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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Fankirk Wheel


     The Fankirk Wheel was completed in 2002 and is an exceptional feat of engineering. It is a rotating boat lift (the first one in the world) that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The Wheel connects the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh by canal, replacing 11 locks across central Scotland, that were abandoned in the 1930’s. 
     It can carry eight or more boats at a time, scooping them out of the water and depositing them either up or down on the waterway between the two cities.

The Dead Sea

     The Dead Sea, also called Salt Sea, is a landlocked salt lake between Israel and Jordan. Its eastern shore belongs to Jordan, and the southern half of its western shore belongs to Israel. The northern half of the western shore lies within the Palestinian West Bank and has been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. 
     The Jordan River, from which the Dead Sea receives nearly all its water, flows from the north into the lake. The lake has the lowest elevation on Earth. For several decades in the mid-20th century, the surface level was about 1,300 feet below sea level. Beginning in the 1960s, however, Israel and Jordan began diverting much of the Jordan River’s flow and increased the use of the lake’s water for commercial purposes. The result was a precipitous drop in the water level. By the mid-2010s, the lake level was about 1,410 feet below sea level and the lake continued to drop by about 3 feet annually. And, it’s only half the length it was a century ago. 
     There are beliefs that the Dead Sea has healing properties and as a result its salt and minerals are used in cosmetics and a large number of people visit the lake for therapy and relaxation. 
     The Dead Sea is almost 10 times saltier than ordinary seawater. This is because water flows into the Dead Sea from one main tributary, the Jordan River and it then has no way to get out of the lake and so it evaporates in the hot, dry conditions. This leads to the salt and other minerals becoming more and more concentrated. It’s estimated that in the whole of the Dead Sea there is about 37 billion tons of salt. 
     The high salt and mineral content of the Dead Sea means that it has supposedly has healing properties for such ailments as acne, psoriasis and as well as muscle aches and arthritis. 
     Its healing waters have been sought after since Biblical times. Herod the Great, who reigned between 37 to 4 BC, built one of the world’s first health spas along its shores. According to legend, Cleopatra also loved the Dead Sea and used its products as part of her beauty regime. 
     The lake's high salt levels mean that people can easily float on its surface. Sunbathing at the Dead Sea has less of a sunburn risk than other destinations. Due to its location below sea level the harmful UV rays are filtered through three natural layers: 1) an extra atmospheric layer 2) an evaporation layer above the Dead Sea and 3) a thick ozone layer. 
     The Dead Sea was home to one of the most important discoveries in modern archaeology. In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 11 caves near the ruins of Qumran on its northwestern shore. These manuscripts date from around 250 BC to 68 AD. They contain Biblical prayers and texts that have been key to the understanding of the beginnings of Christianity. 
     An unusual feature of the Dead Sea is that it spits up small pebbles and pieces of asphalt. The ancient Egyptians used to import this to use in their mummification process.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

School Bus Stripes


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Fox News Is Irresponsible

     Fox News issued a report criticizing Vice President Kamala Harris for not saluting the military honor guard at Air Force Two. This report was a deliberate attempt by Fox to stir up outrage and is a disgusting example of "reporting." 
     The Vice President is a civilian and is not in the military chain of command and she was not violating protocol and she was not being disrespectful to men and women in uniform. 
     While it is true that former Vice Presidents Mike Pence and Joe Biden (when he was VP) did render a salute, Dick Cheney, who was VP under President George W. Bush, did not. 
     Even the President, who is the Commander-in-Chief, is a civilian and is not required to salute. When he was President, Ronald Reagan began the practice as a matter of courtesy. 
     Tom Nichols of RadioFreeTom correctly reported that the Commander in Chief returns salutes as a matter of courtesy, but the VP is a civilian who is not in the chain of command. It would be incorrect for her to salute anyone and Fox News knows this. If other VPs did it, it was incorrect. 
     Mr. Nichols is mostly correct except for the statement if other Vice Presidents did it, it was incorrect. The dictionary defines a salute as a "gesture of respect, homage, or polite recognition or acknowledgment, especially one made to or by a person when arriving or departing." Although it may be unusual for a civilian to salute someone as a gesture of respect it is perfectly acceptable.
     We salute Fox News for their reporting...the one finger kind.

Friday, March 19, 2021

NEVER Talk To The Police


    Regent Law Professor James Duane is a fast talker and it may take a minute to get used to his delivery, but he tells you why, even if you are innocent, you should always exercise your 5th Amendment rights when questioned by government officials. NEVER, EVER, TALK TO THEM.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

President Richard Nixon, Music Man

     President Richard Nixon is best remembered for Watergate and for being the only president that was forced to resign from office and have a number of his administration officials end up in prison. 
     His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, was investigated by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax fraud. Agnew took kickbacks from contractors during his time as Baltimore County Executive and Governor of Maryland. After months of maintaining his innocence, Agnew pleaded no contest to a single felony charge of tax evasion and resigned from office. Agnew spent the remainder of his life quietly, rarely making public appearances. He wrote a novel and a memoir; both defended his criminal actions. 
     There are a number of things about President Nixon that are largely unknown. A community theater brought Richard and Pat Nixon together in 1938 when both auditioned for the Whittier Community Players production of The Dark Tower. Nixon's wife was always called Pat, but her real name was Thelma Catherine Ryan. She was nicknamed Pat by her father because she was born on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. 
     Nixon was a Quaker and as a boy he went to Quaker meetings four times on Sundays and played the piano at church services. He enrolled at Whittier College, a Quaker institution, and attended mandatory chapel hours every day. 
     Nixon could play five musical instruments! His mother insisted he practice on the family’s upright piano every afternoon and in the seventh grade he was sent 200 miles away to take lessons with his aunt, who had studied at the Indianapolis Conservatory of Music. Although he never learned to read music, Nixon could also play the saxophone, clarinet, accordion and violin. 
     His musical talents turned out to be political assets: Nixon’s 1963 appearance on The Jack Paar Program (above) during which he played a tune he wrote, helped rehabilitate his image after losing the California gubernatorial election the prior year. As president, he occasionally tickled the ivories, playing Happy Birthday for Duke Ellington at the White House and My Wild Irish Rose in honor of his wife at the Grand Ole Opry. 
     One of Nixon’s favorite pastimes in the White House was bowling. He’d even bowl a few frames dressed in his suit. In addition to using the alley in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building, Nixon had another one lane alley built in the basement beneath the North Portico entrance to the White House. 
     Nixon was a huge football fan. It may seem hard to believe, but he played on the Whittier College football team and, while president, struck up a friendship with George Allen, coach of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins. Allen invited the president to address the team in 1971, and legend has it that Allen used a play that Nixon had suggested for a playoff game that year. The play was a disaster, a 13-yard loss that stymied a critical scoring drive and contributed to Washington’s loss. 
     In 1938, Nixon and several investors attempted to strike it rich making California orange juice, but he had no more luck than his father in the citrus business. Nixon was the president of the Citra-Frost Company, which attempted to produce and sell frozen orange juice, but he even performed the menial work of cutting and squeezing oranges. Citra-Frost’s misguided attempt to freeze the juice itself, rather than the concentrate, doomed it to bankruptcy after just 18 months.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Just Some Random Thoughts On Christianity

     I am surprised at how little some Christians know about the roots of their religion. 
     Early Christianity developed out of the ministry of Jesus and his earliest followers were initially known as The Way. According to Acts 11, the term Christian (meaning followers of Christ) was first used by the non-Jewish inhabitants of the city of Antioch in reference to Jesus's disciples. 
     According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, Gentiles were not recipients of the covenants of God though they were included. Beginning with Abraham, God made promises to bring a Deliverer through Abraham’s family. The family of Abraham are the Jewish people and it is this promise of a Deliverer that the Gentiles have been grafted into, not the Jewish religion with all of its customs and Laws. Paul's argument was that Gentile converts were grafted into the covenant God made with Abraham by faith in Jesus. 
     When it comes to baptism, many Christians seem to think that it is exclusively Christian because Matthew 3:6, speaking of John the Baptist who announced the beginning of Jesus's public ministry, says people were baptized by him in the Jordan River. The Greek work for baptism means immersed. So, John was immersing people in the Jordan River. 
     By the way, the New Testament was written in Greek and the names were Hellenized. John was not his Jewish name. John comes from transliterating the Hebrew name Yohanan. 
     In Matthew 3 it says many people came from Jerusalem and Judea and all the area around the Jordan River to hear John. Nobody asked John what he was doing when he immersed people in the Jordan...they already knew what he was doing. It was why he was doing it (announcing the arrival of the Messiah) that caused people to confess their sins and be immersed. 
     Almost every Jewish community has at least one mikveh. Many ancient historical sites in Israel have a mikveh or the remains of one. Jewish law requires that one immerse in a mikveh as part of the process of conversion to Judaism. It also requires women to immerse before getting married and when observing the laws of niddah (menstrual purity). There are also various other reasons, both traditional and modern, why men and women immerse in the mikveh. 
     In the days of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, the mikveh was used by all Jews who wanted to enter the Sanctuary. The law required every person inside the Temple grounds to be in a spiritually pure state appropriate to the pristine spirituality of the Sanctuary itself. 
     Not just any water can be used in the mikveh. It must meet certain conditions and when it does such water is known as living water. When Jesus was in the temple surrounded by worshipers and he cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water", he was speaking of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive. i.e. The water in the mikveh was sybolic. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the real living water. 
     Immersion in the mikveh was done naked. This explains why the Apostle Paul, in Acts 16, had Timothy circumcised when in Galatians he had refused to let Titus be circumcised. 
     Titus was a pure Greek while Timothy was born of a Greek father, but his mother was Jewish, thus making Timothy a Jew. Having a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother does not make one a Jew. Also, according to Second Timothy, from childhood Timothy had been taught the Old Testament scriptures...his Jewish mother brought him up as a Jew, but his Greek father had not allowed circumcision. 
     During Paul's second missionary journey Timothy was Paul's companion and so Timothy was circumcised because of the Jews they were to meet in their travels. These travels would have required immersion in the mikveh prior to entering a synagogue and because that was done naked, Timothy's not being circumcised would have been obvious. 
     For the Jew, Tevilah (full-body immersion) marks a change of status from being ritually unclean (impure or unfit for the presence of God) to ritually clean. This is necessary because anytime a person is to come into the presence of God, they must come pure. 
     According to the site My Jewish Learning, what physical act could a person perform in order to symbolize a radical change of heart and a total commitment? Is there a sign so dramatic, dynamic, and all-encompassing that it could represent the radical change undergone by the convert to Judaism? Jewish tradition instructs the conversion candidate to be immersed in the mikveh. 
     When Gentile converts go down into the waters of the mikvah, it is symbolic of dying to their old life and they come up out of the water as a newborn child with an entirely new identity. They are reborn into the family of God. 
     The Talmud (oral law) states, “When he comes up after his immersion, he is deemed an Israelite in all respects.” In the Talmud Rabbi Yose says, “One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born.” Thus, we see that the popular Christian term "born again" originated in Judaism. 
Christians are not grafted into the Jewish religion, but God has provided a way for them to partake in the promises He made to Abraham. And, baptism (and its meaning) is not something new that was instituted by John the Baptist.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Beauties Of The Past Brought To Life


The Youtube site MysteryScoop has some really interesting videos similar to the above in which the author has brought to life photos of the past using today's technology. Be sure to pay the site a visit!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Wright Brothers And Bicycles

     Two-wheeled vehicles requiring balancing by the rider date back to the early 19th century. The first vehicle of this type that was the archetype of the bicycle was the German "draisine" dating back to 1817. The term bicycle was coined in France in the 1860s. 
     Before they built airplanes, the Wright brothers built bicycles. Even has children, the Wrights were innovative "businessmen" and in the early 1890s they were cashing in on the bicycle craze that swept the country in the wake of the invention of the "safety bicycle." The safety bicycle had two equal-size wheels which made it much easier to mount and ride than the "ordinary bicycle" which is now known as the high-wheel bicycle. 

     Wilbur Wright bought a used high wheel bicycle for just $3 (about $87 today) while the Wright family lived in Richmond, Indiana between 1881 and 1884. In 1892, Orville bought a new Columbia safety bicycle for $160. That wasn't cheap! In those days a blacksmith made a bout $16 a week. a carpenter $19 and a laborer about $9. 
     Both brothers enjoyed cross-country cycling and Orville occasionally enter races and once won a rocking chair as a prize. The Wrights opened a bicycle sales and repair shop called the Wright Cycle Exchange at 1005 West Third Street in Dayton, Ohio in 1892. They carried a variety of brands with prices ranging from $40 to $100. The Wrights also rented bicycles and sold parts and accessories. 
     The League of American Wheelmen held their twelfth annual meet in Dayton on July 4 and 5, 1892. It was a huge event with thousands of cyclists visiting the city to compete in thirteen different races for prizes worth up to $500. The visiting cyclists were also invited to tour the city and visit the Central National Soldiers Home with its exquisitely landscaped grounds. The Wheelmen would have passed right by the Wright Cycle Exchange. 
     As their business grew, the Wright brothers moved their bicycle shop six times and changed the name once. From 1897 to 1908 the company was known as The Wright Cycle Company and was located at 1127 West Third. 
     In late 1895, the Wright brothers began to make preparations to manufacture their own bicycles and introduced the "Van Cleve" on April 24, 1896; it sold for $65. The Van Cleves were ancestors of the Wrights and had been among Dayton's first settlers, arriving in 1796. Dayton was about to celebrate its centennial in 1896 and historical awareness was high so it was a good choice for a brand name.
     Later in in 1895, they introduced a less expensive model called the "St. Clair" which was named after Arthur St. Clair, the first president of the Northwest Territory which later became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It sold for $42.50. 
     During their peak years of production, between 1896 and 1900, they manufactured about 300 bicycles. During the time the brothers were assembling bicycles, they constantly improved them to remain on the cutting edge bicycle technology. 
     The Van Cleve featured a wheel hub with three unique features. 1) bearings adjusted by screwing the inner bearing races or "cups" in or out of the hub. Most bearings were adjusted by tightening nuts on the axle. Their design allowed for the wheels to be removed without changing the adjustment of the bearings, 2) the bearings were sealed with felt washers. Dayton only had 12 miles of paved streets in those days and the dust played havoc with bearings and the washers kept the dust out and, at the same time, created a reservoir that bathed the bearings in oil. 3) each hub carried it's own spar parts consisting of two extra outer bearing races or "cones" on which the bearings rode. These were likely parts to wear out on early bicycles. 
     The "coaster brake," a friction brake inside the rear hub that was activated by back-pedaling, first appeared in 1898. That same year the Wrights designed their own version of the coaster brake that would work with their special wheel hubs. In 1901 they contracted with Charley Taylor, a local machinist, to make the brake parts. That turned out to be a fortuitous arrangement because two years later it was Taylor who helped them to build their first aircraft engine. 
     Another bicycle innovation came in 1900 when the Wrights announced a pedal that couldn't come unscrewed. Pedals were mounted to the crank by threaded spindles and on early bicycles, both crank arms had standard right-hand threads. As the cyclist pedaled, the action tended to tighten one pedal and loosen the other and so one pedal kept falling off. A British inventor named William Kemp Starley had solved a the problem years before when he simply reversed the thread direction on the right pedal. The Wrights were among the first to offer right-hand threads on one crank arm and left-hand threads on the other. 
     They did well in the business. In 1897 (their best year), they made $3,000 in a time when the average worker was doing well to make $500 a year. They also managed to save $5,000, which went a long way in financing their aviation experiments 
     Beginning in 1898, bicycle manufacturers began to go bust because the market had been saturated by thousands of small firms that had sprung up to satisfy the initial rush to buy bicycles. The big manufacturing firms with their mass production and were able to sell bicycles for $10. 
     To remain competitive, the Wrights had lower their prices and build customized bicycles. Customers could choose different cranksets, forks, handlebars, saddles, pedals and add fenders, chain guards and brakes.
     Nevertheless, their business was declining and in 1898 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt convinced the War Department to pay the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Samuel Langley $50,000 to develop his 1896 Aerodrome into a man-carrying flying machine. This was supposed to be a secret, but the money was the largest sum ever paid by the War Department to develop a weapon and the news leaked. In any case, the Wrights were already studying about aviation and had come to the conclusion that they problem with the current airplane design was that they lacked controls. 
     The Wright manufactured very few bicycles after 1902 and by 1904 were out of the business and were busy developing airplanes. When they finally started selling aircraft in 1909, the bicycle shop was converted to a machine shop that turned out parts for airplane engines and drive trains. 
     In 1909 or 1910, the Wrights sold all their remaining bicycle parts and the rights to W.F. Meyers, a bicycle salesman, repairman and machinist. Meyers had another company assemble the parts and slapped the name Van Cleve on them and sold them until 1939. 
     Of the several hundred bicycles the Wrights made between 1896 and 1904, only five still exist including the only known example of a women's bicycle built by the Wrights. They are all owned by museums.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Personality Cult Leaders

     A cult of personality happens when a country's regime, or an individual leader uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, and government organized demonstrations and rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. 
     This is similar to what happens when a person is elevated or exalted to the rank of a god except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques, usually by the state or a political party. It's often seen in, but not limited to, totalitarian or authoritarian countries. 
     The term came to prominence in 1956, in Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, given on the final day of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. 
     In the speech, Khrushchev, who was the First Secretary of the Communist Party making him the leader of the country criticized the lionization and idealization of Stalin and the Chinese leader Mao Zedong as being contrary to Marxist doctrine. 
     Historian Jan Plamper says that modern-day personality cults are secular and their objects are all males; they target the entire population, not only the wealthy. They use mass media and they exist where the mass media can be controlled enough to prevent the rise of rivals. 
     In his 2013 paper, Thomas A. Wright stated, "The cult of personality phenomenon refers to the idealized, even god-like, public image of an individual consciously shaped and molded through constant propaganda and media exposure. As a result, one is able to manipulate others based entirely on the influence of public personality... the cult of personality perspective focuses on the often shallow, external images that many public figures cultivate to create an idealized and heroic image." 
     Adrian Popan observed that cult personalities are characterized by exaggerated and extravagant public demonstrations of praise. He also asserts that the media plays a major role in forging a man's cult image. In recent years the charisma of a leader may be almost entirely a product of media exposure. 
     The main personality traits of cult leaders is they are delusional (which can make them dangerous) and they can use their charisma to convince others to buy into the delusion. 
     Other cult leaders don't realize their charismatic potential at first, but once they do, they become egomaniacs. This type of cult leader may start as a teacher or in some public-speaking position. Eventually, they realize people cling onto what they have to say and that they can use those people to their advantage. 
     Cult leaders have psychosis (a mental disorder characterized by symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, that indicate impaired contact with reality) or narcissistic (an undue fascination with oneself or erotic gratification from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes) personalities that drive them to spew out a message and convince others to follow. 
     Some cult leaders have been a narcissist for nearly all their life. They feel entitled to lie to you, to put up a charming facade in order to get people to believe whatever it is they're peddling. 
     They have great ego needs. For them, even ardent, dedicated followers, if they make one perceived mistake or slip up, are then branded as untrustworthy or a failure. 
     It's been said that most cult leaders are "malignant narcissists" meaning that they don't care about any damage they might do. They don't care about the lies they're telling or the people they're destroying. They need to feel needed, loved, adored and even feared. 
     These leaders forge an emotional tie between themselves and their followers that's hard to grasp for outsiders. The leader has to accomplish an interesting psychological trick...they have to serve as examples to their followers, but also stand above them. 
     They have to appear to be just an ordinary guy so that their followers can relate to them. At the same time they have to be seen as extraordinary, so that their followers will grant them permission to be the one who determines their follower's destiny. 

     Here's an odd thing: these cult leaders are not necessarily likable people, but they manage to create a bond that causes their followers to want to identify with them. They are usually very aggressive, unpredictable and are prone to outbursts.
     Their ego-laden speech usually outrages the political establishment, but delights their followers. They like to use insults, coarse language and sick humor often directed at adversaries and slogans. Very often they fall out of official favor with their political party. 
     Somehow even though they flaunt their wealth, they manage to connect with average people. Their appeal is less intellectual and more emotional. Regardless of his political ideas, the way he presents them makes them appear to be an extension of his personality rather than that of the party.