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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fact Checking Sites

     Download a pdf version of this poster HERE. There's an interesting site where you can read an online book titled Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers...and other people who care about facts. The book covers a wide range of techniques and tips for fact checking things you read on the web to determine if they are accurate. There is also a table of contents that outlines the topics included in each chapter. The “book” does contain spelling errors, but it's still worth a read. 
     The site also recommends the following organizations are generally regarded as reputable fact-checking organizations focused on U.S. national news: 

Politifact - rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others on its Truth-O-Meter.
Factcheck- A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania 
Snopes - reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.
National Public Radio Fact-Check - The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public.
Hoax Slayer - dedicated to critically analyzing the veracity of urban legends. While it is best known for debunking false stories, it also hosts a page listing strange but true urban legends

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Another Stupid Facebook Meme

     Without getting into politics, somebody on Facebook shared one of the stupidest memes I have seen recently. It apparently came from March Against Monsanto, an international grassroots movement and protest against Monsanto corporation, a producer of genetically modified organism (GMOs) and Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide. The movement was founded by Tami Canal in response to the failure of a California ballot initiative which would have required labeling food products made from GMOs. Advocates support mandatory labeling laws for food made from GMOs. 

    I have to ask, besides a Facebook meme, what are the sources for these claims? As with most of these memes not a single source to support its claims was quoted. The first thing that jumped out at me when seeing this post was that looking at the picture of the ”tilapia” it seems obvious that the fish has skin and bones. 
     According to what I was able to discover, Tilapia is the market name of a variety of freshwater fish that are commercially farmed and consumed world-wide. As of 2016, it was the fourth most popular seafood eaten in the US. The USDA included tilapia in its 2017 list of best choices for seafood consumption by pregnant women and children. 
     Of course many people who post memes like this (and many who read them) are conspiracy theorist who believe there is a sinister plot by the government, big business and the media to poison and enslave us all. That may or may not be true, but if they are going to post something they should be able to support their claims. 
     There is no scientific evidence that I could find to support the claim that feeding farm-raised tilapia genetically engineered products makes them unsafe to eat. 
     It is true that farm-raised tilapia does not have the high omega content of other fish, but a Sanford Health nutrition researcher wrote that tilapia is still a healthy choice. 
     The claim that it contains toxic chemical compounds can also be true, but they sometimes turn up in wild seafood as well as other foods. At least one scientific report found that farmed fish are no more prone to contamination than wild-caught fish. 
     I guess it comes down to who are you going to believe? Stanford and Berkeley researchers or a Facebook meme? The answer depends on whether or not you are a conspiracy theorist and believe those universities are in on the plot. I suspect one reason we see so much of this nonsense being shared on Facebook is due to confirmation bias

List of popular conspiracy theories

Monday, May 28, 2018

Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets

     The supermarket chain with the coolest name in the business, Piggly Wiggly, operates in the Southern and Midwestern regions of the United States; its current headquarters is in Keene, New Hampshire. 
     The first store opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee and is notable for having been the first true self-service grocery store and the originator of various modern-day features such as checkout stands, individual item price marking and shopping carts. It was founded on September 6, 1916, at 79 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, by Clarence Saunders. A replica of the original store has been constructed in the Memphis Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, a mansion that Saunders built as his private residence, which was later sold to the city. Where did the name Piggly Wiggly come from? Saunders was never said.
     When Saunders founded the store grocery stores did not allow their customers to select their own groceries. A customer would give a list of items to a clerk who would then go through the store and pick them out. The side effect was greater cost and higher prices. Piggly Wiggly introduced the idea of letting customers to go through the store choosing their own goods which cut costs and allowed for lower prices. 
     Piggly Wiggly issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation of its stores. The concept of the "self-serving store" was patented by Saunders in 1917. Customers entered the store through a turnstile and walked through four aisles to view the store’s 605 items sold in packages and organized into departments. This was important from the marketing concept as packaging and brand recognition became important. They were also the first to: provide checkout stands, price mark every item in the store and provide shopping carts for customers, starting in 1937 in Oklahoma. 
     Their phenomenal success lead to other grocery stores changing to self-service in the 1920s and 1930s. At its peak in 1932, the company operated 2,660 stores. In late 1922, Saunders attempted a squeeze on the company's the stock, running the share price up from $40 to $120 and profiting by millions on paper. As a result, the Stock Exchange determined that a corner had been established and removed the stock from the Board eventually forcing Saunders to turn over his assets to the banks that had financed his leveraged position. Saunders shenanigans reputedly cost him nine million dollars. 
     Following that, the company was divided into units and sold to regional grocery chains, including Kroger, Safeway, National Tea, and Colonial. In 1935 all Canadian Piggly Wiggly stores were sold to Canada Safeway, which merged with Sobeys in 2013. 
     After he lost control of the company Saunders had no further association with the company although he remained interested in the concept of automated shopping which he experimented with initially with the Keedoozle store until his death in 1953.  Keedoozle was the first fully automated grocery store in the United States and used vending machines. The three stores all failed because the mechanical technology used in the vending machines was not capable of handling the high traffic loads. 
     Piggly Wiggly was a pioneer in Just In Time inventory strategy. This strategy was so successful that the management of the Toyota Corporation used it as a model to develop its Toyota Production System (TPS). 
     There are presently more than 600 independently owned and operated stores in 17 states and they are found predominantly in medium to smaller size cities. In many larger cities national grocery chains have built larger supermarkets with greater variety and selection than Piggly Wiggly. 
     If you live in Jacksonville, North Carolina, today only they have the 128 oz. Piggly Wiggly Orange Juice on sale for only $1.51!

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Jet Stream

     Jet streams are rivers of wind high above in the atmosphere. These narrow strips of strong winds have a huge influence on climate because they can push air masses around and affect weather patterns. The Earth is not the only planet that has jet streams; Jupiter and Saturn also have them. Jet streams are usually found at 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) to 50,000 feet (9,144 meters), or about 7 miles (11 kilometers) above the surface. 
     Observers of the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcanic island in Indonesia documented its effect on the sky and in the 1920s Japanese meteorologist Wasaburo Oishi used aviator balloons to identify the jet stream from a site near Mt. Fuji. German meteorologist H. Seilkopf is often credited with coining the phrase "jet stream," as he used in a research paper published in 1939. 
     Aviation played a role in the discovery and mapping of jet streams. Many credit bomber pilots during World War II with discovering much of the knowledge about the jet streams when they were able to take advantage of jet steams. Scientists had theorized the existence of jet streams at least as early as 1937, but it was for US bomber pilots to confirm it. They were able to speed up their missions over the Mediterranean by making the most of the jet streams. 
     In November, 1944, the Japanese launched unmanned bomb-carrying balloons which they believed would ride the jet stream across the Pacific to North America. More information 
     World War II was almost over when the US introduced the Boeing B-29 high-altitude bomber, which flew at at altitudes well above 22,000 ft. When the B-29s were being put into service from a Pacific island base, two Air Force meteorologists were assigned to prepare wind forecasts for aircraft operations at such altitudes. 
    Using surface observations military meteorologists had predicted a 193 mile per hour (168-knot wind) blowing from the west, but commanding officer did not believe it, but the next day B-29 pilots reported wind speeds of 170 knots from the west. 
     While they are fairly narrow, they cover a wide north to south distance and often travel a very winding path; at times they can even fade away or break off into smaller rivers” of air that merge again downstream. They are affected by factors such as the season, the location of low and high pressure systems and air temperature. Jet streams form a border between hot and cold air. Because air temperature influences jet streams, they are more active in the winter when there are wider ranges of temperatures between the Arctic and tropic air masses. 
     Temperature also influences the speed; the greater the difference in air temperature, the faster the jet stream, which can reach speeds in excess of 250 mph (402 kph), but they average about 110 mph (177 kph). 

    Both hemispheres have jet streams, although the jet streams in the north are more forceful. Each hemisphere has two primary jet streams — a polar and a subtropical. The polar and subtropical jet streams are the best known and most studied, other streams can form when wind speeds are above 58 mph (93.3 kph) in the upper atmosphere at about 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) to 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) above the surface. However, all strong upper-atmosphere winds are not jet streams. 
     Jets streams affect the weather because they usually separate colder air and warmer air causing air masses push air masses around. Jet streams don’t generally follow a straight, but shift which can play havoc with the weather forecasters' predictions. 
     Jet streams also have an impact on air travel and are used to determine flight patterns. An airplane can travel much faster, and save fuel, by flying in the jet stream, but doing so can also result in a bumpy flight.
     Watch the wings of a Boeing 787 shake as the plane flies through clear air turbulence caused by the jet stream. Pilots refer to what is shown here as light chop. One pilot noted that the 787's wings can flex an arc of 30 feet.

How does the jet stream affect flight time? 
How the jet stream affects an airplane ride?
New theory finds 'traffic jams' in jet stream cause abnormal weather patterns 
Jet stream/wind maps

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Snails and Mosquitoes

     What does this mean for the future? According to a recent (May 125th) New York Times article scientists at the University of California-Los Angeles reported that when they transferred molecules from the brain cells of trained snails to untrained snails, the animals behaved as if they remembered the trained snails’ experiences. 
     A professor of neurobiology at UCLA has been studying a type of sea snail that is about five inches long and its ability to make long-term memories . In experiments when these snails get a little electric shock, they briefly retract their siphons, which they use for expelling waste. A snail that has been shocked before retracts its siphon for much longer than one that hasn't. 
    Researchers discovered that when they tinkered with a trained snails’ brain cells in a way that should have removed their memory completely, some vestige remained. They extracted all the RNA from the brain cells of trained snails, and injected it into untrained snails and, lo and behold! The untrained snails kept their siphons wrapped up much longer after a shock. 
     Next, the researchers took the brain cells of trained snails and untrained snails and grew them in the lab and soaked the untrained neurons in RNA from trained cells, then gave them a shock, and they fired in the same way that trained neurons do. The memory of the trained cells appeared to have been transferred to the untrained ones. 

Question. If you keep swatting at a mosquito, will it leave you alone? 

    Also from a New York Times article, some scientists think so. It depends, they say. A mosquito may be willing to risk its life for a meal, but if there’s a more attractive or easier victim to feed from, a mosquito may move on. They say that if you keep trying and missing, the mosquito may learn to associate your swatting vibrations with your scent.
     Mosquitoes do not just bite anything according to a neuroecologist at The University of Washington. They prefer people over other animals and some people over others. Attraction depends on how a person looks, smells or acts. But when a feeding situation isn’t favorable, a mosquito can switch preferences.
     They ran some experiments and discovered that some initially attractive odors became threatening signals that the mosquitoes learned to avoid and chose to approach a new odor instead. For at least 24 hours, they retained this memory. 
    How do mosquitoes locate their prey? From far away, carbon dioxide from our breath draws them in and triggers their visual system to seek out high contrast objects as a potential meal. Up close, mosquitoes detect odor, temperature, sweat and even the presence of alcohol or pregnancy (pregnant women emit more carbon dioxide). If signs don't check out, the mosquito doesn’t bite. 
     The whole purpose of the experiments is to understand how mosquitoes process select hosts and then develop ways to control disease. Another possibility might be to impair learning in mosquitoes with insecticides or genetic tools.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Ear Picking

     Most of us in the West just jam Q-tips into our ears, often driving the offending gunk deeper towards our eardrums. Doing so presents the danger of causing impactions that result in pain, dizziness and hearing loss. 
     Things are different in some Asian cultures where ear cleaning is more than just a hygiene issue; it is an important part of their history and culture. Many Asian cities feature ear cleaning salons and some even have sidewalk stands offering the procedure. 
     The person whose ears are being cleaned relaxes and and the ear technician uses the various tools to clean the ears. In shops the technicians uses a bright light or a lighted headband to peer into the ear while performing the procedure. Some people find this treatment pleasurable and even somewhat erotic. 

     There is a natural process by which the ear evacuates dead skin and wax from the ear canal, so usually there is no real medical reason for a man to clean his ears, but people have been doing it since the dawn of time. Archeologists and cultural anthropologists have documented instruments dating back many thousands of years purportedly used by many peoples and cultures to clean their ear. 
     Vietnam seems to be really big on ear cleaning where ear cleaning technician dig gunk out of people's head at a barber shop. In fact, the Vietnamese have brought ear cleaning and its tools to a whole new level. 

     In addition to being routinely practiced at barber shops,you can hire men on street corners to clean your ears for you. But is it safe? According to Dr. Nguyen Quang Dai, Head of the Ear Nose and Throat Department at the French Vietnam Hospital says that poking something more than 4/1000ths (1mm) into your ear could result in lacerated ear canals or worse. He says he has had to reconstruct a few ear drums due to bad ear picking. Also, there's always the risk of infevtion from unsanitary tools being used. Evidently those street corner pickers are not always too concerned with sanitation. 
     Besides the fact that some people think it makes them hear better, it's also possible that it can become addictive. Our external ears are very sensitive and if picked very gently it feels good. 
     Here's something you probably didn't know...not all earwax is the same and Asian ear wax is different. People of African or European descent have earwax that is moist and gooey, but roughly 90 percent of Asians have dry flaky earwax. Researchers have found that Asians have a gene mutation that prevents the buildup of wax in the ear, but why is unknown. 
     They use an ear pick, a small spoon-shaped tool. Other tools include an ear hair shaver to trim hair growing inside the ears. An instrument with a ball head that is used to massage the entire surface of the ear. In Vietnam, it is also used to massage the eyelids. 

     If the ears have been neglected an excavator can be used to remove a lot of wax, hair and dirt and a feather blade can be used to remove patches of itchy, flaky or dead skin. A down puff is the final touch. The puff is rotated and sweeps the ear's surfaces clean. 
    If using a Q-tip is too pedestrian, you can buy ear cleaning kits on line for around $30. 

Ear Wax and Ancestory 
Body odor, Asians, and earwax 
Ear Hair 
Ear Hair Grooming for Men

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

John L. Clem, Drummer Boy to General

Clem as a drummer boy
     Back in May of 1861 President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to serve in the Union army for a three years and a nine year old kid from Ohio named John Clem tried to enlist in the 3rd Ohio, but was turned down. 
     Clem was born on August 13, 1851, in Newark, Ohio as John Joseph Klem. Some accounts claim he was first permitted to join the Twenty-Fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry while other sources claim that he joined the Twenty-Second Michigan Infantry Regiment when it marched through Newark when his persistence won over the unit’s officers and they agreed to let him follow the regiment as a mascot and unofficial drummer boy. The officers also chipped in to pay his monthly salary of $13 before he finally was allowed to officially enlist as a drummer boy in 1863. 
     Drummer boys weren't ornamental figures in military bands; they served a critical role both on and off the battlefield. In military bands the drummers kept time in order to regulate the marching of soldiers on parade. And back in those days, drums were used as communication devices in camps and on battlefields. The drummers in both the Union and Confederate armies were required to learn dozens of drum calls, and the playing of each call would tell the soldiers what task they were to perform. 
drummer boys

     In camp they were also assigned to other duties and during battle drummers were often expected to help the medical personnel, serving as assistants in makeshift field hospitals. There are accounts of drummers having to assistant surgeons during battlefield amputations and carry away the amputated limbs.

     As noncombatants drummers did not carry weapons, but at times buglers and drummers were involved in the action. When the bullets started flying drummers generally moved to the rear, but many buglers ans drummers were killed or wounded. A drummer for the 49th Pennsylvania Regiment, Charley King, died of wounds at Antietam when a stray Confederate shell exploded overhead and shrapnel struck him in the chest. The 13 year old died in a field hospital three days later. According to most sources, at the Battle of Shiloh, Clem demonstrated calmness under fire when a Confederate cannonball supposedly smashed his drum while he was playing it. His reputation grew at the Battle of Chickamauga. 
     During the Union retreat a Confederate colonel ordered Clem to surrender, but Clem was carrying a rifle and Clem killed the colonel. He was later captured, but managed to escape. Union journalists reported the adventures and Clem earned nicknames like "Johnny Shiloh" and the "Drummer Boy of Chickamauga". After Chickamauga, he was promoted to the rank of lance corporal, or was it sergeant? It depends on who is telling the story. It was then that he changed his name to John Lincoln Clem. 
     Those were all good stories and there is no doubt he was at Chickamauga, but historians aren't so sure about Shiloh, claiming that the Twenty-Second Michigan did not officially form until well after the Battle of Shiloh. Of course, he could have served there with another outfit. Who knows? Many think that some of the stories about the boy's exploits were embellished. 
     Clem went on to take part in battles at Perryville, Murfreesboro, Kennesaw and Atlanta, where he was wounded twice. Clem remained in army until September 19, 1864, when he was discharged. 
     After the Civil War, President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Clem to become a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, but because of his lack of education he repeatedly failed to pass the entrance exam. In 1871, Grant overlooked Clem's failure to pass the exams and appointed him a second lieutenant in the Army. 
     Clem remained in the army until 1915 when he retired at the mandatory retirement age of 64 on the eve of the US entry into World War I. He was the last Civil War veteran to leave the United States military. 
     Clem held the rank of colonel when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 64 on August 13, 1915 and upon retirement was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. On August 29, 1916, Clem was promoted on the retired list to the rank of major-general. 
Clem in 1922

     Clem married Anita Rosetta French in 1875. After her death in 1899, he married Bessie Sullivan of San Antonio in 1903. Sullivan was the daughter of a Confederate veteran. After retirement he lived in Washington, D.C. before returning to San Antonio, Texas. He died in San Antonio on May 13, 1937, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Public Broadcasting Fun Stuff for Kids

     Television's Public Broadcasting offers a lot of fun and instructional games for kids ranging from drawing, spin and sing, matching, engineering, feelings, math, spelling, music, dress up, measurement and even hard games like code breaker and racing rapids. Attached are a couple of drawings I made using one of the simple drawing programs.  VISIT

Friday, May 18, 2018

Looking for a unique hobby? Collect sardine cans!

    In the United States, the sardine canning industry peaked in the 1950s. Since then, the industry has been on the decline. 
     The last large sardine cannery in the United States, the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor, Maine, closed its doors on April 15, 2010, after 135 years in operation. 

     What’s a sardine? Good question. Sardine is a generic term to describe around 20 different small, soft-boned, oily fish. In Britain, they are usually pilchards. Sometimes what you get in a sardine can is a herring, sometimes it is a sprat. Sardine and pilchard are common names used to refer to various small, oily fish in the herring family. The term "sardine" was first used in English during the early 15th century and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. 
     The terms sardine and pilchard are not precise. The United Kingdom's Sea Fish Industry Authority classifies sardines as young pilchards. One criterion suggests fish shorter in length than 6 inches are sardines, and larger fish are pilchards. The standard for canned sardines cites 21 species that may be classed as sardines.
     Typically, sardines are caught with encircling nets. The fish are caught mainly at night, when they approach the surface to feed on plankton. After harvesting, they are submerged in brine while they are transported to shore. 
     Sardines are fished for a variety of uses: bait, immediate consumption, drying, salting or smoking, reduction into fish meal or oil. The chief use of sardines is for human consumption and they are a nutrient-rich fish commonly served in cans, but fresh sardines are often grilled, pickled, or smoked. Sardine oil has many uses, including the manufacture of paint, varnish, and linoleum.
     Because they are low in the food chain, sardines are very low in contaminants, such as mercury, relative to other fish commonly eaten by humans. They are canned in many different ways. At the cannery, the fish are washed, their heads are removed, and the fish are then smoked or cooked, either by deep-frying or by steam-cooking, after which they are dried. They are then packed in either olive, sunflower, or soybean oil, water, or in a tomato, chili, or mustard sauce. 
     Good-quality sardines should have the head and gills removed before packing. They may also be gutted before packing; if not, they should be purged of undigested or partially digested food or feces by holding the live fish in a tank long enough for them to empty their digestive systems. 
     Sardines are typically tightly packed in a small can which is scored for easy opening, either with a pull tab or with a key attached to the side of the can. Thus, it has the benefit of being an easily portable, nonperishable, self-contained food. The close packing of sardines in the can has led to their metaphorical use of the name in describing any situation where people or objects are crowded together. 

     Sardine cans and labels are also collectibles. Collecting antique food cans and labels became a widespread hobby in the 1960s, and is still popular today. Many can and label collectors focus on a specific type of product that holds particular meaning or historical significance for them. Those who have regional or family ties to the early fisheries industry often find collecting historic sardine cans. SardineKing prides itself in being home to the Internet's largest collection of vintage sardine can labels specific to California. You can visit their online gallery to view an impressive collection of sardine can labels that represent the California canning industry. 
a $200 sardine pendant

     Decorative food containers and labels of all types can be incorporated into many different styles of home decor. Framed sardine can labels can make an excellent addition to the wall art in your kitchen or dining room. Vintage sardine cans are great for filling in display areas on kitchen shelving units or cupboards. At least that's what one site says. 

Historic Sardine Can Labels

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Strange Case of World War Two Holdouts

     Second Lieutenant Onoda Hiro (March 19, 1922 – January 16, 2014) was an Imperial Japanese Army intelligence officer who fought in World War II and was a Japanese holdout who did not surrender when his country did in August of 1945. Instead, Onoda spent 29 years holding out in the Philippines until his former commander traveled from Japan to informally relieve him from duty in 1974. 
     Onoda was born in Kamekawa Village, Japan to a family of ancient samurai warrior class and his father had been a sergeant in the 4th Cavalry Brigade until 1943, when he was killed in action in China. At the age of 17 Hiro went to work for the Tajima Yoko trading company in Wuhan, China and at the age of 18 enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army Infantry. 

     Trained as an intelligence officer, on December 26, 1944, he was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines where he was ordered to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island, including destroying the airstrip and the pier at the harbor. Onoda's orders also stated that under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life. 
     After landing on the island, Onoda joined forces with a group of Japanese soldiers who had been sent there previously. The officers in the group outranked Onoda and prevented him from carrying out his assignment, which made it easier for United States and Philippine Commonwealth forces to take the island when they landed on February 28, 1945. Within a short time of the landing, all but Onoda and three other soldiers had either died or surrendered. Onoda, who had been promoted to lieutenant, ordered the men to take to the hills. 
     When the war ended Onoda continued his campaign initially living in the mountains with three fellow soldiers from where they carried out guerrilla activities and engaged in several shootouts with the police. 
     This was even after they saw a leaflet in October, 1945 announcing that Japan had surrendered. They mistrusted the leaflet, concluded that the leaflet was propaganda and also believed that they would not have been fired on if the war had really been over. The leaflets had been dropped by air with a surrender order from General Tomoyuki Yamashita. The leaflet was the only evidence they had that they war was over and after examination, they concluded that it was not legitimate. 

     The third member of the group, Private Yuichi Akatsu, walked away from the others in September 1949 and surrendered to Filipino forces in 1950 after six months on his own. For the remaining three it meant they had to be even more careful. When in 1952 letters and family pictures were dropped urging them to surrender, they concluded that this was also a trick. 
     One of the group, Corporal Shoichi Shimada was shot in the leg during a shoot-out with local fishermen in June 1953 and Onoda nursed him back to health. On May 7, 1954, Shimada was killed by a shot fired by a search party looking for the men. Only Onoda and Private First Class Kinshichi Kozuka remained. 
     Then on October 19, 1971 Onoda and Kozuka were still carrying out guerrilla activities by burning rice that had been collected by farmers when local police fired two shots and killed Kozuka, leaving only Onodo. 
     On February 20, 1974, Onoda met a Japanese man who was traveling around the world, looking for Lieutenant Onoda, a wild panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order. The man, Norio Suzuki, found Onoda after four days of searching. 
     According to Onoda, the hippie-looking Suzuki came to listen to the feelings of a Japanese soldier and ask why Onoda would not surrender. Onoda would not surrender, saying that he was waiting for orders from a superior officer. 
     Suzuki returned to Japan with photographs of the two as proof of their encounter and the Japanese government located Onoda's commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. Taniguchi flew to the Philippians where he met with Onoda and fulfilled the promise that had been made in 1944 that whatever happened, someone would comeback for him.
     Taniguchi issued Onoda the following orders: 

In accordance with the Imperial command, the Fourteenth Area Army has ceased all combat activity. 
In accordance with military Headquarters Command No. A-2003, the Special Squadron of Staff's Headquarters is relieved of all military duties. 
Units and individuals under the command of Special Squadron are to cease military activities and operations immediately and place themselves under the command of the nearest superior officer. 
When no officer can be found, they are to communicate with the American or Philippine forces and follow their directives. 

     Being properly relieved of duty Onoda surrendered by turning over his sword, his Arisaka rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, several hand grenades and the dagger his mother had given him in 1944 to kill himself with if he was captured. 
     As odd as this story is, Onoda wasn't the longest holdout. Private Teruo Nakamura wasn't arrested until December 18, 1974 in Indonesia. He was a Taiwan-born soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army who fought for Japan in World War II.

     Born in 1919, he enlisted in a volunteer unit of the Japanese army in November 1943 and was stationed on Morotai Island in Indonesia shortly before the island was overrun by the Allies in September 1944. He was declared dead in March 1945. 
     After the the island was captured, it appears that Nakamura lived with other army stragglers on the island until well into the 1950s, while going off for extended periods of time on his own. 
     In 1956, he apparently decided to relinquish his allegiance to the other remaining holdouts on the island and set off to construct a small camp of his own. The hut he lived in was accidentally discovered by a pilot in mid-1974. 
     In November 1974, the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta requested the assistance of the Indonesian government in organizing a search mission, which led to his arrest by Indonesian soldiers on December 18, 1974. He was flown to Jakarta and hospitalized there. 
     News of his discovery reached Japan on December 27, 1974. Nakamura decided to be repatriated to Taiwan, bypassing Japan, and died there of lung cancer five years later in 1979. 
     Nakamura's repatriation and his perception in the Japanese public was different thn Onoda. Nakamura was a private in a colonial unit and was not entitled to pensions after a 1953 change in the law on pensions. He received the equivalent of $1,100 in today's currency, but an outcry in the press managed to get the Taiwan government to donate considerably more. 
     Then there was Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi (March 31, 1915 – September 22, 1997) who was discovered in the jungles of Guam on January 24, 1972, almost 28 years after US forces had regained control of the island in 1944. 
     An apprentice tailor when he was conscripted in 1941, Yokoi served in the infantry Division and in 1943 was transferred, arriving on Guam in February 1943. When American forces captured the island in the 1944, Yokoi went into hiding with nine other Japanese soldiers. 
     Seven of the original ten eventually moved away and only three remained in the region. These men separated but visited each other until about 1964, when the other two died in a flood. The last eight years Yokoi lived alone and survived by hunting, primarily at night. He used native plants to make clothes, bedding, and storage implements, which he carefully hid in his cave. 
     On the evening of January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in the jungle by two local men checking their shrimp traps along a small river. Thinking his life in danger, Yokoi attacked them, but they managed to subdue him and carried him out of the jungle. 
     Yokoi had known since 1952 that Japan had surrendered, but said, "We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive." 
     After a quick media tour of Japan, Yokoi married and settled down and became a popular television personality and an advocate of austere living. He eventually received the equivalent of $300 in back pay and a small pension.
     Although he never met Emperor Hirohito, while visiting the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Yokoi said, "Your Majesty, I have returned home ... I deeply regret that I could not serve you well. The world has certainly changed, but my determination to serve you will never change." 
     He died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 82. 
     And what about Onoda? Though he had murdered about 30 people after the war and engaged in shootouts with the police, the fact that he believed that the war was still going on was taken into consideration and he was pardoned by President Ferdinand Marcos. 
     Onoda was so popular when he returned to Japan that some urged him to run for the Diet. He released a ghostwritten autobiography, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, shortly after his return. The book didn't mention the murders he had committed and when they were disclosed in a Philippine documentary, feelings were mixed and at the same time he was welcomed home. The Japanese government offered him a large sum of money in back pay, which he refused. When money was pressed on him, he donated it to Yasukuni Shrine.
     Unhappy with all the attention and the collapse of traditional Japanese values, in 1975, he followed the example of his elder brother Tadao and left Japan for Brazil, where he raised cattle. He was openly affiliated with a revisionist organization in Japan that advocates the restoration of the monarchy and militarism in Japan. 
     He married in 1976 and assumed a leading role in the local Japanese community in Brazil.  After reading about a Japanese teenager who had murdered his parents in 1980, Onoda returned to Japan in 1984 and established a survival school, the Onoda Nature School for young people. 
     Onoda revisited Lubang Island in 1996, he donated $10,000 for the local school on Lubang. His wife, Machie Onoda, became the head of the conservative Japan Women's Association in 2006. 
     He used to spend three months of the year in Brazil. Onoda was awarded a medal of merit by the Brazilian Air Force in 2004, and in 2010 the Legislative Assembly of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul made him an honorary citizen. 
     Onoda died of heart failure on January 16, 2014 in Tokyo due to complications from pneumonia. He was 91 years old.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Canary That Wouldn't Sing…

...and other reminisces. 

      The other day I ran across an article on canaries that reminded me of a time, long ago when I was a boy and a small craze graced the radio in the form of singing canary programs. 
      One of the earliest examples was the Mutual Network offering, American Radio Warblers on Sunday afternoons from 1937 to 1952. The program was sponsored by American Bird Products, a birdseed supplier and featured organist Preston Sellers with canaries in cages near the organ. 
     Hartz pet products has been around over 90 years providing products that keep pets happy, healthy and thriving. The Hartz Mountain Master Canaries was another program and it's the one my mother used to listen to. It began broadcasting from WGN Chicago. Since the Hartz Mountain line had expanded beyond birdseed, the program featured sketches of other pets pitching products like dog chews and cat toys. Hartz would later be known for their successful line of flea collars. Later editions of Hartz Mountain Canary Pet Show featured future 60 Minutes alumnus Mike Wallace as an announcer. 
     Canaries are known for their beautiful songs and warbles and many people select these birds as companions specifically for their lovely singing and my mother had to have one. 
     So, one day while my parents were shopping they entered a store that sold parakeets and canaries and my mother brought home a canary, cage and all the accouterments needed for keeping a bird. The problem was, the thing wouldn't sing; it simply sat in its cage mute. There are several reasons for this: it's immature, is molting, is sick, or unhappy. But, the main reason for a canary not singing is that it's a female. It's the males that sing.
      Female canaries can learn to mimic some of the songs of male canaries, but are actually physically incapable of singing any of the long warbles that male canaries are known for. I suspect she had, unknown to her, a female. 
     I also suspect that Hartz was aware of this and were guilty of perpetrating a fraud on unsuspecting listeners. Instead of telling listeners if their bird wouldn't sing it was probably a female, they sold "Instructional" phonograph records which customers could use for their own canaries to learn to sing. 
     My mother sent away for one of the instructional records, a 33-1/3 long play record. She played it frequently, but the bird still wouldn't sing. So, one Saturday morning when my father went to clean the bird cage, my mother asked him to put the record on. In frustration he told her, “Get rid of that damn bird and just play the record!” 
     I don't remember what happened to the canary, but after that experience we always had parakeets. They are supposed to be able to learn to talk, but all the ones my mother ever owned never did. 
     It turns out that female parakeets generally don't learn to talk, so apparently, somehow, she always ended up with a female. Mostly I remember that they were all named “Ricky” which was probably an inappropriate name for a female. 
     Lest you think naming all the birds Ricky is odd, we also had three Boxer dogs over the course of my childhood. They were all named “Buster.” 
     I never knew Buster number one. My dad and Uncle Floyd took him hunting one day and he ran off. When they returned home they told my mother how they called and called, but he wouldn't come. Uncle Floyd told her that maybe he'd show up at the door someday; dogs have been known to do that. It was twenty years later that Uncle Floyd finally confessed that he had accidentally shot old Buster. 
     I remember the second Buster, but he died when I was very young so we got another Buster; he got hit by a car and as a result was left deaf nearly blind. Later, when speaking of the dogs, they were referred to as “the Buster Floyd shot, “Old Buster” and “blind and deaf Buster.” 


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Enjoy Some Clogging


     Clogging is a type of folk dance in which the dancer's footwear is used percussively by striking the heel, the toe, or both against a floor or each other to create rhythms, usually to the downbeat with the heel keeping the rhythm. 
    Clogging is the official state dance of the states of Kentucky and North Carolina and was the social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.  American Clogging is associated with the predecessor to bluegrass music which is based on English and Sots-Irish fiddle tunes. 
     Clogging developed from aspects of English, Scottish, German, and Cherokee step dances, as well as African rhythms and movement. It was from clogging that tap dancing eventually evolved. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Jew's Harp

     The Jew's Harp, a musical instrument with ancient roots, is held against the teeth or lips, and plucked with the fingers and is known in many cultures of the world, and ancient roots, attest to the magical essence of this simple instrument. 
     The earliest known written mention of the Jew's harp was in 1595, in England. Prior to that it was called Jew's trump. However, there is no indication that the origin was connected with Judaism or the Jewish people and the name is probably derived from some other word. It is also sometimes referred to as a juice harp because of the drooling that often happens when it is played by amateurs. It's also known as a jaw harp. 

     The instrument is found all over the world: Europe, Asia and the Pacific, except Australia. It is found everywhere in Russia. Bamboo and wooden types are found in the Pacific, SE Asia and in China except in Northern China. Through European colonization, the bow-shaped metal Jew's Harp was introduced into the Americas, Africa and Australia mainly by the Dutch and English for North America. 
     In Siberia and Mongolia, the Jew's Harp was used to both induce trance and to heal the sick. Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer is said to have used the Jew's Harp therapeutically in psychotherapy. 
     The player holds the frame to his mouth, which forms a resonance cavity, and activates the instrument’s tongue by either plucking it with the fingers. The notes produced are limited and the tongue produces only one pitch; altering the shape of the mouth cavity isolates the individual harmonics that are components of the tongue’s sound. 
     The instrument is fairly easy to learn to play; you can produce the first sounds in a few minutes and in half an hour one can use the sounds for rhythmical play. But, to get really good takes practice the same as any musical instrument. Although it is possible to hit one's teeth with the instrument, when playing the normal way nothing happens to the teeth.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


A tulip-eating dog!
    Years ago we had a puppy which has since gone to Dog Heaven.  One spring I spent about $80 on tulip bulbs which I planted along the back of the house. Arriving home from work one afternoon and looking out the window, I noticed something all over the patio. It turned out that the puppy had dug up every one of the bulbs, carried them over to the patio and crushed them with her teeth. All that is except one which she missed. It blooms every spring. I call it the Brandy Memorial Tulip. 

     Some thing about tulips you may not know: 

1. They are not native to Holland. The first bulb in Holland was a gift from the Emperor of Austria and came from Turkey. A tulip craze began in Holland and they became so popular that vast fortunes were speculated on them. A virus spread among the flowers and many were lost, both tulips and fortunes. 
2. There are over 22 hundred varieties of tulips. 
3. Tulips need to be planted in the fall and new bulbs should be planted every year. The bulb creates a flower, but it also creates baby bulbs and this process exhausts the mother bulb. The baby bulbs take 3 to 7 years to become mother bulbs. 
4. The flowers open and close with sun and shade and with good and bad weather. The process only takes 15 minutes. 
5. There are no black or blue tulips. There is a tulip called the Black Queen of the Night, but it is actually a very deep burgundy. 

     Tulips are edible, but some parts are poisonous. There seems to be a consensus that the petals of tulips are OK to eat and supposedly they range in taste from a mild bean-like taste, a lettuce-like taste or no taste at all. As with everything else, some people are allergic to them and you should never eat flowers that have been treated with fungicide or pesticides.
     However, there are conflicting reports about the bulbs. Some say they're poisonous while others day they are edible if you know what you're doing. Apparently it's a moot point because people who have eaten tulip bulbs say they don't taste very good. 
     During World War II, people in Holland were forced to eat tulips. One Dutch person described it: 
     "Even though much of Western Europe had been liberated from Nazis control, Holland remained under their firm grip. I remember the hunger. We were forced to eat tulip bulbs and sugar beets because there was no other food." 
     "Bread made from tulips is not very good; I can tell you that! The skin of the bulb is removed, pretty much like an onion, and so is the center, because that is poisonous. Then it is dried and baked in the oven. My mother or older sisters would grind the bulbs to a meal-like consistency. Then they would mix the meal with water and salt, shape it like a meatloaf, and bake it. I can still remember the taste of it: like wet sawdust." 
     There are many recipes that use tulip petals: as cups for mousse, accents for tuna, for salad dressing and for appetizers. And, of course, you can make a nice white wine. 
     Bottom line, the petals a safe to use as edible garnishes as long as they haven't been treated with chemicals. The bulbs can be poisonous, but they taste awful even if prepared properly. 

What's Cooking America – edible flower chart

Thursday, May 3, 2018



     Laughter is contagious and is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, but it is little understood. Scientists do know that it is a highly sophisticated social signaling system that helps people bond, but most of it it not the result of a joke. Nor is it always triggered by cheerfulness; embarrassment and other social discomforts cam also trigger laughter. Brain-imaging studies of humans watching funny cartoons or listening to jokes activates parts of the brain. 
     A couple of interesting facts about laughter: it is not generally under voluntary control and it has numerous health benefits such as releasing tension, lowering anxiety and it has health benefits. It boosts the immune system, and aids circulation. 
     Robert Provine, a neuroscientist and psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County tracked and observed real-world laughter and the results were surprising. Less than 20 percent was in response to anything funny. Far more often, people snickered at innocuous statements and the person doing the snickering was 46 percent more likely to be the one snickering than the listener. In only eight of the 1,200 laugh episodes cataloged did laughter interrupt what somebody was saying. Almost every time laughter was a natural breaks in the conversation, sort of like verbal punctuation. Everyday laughter is an important part of our communication and a result of finding something funny. 
     Evolutionists have all kinds of possible explanations, but in a 2005 Quarterly Review of Biology article told of a 19th-century French physician named Guillaume Duchenne, who worked at an old woman’s hospice and went around poking them in the face with an electrode. All of them wanted to be electrocuted by the “little old man with his mischief box.”
     In his quirky experiment Duchenne found that it caused the kind of smiling, the voluntary kind, when we a grin to be polite. This smiling involves the face’s zygomatic major muscles raising the corners of the mouth. 
     But, there is a different type of smiling when something is funny. That smiling uses both the zygomatic major muscles and the orbicularis oculi muscles around your eyes. That's why people say a real smile is in the eyes. He couldn't produce this kind of smile by zapping the old women. Evolutionists have the theory that the kind of laughter triggered by something funny was a signal that everything was OK and it was a good time to socialize. 

     Do animals have a sense of humor? Not munch is known about animal laughter, but comparative science over the past decade have concluded that rats, especially juvenile rats, laugh, but that discovery has been heatedly debated. Penny Paterson, president of the Gorilla Foundation says that Koko, the gorilla famous for her sign language abilities, even had a special "ho, ho," for visitors she liked. 
     Researcher Jaak Panksepp, in a paper in Behavioural Brain Research said there is a possibility that rats may have a”s social-joy type experiences during their playful activities and that an important communicative-affective component of that process, which invigorates social engagement, is a primordial form of laughter.” Rat laughter is in the form of high-frequency ultrasonic calls, or “chirps,” that are distinct from other rat noises. Rats it turns out are particularly ticklish around the nape of their neck and when juveniles play they chirp away when they playmates grab them there. 
     Experimenters discovered that they quit laughing though (if you can call it laughter) when things got serious.  Like smelling a cat, were very hungry or when they were exposed to unpleasant bright lights during tickling. 
     Panksepp is not implying that rats have a sense of humor, only that there appears to be a correlation between young rats and human children at play. Adult humor requires cognitive mechanisms that may or may not be present in other species. 
     In humans laughter can accompany joy, affection, amusement, cheerfulness, surprise, nervousness, sadness, fear, shame, aggression, triumph, taunt and pleasure in another persons misfortune. Studies have shown that human beings possess an uncanny ability to detect a laugher's psychological intent by the sound of laugh sounds alone. The mechanism of laughter is so ingrained in our brains that babies as young as 17 days old have been observed doing it. In fact, children born blind and deaf still have the ability to laugh.
     Researchers hired professional actors and recorded them laughing and came up with four basic types of laughter. 

Joyful laughter. e.g. meeting a good friend after not having seen them for a very long time.
Taunting laughter. Laughing at an opponent after having defeated him. It reflects the emotion of sneering contempt and serves to humiliate the listener. 
Schadenfreude laughter. This is laughing at another person's bad luck. This differs from taunting because does not want to seriously hurt the other person. 
Tickling. Laughing when being physically tickled. 

     The people were instructed to identify the emotions behind the laughs. Subjects were able to correctly classify the laughs. They were also asked the emotional state of the laugher and it was discovered that each form of laughter had a unique 

     Just 10 to 15 minutes of laughing a day can burn up to 40 calories, according to a Vanderbilt University study because the increase in heart rate and oxygen consumption boosted the calorie burn. Research from Loma Linda University showed that laughing improved the memory of adults in their 60s and 70s and at the University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found that hilarious movies improved the function of blood vessels and increased blood flow in a group of thirty year olds. And other research has shown that laughing can improve immunity, help regulate blood sugar levels, and improve sleep. 
     In a Northwestern University study showed that people with a certain “short” gene are quicker to laugh at cartoons or funny movie clips than those with the “long” version of the same gene. The same gene has long been associated with depression. The study determined that people with the short version may flourish in a positive environment and suffer in a negative one. People with the long version are less sensitive to environmental conditions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Stagecoaches in the Wild West

    Thinking back to the times I saw scenes in cowboy movies of passengers riding in stagecoaches there was always a pretty lady and two or three passengers bouncing along while the horses raced at breakneck speed. That's not quite an accurate picture.
     Stagecoach travel was dangerous business in the American West: roads and rutted roads that sometimes impassible. Bandits were a constant threat. And, stagecoaches were uncomfortable. On long trips, passengers had to sleep sitting up and rest stations, or swing stations as they were called, were used to changes horses. The movies often showed passengers chowing down on beans and coffee, but in reality rest stations rarely offered food unless you were a horse. Nevertheless, the stagecoach was a popular form of travel in the American West, particularly during a time when the only other option was a wagon or riding a horse. 
A REAL Stagecoach

     During the gold rush years in the Rocky Mountains the Wells Fargo line had such a difficult time protecting its passengers and cargo that it created a standard form letter for reporting robberies. They nailed safes to the floorboards of the coaches, hired armed guards and taught silver shippers how to melt the silver into bars too large to be carried by men on the run. It didn't always work; stagecoaches still got robed.  
     Wells Fargo finally had to create its own detective agency. It was a good paying job, too. Salaries matched the amount previously lost in robberies. Nevertheless, the detectives were, for the most part successful, bring to justice (or killing) such famous outlaws as John Sontag and Black Bart
     Most stagecoaches were Concords. It was like a basket on leather straps that swung from side to side. Concords had seats in front, in back, and in the middle, seating nine when full and leaving little leg room with seating for up to 12 passengers on top. 
     Created by J. S. Abbot and Lewis Downing, the two personally inspected every coach that left the factory. The Abbot Downing Company had a huge factory in Concord, New Hampshire on six acres and offered designs for forty coaches and wagons. The company was supervised by one of the Abbot or Downing family members from 1827 to 1899. 
     Concord coaches came in various heavily varnished, bright colors and various sizes, but generally were only 8-1/2 feet long, weighed 2500 pounds and cost around $1300 depending on the amount of detail. 
     In the cowboy movies and on television the driver was always called the “driver”, but that's not correct...he was a called a “jehu” after a king of Israel who ordered the death of Jezebel. When it was tie to hit the road, the jehu shouted, "All aboard! Away!" and all the passengers scrambled for their seats because the schedule had to be kept and there was no time to wait for dawdling passengers. That's because stagecoaches carried, besides passengers, important legal documents, large bank deposits, or company payrolls. 
     The jehu held three pairs of reins in his left hand, which kept his right hand free to hold the whip. The jehu also spoke to the horses, shouting commands, encouragement and sometimes soothing words. The horse team consisted of four or six draft horses and sometimes there was a crew member “riding shotgun” to guard against bandits. 
     Odd as it sounds, jehus held the reins was carefully and with a sensitive touch because the horses responded to the slightest movement and it was the jehu's job to carefully guide the horses' every movement. In the movies the jehu always had big work gloves, but in reality they wore thin gloves to feel the reins and in cold weather frostbitten fingers weren't uncommon. 
well dressed men in the 1860s
     Stagecoach travel was pretty safe back East, but it was difficult and dangerous across the West. City slickers in the East provided regular meals at the established inns and taverns along the way. But that wasn't the case in 1858 when John Butterfield established an overland stage line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco by way of El Paso, Texas. The route also ran through Tucson and Los Angeles. 
An 1860s lady

     A federal contract paid $600,000 (over $10 million today) a year to carry mail across the continent. Service was semi-weekly. It was a 2,795-mile trip between San Francisco and St. Louis that took three weeks of hard traveling...if the weather was nice. 
     Stagecoaches were on the move day and night except for brief intervals at way stations. Stagecoach fare did not include the cost of meals, which at an average price of a dollar each three times a day for three weeks and that would double the cost of the trip. Plus, you had to sleep sitting up in the stagecoach. The whole trip could end up costing you nearly $3,500 in today's dollars! 
     The most famous stagecoach owner was Ben Holladay. His personal stagecoach looked like a royal carriage with gold scrollwork and prancing, dapple-gray horses.  He bought the Overland Mail Express Company from the Pony Express in 1862 and had a contract with the United States Post Office that paid $365,000 a year, over 6.8 million in today's currency. Overland transported passengers, cargo and mail over a 3000 mile area. Its well-paid jehus wore velvet-trimmed uniforms and Irish wool overcoats. 
     Holladay employed more than 15,000 people and owned 110 Concord Stagecoaches and in 1866, he sold out to Holladay Wells Fargo and invested his money in railroads, the transportation of the future. Wells Fargo operated stagecoaches along the transcontinental route between Salt Lake City and Sacramento, California, where steamboats connected to San Francisco. 
     Even with railroads the stagecoach still served a purpose because railroads were confined to their tracks, but in the early 1900s the introduction of the automobile brought an end to the use of stagecoaches. 
     In the 1860s, the heyday of stagecoach lines, the Concord coach, handcrafted in Concord, New Hampshire, by Abbot, Downing and Company, became the standard. It was famous for its great strength and its ability to keep passengers dry while floating them across flood-swollen streams. Because the twisting of the coach body on the rough terrain could easily shatter glass windows, it had adjustable leather curtains to keep out the dust, wind, and rain. The heavy body, often weighing a ton or more, rode on thick, six-or eight-ply leather belts called thoroughbraces which serve as shock absorbers. 
     Constant swaying often made some passengers seasick. The best seat was behind the driver, riding backwards because it produced half the bumps and jars of any other seat. Riders were admonished that if another passenger offered to trade seats, “don’t do it.” 
     A Concord coach could accommodate nine passengers inside and another six or more on the roof. Passengers were allowed twenty-five pounds of baggage which was stored in a large rear pouch called a boot. Mail was carried in the front or rear boot, or if there was a lot of it, it might be shoved between the passengers' feet. Stagecoaches also carried produce.