Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP, Rowdy Roddy Piper

Just heard about this bit of sad news.

Iconic wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper died of cartarac arrest earlier today. He was just 61 years old.

Sadly, this continues the trend of professional wrestlers and personalities dying young.

Roddy Piper was one of the most famous wrestlers in the 1980's and into the 1990's. He hosted "Piper's Pit" for the WWF back in the eighties, and he was well known for this makeshift talk show, which he dominated with his colorful personality and free way of expressing himself.

There was a point when I was a kid that I did not particularly care for Roddy Piper, but I suspect, in retrospect, that it was because of his good acting in the role as a heel.

In fact, Piper was one of the most enjoyable and entertaining wrestling personalities out there. Whenever I do start to feel nostalgic for those times in wrestling, he is often the guy that I turn to the most, all of those old episodes of "Piper's Pit" still make me smile.

It saddened and surprised me to hear of his passing earlier today.

Here's to "Rowdy" Roddy Piper!

'Rowdy' Roddy Piper Dies Of Natural Causes R.I.P. to one of the legends of the squared circle. by Michael McLaughlin, July 31, 2015:

Nixon Was in Dallas as JFK Arrived on November 22, 1963

Recently, I have been going through some of the unpublished blog entries that have been piling up (this is a bad habit, and I am already aware of that) and I noticed some that I assumed had been published long ago.

Well, this one came as a real surprise.

This was a blog about on particular article that examined how strange it was that President Nixon had been in Dallas on the morning that President Kennedy was shot, thus adding to the mix of all of the conspiracy theories out there about who was behind the assassination.

Personally, I am not sure of what happened there. There are times when many of the conspiracy theories make sense - seem to make more sense, in fact, than the official story. There are other times when I am turned off quite a bit from the sometimes swaggering confidence and self-assuredness that many of the conspiracy theorists seem prone to exhibit.

However, there is one thing that I still feel as strongly about now as I did almost two years ago, when I first began to publish entries about the Kennedy Assassination, and that is that what this represented, in a very real sense, was the beginning of a long decline for the United States.

No, I will not argue that everything started going wrong from that point on, and that there have not been any positives. Indeed, some things improved in the country since then, and I suspect that this is only natural. After all, however tragic that event might have been, some people will always try to do the right thing, and make the country a better place. The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, and then the Voting Rights Act passed the very next year. President Johnson set up Medicare, fought hard against poverty, and attempted to emphasize beautifying America. Nixon opened up relations with China, much like Obama has opened up relations with Cuba. Environmental legislation has been created, enacted, and strengthened. We had one of the most decent and honest men ever to assume the highest office in Jimmy Carter, a president that I personally admire more than most others, probably including President Kennedy himself. He scored the first major breakthrough in the bigger goal of peace in the Middle East, and Clinton followed this up a couple of decades later with another huge achievement in this regard. Rights have continued to be expanded, and now encompass the LGBT community increasingly. The Cold War ended, peacefully, and the threat of a World War III between the Soviet Union and the United States was no more. There surely are other improvements from the past that are not immediately coming to mind.

However, as much as I admire the accomplishments of President Johnson in trying to implement his "Great Society" programs on the domestic front, he and his administration essentially started (and at the very least, greatly escalated) and mishandled the Vietnam War in a despicable manner, to the point that it has long overshadowed his accomplishments within American society itself. The Vietnam War built on the already growing level of skepticism that the country was feeling following the Kennedy Assassination, and the official explanation as stated in the Warren Commission report.

Nixon opened China up, and also deescalated the tensions that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union, but he also escalated the Vietnam War after promising to withdraw with honor. He set up the failed healthcare system that emphasized private profits over a fairer system. And, of course, there was Watergate, which I suspect fueled more skepticism within American society.

We had Jimmy Carter as president, as I mentioned. But much of what he tried to warn the nation about was rejected at the time, even though it has proven to come true all of these decades later. And, of course, he was soundly defeated by a man who, I think, quickly accelerated the decline of the nation's fortunes, even if he remains quite popular to this day.

There has been growing awareness of environmental issues and the reality of the dangers of climate change. Yet, the resistance and denial of climate change, and now, of climate change having been caused by human activity, has hindered stronger progress at every turn, and often served to set the country at odds with the rest of the world, making it stand out in ways that served to embarrass and discredit the nation and its reputation.

The Cold War ended peacefully, but it was followed up by an ugly and mean-spirited gloating that was counterproductive and, frankly, shameful. This spirit of premature celebration that many Americans felt proved their superiority also allowed Americans to remain blind to the dangers of numerous weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union having gone unaccounted for, and with that country suddenly on it's knees, a lot of those weapons were sold, and have gone into dangerous hands, making this world less secure.

Surely, despite the significant breakthroughs by Carter and Clinton towards in the Middle East, we can hardly look at the situation today and believe that the spirit of aiming high to achieve major breakthroughs like those in the past seems alive today. If anything, the situation in the Middle East looks worse today then ever before.

The country has been transformed by art, including some landmark changes in music and literature since then. There has been some great works of art, although this has been watered down significantly by a drive for money, corrupting art. Nowadays, we have many authors with paper thin characters, but with books raking in the dough. As for music, we have Justin Bieber and others who are all over the celebrity headlines, but bring little to nothing to true music aficionados. It sometimes feels like the entire country is obsessed with celebrity culture, to the point of absurdity.

Overall, the American Dream has felt less and less accessible to more Americans, as the wages of the vast majority have not grown much, although prices for everything have risen dramatically. The wage gap between the rich and the poor has widened, leading to staggering economic inequality not seen since the days leading up to the French Revolution.

There is a focus on health increasingly, although there is an aspect to it that is superficial, and mostly fixated on appearances and numbers, and not on well-rounded health.

Finally, technology has greatly improved and transformed our lives and society in general, but benefits and salaries have stagnated, and the quality of life overall has, and is, going downwards generally. Much of this technology has come at the expense of our privacy, and much of it has also led, paradoxically, to a decline in competency in other fields. There have been advances in medicine, although the healthcare system that this country continually chooses continues to fail tens of millions.

Yes, there have been improvements in the United States since that day when Kennedy was assassinated. Yet, more Americans seem fixated on this one event than ever before, because I cannot be alone in thinking that it feels like it represents the beginning of a real decline in America. It might sound cliche, but it does feel like this was the loss of some innocence, and a point of no return.

What undeniably seemed to grow beginning with the Kennedy Assassination was a greater skepticism among Americans. While skepticism can be a good thing, it certainly is not automatically so. And I suspect that one of the problems in the United States today is that there is far too much skepticism and cynicism that prevails today. I have mentioned many paradoxes about the state of the nation today, but there are even more. We have religious spirit like never before, yet a decided lack of charity too often prevails. We have politicians running for high office while proudly proclaiming that they hate government. The land that took pride in Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty welcoming new immigrants now speaks excessively about how illegal immigrants from Mexico are destroying the country, to the point that after making derogatory blanket statements about Hispanics, Donald Trump found his favorable poll numbers among Republicans spike sharply up, making him the clear front-runner for the time being, at least. We have more gun violence than any other industrialized country by far, yet far too many Americans believe that the cure for gun violence is more guns, and easier access to guns, even for those with troubled and violent backgrounds, or mental conditions that should exclude them from access to guns.

In short, this is not the America of Kennedy's Camelot days. The Kennedys in general, and John F. Kennedy in particular, represented a certain spirit and image for the country. They were young, wealthy, and attractive, and it is understandable that so many Americans adored them. After all, this is how the country wanted to see itself, as possessing youthful energy, and being idealistic and capable. The Kennedys seemed to be driven by a purpose to making the country better, and a trusting nation believed in that dream. It might have been naive, but even so, there was a sweetness and a youthful sincerity that seemed to exist at the time, which led to a desire to truly work to improve the country. And it seems to me that, as tragic as the death of one man was on that November day in 1963, the larger tragedy is that this was the beginning of countless other assassinations of the American Dream since, even if these did not always grab the headlines, or indeed were as clear cut or literal as the Kennedy Assassination itself was.

And so the Kennedy Assassination continues to fascinate, and many Americans continue to try and solve the mystery on their own. It seems a symptom of this age that this is so, because whether they realize it or not, Americans lost more, much more, than a president on that day. It seems that this singular event opened up the floodgates that have never fully closed ever since.

Below is a link to a fine article on the Kennedy Assassination from a unique perspective, as it follows President Nixon on the day of Kennedy's assassination, which began in Dallas for both of them. I also wrote a couple of paragraphs back then that I retained for this blog entry now:

Here was a very well written article focusing on the man who lost the Presidential elections of John F. Kennedy in 1960, and who also happened to be in Dallas on the day that Kennedy was assassinated.

It is a fascinating piece, and was an enjoyable, and short, read. You can read it in one sitting.

Yet, it is absorbing, and written in such a manner that you can almost picture yourself in the shoes of Richard Nixon, and even John F. Kennedy, for a very brief bit of it.

"Kennedy rival Nixon left Dallas as JFK arrived in November 1963" By ALAN PEPPARD published: 02 November 2013:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ridley Scott Explores What the World Might have Looked Like if Allies Lost World War II

There is a new show coming to Amazon that will explore what the world might have looked like had the Axis powers defeated the Allies during World War II.

This is not the most unique show. There have been other movies and books with a similar theme, although this one, which is titled The Man in the High Castle, is influenced by Phillip K. Dick's 1962 novel. Others have tackled this topic before, including another writer, Daniel Quinn, who penned After Dachau - a fascinating and imaginative look at how the world might have been different had Hitler won the war.

It will come to Amazon in the fall of 2015.

Here is the link:

Ridley Scott is about to show us a world where the Allies lost World War II

President Obama Makes Light of Birther Claims in Kenya

President Obama has not been a great president, I do not think.

But that said, at least he was not George W. Bush, although he did seem to continue some of the worst elements of that failed administration.

Still, both men showed glimpses of a strong sense of humor throughout their terms in the Oval Office, and Obama has been particularly funny this year.

Here is a link to an article with a video clip of President Obama making light of birther claims during his recent trip to Kenya. While it surely does not quite measure up to his "bucket" list joke from a few weeks ago, it still is pretty funny, and he rightfully mocks those who make a mockery of American politics by focusing on ridiculous things like birth certificates and whether or not Obama is secretly a Muslim.


Ancient Sumerian Texts Suggest a Different Purpose for Existence of Human Beings

Here was another interesting link that seemed worthy of sharing here on this blog.

This one is about what the ancient Sumerians believed was the origin of the Human Being.

Here's a hint: it was essentially to be servants!

Interesting stuff! Here is the link:

The Origins Of Human Beings According To Ancient Sumerian Texts by John Black, Posted on 2015/07/18:

Google Can Now Translate Visual Signs in Foreign Languages

This seemed pretty cool as well!

I have used Google Translate fairly frequently, although I have to admit, this looked really cool!

Google Translate can now view signs, such as a road sign, say, in a foreign language, and translate it so that you can understand it! Apparently, this is done instantaneously, for that matter.

This was a very cool development, and seemed worthy of sharing here:

Google Can Translate 27 Languages Almost Instantly, Thanks to Neural Networks  Posted by Kif Leswing:

Why the Emphasis on Abolishing Marijuana and Other Psychedelic Plants?

New Jersey Governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie has been warning people in states that have legalized pot to smoke up while there is still time, because once he gets into the White House (always assuming he does ever get into the White House as more than a mere visitor), he will crack down and bring the old prohibition back.

It is unlikely that Christie will actually be elected President (his voter approval ratings among the GOP so far in this early primary season is quite low), it nonetheless is something that worries me a little bit, since a GOP President may very well try to crack down on recreational marijuana use.

What pisses me off, really, is just why this is such a crucial issue for them, when there are so many other bigger problems in the world to focus in on. After all, why go to such lengths to illegalize something that grows completely naturally in the world to begin with?

Well, there is a link below to a site that explains why this might be, and it does make you think. It is a short article, although there is a video attached as well (which I attached to this blog entry).

Please take a look, and let us examine the issue of legalized marijuana, as it once again is making news, and once again, rather predictably, is being challenged:

Why Culture and Society Banned Psychedelic Plants (Video) published by The Mind Unleashed, July 16, 2015:

Scientists Have Invented a Workout Pill

A few days ago, I posted a blog entry about a much healthier alternative to bacon that supposedly tastes just like bacon. It was made of seaweed, and I remember long ago hearing somewhere that you can make seaweed taste like anything. Personally, an alternative to bacon that would be much healthier would certainly be welcome by me.

Now, here is cool news as well: scientists have invented a pill that mimics the effects of a workout.

It is not available to us just yet, unfortunately.

However, scientists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom have come up with just such a "workout pill" that essentially tricks cells into thinking that they are out of energy.

Then, according to the article (see link below):

The cells compensate by upping their glucose and metabolism levels - changes that are normally seen during exercise and which can contribute to weight loss. We're a long way from getting the compound into a form that's tested and safe for humans, but eventually it could help those suffering from obesity or type 2 diabetes, as well as those who really don't fancy a trip to the local gymnasium.

Pretty cool, huh?

Okay, so it is not quite ready for human consumption, and it has worked on mice that were already obese.

Still, it is a pretty promising thing, no?

Here is the link to the article:

Ready for a workout pill? Scientists find a compound that mimics exercise But don't throw that gym membership away just yet. DAVID NIELD, 29 JUL 2015:

DePaul Basketball Taking a Road Trip to France

Well, my favorite college basketball team is heading France next month. Wish that I could go along with them, or catch a game or two during a trip out there.

However, I am glad for them that they will get this unique opportunity to take a road trip to a beautiful country to see some of the sites there. Three other college basketball teams will be making similar trips to other European nations.

I am not sure why they are doing this, but personally, I think it is a great thing! I remember many years ago, American baseball superstar (now discredited after revelations that he had taken steroids) Mark McGwire was given a mouthpiece to talk about an impending trip to Japan that his team, the St. Louis Cardinals, would be taking. He was opposed, and when asked why, he said, basically, that it was just stupid, and did not make sense.

You know, I think that most people, given an opportunity to do so, would jump on a chance to get an all expenses paid trip to Japan for business, especially if that business is a professional sport. I certainly would. But McGwire discredited himself and came off (to me, at least) sounding like a big, dumb redneck. Like the prototypical ugly American, frankly. It was such a shame that he was such a famous personality, and received much media attention with his comments.

Sometimes, there are more legitimate reasons for being opposed to such a trip. When the Giants were invited to participate in an exhibition road trip to somewhere in Europe (London, I believe), he turned it down, but his reasoning made a lot more sense to me then it did with McGwire's reason did. Parcells kept a tight schedule and liked routine. He felt that such a trip would be exhausting for his team, and that this would have an impact on their play in the next game, throwing off their workout and practice schedule. I can see that, although admittedly as a fan, I would have loved to have seen the Giants play in Europe (this would have been back around either 1990 or 1991). Since then, the Giants actually have played in London, in 2007 (the season that they would wind up beating the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl).

Personally, I like that kind of interaction. There are so many misunderstandings between cultures, and too many stupid stereotypes that persist. Too many people want to insist on keeping their minds closed. But sports can often bridge those divides, and bring cultures together in a positive way. One of the aspects of professional tennis that I enjoy, personally, is that international feel. It just seems great when you have international sports figures getting together, competing, and often managing to speak in other tongues than their own. Look at Roger Federer, who speaks four languages fluently, or Novak Djokovic, who speaks seven languages!

I have seen some international soccer/football games as well, and I enjoy watching teams from other nations compete here. It is a thrill, and to me, it definitely adds something. I welcome it. That is what the spirit of the Olympics used to be about, before it became all about money and corruption (the same thing can likely be said about FIFA these days as well, unfortunately).

But when teams travel abroad to compete in foreign nations, I think it is the best that sports often has to offer, and I welcome it!

So, I wish the best to DePaul, and hope that the players and coaches given this opportunity enjoy themselves, and gain some experiences worth remembering while there. Here, specifically, is what is on the itinerary for DePaul while in France:

DePaul is preparing for its trip by taking a "Life and Times of Vincent de Paul" class before heading to Paris.  The team will be following the footsteps of the university's namesake who was a French priest.  The first game will be played in Caen.  Included in the itinerary is a stop at the Normandy Beaches.  The second game will be played in Paris where the Blue Demons will stay for four days before a final stop at the French Riviera with two games and sightseeing in Nice and Monaco.

Here is the related article (from which I took the above quoted paragraph) about the four American college basketball teams preparing to take the overseas trip to Europe next month:

Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette Take European Tours 7/28/2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Some of the Creepiest Things Children Have Said

I thought that this would be funny to share.

This was a humorous link about some of the creepiest things that kids have said to adults.

Have to admit, if my son ever said anything like these things, or if I someday have another child (by the off chance) and they say something like this, it would probably give me the creeps, at least on some level.

The closest thing that my son ever said similar was not directed at me, although I was present to hear it. He was saying it to my brother (his uncle), and he said in a falsetto voice, "I'm going to stab you."

When You See What These Kids Said, You'll Want To Run.

Scientists Score Breakthrough in Reversing Aging Process

There has been what I think is an excessive focus on the quantity of our years of life in this world, and it seems to have come at the expense of focusing on the quality of our lives while on this Earth.

Yet, as the saying goes, we really only do have one life to live, and probably should not waste it on pursuing the impossible dream of immortality.

As Stephen King wrote in The Green Mile, we all owe a death, there are no exceptions.

That said, it would be nice sometimes if time did not race ever faster the older you get. If you could feel a little less rushed, and not be swept away by the urgent tide of time relentlessly carrying you away from youth and closer to the unpleasant realities of old aches and eventual death. To many of us associate old age with aches and pains and ugliness and loneliness, even though it certainly does not have to be that way.

Life expectancy has been going up and up for many decades now. This is a result of sounder medical practices, better diets, healthier habits by individuals, fewer wars, better education, and perhaps some other factors not immediately coming to mind while writing this.

Still, there has been an increased focus on trying to expand the number of years that we live. Increasingly, I have heard numerous people - including people in the medical profession who really ought to know better - say that the "symptoms" of old age are not natural, and we do not necessarily have to give in to them. More and more, I have heard people talk about the aging process as somehow unnatural, and that this indeed could and should be slowed down by any means possible at the very least, if not outright reversed. Some people even take it a step further and suggest that human beings could (and possibly should) achieve immortality itself.

Now, don't get me wrong: I would be all for something that at least slows down the detrimental parts of the aging process. Time goes by so fast, and I recently heard on the radio that we tend to feel 20% younger than we actually are. So a 40-year-old like me should feel 32, which sounds about right. Although that said, sometimes I feel younger than that, even. There are moments that I remember from literally decades ago that seem somehow still within reach, almost. I think back to some moments in time, such as the trip to France in 1998 that I was often writing about in the last month or so, and it feels a lot more recent than the calendar suggests it was. Of course, then there are times when I feel every minute of my age, such as when aches and pains that were always a foreigner years ago have become commonplace.

Be that as it may, despite the physical limitations and overall slowing down as the years progress, I can  now more fully appreciate and understand what adults were trying to tell me all of those years ago, when I was the child. They told me to enjoy my youth, to appreciate what I had while I still have it. They were talking about that easy happiness that belongs to youth. Being in the peak of my health at that young age (for which I feel blessed, because not all kids have that, either), being able to sleep effortlessly (even after resisting), having a ton of energy, and generally being capable of experiencing real happiness fairly easily (such moments become both rarer and more prized the older you get).

Still, there is a market for anti-aging and, yes, immortality. With all of the emphasis on living longer (although less emphasis, I notice, on truly living better), it was likely inevitable that this would happen. And every time that there is an apparent breakthrough, it makes significant waves, although it feels like people are still waiting for the big one: achieving immortality for human beings.

Maybe I am just ranting and raving about something that others do not feel is a big deal. But the emphasis always seems to me to be wrongly placed. People are exercising and watching their health, but it seems to me that they do so for superficial reasons: basically, to look good. Even as they engage in increased physical exercise, there seems to be an excess focus on specific procedures and an emphasis on numbers, calculating how many steps you have taken, how many miles you have run, how many calories you taken in, and how many you have (or need to be) burned off. Maybe this increased emphasis on science to achieve what people at least assume to be a healthier lifestyle is good, or maybe it is excessive. That is likely a matter of opinion, although I am of the opinion that it has been manipulated to become overly shallow.

In any case, I would personally welcome some kind of method or something that at least slows down the aging process. Right now, as I write this, my back is aching, and my head was aching earlier, as well. I do not feel particularly old, although certainly, my energy levels have gone down noticeably now over the years. Should such things as slowing down aging become available to me someday, I very well might take it.

But then again, I might not. This might sound paradoxical, and perhaps it is. However, I just do not feel that this emphasis on living longer, on wanting to live forever, and at least until 100 and well beyond, is indeed as natural as many seem to think. To me, it sounds narcissistic and against everything that we have learned about how the world works. In fact, it may even be irresponsible, given the overpopulation crisis that we are facing. Quite frankly, I do not necessarily want to be around in 100 years to see what happens in the world, how it changes.

That said, I understand that this is just my opinion, and people are still fascinated with this idea of living much longer, possibly even forever. So be it. Here are a couple of articles about an apparent breakthrough in this regard, as scientists have managed to kind of manipulate regeneration of cells in worms, and they hope that this helps them figure out how to do this in the future with human beings.

Here are the links to the articles:

Immortality is one step closer as scientists turn off the ageing process in worms Those lucky worms. DAVID NIELD, 28 JUL 2015:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Eventful Late Afternoon/Early Evening Walk

This may be only of interest to me, but it seemed worth sharing anyway.

I had a very lazy weekend that just passed, neither hiking nor even taking a walk on either day. That was bad, since I had been previously stepping up my physical activity in efforts to try and get in shape.

So yesterday, I went for a walk while at my parent's home in West Milford, New Jersey, and it wound up being a surprisingly eventful walk.

Usually, it is quiet, and nothing of particular note seems to happen during these walks, save for the usual miracles that can be seen in the lush woods of the surrounding area.

Yesterday, however, proved to be unusually busy. I ran into a friend that I play volleyball with during the fall and winter/spring sessions at the junior high school. We spoke a little bit, although she was kind of busy walking her dogs.

Continuing my walk, I went to an old baseball field that I used to walk around many years ago fairly regularly. It was amazing to see some of the improvements and additions made to the field, which is starting to look more and more impressive. But as I was walking on it, a bear suddenly popped out of the woods, and walked along the other side of the fence, towards the edge.

It turned towards me as it probably heard the sounds of my camera phone snapping away, and it seemed to be gauging me, and any potential threat that I might pose. It walked past the edge of the fence, and it was a lot closer than this picture would suggest. For a second, it even seemed to walk my way, which of course made me a bit nervous. But then it turned, and went up the small, artificial sand dunes and up a hill covered in foliage, disappearing.

That itself was quite the thrill! So, I continued my walk feeling fairly excited, and ran into another friend from volleyball, although he was a bit far away, and busy with family members, so I did not bother him.

Finally, on the way back to the house, I heard the crow of a rooster, which was very nice. It was the first time that I had heard that, I think, since spending time in my girlfriend's home town of Srednia Wies, in Poland!

Very cool!

Here are the pics of the bear:

Seaweed That Tastes Just Like Bacon?

It is called dulse, and it is a very healthy alternative to bacon. In fact, it apparently tastes just like bacon, and is much, much healthier.

Quite frankly, I suspect that sometime in the future (assuming that we do not destroy ourselves first), there will be a whole range of truly delicious foods available to us that are also incredibly healthy, as well. Dulse might be the first thing that breaks these barriers, if it actually is like advertised as tasting just like bacon, but being healthier for you than kale. Who would not be interested in that?

Dulse is available at some health stores, although it remains prohibitively expensive, at least for the moment.

Here are the links to this story:

Scientists discover seaweed that tastes like bacon but is better for you than kale Stop everything. FIONA MACDONALD17 JUL 2015:

New Seaweed Tastes Just Like Bacon When Fried by Morenike Adebayo, July 17, 2015:

Tesla Has Developed a Battery to Independently Power Your Home

This was a very impressive story about the rapidly advancing technological capabilities that we are constantly fostering.

It was fascinating, and I think encouraging, as well. It would seem, at least on the surface, to bode well for cleaning up much of the pollution and wasteful energy use that we see too much of these days.

Here is the link:

Tesla unveils a battery to power your home, completely off grid, May 1, 2015:

Traditional Historical Myths That Are Not True

I posted something similar to this recently, but found this article, and thought it was worth sharing here.

These are five big lies that many Americans learn in school when growing up, according to the author anyway.

For the most part, it was an interesting read, although a lot of the comments are disparaging, and suggest (with some measure of legitimacy) that the author lacks specific resources. The most divisive issue seemed to revolve around the Civil War not having been fought to end slavery, although several arguments could be made there.

Lincoln wanted to preserve the Union first and foremost, and it is true that the specific focus on abolishing slavery came later, well after the war broke out.

That said, I do not believe that the Civil War would have been fought had the Southern states been more willing to bend and abolish slavery. They instead chose to secede, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In any case, here is the link to this particular article:

Five Lies About Early American History You Might Have Learned in School BY A. STOUT, July 21, 2015:

Another Story That Illustrates That the Confederate Flag is a Symbol of Racism

There was an ugly incident in Douglasville. It occurred during the celebration of a black child's birthday party.

A group of whites driving pick-up trucks and prominently displaying the Confederate battle flag on

the bed at the back of the vehicles, among other flags. What happened next is disputed.

Those who attended the party claim that the pick-up trucks essentially drove by the party repeatedly, and hassled the party goers, yelling out racial slurs and threats, and eventually parking in a nearby plot of land across the street to essentially hassle the party goers. 

There is another account of the story, however.

Levi Bush, the leader of this group that calls itself "Protect the Flag" and allegedly sells these flags, with all proceeds going towards veterans or towards purchasing American flags for those in need, claimed that it was those who attended the party who actually started the incident. According to Bush's account, some of those from the party began to throw rocks at the trucks as they passed by, and that was when the ugly incident caught on videotape occurred.

Later, once his group began to leave, Bush says that he got a flat tire after running over a median not far from the site of the altercation caught on video, and that 15-20 of those at the party arrived and began to essentially threaten him.

Whichever of these accounts is the truth, Bush admitted that a racial slur was likely used by some of those in the pick-up trucks. The video has been seen now hundreds of thousands of times since it hit the web.

Watch: Confederate Flag Racists Terrorize Black Child’s Birthday Party, Vow To ‘Kill Y’all N*ggers’

Douglasville Confederate flag rally, birthday party-goers clash By Nathalie Pozo, July 27, 2015:

Stories differ in Douglas County Confederate flag flap by AJC, July 27, 2015

The Golden Age of America's World Fairs & Expositions

The Golden Age of America's World Fairs & Expositions   

I recently wrote this article about the rather remarkable period in American history when it played host to some truly unbelievable world's fairs and expositions. This article was published in Take Off/Set Sail, and even though there are fewer pictures in that article, I still hope that you will click on the link below and take a look:

Time Travel: The Golden Age of America’s World Fairs and Expositions  July 27, 2015:

Images of The White City of Chicago's 1892 World's Fair 

Chicago World's Fair 1893

Photo courtesy of  Boston Public Library's Flickr page -  Chicago World's Fair 1893:

Chicago Exposition 1893

Photo courtesy of  Boston Public Library's Flickr page -  Chicago World's Fair 1893:

Chicago Exposition 1893

Photo courtesy of  Boston Public Library's Flickr page -  Chicago World's Fair 1893:
Creative Commons License:

Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo

McKinley assassinated in Buffalo during the Pan-American Exposition.

Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901

Photo courtesy of trialsanderrors's Flickr page -  Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901:
Creative Commons License:

World's Fair, St. Louis

Hosted the 1904 Olympic Games

Birdseye view World's Fair, St. Louis

Photo courtesy of  Boston Public Library's Flickr page -  Birdseye view World's Fair, St. Louis:
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On the pike, World's Fair, St. Louis

Photo courtesy of  Boston Public Library's Flickr page -  Birdseye view World's Fair, St. Louis:

1904 Saint Louis Worlds Fair

Photo courtesy of Richard Flickr page - 1904 Saint Louis Worlds Fair:
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These expositions took place at a very different time in history, when there was unconditional faith in the overall progress of humankind, and the future seemed endless with possibilities. The 19th century was regarded as largely a successful century that saw many improvements in almost every conceivable area, as expansions in knowledge in everything from health to the human psyche to science and technology transformed the world. Almost everyone seemed to agree that things were better than they had been, and there was no reason to believe that things would not continue to simply improve as scientific knowledge and technological capability grew.

Of course, these were the days before the outbreak of World War I, which was just the opening chapter of the unprecedented brutality of what would become the bloodiest century in history. Perhaps it is hard for us in the 21st century, where cynicism reigns supreme, to understand the level of hope and faith in a brighter future that many held in the late 19th and early 20th century. But that optimism was real, and it was particularly pronounced in the United States, which was a rising power, beginning to rival Europe.

The United States had the power, but they did not have the cities of beautiful art and architecture that could rival those of the Old World. As the nation began to emerge as the leading power of the world, however, and in particular, was beginning to gain a strong reputation in terms of technological innovations that seemed to underscore that sense of the inevitability of improvements for humanity, such as the inventions of Thomas Edison and the successful flight test of the Wright brothers.

However, many felt that it was time for the United States to begin to catch up with the grace and beauty of European cities. The organizers of the event went all out, as they pursued something truly extraordinary. It was to be an event unlike any other event. Specifically, the World's Fair was something that many Americans wanted to be very successful, in order to show up the Paris World's Fair of 1889, which had been a huge event that had been huge and very memorable, and from which, the Eiffel Tower came. This would be an opportunity for Americans to show the world that they, too, could put on an impressive show that would upstage their Old World rivals.

When Chicago was awarded the highly coveted Columbian Exposition/World's Fair for 1892-1893 (which was intended to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America), the city was committed to do everything possible to build a suitable place that would showcase the city, and portray it in a new light. It should be remembered that the city of Chicago had similar incentives as the United States as a nation did for using this opportunity to redefine itself, and be taken more seriously. Chicago at the time was still largely emerging, even though it had just become the second largest city in the United States. Despite this impressive growth, it still trailed far behind New York City in almost every way, and was largely still dismissed as a backwater by many easterners. This Chicagoans wanted to change, and the World's Fair offered a wonderful opportunity for them to achieve a different reputation.

It was a bit chaotic to organize. There were obvious difficulties with such high expectations, and the realities of time schedules and budgets that needed to be adhered to.

Somehow, however, Chicago did manage to produce something truly magnificent. Some big names were brought in to help with the task. Frederick Olmsted, who had designed Prospect Park and Central Park in New York City, among others, came to Chicago to design a suitable landscape for the grounds of the World's Fair. Canals and lagoons were built, and majestic looking buildings were constructed, albeit of cheap and highly flammable material known as "staff," which was a mixture of Plaster of Paris and hemp fibers. Many of the buildings already were deteriorating while the fairs were still going on.

Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West show, which gave a romanticized version of how things were in the American western frontier. Like with other fairs, there were all sorts of scientific and technological wonders on display. Gustave Eiffel proposed building a taller version of the Eiffel Tower, which itself had been erected for a World's Fair in Paris in 1889. This proposal was rejected, both because Eiffel was not American (there was a heavy emphasis on promoting American innovations and architectural ideas), as well as because it had already been done, famously, in Paris. But the organizers of the fair wanted something spectacular, and they felt that they hit it out of the park with a spectacular new invention, the Ferris Wheel. There were lingering uncertainties as to whether or not this was feasible, and some feared that the wheel would simply roll away. In the end, the Ferris Wheel proved to be a success, and was the major highlight of this World's Fair.

Despite the serious political and financial considerations that served as obstructions, the grounds of Chicago 1892 World's Fair truly were spectacular, and reminiscent of some of the architectural gems of the Old World. Chicago had outdone itself, and it is saying something that it is still remembered today, despite most of the White City having been destroyed. It sparked the famous City Beautiful movement, when there was a conscientious effort to make America's cities more beautiful and grandiose.

A few years later, Buffalo also hosted a world's exposition, the Pan-American Exposition. Then, St. Louis had a World's Fair (also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition) when it hosted the Olympics. In both cases, they tried to emulate what Chicago had managed to pull off. Indeed, images of these expositions in Chicago, Buffalo, and St. Louis offer a glimpse of a very different vision of what American cities looked like, albeit only briefly.

What Remains Today?

Unfortunately, very little of these world's fairs, and the spirit behind them, remains today. In Chicago, only two of the over 200 buildings built for the World's Fair were saved from the fire that ravaged the White City just a couple of years after the fair, although it should also be noted that a half-scale replica of the Statue of the Republic was reconstructed, and can be seen today at a public park. The two remaining buildings are the Palace of Fine Arts, which has been converted now to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the World's Congress Auxiliary Building, which is now the Art Institute of Chicago.

In Buffalo, the New York State Building of the Pan-American Exposition is now the Buffalo History Museum. It is the only building from the exposition that has survived.

In St. Louis, only one permanent structure was made. This was the Palace of Fine Arts, which is now the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, which served as the grounds of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The grounds were restored, and includes the Grand Basin, which was the center fof the exposition. The fountains and water pools were restored, and are reminiscent of the exposition days. In the zoo, there is an over-sized birdcage dating back to the exposition. There are other buildings that house collections from the exposition. Here is a link to a website that expands on the specifics of how you can experience as much as possible of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition today:

All the World’s A Fair:

Photos of What Remains of These World's Fairs and Expositions:


Museum of Science and Industry  Built as the Fine Arts Building for the 1893 Columbian Exhibition (World's Fair)

Chicago 07

Photo courtesy of joevare Flickr page -  Chicago 07:

Statue of the Republic
Photo courtesy of vxla's Flickr page - Statue of the Republic  (From the Statue of the Republic Wikipedia page):
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World's Columbian Exposition - Portfolio of views 1893
Photo courtesy of  William Creswell's Flickr page - World's Columbian Exposition - Portfolio of views 1893:

St. Louis

World Fair Pavilion

Photo courtesy of Reading Tom's Flickr page -  World Fair Pavilion:
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The Grand Basin

Photo courtesy of Reading Tom's Flickr page -  The Grand Basin:

Time Travel: The Golden Age of America’s World Fairs and Expositions  July 27, 2015:

Monday, July 27, 2015

World Map According to Population

When my brother and I were growing up, and just boys yet, he had this strange atlas that refused to follow any conventional logic.

It was not a standard atlas, nor a historical one.

Instead, it was an atlas that showed the state of the world based on specific categories. For example, military spending figured in prominently, and you would see on each map that certain nations (particularly the United States and the Soviet Union) looked absolutely huge on the map, as did Western European nations, while other nations, particularly in Asia and Africa, were so small on the map, that they were actually hard to see.

There were all sorts of topics on the map, from defense spending and weapons, to active combat areas, to human rights, to food growth and energy consumption, and all other sorts of areas that you could think of.

One of the maps was outright by population, and it always amazed me that some countries that looked quite modest on a regular map figured prominently on the population map, while other countries that figured prominently on a map in terms of geographical size would hardly show at all (sometimes not at all) on a world map.

Human population growth has exploded, of course, and below is a link to see a similar map to the one available in that world atlas all of those years ago. Obviously, China and India are the biggest countries showing, although there are some other countries that have significant population, but which tend to be overlooked in world news quite often.

Below that first link, there is another kind of map of the world, where vast areas of mostly empty land are colored in blue and, combined, consist of a mere 5% of the population, despite occupying a significant portion of the world's land. Much of these regions, from the sparsely populated sections of the northern United States and Canada, to the mostly empty regions of Russia and western China, to the deserts of northern Africa, are predominately empty and often uninhabitable lands.

In the meantime, one small sliver of land in what appears to be Bangladesh (it is certainly near India, in any case) in the populated southern portion of Asia is colored red, and also accounts for fully 5% of the world's population - despite occupying a small land mass.

Here are the links:

Here's what the world looks like when you map countries by population  BEC CREW29 JAN 2015:

The red and blue sections of this map each contain 5% of the world’s population But can you name all the countries in red? FIONA MACDONALD24 JUL 2015

Every Animal That Became Extinct In The Last Century

When we think about the damage done by human activity on this planet, perhaps the most tragic example would be endangered, and especially extinct, species.

Not that every endangered and extinct species is necessarily the fault of human activity. Obviously, the dinosaurs did not die off because of human activity, obviously.

However, the fact of the matter remains that human activity has to shoulder more than it's fair share of blame for the amount of species that it has caused, be it directly or indirectly, to become endangered, or to go outright extinct.

It really is not hard to understand, and Daniel Quinn gave it a simple formula. He boiled it down to this, easy to understand sentence:

The more human mass is produced in this world, the more this mass takes away from the mass of other living creatures.

The more the explosion in human population growth continues unchecked, the more detrimental the impact we have on this living planet. The never ending expansion of human population is bad news for most other living creatures, with some exceptions  - mostly, those animals that, directly or indirectly benefit from our practices. That includes farm animals and domestic animals, but it also includes rodents, as well.

I found this link to animals that have gone extinct in the last century, and quite frankly, I was quite surprised that there were actually as few as there proved to be. The impression that I got, at least, was that there were a whole lot more animals that had grown scarce to the point of vanishing forever from the face of this planet.

So here is the link, and I do hope that you take a look. We need to recognize that there is nothing natural about this, and that eventually, our practices might just make the human species endangered, if not outright extinct:

Here’s Every Single Animal That Became Extinct In The Last 100 Years (PHOTOS)  Mitchell Friedman by Mitchell Friedman Associate Editor Posted on September 16, 2014{

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Visiting British Couple Hurt Badly by American Healthcare

There is a saying that essentially has it that you should judge a man by his weakest link. Although probably unfair, this often does hold true in regards to other things, particularly when you begin to discuss groups, or things that are far larger than one person.

So it is that if we use this to judge the current American healthcare system, we find one significant failing in the American model that we simply do not see anywhere else in the industrialized world. Namely, ridiculous, outstanding bills that would take a lifetime for the average family or individual to pay.

It has always astonished me that some Americans boldly proclaim the American healthcare system to be the best in the world. While it is probably generally true that the best medical attention and technology is available in the United States, it is available only if you have the big money necessary to pay for it, or to have an insurance that is solid enough to do so. Trust me, reliable healthcare is not an automatic for everyday, working Americans. As with everything else, it is a case of the rich and most privileged holding all of the cards, and things growing progressively worse the farther down the ladder you go. Wealthy Americans may indeed believe that their healthcare system is the best, because these elites do indeed get the best treatment that money can buy, essentially.

For everyone else, however, the healthcare system is an absolute nightmare. The cost of medicine in the United States is outrageously high. And what always astonished me, personally, is how people can get up in arms - almost literally - whenever the word "Obamacare" is mentioned, yet they seem to find it normal that the same drugs and medicine made right here in the United States is sold often for a fraction of the costs in Canada that it is sold right on the shelves of drug stores in the United States. There is a black market of people trying to obtain more reasonably priced medicine in Canada, where there are price controls, and resold back in the United States, then when it goes straight to the American market. This, after all of the magical deregulation activity that was supposed to serve the consumer and give them a fairer chance at obtaining things.


It is almost like the healthcare industry got together and decided in some backroom at some point that, with no strong regulations in place, they could jack up the prices in order that everyone of them could rake in enormous prices. Almost like the whole deregulation thing that everyone loved for so long actually wound up hurting the American people who favored it.

Huh. Go figure.

Of course, a lot of Americans have indeed realized that the healthcare system in the country is broken, because they were personally affected by it. Many Americans have lost everything - their homes, their jobs, their way of life - because they simply could not afford to pay their outstanding medical bills. Since price caps and government oversight is seen as such a great, big evil in the United States (particularly when it comes to healthcare), there is literally no controlling the monstrous costs of healthcare coverage.

This has led to the black market seeking drugs from Canada, and this has led to millions of people opting not to seek healthcare because the costs are simply too high, and their own healthcare provider (assuming they have one) does not cover nearly enough for them to go ahead and seek the medical attention that they need. Add to that the tens of millions of people who still do not have healthcare, and what you have is a system that should rightly be defined and judged by these extreme weaknesses, rather than by any of the supposed strengths of such a system - even if it does benefit the rich, and those others more fortunate than most of the rest of us.

That is why the American system is seen as a failure by most of the rest of the world, and that is why this particular topic is a hot button issue for every election cycle, and all of the time in between. More than in any other industrialized nation, healthcare debates keep swirling and becoming heated, which itself should be damning evidence attesting to the system's utter failure.

If it is to be judged by the weakest link, than that weakest link would be the tremendous, and generally exclusively negative, impact that it has on ordinary people. There are horror stories out there - one after the other - where people getting procedures that would not financially cripple citizens of other industrialized nations wind up losing everything, because they are expected to pay unbelievable medical bills.

Well, here is another such story, about a British couple who came to America on vacation and wound up having the misfortune of having their baby in New York City unexpectedly. Why would I suggest that this was a misfortune, when having a baby is generally truly a blessing? Because by having had the baby on American shores, they were subject to American prices.

If the baby had come in Britain when expected, the couple would have been just fine. The mother would have had her baby - no exaggerated stories of horrendous waiting lines need apply here - and would have had decent time off to recover and take care of the baby. The father would have had some time off from work as well. And whatever disruption to their normal everyday lives this might have cost, it would not have cost them a ton of money. If there were further medical complications with the new child, the couple would not hesitate to seek medical care for their new child, and their worries would be restricted to the health of their newest addition, and not to how they would have to pay for the staggeringly high medical bills that would have accumulated.

But instead, they had the baby in New York City while on vacation. Welcome to America! Oh, and by the way, you owe us $200,000 in medical expense for having the baby!

Of course, this story became big news in Britain (and elsewhere), because such a nightmare scenario, such a horror story, simply would not happen there, where there are price controls and generally government oversight. In fact, this story would not happen in literally every other industrialized nation in the world outside of American borders. It would not happen in Britain, or in Canada, or in Australia, or New Zealand, or Germany, or France, or Italy, Sweden, Spain, Finland, Portugal, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, South Africa, Greece, Denmark, Iceland.....well, you get the message. Nope, this kind of thing does not happen in those countries, because they have government oversight. That is not to say that their healthcare systems are perfect. Nothing in this world is really perfect, and every country struggles to make adjustments with their healthcare systems as problems arise, of course.

But each of those countries has something that the United States simply lacks: protections for ordinary citizens. So that they get adequate healthcare. So that they do not get badly ripped off. So that they do not lose everything. So that they can focus on the medical issues that required them to seek medical attention in the first place, and not simply to be forced to exchange their medical problems with burdensome financial problems from the bills accrued while obtaining that medical coverage.

And you know the best part? Those countries are not socialist or communist meccas, with dictatorships that have completely taken over the countries! These are the common arguments that Americans opposed to any substantive move towards a fairer healthcare system make in the United States, and it plays on the irrational fears that too many Americans have about the "socialist" nightmare scenario existing in European countries. But there is no substantive evidence that such arguments hold water, because none of these Western nations with better healthcare systems in place have seen such all-consuming, intrusive governments actually establish a dictatorship, or any such thing. In fact, not only are these normal, Western democracies, but on top of it, it can be legitimately argued that most of these countries are more free than the United States!

What has passed for a healthcare system in the United States is a poor excuse of a healthcare system - and yes, I am talking about both what came before Obamacare, and what is now in place with Obamacare. This system benefits the rich while hurting the poor, and the working class. By now, it is an old story. Most people are familiar with it.

It is perhaps the biggest shame that Americans have, and in this regard, they truly do stand out - but not in the way that most Americans (even American exceptionalists) want to stand out. The rest of the world watches in horror when stories, such as this one with this British couple, emerge from American borders. And perhaps the most damning arguments that I have heard about the American healthcare system have indeed come from foreigners who thank their lucky stripes that they did not suffer the injuries or illnesses that they were forced to seek medical attention for in other countries. I have personally heard numerous stories from different people from other countries who thanked their lucky stripes that they were not citizens of the United States living within American borders, because they know that would have been the difference between being inconvenienced with whatever medical issues that they were dealing with, versus being plagued by those issues and then, on top of that, being hit with unreasonable, incredibly burdensome medical bills.

Perhaps at this point, it is appropriate to use a phrase commonly heard in the United States, albeit normally used in a very different context. Here is the phrase:

Only in America.

But for citizens of every other industrialized nation in the world, this is something to be thankful for, at least when it comes to healthcare.

Here is the link to the article that got me on this subject to begin with:

British Couple Gets Hit With $200,000 Medical Bill Because Their Child Was Born During Their Vacation In NYC AUTHOR: STEPHEN D FOSTER JR JANUARY 2, 2015