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Monday, July 30, 2018

What's In My Back Yard

Back yard visitors
     My fenced-in back yard is a fascinating place because behind it is a large woods. And, because of the woods many interesting critters can be seen poking around in the yard despite the fence. Some are welcome, some are not. 
     Most welcome of all is my friend Elvis, a stray cat who hangs out in the woods. But, of late I have become worried for her since recently I sighted a coyote in the woods. 
     Other critters that can be seen are deer who occasionally jump the fence to munch on bushes along the fence, rabbits, squirrels (cute, but unwelcome because they dig), opossums and raccoons. 
     The 'coons have a cute face, but the way the walk all hunched up is downright ugly. Raccoons are quite common and they don’t have the best reputation. They are often known as being mean, aggressive and carriers of the rabies virus.  In fact, many people consider all raccoons to be rabid, and they panic when they notice raccoons hanging around the house. 
     While you certainly would never want to approach a raccoon, having them around your home is not a reason to panic. It’s true that raccoons are referred to as a “rabies vector species” because they are a primary carrier for rabies infections, but according to the Center for Disease Control, only one person has ever died from a raccoon strain of rabies, so the event is highly unlikely to occur. In case of a raccoon encounter, they are more afraid of you than you are of them! 
     Raccoons are not dangerous around the home, but if you see many out and about, there is a good chance they are being attracted to your home for a particular reason, and you don’t want them to make YOUR home THEIR home.
     Still, it’s a good idea to know what to do if you happen to feel threatened. If it LOOKS sick avoid it. If it has discharge coming from the mouth or eyes, wet and matted hair on face, self-inflicted wounds, is wandering erratically, is oblivious to noise or movement or is vocalizing in a high-pitch voice then stay away! Raccoons are commonly active during the day, but it’s rare that they will show aggression toward a human for no reason. It is possible that a mother raccoon will arch her back and growl at someone she fears could pose a threat to her babies, but it’s unlikely that she would chase after them. 

     While a normal raccoon wouldn't attack a person, they will sometimes “bluff” if they feel threatened or cornered. Raccoons may huff, grunt, or “charge” at you, but they're just trying to scare you off so you'll leave them alone. 
     Then there are skunks which definitely not welcome! Birds of all kinds are abundant. Throw some stale bread out and bluejays, sparrows and grackles flock to it. 
     Snakes are common also; mostly garter snakes, but also an occasional black snake. A few years back a bunch of garter snakes inhabited the shed, but they were easily chased off by spreading lime all around. Snakes of Ohio. I also discovered a wasp nest the size of a football hanging in the shed. That was harder, and more dangerous, to get rid of. 
     The newest arrival is a group of wild turkeys that are part of a much larger flock that inhabits the woods. Almost daily a group consisting of three mama birds and six of their babies have become regular visitors. 
     Wild turkeys are large, ground dwelling birds with powerful legs, fan shaped tails, and a red fleshy lobe called a “wattle,” that hangs from their chin. Male turkeys, also called “toms” or “gobblers,” sport a “beard” consisting of a tuft of black filamentous feathers protruding from their breast. 
     Females, also known as “hens,” are smaller than the males, and have less impressive plumage. Nevertheless, I can tell you, the females are what I would consider big! Young male turkeys are called “jakes” and have shorter tail feathers and a shorter beard than the adult males. 
     Turkeys have excellent eyesight, and a keen sense of hearing despite having no external ears. Isn't that amazing! They are relatively fast and can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. Turkeys are also short-distance fliers when they need to scramble and can reach speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. A full-grown male turkey will measure up to 4 feet long and may weigh up to 30 pounds. 
     The mating season for turkeys occurs in the months of March and April. Males will attract females by strutting. When they strut, they will fan out their tail feathers while dragging their wings on the ground, throw their head back, and take very quick, rapid steps. Successful males will mate with multiple hens. After mating, hens nest in a small depression they make in the ground, usually surrounded by a dense brush. Females lay 4 to 17 eggs, and will incubate them for a month. Males take no part in incubating the eggs or rearing their young. The newly hatched turkeys, or “poults,” leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours in order to feed. They stay with their mother for a few months after they are born, until they venture out on their own. As the chicks grow, they band into groups composed of several hens and their broods. 
     Winter groups sometimes exceed 200 turkeys. The lifespan of a wild turkey is 3 to 4 years. 

Fun Turkey Facts: 
* A turkey’s diet consists of seeds, nuts, fruit, insects, and small lizards. 
* Turkeys have a wingspan of up to six feet, which makes them the largest bird in their natural habitat of the open forest by far. 
* Turkey calls can be quite loud. On a clear, quiet day, a gobble made by a male turkey can be heard from a mile away. 
* Turkeys have an extremely wide field of vision because their eyes are located on opposite sides of their head. The positioning of their eyes allows the turkey to see objects on both sides of itself, but limits its depth perception. Turkeys have excellent vision during the day, but limited vision at night. 
* Turkeys have no external ear structures, but they have small holes in their head located behind their eyes where sound can enter. Turkeys can pinpoint sounds up to a mile away. 
* Turkeys do not have a strong sense of smell, and the region of their brain that controls smell is very small compared to other animals. 
* Turkeys are usually found in forests, but they may also be found in grasslands and swamps. 
* Wild turkeys were nearly wiped out by hunting in the 1930s, when there were only about 30,000 in the wild. Due to conservation efforts, turkey numbers have rebounded, and are estimated to be more than 7 million today. 
* A turkey has between 5,000 and 6,000 feathers covering its body. 
* Most of the feathers of a turkey are iridescent with varying colors such as red, bronze, gold, and green. 
* Newly hatched turkeys leave the nest within 12 to 24 hours in order to feed. Mothers will feed the hatchlings for a short period before they must fend for themselves. 
* Turkey feathers were used by Native Americans in order to stabilize their arrows. 
* Wild Turkeys are one of the most popular game birds in North America. 
* Turkeys sleep in trees to stay safe from predators at night. 
* When they need to, turkeys can swim by tucking their wings in close, spreading their tails, and kicking. 

     Wild turkeys are found throughout most of the middle and eastern portions of the United States and in limited areas in the west and in Mexico. They walk the forest floors during the day foraging for food. Being an omnivore, a turkey’s diet consists of seeds, berries, nuts, insects, acorns, snails, salamanders, and small snakes. Poults tend to eat a lot of insects. 
     Turkey hunting is a popular sport of many Americans. After obtaining a hunting license and turkey tag, hunters use either a bow or a shotgun (depending on the season) to harvest the bird. Because of a turkey’s keen eyesight, it is important to wear camouflage patterned clothing while in the woods. Hunters often display decoys of wild turkeys in order to attract the birds to the area. Another way to lure turkeys is to use turkey calls. There are over 10 different sounds that can be produced to draw turkeys in. 
     The wild turkey and the Muscovy duck are the only two domesticated birds native to the New World. In the early 1500s, European explorers brought home wild turkeys from Mexico, where native people had domesticated the birds centuries earlier. They quickly became popular on European menus thanks to their large size and rich taste from their diet of wild nuts. Later, when English colonists settled on the Atlantic Coast, they brought domesticated turkeys with them.


Monday, July 23, 2018

The Hair of Elvis

     Men's hair products have changed over the years from the wet-head look to the dry look to the spiked look to the popular shaved heads of today. Back in the days of yesteryear a nice taper on the sides and a sharp, crisp part with a nice shine like Hollywood's leading men of old was the norm. 
     From the 1930's to the 1960s this was accomplished using “hair tonic ” or “hair oil” as it was sometimes called. In those days of the slicked back hair and the side-parted style, the hair was cut with a short to medium taper haircut, leaving just-enough hair length on the top for combing. On average, it was at about 3-inches in length on the top, with the sides tapered very short. 

You had to use one of these products: 

     For nearly 90 years, Brylcreem has been a staple and according to the ads, “a little dab will do ya.” That's all you need to get soft, pliable hair with a sheen thanks to its mineral oil and beeswax. It also has a clean, manly smell. Like all products it's not perfect. It can leave your hair feeling greasy on account of its oil base and you'll probably have to wash your hair every day or else you’ll get a super thick and gooey build up. And, it probably won't all come out without 2-3 washes. For some teens the oil can cause acne around the hairline. Also, if it's a hot day you could end up sweating the stuff all down you face. In the old days, Brylcreem was often referred to as “greasy kids’ stuff. 
     The answer to Brylcreem shortcomins was Vitalis Hair Tonic if you wanted shiny, but not greasy, hair. It dries out, so in order to maintain the shine, you have to use it several times a day. It dries out because of the high alcohol content which also leaves you with a slightly antiseptic smell. 

     Groom and Clean is water based so it doesn’t leave your hair feeling greasy, but it gives you all day hold with that slick vintage Hollywood look. It's water based so washes out easily. The ads claimed it also washed away dirt and dandruff and left your hair feeling nice and clean. 
     Since 1925, Murray’s Pomade has been popular for it's dual characteristics of shine and hold. The stuff was invented by a Chicago African-American barber, C.D. Murray, and was originally marketed to black men. Back in the day of the butch haircut white guys found it ideal for making their short hair stick straight up. It's thick and greasy and people often had little tricks to warm it up so it would go on better. The stuff is hard to get rid of once it gets in your hair though. The recommended way is to use liquid dish washing soap! It also has been known to cause acne along the hairline. 
     Finally, the stuff I used back in the 1950s, Wildroot Cream Oil. Infused with lanolin, it kept your hair slick and shiny. Best of all, it had a much thinner consistency than the other hair products and has a nice mild scent. On the downside, it is pretty oily and it, too, can sweat out. Also, there was the problem that it didn't soak in or cling to your hair, or whatever the other stuff did and sometimes after combing you hair there would be gobs of the white stuff in the teeth of the comb. 

     Elvis Presley's hair was actually sandy blond just like mine. But, unlike me, Elvis wanted black hair. When Elvis was in the Army, he couldn't dye it, but he did get highlights. 
     A guy named Larry Geller had a lot to do with Elvis' hair style. Geller opened up the first hair salon just for men in West Hollywood in 1964 and catered to the likes of Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson and Steve McQueen, but he gave up the business when he was offered the chance to become Elvis’ personal hairstylist for movies and concerts. 
     Elvis's hair got a lot of attention from Geller who would be on the movie sets and at concerts constantly adjusting Elvis's and making it sure it looked just right. 
     None of the above store bought hair stuff for Elvis though! Geller also used to experiment on Elvis's hair. He'd go to a health food store and get a mild shampoo, vitamin capsules, pure aloe vera and other herbs into it and mix them up. Elvis didn't mind all the experimenting, but did tell Geller to make sure he didn't use anything that would cause his hair to fall out. 
     The two had a daily routine that usually included a daily shampoo and a scalp massage then brushing for 50-60 strokes. Sometimes vitamin E and jojoba oil were used and then hairspray to keep everything in place. Hair spray brands had to be alternated to keep it from drying out too much. And, when the black needed touched up every 2-3 weeks, L’Oreal hair coloring was used.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Batmen of the Moon

     Many of today's news stories are lies, but that's nothing new. Just read about the time Upton Sinclair was coaxed into running for governor of California in 1934. HERE
     Back in 1835 the New York newspaper, The Sun, featured the Great Moon Hoax when they fooled readers into thinking that life had been discovered on the moon using a special new telescope. 
     Like many fake news stories today, its author, Richard Adams Locke, intended the articles to be satire, but people then, like now, thought it was real.

     The purpose was two fold. First, to increase the paper's circulation and secondly ridicule some of the theories that had recently been published. Locke was mocking scientists who believed extraterrestrial life. For instance, in 1824, Franz von Paula Gruithuisen, professor of Astronomy at Munich University, had published a paper claiming he had observed various shades of color on the moon's surface which he claimed were climate and vegetation zones. He also observed lines and geometrical shapes which he felt indicated the existence of walls, roads, fortifications, and cities. 
     Locke was particularly mocking the Scottish minister and writer Thomas Dick. Dick (1774 – 1857), was a British church minister, science teacher and writer, known for his works on astronomy and practical philosophy, combining science and Christianity, and arguing for a harmony between the two. Dick had computed that the Solar System contained over 21.9 trillion inhabitants. In fact, the Moon alone, by his count, would contain 4.2 billion inhabitants. His writings were enormously popular in the United States, his fans including intellectual luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
      To make his story more believable Locke mixed some real details with fake details to make the story more convincing, even to quoting a real astronomer named Sir John Herschel who was making observations from the Cape of Good Hope at the time of publication. And the newspaper he mentioned, the Edinburgh Journal of Science had really existed but it had stopped publication by August 1835. 
     The upcoming story was advertised with great fanfare on August 21, 1835, as an upcoming feature and the first part of six was published four days later on August 25. The articles described fantastic animals on the Moon, including bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tail-less beavers and bat-like winged humanoids ("Vespertilio-homo") who built temples. There were trees, oceans and beaches. These discoveries were supposedly made with an immense telescope of an entirely new principle. 
     Of course there were skeptics. Two scientists from Yale tried to find the Edinburgh Journal of Science in Yale’s library, but were unsuccessful. So, they traveled to The Sun’s office in New York, where they were told that the original article was still at the printers. 
     The author of the narrative was ostensibly Dr. Andrew Grant, the traveling companion and secretary of Sir John Herschel, but Grant was fictitious.  According to the story, observations were discontinued when the Sun caused the telescope's lens to set fire to the observatory. 
     According to the account, “The weight of this ponderous lens was 14,826 pounds or nearly seven tons after being polished; and its estimated magnifying power 42,000 times. It was therefore presumed to be capable of representing objects in our lunar satellite of little more than eighteen inches in diameter, providing its focal image of them could be rendered distinct by the transfusion of article light.” 
     The hoax described many fascinating findings: beautiful basaltic formations, cliffs, great oceans, and lunar forests. It also described many animals, one similar to a bison, and another that resembled a goat: 

The next animal perceived would be classed on Earth as a monster. It was of a bluish lead color, about the size of a goat, with a head and beard like him, and a single horn, slightly inclined forward from the perpendicular. The female was destitute of horn and beard, but had a much longer tail. It was gregarious, and chiefly abounded on the acclivitous glades of the woods. In elegance of symmetry it rivaled the antelope, and like him it seemed an agile sprightly creature, running with great speed, and springing from the green turf with all the unaccountable antics of a young lamb or kitten. This beautiful creature afforded us the most exquisite amusement. 

     The hoax was a great success. The Sun's circulation increased dramatically and the series was not discovered to be a hoax for several weeks after its publication and, even then, the newspaper did not issue a retraction. 
     Sir John Herschel was initially amused, but became annoyed later when he had to answer questions from people who believed the hoax was serious. 
     Edgar Allan Poe claimed the story was a plagiarism of his earlier work The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall. His editor at the time was Richard Adams Locke!   Poe had published his own Moon hoax in late June 1835, two months before the similar Locke hoax, in the Southern Literary Messenger and the story was reprinted in the New York Transcript on September 2–5, 1835, under the headline "Lunar Discoveries, Extraordinary Aerial Voyage by Baron Hans Pfaall." 
     In Poe's version, Pfaal went to the moon in a hot-air balloon and lived there for five years with the Lunarians and even sent one back to earth. But, his hoax was not all that successful; it was too obviously satirical and comical. The hoax, as well as Poe's Hans Pfaall, are mentioned by characters in Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon

You can read all six articles HERE

Friday, July 20, 2018

Talking Heads

     No, not the rock band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991. Television talking heads. 
     I recently saw a meme posted on Facebook by someone who thinks President Trump is an idiot, racist, sexist president. Whether he is or not is not the point; we have had several presidents to which one or more of those characteristics apply. 
     The meme said something to the effect of being sick of people telling one what the president meant when he spoke; and here's the punch line...if he can't speak for himself then he should not be president. The implication is that President Trump can't articulate what he's thinking and somebody has to explain it to us. Again, that may or may not be true, but that's not the point either. 
     The point is that people explaining what the president meant when he said whatever it was he said have been around as long as television has. They are often referred to talking heads. These gasbags come on after the president speaks and yammer on and on about what he meant when he said (insert what he said here) as if viewers are too dumb to understand what was just said.
      In a recent study a couple of college professors claimed these news analysts, pundits, or talking heads as they are sometime called are often motivated by money. In television viewers mean money. In order to get viewers in regular television programming sex and violence sells. In the political realm it's lies, innuendo, stirring up controversy, hate and fear that draws viewers. Also, in the complicated world of political issues a lot of thought and investigation is required and that takes time and money. It's easier and cheaper to resort to trash talking. 
     These talking heads have a certain amount of power and influence: the power to tell the viewers or readers what to think and offering them “information” about these issues is a potent force.  Some examples: 

* A recent study from the Public Accountability Initiative in the United States revealed that 22 different commentators on Syria had connections to the defense and intelligence industries. The report also revealed that out of 111 appearances on television or in op-ed pages, these connections were disclosed only 13 times. This conflict of interest, tainted credibility, and skewed opinions are plaguing our ability to make informed decisions about a rapidly changing world. 
* According to research group Media Matters for America, of the 891 guests who appeared on US evening cable and broadcast news shows in the first six months of 2015 to discuss the economy, only 3 per cent were economists. 
* A study of 284 forecasters by Canadian-American psychologist Philip Tetlock concluded not just that their predictions fared badly over time but that the more frequently an expert appeared in the media, the more likely their forecasts were to be inaccurate. 

     Going back to that Facebook meme...it's a trivial, pointless piece of twaddle and the person sharing it should know better because these talking heads have done it with EVERY president. 
     If there is any indignation, it should be about the fact that we viewers are considered too ignorant to understand what the president said and like children, we need somebody to explain it to us.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Juzzie Smith


     Juzzie Smith is a one-man band, based in Byron Bay Australia. Juzzie’s unique style is bluesy/folk mixed into a groove of its own. Marked by an amazing ability to play up to six instruments at once combining the Guitar, harmonica and juggling percussion.
     He has had the honor of performing to both international and national crowds from Byron Bay Blues Festival to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. With over 120 million views on social media and topping the blues iTunes charts around the world Smith is a great entertainer

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

     There is a book titled The Dumbest Generation, How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future that is an assessment of the lack of knowledge and interest of current events for a large portion of today's youth and reveals how a whole generation of youth is being dumbed down by their aversion to reading anything of substance and their addiction to digital crap on social media. 
     According to the author's statistics there is ample evidence that Americans are getting dumber by the decade. Part of that is because of the declining quality of education, especially at the college level. The US ranked 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010.
     At the public school level a whopping 68 percent of public children do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the US News and World reported that barely 50 percent of students are ready for college-level reading when they graduate. 
     We have created a class of angry dummies who, to paraphrase Signs of the Times, feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation. Many haunt social media howling like dogs about anything and everything. They aren't alone though.  Just look at the television "news" and newspaper headlines; stories are often politically motivated. Political candidates don't discuss issues; they take out televisions ads telling us what a lying, thieving rat their opponent is.  Brain dead athletes and silly Hollywood "stars" fancy themselves experts on everything under the sun.  Is it being a hypocrite when they scream for a ban on guns, but travel with armed bodyguards?  Or, when they want to let anybody who wants to just walk into the country while they live isolated in gated communities.  What kind of class does a fellow like George Lopez show when he publicly urinated on President Trump's Hollywood Walk of Fame star?  He is allowed to voice his opinion on the President, but urinating on the sidewalk in public shows a complete lack of class.
     An interesting statistics is that the highest-paid employee in each state is usually the football coach at the largest state school. Depending on the university it could be the basketball coach. However, it must be pointed out that people's hard-earned tax dollars aren't paying these coaches. Most coaches create their own salary which is paid from revenue generated by their team. Sports are big bucks and the Math and English departments don't rake in $200 million a year for the school. 
    However, the revenue generated by athletic teams rarely makes its way back to the general funds. The revenue generated is sucked up by salaries and “administrative” costs. It's not like the money finds its way into classroom equipment. In any case, it shows where priorities are. 

* Here are a couple of scary statistics: 
* 75 percent of young adults cannot find Israel on a map of the Middle East.
* There are more than 4 million adult websites on the internet and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. 
* Almost 10 percent of college graduates believe that Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court. 

    What's more, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni publishes reports on what college students know, or rather don't know. Eighty percent of college graduates did not know what effect the Emancipation Proclamation had on the country and 25 percent could not name the president during World War II (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and had no idea what his New Deal was about. 
     It's not just students. A few years back Newsweek magazine asked 1,000 people to take the US citizenship test and most failed miserably. The most appalling statistic of all was that 6 percent couldn't circle Independence Day on a calendar. 

     Only 43 percent of high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900. More than a quarter of all high school students thought that Columbus made his famous voyage after the year 1750. Approximately a third of all U.S. high school students did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Only 60 percent of all students knew that World War I was fought some time between 1900 and 1950. 
     Even though more Americans between the ages of 20 to 34 are achieving higher education, they're still falling behind other countries. In Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, young adults with a high school degree scored on par with America's young adults holding a four-year college degree. Americans score dead last in technical proficiency, dead last in numeracy and only two countries performed worse than us when it came to literacy proficiency. 
     What's happened? You can't blame it all on teachers. One survey discovered that college students spent 50 percent less time studying compared with students of few decades ago with 35 percent of them spending less than five hours a week studying. And, 40 percent reported that they only read about 40 pages a week per semester. 
     Of course the reasons for these statistics may have something to do with courses being offered by some colleges: What If Harry Potter Is Real?, Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, Philosophy And Star Trek, Learning From YouTube and my favorite, How To Watch Television. I remember one fellow who was complaining that he had a college degree and the only job he had been able to land was a security guard. I asked him what his degree was in and he said, “Music.” So, out of curiosity I asked what instrument he played and he said, “The tuba.” Now, I'm pretty sure there are professional tuba players in the country, but my guess is that both of them have jobs. 
     Young Americans spend far more time consuming media than they do hitting the books, and what passes for "entertainment" these days is rapidly turning their brains to mush. 
     According to a report put out by Nielsen, this is how much time the average American spends using electronic media: 

* Watching television: 5 hours 
* Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes 
* Using a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes 
* Using Internet: 1 hour, 6 minutes 

   The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using some form of media and the old computer saying, garbage in, garbage out applies. All of that garbage can make it very, very difficult to think. 
   My father was a foreman on the railroad and only had a high school education, but looking back I realized some things about him. His handwriting was neat and he refused to let me use sloppy handwriting.  They don't even teach kids that any more. If I misspelled a word he insisted I look it up in the dictionary and he could quote Robert Burns poem To a Louse.  He still remembered a lot of his high school Latin! He never missed the evening news on television and Meet the Press was a must watch program. If I needed information about history for school work, he was the man to talk to. Those 1924 high school graduates had a decent education!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Perpetual Pill

     Laxatives, purgatives, or aperients are substances that loosen stools and increase bowel movements. They are used to treat and/or prevent constipation. 
     Laxatives vary as to how they work and the side effects they may have. 
Lubricant Laxatives: These make stool slippery, so it moves through the intestine more easily and quickly. They typically take six to eight hours to work. 
Emollient Laxatives: These stool softeners cause fats and water to penetrate to the stool, making it move more easily through the digestive system. They typically take 12 to 72 hours to work. 
Stimulant Laxatives: These stimulate the lining of the intestine to propel the stool along. They provide very quick relief but should only be used occasionally.
Osmotic and Hyperosmolar Laxatives: These draw fluids into the intestine from the surrounding tissues, making stool softer and easier to pass. They may take 30 minutes to six hours to work, depending on the type. 

     Laxative abuse happens when a person takes higher or more frequent doses of laxatives than are recommended. Abusing these medicines is dangerous and can result in serious or life-threatening complications, such as: electrolyte and mineral imbalances, severe dehydration, laxative dependence, chronic constipation, internal organ damage and increased colon cancer risk.
     Some people take laxatives to lose weight, but research has shown they are not effective at and they can be dangerous when used for this purpose. Any weight loss that's achieved by a laxative-induced bowel movement contains little food, fat, or calories. The weight returns when fluids are drunk. 
     Some people give laxatives to their dogs to relieve constipation, but because of the risks and side effects, a veterinarian should be consulted. 


Antimony is a chemical element that appears as a lustrous gray metalloid. Antimony compounds have been known since ancient times and were powdered for use as medicine and cosmetics, often known by the Arabic name, kohl. 
     Metallic antimony was also known, but it was erroneously identified as lead upon its discovery. The earliest known description of the metal in the West was written in 1540 by Vannoccio Biringuccio. 
     China is the largest producer of antimony and its compounds. The industrial methods for refining antimony are roasting and reduction with carbon or direct reduction of stibnite with iron. The largest applications for metallic antimony is an alloy with lead and tin and the lead antimony plates in lead–acid batteries. Antimony compounds are prominent additives for chlorine and bromine-containing fire retardants found in many commercial and domestic products. 
     Antimony also has an interesting medical history. It had a reputation both as a wonder drug and as a lethal poison. The story of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun is full of digressions, such as a lengthy one on the medical uses of antimony and the mention of the Perpetual Pill. 
     Some researchers believe that Mozart died as a result of his treatment with antimony. Death resulting from ingesting antimony is agonizing. 
     They used to sell a little metal pill that lasted forever, but around the time of the Age of Enlightenment people quit using it. Also known as the Age of Reason, it was a philosophical movement that took place primarily in Europe and, later, in North America, during the late 17th and early 18th century. Its participants thought they were illuminating human intellect and culture after the dark Middle Ages. 
     The Perpetual Pill was used to treat constipation. Why was it called the Perpetual Pill? The Pills was used by those that had what was referred to as a “twisting of the guts” or “Miserere mei” as it was sometimes called. Today, in television ads, they call it “irregularity”, i.e. constipation. 
     If one was suffering from what folks in the Middle Ages called the bad humors, they took an antimony pill, waited until their guts exploded, fished the pill out of the toilet, washed it off and it was ready to be used again...and again and again. How could a pill survive without being digested? It was made of metal, in this case, antimony. 
     Of course in the Middle Ages they didn’t realize it was toxic; all they knew was that antimony was pretty good at evacuating the body. Its effect could be enhanced by drinking wine that had been left standing overnight in a cup made of antimony. This resulted in the antimony reacting with tartaric acid in the wine to form antimony tartrate, a compound that induces vomiting. They believed such purges treated various illnesses. 
     When Mozart came down with a mysterious illness, he was treated with “tartar emetic,” as antimony tartrate was called. What ailment he suffered from is unknown, but he died within two weeks. His symptoms of intense vomiting, fever, swollen abdomen and swollen limbs are consistent with antimony poisoning, but he also suffered from rheumatic fever since childhood, a condition that may have led to his death at a young age. 
     Mozart had always been sickly and it is well known that he had been often treated with antimony by his physicians and that he dosed himself when he had the mulligrubs. Mozart actually believed he was being poisoned; he thought his musical rival Antonio Salieri was trying to do him in.
      Back in the 1990s a volatile compound of antimony known as stibine was accused of being responsible for crib death. The theory was that it was produced from antimony oxide added as a flame retardant to polyvinylchloride sheets. A fungus found in mattresses supposedly made this possible. The theory has now been dismissed because neither the fungus, nor levels of antimony in babies’ blood could be correlated with crib death. 
     More recently Greenpeace created a stir with a booklet entitled “A Little Story About The Monsters In Your Closet.” The subtitle was: “Study finds hazardous chemicals in children’s clothing.” 
     One that the Greenpeace study detected was antimony trioxide, present in all fabrics that have polyester as a component. That was no surprise because antimony trioxide is used as a catalyst in the production of polyester as well as a flame retardant. And it is true that antimony trioxide can be described as presenting a hazard. Hazard is the potential of a substance to cause harm without taking into account extent or type of exposure. 
     Inhalation of antimony compounds in an occupational setting can be a problem, and antimony trioxide has been classified as “suspected of causing cancer via inhalation.” But this is not relevant for the trace amounts found in fabrics. Migration out of the fabric and subsequent absorption has been extensively investigated and the amounts that are encountered are well below the established limits. The same applies to the trace amounts that leach out of the polyester bottles used for water and other beverages.   
     Antimony does not occur in nature in its metallic form, so where did Middle Age physicians get it? Antimony has to be smelted from its ore, antimony sulfide, also known as stibnite, a substance that has been known for thousands of years. Jezebel in the Bible is said to have used it to darken her eyebrows and stibnite was the main ingredient in “kohl” used by ancient Egyptian women in a type of mascara. If you visit the Louvre you can see a 5000 year old vase that is made of almost pure antimony. 
     Today, neither metallic antimony nor its compounds have a medical use, although up to the 1970s, antimony compounds were used to treat parasitic infections like schistosomiasis. They killed the parasites, but sometimes they also killed the patient. 
     Up to the early twentieth century, tartar emetic was used as a (ineffective) remedy for alcohol abuse. The New England Journal of Medicine once reported a case of a man whose wife tried to cure him of his alcoholic habit by secretly putting tartar emetic into his orange juice. Chest pains and liver toxicity were the result and after a trip to the emergency room he survived. For whatever reason he did quit drinking. 
    When it came to treating mental illness, treatments have ranged from throwing people into asylums and forgetting about them to strapping them on whirling chairs chairs and dosing them with laxatives. A lot of underlying factors in mental disorders remain mysteries, but they are not caused by the "humors of the body being imbalanced" such as blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm or by pressure building up inside the skull that needs to be released through a hole. 
     Patients in a mental institutions in the 1800s were often fed a diet of laxatives and "mineral tonics" to keep their bowels constantly emptying, and emetics, to make therm puke. The idea was to purge the body of “impurities.” 

Louis Armstrong and Laxatives

      Armstrong's weight fluctuated dramatically because he enjoyed eating. But, he also enjoyed dieting, sometimes losing as much as 100 pounds. Armstrong often employed laxatives and antacids as dietary aids because his mother instilled in him the practice of cleansing his system. 
     For years, Armstrong drank a product called Pluto Water, a spring water claimed to have laxative properties due to its high mineral content. In 1953, Armstrong's weight reached the highest it had ever been and a popular dietitian named Gayelord Hauser was endorsing an herbal product called Swiss Kriss which you can still but at places like Walgreens and Walmart. 

     Armstrong got hooked on it and two years later he had lost 100 pounds which he attributed to using Swiss Kriss and Bisma Rex, an antacid. After being interviewed and telling how he shed so much weight demand for his diet skyrocketed and he had it printed on cards to mail back to fans. Later he mailed fans a card with a photo of him sitting on a toilet framed by a keyhole), headlined by the words "Swiss Krissly" and a sample packet of his favorite laxative. 
     He so strongly believed in the product that he once spoke at Stanford University on the subject, and mentioned it to President Dwight Eisenhower when they met.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dihydrogen Monoxide

     The following meme was recently posted on Facebook by someone who gets their information from alternative news sources.

     This particular meme appeared on a Facebook site called Dysfunctional Veterans which describes itself as “a brotherhood and sisterhood of veterans rooted in sarcasms and the things that remind us we are not alone. We strive to entertain those who served, to offend those who never did. We know there is no better sense of warped humor than that of a veteran. We endeavor to bring quality information that is easily misconstrued and offensive to the civilian populace.” 
     Sarcasm, warped humor, misconstrued and offensive, but not necessarily true should be a warning, but some gullible folks, well...they never read the fine print and so they believe whatever is posted.   

     There is actually a site that lists the evils of Dihydrogen Monoxide and a Facebook site, Dihydrogen Monoxide Awareness. DHMO is part of a hoax, meant to show the public’s misunderstanding, ignorance or mistrust of science. The hoax involves taking a relatively innocuous chemical (in this case water), giving it a scary name, listing a lot of facts that sound bad but are actually irrelevant and then watching as people get angry or scared. 
     For example, the DHMO site says it is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, that has been shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. 
     The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol. DMHO can corrode and rust metal and if consumed it can cause bloating and excessive urination and sweating. 
     Thousands of people in the US die from its accidental ingestion every year. If you are dependent on it, going through withdrawal can kill you. It’s found in significant quantities in acid rain, tumors, and more. 
     The site also quotes Nathan Zohner, referred to as a award-winning US scientist who concluded that roughly 86 percent of the population supports a ban on dihydrogen monoxide. 
     Nathan Zohner was, in the spring of 1997, a 14-year-old junior high school from Idaho and his science fair project made a convincing argument to ban dihydrogen monoxide, known as DHMO. He won the grand prize at the regional science fair that year, hence the “award-winning” moniker. 
     Zohner wasn't the first to to come up with the idea though. A Michigan paper ran a piece decrying the harms of DHMO as an April Fool’s Day joke in 1983. In Zohner’s experiment, the point was to highlight how easily people could be taken in by misleading, fear-mongering “scientific information.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thomas Granger...a Most Disgusting Lad

     Thomas Granger (or Graunger) is believed to have been born circa 1625 and was hanged on September 8, 1642. He has the distinction of being one of the first people hanged in the Plymouth Colony.  The honor of being the first goes to John Billington who went to the gallows for murder on September 30, 1630.
     Granger also has the distinction of being the first known juvenile to be sentenced to death and executed. Additionally, his crime is the colonies' first recorded act of bestiality. 
     Granger was a servant to Love Brewster, of Duxbury, in the Plymouth Colony. At the age of 16 or 17, was convicted of "buggery with a mare, a cow, two goats, divers sheepe, two calves, and a turkey," according to court records of 7 September 7, 1642. 
     Caught red handed in the act, he confessed to his crimes in court privately to local magistrates, and upon indictment, publicly to ministers and the jury and was then sentenced to "death by hanging until he was dead". He was hanged by John Holmes, Messenger of the Court, on September 8, 1642. 
     Before Granger's execution, following the laws set down in Leviticus 20:15 ("And if a man shall lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast"), the animals involved were slaughtered before his face and thrown into a large pit dug for their disposal, no use being made of any part of them. An account of Granger's acts is recorded in Gov. William Bradford's diary Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647. 
     As a sign of changing times, although the legality of sex with animals has been steadily decreasing over the past 20 years in the United States, as of February 10, 2018, 45 states and 2 territories ban sex with animals, while 5 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized it due to repeal of sodomy laws. 
     At the 1969 Libertarian Conference a pervert named Murray Rothbard claimed a Neo-Randian group called Students of Objectivism for Rational Bestiality existed. By the logic of these "Bestiality Boys" they promoted "Rational Bestiality.” Their contention was that "bestiality is illegal because humans are irrational animals and that, if humans were rational, citizens would not be arrested and jailed for engaging in sexual acts with the animals they own." What?! 
     Today, what Granger did would legally be considered a minor offense with, at worst, jail time and a fine, but in those days it was the vilest felony under Massachusetts law. A glimpse of a woman's ankle or the sight of a forearm would trigger perverse desires in any randy lad. And, Puritan Massachusetts was the worst time and place in American history for a fellow to have primitive urges because of the social mores in this bleak sexual landscape. 
     No doubt he tried to be careful stealthily confining his sins to barnyards and fields far from the prying eyes of fellow Pilgrams. Who wouldn't? But one day he was caught literally with his pants down. A colonist crossing a remote field stumbled across him sodomizing a mare. The witness headed directly to the colonial authorities and Granger was arrested. 
     At first, he denied the charges, but when the magistrates persisted, he finally broke and spilled his guts. Not only had he engaged in immoral union with the horse, he freely described dozens of unnatural acts with all manner of animals, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey. He had been introduced to the practice by a fellow farm worker who had many fond memories of his youth on a farm back in England. 
     It was so disgusting that one person describing the incident could only pen, “I forebear particulars.” However, the court insisted that Granger identify his sexual partners. The mare and the cows were easy, but Granger was unable to describe the other animals sufficiently for them to be identified. After his court appearance Granger repeated his confession to a group of ministers. 
     Sex crimes were not unknown to the Puritans; the previous year two men had paid a heavy fine for raping two young girls. Granger's unnatural act was so grievous that it was worthy of the death penalty. The colonial leaders were intent on enforcing Leviticus 20:15 to the letter, so the animals that could be identified were were brought before Granger and slaughtered while he watched, thrown into a pit and buried. Immediately afterwards, Granger was hung. 
     Thirty-two years later another Massachusetts seventeen-year old named Benjamin Gourd shared the same fate. His sentence read “the mare you abused before your execution in your sight shall be knockt [sic] in the head...” 
     Back to that Billington guy. John Billington was an Englishman who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower and was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact
     The whole family were troublemakers from the beginning. While aboard the Mayflower his wife, Francis, made squibs and fired a musket while the ship was anchored off Cape Cod. Squibs are a miniature explosive device used in a wide range of industries, from special effects to military applications. It resembles a tiny stick of dynamite, both in appearance and construction, although with considerably less explosive power. 
     In March 1621, Billington challenged Myles Standish's orders for "contempt of the Captain's lawful command with several speeches" and was punished for it. He would do this many times more. 
     In May 1621, his son, also named John, became lost in the woods for several days before being returned home by some natives from Nauset Indian tribe on Cape Cod. 
     In 1624, the old man was implicated in the Oldham-Lyford scandal (a revolt against the rule of the Plymouth church), but insisted he was innocent and was never officially punished. 
     In 1625 Governor Bradford wrote a letter to a fellow named Robert Cushman saying "Billington still rails against you…he is a knave, and so will live and died."
     In 1636, Eleanor had to sit in the stocks and be whipped for slandering one John Doane.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Roller Derby

    When watching roller derby, it looks simple enough. One player from each team is called a jammer, she’s trying to do laps of the circuit. The other eight players, four from each team, are trying to stop her. 
     In actuality it's quite complex; one person described it as chess on roller skates. It's a contact sport played by two teams of five members skating counter-clockwise around a track.
     Play consists of a series of short match-ups (jams) in which both teams designate a jammer (who wears a star on the helmet). The jammer scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams attempt to hinder the opposing jammer while assisting their own jammer.
     The sport had its origins in the banked-track roller-skating marathons of the 1930s and professional roller derby quickly became popular; in 1940, more than 5 million spectators watched in about 50 American cities. As of 2018, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association had 423 full member leagues and 46 apprentice leagues. 
     Roller derby mostly comprises all-female amateur teams and the sport was under consideration as a roller sport for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Nowadays it's a form of sports entertainment, where player pseudonyms and colorful uniforms and showmanship predominate and scripted games with predetermined winners have been abandoned. For the most part, we can thank the fact that they are amateurs for that. Players have names like Kendra Blood, Angela Death, Charli Horse and Murderface Maully. What's not to like?! 

# Roller derby is played in two periods of 30 minutes.
# Two teams of up to 15 players each field up to five members for episodes called "jams."
# Jams last two minutes unless called off prematurely. 
# Each team designates a scoring player (the "jammer"); the other four members are "blockers."
# One blocker can be designated as a "pivot"—a blocker who is allowed to become a jammer
# The next jam may involve different players of the 15 roster players, and different selections for jammer and pivot.

     Points are scored only by a team's jammer. After breaking through the pack and skating one lap to begin another "trip" through the pack, the jammer scores one point for passing any member of the opposing team. The jammer must be in-bounds and upright.
     The jammer's first earned pass scores a point for passing that opponent and a point for each opponent not on the track (for instance, serving a penalty, or when the opposition did not field five players for the jam). If the jammer passes the entire pack and the opposing jammer too, it is a five-point scoring trip, commonly called a "grand slam."
     Each team's blockers use body contact (the fun-to-watch part), changing positions, and other tactics to help their jammer score while hindering the opposing team's jammer.
     Play begins by blockers lining up on the track anywhere between the "jammer line" and the "pivot line" 30 feet in front. The jammers start behind the jammer line. Jams begin on a single short whistle blast, upon which both jammers and blockers may begin engaging immediately.
    The pack is the largest single group of blockers containing members of both teams skating in proximity, arranged such that each player is within 10 feet of the next. Blockers must maintain the pack, but can skate freely within 20 feet behind and ahead of it, an area known as the "engagement zone."
    The first jammer to break through the pack earns the status of "lead jammer." A designated referee blows the whistle twice, and skates near, and points at, the lead jammer. Once earned, lead jammer status cannot be transferred to other skaters, but certain actions (notably, being sent to the penalty box) can cause it to be lost.
    The lead jammer can stop the jam at any time by repeatedly placing both hands on her hips. If the jam is not stopped early, it ends after two minutes. If time remains in the period, teams then have 30 seconds to get on the track and line up for the next jam. If the period expires, it does not halt a jam that is underway.
     Any skater may block an opponent or force them out of bounds. Blocking with hands, elbows, head, and feet is prohibited, as is contact above the shoulders or below mid-thigh, and blocking from behind.
    Referees penalize rules violations. A player receiving a penalty is removed from play to sit in a penalty box for 30 seconds of jam time. If the jam ends during this interval, the player remains in the penalty box during the subsequent jam until the interval ends. The penalized player's team plays short-handed, as in ice hockey.
    Bouts, as games are called, are officiated by three to seven skating officials and a bunch of non-skating officials (NSOs). Referees skate on the inside and outside the track and are in charge of calling penalties, awarding points, and ensuring safe play. NSOs take up positions inside and outside the track and are responsible for starting and timing the jams, recording and displaying scores and penalties, recording the number of each skater on track for a given jam and timing and recording skaters in the penalty box.
     Even if you don't know the rules watching the women beat each other up is fun.

Modern Death Rays

     Did you know that exposure to blue light at night, emitted by electronics and energy-efficient light bulbs, can be harmful to your health, or can it? 
     Time was when people spent their evenings in relative darkness, but not any more. It's estimated that people spend 10-1/2 hour a day gazing at computers, smartphones, tablets and televisions. That's bad for a number reasons and some claim one big reason is that we are exposing ourselves to blue light. 
     Blue light is a type of electromagnetic radiation with a very short wavelength that produces a high amount of energy. There are two sources of blue light, the sun and artificial that is emitted from LED lighting and from digital devices. Of course, all light can damage your eyes under certain circumstances, but while some claim that there's no scientific evidence suggesting that blue light is harmful to our eyes, but many people still think it is, which is why blue light-blocking glasses are so popular. So do the glasses work? Some people swear by them. 
     On the other side of the blue light coin, some claim we may be paying a price for spending so much time peering at things emitting blue light. Note well...these sources use the word “may” as in if might be true. Then, again, it might not. 
     Blue wavelengths are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood, but seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown. 
     At night, light throws the body's biological clock, aka the circadian rhythm, out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. 
     Our close proximity to a device when viewing, especially over long periods of time, means that harmful blue light can affect our well-being. We are born without any of the protective Ocular Lens Pigment in the eyes. OLP only begins to form in the lens of the eye in the late teens. At the same time, the amount of melanin gradually lessens. So, for children who have not reached their teens who are exposed to blue light should have their eyes protected. 
     Geezers beware! The eye defends itself from this blue light attack by selectively limiting the amount of blue light that reaches the retina, protecting it from age-related macular degeneration. AMD is an eye disease where central vision is lost. When we get older, the low levels of melanin and the replacement of the lens, due to cataracts, means that older patients are now exposed to higher levels of blue light with a greater risk of AMD. 
     Some studies suggest a link between exposure to light at night, such as working the night shift, to some types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. That's not proof that nighttime light exposure causes these conditions; nor is it clear why it could be bad. 
     It is known that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there's some very preliminary experimental evidence that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer. 
     A Harvard study shed a little bit of light on the possible connection to diabetes and possibly obesity. The researchers gradually shifted the timing of subjects circadian rhythms and found their blood sugar levels increased, throwing them into a pre-diabetic state, and levels of a hormone that leaves people feeling full after a meal went down. But that study only involved ten people. 
     Even dim light can interfere with a person's circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. Light at night is part of the reason so many people don't get enough sleep and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. 
     Harvard researchers conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much. 
     Researchers at the University of Toronto compared the melatonin levels of people exposed to bright indoor light who were wearing blue-light–blocking goggles to people exposed to regular dim light without wearing goggles. The experiment suggested that blue light is a potent suppressor of melatonin. It also suggests that shift workers and night owls could perhaps protect themselves if they wore eyewear that blocks blue light. Inexpensive sunglasses with orange-tinted lenses block blue light, but they also block other colors, so they're not suitable for use indoors at night. 
     If blue light does have adverse health effects, then environmental concerns, and the quest for energy-efficient lighting, could be at odds with personal health. 
     Those new compact fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights are much more energy-efficient than the old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, but they also tend to produce more blue light. The coatings inside fluorescent bulbs can be changed so they produce a warmer, less blue light. LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent lights, but they also produce a fair amount of light in the blue spectrum. 
     A light researcher at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio noted that ordinary incandescent lights also produce some blue light, although less than most fluorescent light bulbs. It is recommended that you use dim red lights for night lights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin. You should also avoid looking at bright screens beginning two to three hours before bed. If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses. Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

USS Missouri Battleship

The US Navy has had four ships named USS Missouri: 
USS Missouri (1841), a sidewheel frigate launched in 1841 and destroyed by fire in August 1843 
USS Missouri (BB-11), a Maine-class battleship in service from 1900 to 1922.
USS Missouri (BB-63), an Iowa-class battleship in service (variably) from 1944 to 1992; site of the official Japanese surrender of World War II; now a floating war memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii 
USS Missouri (SSN-780), a Virginia-class submarine commissioned in 2010. 

     The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), aka the Mighty Mo or the Big Mo, was the last battleship commissioned by the United States and is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II.
     Missouri was ordered in 1940 and commissioned in June 1944. In the Pacific Theater of World War II she fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and shelled the Japanese home islands, and she fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. She was decommissioned in 1955 into the Navy's reserve fleet, but reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm in January/February 1991.

Dimensions: Length - 887 feet, 3 inches 
Beam - 108 feet, 2 inches Speed – 33 knots (38 miles per hour) 
Crew = 1,921 
Armament - nine 16-inch, twenty 5-inch, eighty 40 millimeter, forty-nine 20 millimeter 

You can visit the Military Factory for complete details about the ship HERE 
There are 47 unique photos of the ship HERE