 for for some piece of junk, it probably ony costs $4-$5 (or less) to produce it. Add grossly inflated shipping and handling fees and they make even more money. By the way, what, exactly, is a handling fee?! 
     Many informercials claim their item is not sold in stores, but go to the local drug store and they have a whole shelf full of the junk. That's because infomercials often act as a launch pad for manufacturers that don’t have the resources to move directly into the retail market. Even if the product is not successful, infomercials cost about ten percent of traditional advertising campaigns, so even if the product fails, infomercials are still cheaper.
     Informercials sell hope. They make you feel good and make you believe that their product really can help you do whatever it is supposed to do. Maybe it really will get bugs off the grill of my car or help me see better at night.  Maybe it really will get rid of pimples when nothing else has worked. 
     Why is almost everything priced $19.95? Because marketers have learned that this price is the sweet spot. Most people are willing to gamble $20 on a product, but $30 is too high and $10 sounds like it's cheaply constructed. Surprise...products rarely perform as well as advertised and the manner in which they’re sold could be considered somewhat dishonest. 
     A few have been masters of infomercials. Kevin Trudeau and Don Lapre come to mind. Kevin Mark Trudeau (born February 6, 1963) is an author, entrepreneur, pool enthusiast, and convicted fraudster whose ubiquitous infomercials promoting unsubstantiated health, diet, and financial remedies earned him a fortune and a prison sentence. 
     In the early 1990s, Trudeau, who it turned out is a crooked as a dog's hind leg, was convicted of larceny and credit card fraud. In 1998, the Federal Trade Commission accused him of grossly misrepresenting the contents of his book, The Weight-Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About. In a 2004 settlement, he agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and cease marketing all products except his books, which are protected under the First Amendment.
     But, guess what? Being a fraudster, in 2011 he was fined $37.6 million for violating the 2004 settlement and ordered to post a $2 million bond before engaging in any future infomercial advertising. In 2013, facing further prosecution for violations of the 2011 agreement and non-payment of the $37-million judgment, Trudeau filed for bankruptcy protection. His claims of insolvency were challenged by FTC lawyers who maintained that he was hiding money in shell companies and cited examples of continued lavish spending, such as $359 for a haircut. In November 2013, Trudeau was convicted of criminal contempt and is currently serving a 10-year sentence in a Federal Prison. 
     Don Lapre (May 19, 1964 – October 2, 2011) was an multi-level marketing and infomercial salesman.  His work involved product packages such as "The Greatest Vitamin in the World" and "Making Money Secrets".  Lapre was criticized as selling questionable business plans that often did not work for his clients. 
     In June 2011, Lapre was charged with 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and promotional money laundering related to his Internet businesses. He was arrested on June 24, 2011, for failing to appear in court to face these charges. 
    On June 27, 2011, Lapre was arrested in Tempe, Arizona, at a Life Time Fitness center, where he had reportedly lived for two days, with serious self-inflicted knife wounds to his groin.  The wounds led au
thorities to believe Lapre had attempted suicide while at the Lifetime Fitness by attempting to sever the femoral artery in his legs. 
     Lapre died, 47 years too late, in custody from an apparent suicide on October 2, 2011, while in jail awaiting his trial, which was scheduled to begin on October 4, 2011. Lapre died from severe blood loss after cutting his throat with a razor blade. The autopsy report stated that Lapre died of massive blood loss and had wrapped himself in sheets to conceal any blood loss from prison officials. 

10 Scummy Informercials
Complaints, reviews, scams, lawsuits and frauds reported for Infomercial Rip-offs
Snuggies

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Squirrel Acting Squirrely

     I observed a squirrel behaving oddly in the neighbor's back yard yesterday. It was not running, but hopping, jumping and rolling. Then it climbed the fence and chased a robin in our yard, dug in the ground, rolled and hopped some more before departing into the woods.
     Sometimes baby squirrels fall out of their nest and/or become orphaned. When that happens they can become stunned and act odd, or, if they are orphans, they usually have no fear of humans and often close their eyes and emit a noise like "squee, squee, squee" as if calling for its mother. But, it's too early for babies and this was a full-sized squirrel. 
     Rabies maybe? Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. So, even though squirrels are not infected as frequently as other mammals, such as raccoons, skunks, and wild canines, it is possible. 
     There are many physical signs that could indicate a squirrel has rabies. Overt aggressiveness, slow movement, and apparent confusion are all symptoms of the virus. Rabid animals also produce excessive amounts of saliva, which makes them drool more than usual and leads to the assumption that animals with rabies foam at the mouth. However, since many common diseases and parasites linked to squirrels cause the same symptoms, you cannot always be sure whether an animal is rabid. Still, any slow-moving squirrel exhibiting aggressive behavior should be assumed to have some kind of infection and regarded with caution. This one was anything but slow moving.  One can probably rule out rabies as the reason for its squirrely behavior. 
     Other possible causes seem unlikely this time of year. Infestation by bot fly larvae can cause squirrels to act odd, but I don't think they live around here. 
     Distemper comes to mind. Distemper is a disease that affects a wide range of wild and domestic carnivores. It is often referred to as either canine or feline distemper, and these two illnesses are frequently confused. They are, however, caused by two completely different viral agents. Symptoms in dogs include coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Eye discharge, anorexia, and disturbances of the central nervous system may appear as well. Symptoms in wild carnivores include abnormal behavior and lack of fear, often resembling behavior seen in animals with rabies. Purulent conjunctivitis and nasal discharge may be evident as well. Some affected wild animals exhibit signs of neurological disturbances, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and labored breathing. 
     Squirrels, as well as chipmunks, are rodents, just like mice and rats. They all belong to the order Rodentia. A conspicuous feature uniting squirrels with rats and mice is their teeth. In the front of all rodent mouths there are four chisel-like gnawing-teeth called incisors, two above and two below. Immediately behind the incisors there's a space, and then flattish back teeth that are used for grinding. The vast majority of rodents also have four toes on each front foot, and five on each hind foot...who knew that?! 
     The biggest dangers to squirrels as hawks snakes, domestic house cats and in towns, cars. I even saw one that had been electrocuted when it got onto a transformer at the top of a telephone pole in front of our house. Hunters are a danger, too. Squirrels with biscuits and gravy are a popular meal with some people. You can find over 60 recipes for squirrel HERE.
     One reason squirrels come to the ground is to bury and retrieve food. In the fall you can often see them digging small holes in the ground called caches into which they deposit food, especially nuts and acorns. On warm days throughout the winter, when food is scarce, they then dig them up, but many are never retrieved and develop into trees. Thus one important job the squirrel does in the ecosystem is to plant trees. 
     An interesting online book detailing the life of a squirrel can be found HERE.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Chickens Talk and Fly

     Chickens can fly to some extent. Some are too heavy, but most barnyard chickens can fly short distances. The world record flight is 13 seconds and 300 yards; that's 47 miles per hour! Domestic chickens aren't good flyers because their body weight is too heavy for their wings to carry them any distance so they tend to do a kind of hop and flap. They can, and often do, manage to escape their enclosure by flying over fences. Normally, a four foot fence is easy, six is a little more difficult but still very possible and some can clear ten to fourteen feet. 
     If you've ever tried to catch a chicken you know they are fast. They can get up to 9 miles per hour for short bursts and they can turn on a dime. The average human walks at about 3 miles per hour and runs at about 15 miles per hour. 
     Chicken aficionados will tell you how intelligent chickens are, but they don't compare to a dog or pig, or even some other birds. Also, the term Mother Hen would lead you to believe that chickens are good mothers, but chickens have been known to eat their young and they like the taste of their own eggs. It's not normal, but it's been observed that sometimes when the chicks started hatching the mother hen will immediately killed and eat the chick and the shell it came out of. Chickens will eat anything that looks like food and they love eggs. Once a hen has tasted fresh eggs it may start breaking eggs intentionally in order to eat them. Once she’s learned to do that, other hens will learn it from her and take up the habit! It's true. 
     Chickens teach each other. Hens teach their chicks what they should and shouldn’t eat and in lab experiments researchers found that mother hens taught their chicks to avoid certain colored grains. 
     It’s widely believed that chickens are color blind and have poor vision, but they actually have better vision than humans. Humans have three different cone types which mean we can perceive red, green and blue. Chickens have an additional two cone types which allows them to also distinguish violet and ultraviolet light. This means roosters can see the sunrise and crow well before humans can see it, often around an hour before humans do. 
     Chicken talk...chickens have over 30 unique noises they can produce which are used for different purposes. Their clucks and crows are mostly used to raise an alarm, normally either for danger or food. Hens cluck to their chicks while they are still in the eggs and as the chicks develop in the eggs they begin to peep and squeak back. This helps the chicks create a bond with their mother before they even hatch. 
     Chickens can recognize up to one hundred human faces so they are quick to learn who feeds them every morning. Some claim that chickens also recognize pet dogs. Human babies can grasp object permanence at around seven months, however baby chicks develop this ability in as early as 2 days old. Object permanence is an interesting subject in itself. Read more
     Chickens experience rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep? Its during REM sleep that dreaming occurs so it's assumed that chickens also dream. Or, perhaps they are having nightmares about their fate. Who knows? 

     The average chicken has a life expectancy of 3 to 4 years due to their vulnerability to predators and diseases. However, well cared for chicken can live 7-8 years. The oldest chicken ever, lived until she was 22 years old. Unfortunately for commercial chickens their life expectancy was never very long. Forty years ago it took 10 weeks to achieve a 4-pound market weight, but nowadays a broiler can achieve a 5-pound market weight in five weeks.
     Hens give off numerous signs when they are ready to lay an egg. Most prominent is her comb will become a much more vivid red. 
     The term pecking order comes from chickens because they operate on a very strict hierarchy where the top chickens lay down the rules to those beneath them. If two flocks are brought together they will normally hold jousts to determine the order. Hens will feed close to the most dominant roosters because he will protect them. 
     Chickens are diggers. They dig into the ground and create themselves a dust bath. They do this to keep themselves clean and on hot days it helps them cool down. 
     For a normal hen to lay 12 eggs they need to consume roughly four pounds of feed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why We Need Toes

  
   Think toes aren't all that important? Think again. Even though we can't use them to grab stuff like chimpanzees can, our toes serve a few important purposes.
     We owe our balance to the 26 bones that make up the hindfoot, midfoot and forefoot. The forefoot contains the toes. The big toe has two major bones and the rest have three little bones. The toes connect to the midfoot by five long bones called metatarsals, one for each toe. The hindfoot connects to the midfoot by cuneiform and cuboid bones. These are connected to the ankle bone. 
     For example, toes provide balance and support when we walk because the toes maintain contact the ground about 75 percent of the time and help your feet to bear the body weight when you walk. 
     They play an even more important role in running. When you use your whole foot while running, toes increase the overall length of the foot, allowing you to run faster.
     Of all your toes, your big toes are the most important. They play the most critical role in maintaining your balance. They also bear the most weight when standing. Your big toes can bear almost twice as much weight as the other toes combined. 
     The least important of your toes are the pinky toes because they bear the least weight and have the least impact on maintaining balance. People born without pinky toes or those who lose one in an accident will see very little change. Even though the pinky toe itself has no functional value if you remove the metatarsal it would make running and walking nearly impossible. 
     Toes play an important part in increasing the weight-bearing area during walking. When your weight is on the ball of your foot during a step, the force is transferred to the toes. If we didn’t have toes the center of force would stay under the ball because that’s where your foot would end. But by rolling onto our toes, it's like lengthening the arm of a lever. Now the calf muscles can contract at a slower, more effective rate but tilt the end of your foot at a higher speed.

     With age and the number of steps taken per minute decreases. A mature gait pattern is well established by about 3 years of age and the gait of a seven-year-old child resembles that of an adult. The normal adult gait cycle involves heel strike, stance and then toe-off. The stance phase is the foot in contact with the ground and the swing phase is the foot off the ground.

11 most common reasons old people shuffle when they walk 
-Weak hips and leg muscles 
-Arthritis pain in joints 
-Loss of flexibility in feet making it hard to flex them normally 
-Decreased ability to maintain balance 
-Decreased vision making it hard to see 
-Fear because of a recent stumble or fall 
-Slow reaction time when unbalanced which increases fear of falling 
-Medication side effects 
-Worn or poorly-fitting shoes or slippers 
-Slippery floors 
-Serious medical conditions, like Parkinson’s or dementia, could also cause the elderly to shuffle or walk unsteadily.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Speed of Nerve Impulses

     The nervous system transmits impulses throughout the body. Depending on the type of fiber, impulses travels at speeds ranging from a sluggish 2 miles per hour to 200 or more miles per hour. But even this top speed is 3 million times slower than the speed of electricity through a wire! 
     Signals such as those for muscle position, travel at speeds up to 266 miles per hour. Nerve impulses such as pain signals travel slower at less than 1.5 mph. Stub your toe and you'll feel the pressure immediately because touch signals travel at 170 mph. But you won't feel the pain for another two or three seconds, because the pain signals is only moving at 1.5 mph. 
     In 1850 German physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz attached wires to a frog’s leg muscle so that when the muscle contracted it broke a circuit. He found that it took a tenth of a second for a signal to travel down the nerve to the muscle. In another experiment he applied a mild shock to people’s skin and had them gesture as soon as they felt it. It took time for signals to travel down human nerves, too. In fact, Helmholtz discovered it took longer for people to respond to a shock in the toe than to one at the base of the spine because the path to the brain was longer. 
     Helmholtz and others could manage only crude measures of the speed of thought and researchers have been trying to get more precise results ever since. Today it is clear why they have had such a hard time. Our nerves operate at many different speeds. 
     Speed also influences us in surprising ways. In one experiment for studying the speed of thought, researchers briefly show test subjects a lopsided, upside-down and then ask them which leg of the figure is longer. People with faster responses tend to score higher on intelligence tests. Some psychologists have argued that a high processing speed in the brain is a requirement for intelligence. Responses slow down when people suffer certain psychological disorders like depression. People with sluggish reaction times are more likely to die of incidents like strokes or heart attacks. 
     Three or four times a second our eyes dart in a new direction which us only about a tenth of a second to make sense of what we see in each spot. Recently, neuroscientists at MIT ran an experiment in which they briefly showed people a series of landscapes and then asked questions about the scenes. People did well on these tests even when they glimpsed each of the pictures for less than one tenth of a second. 
     A Researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany recently extracted retinal tissue from amphibians and exposed the living tissue to a series of simple geometric patterns. Then he recorded how the nerve cells fired in response. He noticed that each neuron started firing a little earlier or a little later, depending on which picture he showed. The shifts were distinctive enough that he could predict a shape just by looking at the timing of the neural reaction. Although this test involved amphibians, researchers believe the results would hold true for human brains as well. They might not wait for all the signals from the retina to arrive before they begin building a representation of the world and might get a head start with the very first bits of information. 
     National Science Teachers Association guide to the amazing living network of nerves that interconnect your brain, muscles, and organs. Visit site.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Charles Atlas and Other Ads from the Fifties

     The man known as Charles Atlas was born in Sicily and his real name was Angelo Siciliano. He was born on October 30, 1892 and died the day before Christmas in 1972. Atlas was the developer of a bodybuilding method and its associated exercise program that was best known for a landmark advertising campaign featuring Atlas's name and likeness; it has been described as one of the longest-lasting and most memorable ad campaigns of all time.
     Atlas trained himself to develop his body from that of a "scrawny weakling", eventually becoming the most popular muscleman of his day. He took the name Charles Atlas after a friend told him that he resembled the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island and legally changed his name in 1922. He marketed his first body building course with health and fitness writer Dr. Frederick Tilney in November 1922. Tilney wrote the original course Health & Strength by Charles Atlas, and the duo ran the company out of Tilney's home for the first six months. In 1929, Tilney sold his half of the business to advertising man Charles P. Roman and moved to Miami, Florida, where he operated a very successful health food business until his death in 1977. Charles Atlas Ltd. was founded in 1929 and, as of 2015, continues to market a fitness program for the "97-pound weakling." His ads were found in magazines of every description.  Must know information for men:  Lessons in Manliness from Charles Atlas 

     Many ads from the 1950s would be totally unacceptable today.  Vintage ads showing off questionable thinking  and creepy kids in Creepy Vintage Ads.
 


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Memory Foam Mattresses

     A memory foam mattress is one of the most toxic mattresses you can choose because they could potentially interfere with your endocrine system, hormones and other bodily functions. 
     Memory foam, made from a substance called viscoelastic, was designed in the mid-1960s for NASA airplane seats and is popular because it is both highly energy absorbent and soft. Memory foam molds to the body in response to heat and pressure, evenly distributing body weight, then returns to its original shape once you remove the pressure. In addition to protecting against impact, these properties make memory foam very comfortable. 
     After its initial NASA success memory foam showed up as cushioning in helmets and shoes, it was used in prosthetics and products to prevent pressure ulcers in products like seating pads for the severely disabled. Now it's used in pillows, mattress pads and mattresses. Sleep specialist claim studies showing that memory foam actually helps you sleep better are lacking. 
     Most mattresses are made with either memory foam or inner springs and both usually contain polyurethane foam, a highly flammable product. Due to this and government laws, fire-retardant chemicals are usually applied which means most mattress stink when you first open them and manufacturers advise you to let the mattress air-out for a couple days before sleeping on it. The smell goes away, but the chemicals are still there and you are literally inhaling and absorbing these chemicals. 
     The "off-gassing" from synthetic materials and flame retardants can be particularly harmful to the elderly, infants, children and pregnant women. Research shows that exposure to toxins during pregnancy can be harmful to both the woman and fetus and toxins found in mattresses that make their way into the bloodstream of a pregnant woman pass through the placenta and to the fetus. Evidence also suggests that synthetic foams may contribute to a range problems including autism, asthma, ADHD and even cancer. Full report at Sleep Junkie.