2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Eight of Humankind’s Best Years

by Rick Bretz

The 2013 New Year is approaching and well might be here by the time you read this.  With that obvious statement, I thought it would be a useless exercise in listing the best years human kind has produced. I’ve picked years with the important inventions and developments with an understandably subjective slant.

1800Invention of the battery; this event is a vital point in history.  This could well be the point where civilization begins.  Without batteries for everything from smart phones, remotes, and automobiles, humankind would be lost and forced to talk to each other.

Congress holds first session in an unfinished capitol building.  I could make a nasty comment about congressional recesses, unfinished government business such as budget approvals, and fiscal cliffs but I’ll refrain from easy targets.

Washington, DC officially established as nation’s capitol.

Library of Congress established with initial $5000 funding. After the War of 1812 when the British destroyed much of the library, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his vast collection of books to establish the library again in 1815. He sold his books to the library for $29,950.

Spain cedes Louisiana to France (Setting up the later purchase of the territory from France in 1803 during the Jefferson administration).

1770-The invention of the eraser; if this event had not occurred, many students taking class during pre-computer days would have been forced to submit first drafts.  For many of us, the eraser was an essential tool in math class.

1966-The development of Fiber Optic Cable, perfected by George Hockham and Charles Kao, gave Internet providers the ability to transmit massive amounts of data through optic fibers.  This is a huge development in our ability to watch YouTube videos.

fiber optics
fiber optics (Photo credit: go_nils)

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act.  This act lets someone request information from any government agency so that they can “sanitize” it.  Viewer can see this process in any number of documentaries when the host shows the audience an official government document with big blocks of black covering vital information to the story.

Star Trek premieres on NBC-TV. The birth of “Trekkie” Nation and a movie franchise.

1978– With the first Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite, launched on February 22, 1978, the world was on its way to traveling without maps. The system was fully integrated with the 24th satellite launched in 1993. It was just a matter of time before the public tossed the map in the back seat and mounted the latest and greatest GPS unit. Today older people can brag that they used to find restaurants and streets by using maps and their internal compasses in three feet of snow.  The GPS technology saves lives today by finding victims more easily. Moreover, the industry also creates thousands of jobs worldwide. In addition to those positives, it almost single-handedly eliminated arguments between spouses while traveling the nation’s highways.  Yes, it was a very good year.

 

The only GPS satellite on public display is at...
The only GPS satellite on public display is at the San Diego Aerospace Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1859Internal Combustion Engine developed from a steam engine by Belgian inventor Etienne Lenoir. It was the spark that created road trips through the ages.  With Henry Ford perfecting the assembly line production system, cheaper cars would give people the ability to go mobile.  Humankind would invent the hangover later.

In related news, the first successful oil well was drilled near Titusville, PA.

1564-The invention of the lead pencil.  It must have been messy writing with a quill all those years, with ink dripping all over the place.  What is so perplexing to me is that someone didn’t invent the erasure until 1770-people used bread  to erase mistakes instead.

lead pencil
lead pencil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1848-The light went on in Joseph Swan’s head and he invented the light bulb.  With the help of Thomas Edison and some electric current, soon all of America and the world would be able to get up at night without banging their knees on the night stand.

English: Light bulb patent application. Photol...
English: Light bulb patent application. Photolithography reproduction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gas lights first installed in the White House during the James Polk administration.

1897Swiss Army Knife. The original “McGyver” before there was such a thing.  The only thing this knife doesn’t have is a paper clip and some string.    The “Offiziersmesser” or officer’s knife was developed in Schwyz, Switzerland by a surgical equipment manufacturer who didn’t like the fact that Germany supplied the Swiss Army with its knives.  US Army soldiers popularized the knife and started calling it the “Swiss Army Knife.”  Today the company, Victorinox, makes millions of them and sells them worldwide.

Victorinox Swiss Army knife, photo taken in Sw...
Victorinox Swiss Army knife, photo taken in Sweden. This is a Mountaineer model. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thomas Edison patents his Kinetograph (movie camera)– later first movie critic invented.

Notable Links:

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jefflib.html

http://www.timbercon.com/history-of-fiber-optics/

http://www.nps.gov/gis/gps/history.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/101-gadgets-that-changed-the-world-398535.html

Eight December 25th significant events

In celebration of Christmas Day, here is a list of significant events occurring on December 25th.

Year 1989- The weather is cold in the winter months for most places. Japanese scientists decided they wanted to see how far they could force the temperature in the negatives.  They hit a record -271.8 degrees Celsius.  Personally, I’m building a fire in the fire-place at 0 degrees Celsius.

 

Emanuel Leutze's depiction of Washington's att...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 1776-On another cold day, General George Washington and his military force crossed the Delaware River so they could attack a Hessian mercenary unit at Trenton, NJ.  Washington attacked the unaware Hessians successfully and began the long road toward victory and independence.

 

John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song.
John Philip Sousa, the composer of the song. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 1896-John Philip Sousa writes “Stars and Stripes Forever.” for every marching band in the country.

Year 1855-The first outdoor hockey game is played using field hockey sticks and lacrosse balls. Royal Canadian Rifle unit soldiers started the game when clearing ice and snow from Lake Ontario.  Later, the game evolved into what we know today with the first indoor hockey game played on March 3, 1875 at Montreal, Canada.

Year 1818-The Christmas Hymn “Silent Night,” by Franz Joseph Gruber and Joseph Mohr is sung for the first time.

Year 336 or 337-Most sources state 336 but some have 337 as the first recorded celebration of Christmas in Rome.

English: Traveling by reindeer, Arkhangelsk, R...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 1939-The retail store Montgomery Ward introduces the ninth reindeer, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

Born on December 25th– Believe or not, Robert L. Ripley, from Ripley’s Believe or Not fame, was born on this day. Also actor Humphrey Bogart, football players Larry Csonka, Kenny Stabler, and actress Sissy Spacek.

Janice Joplin and Sylvia Plath

by Rick Bretz

Artists express their tortured or exalted souls in a variety of ways.  They can use music and voice or the written word on paper. Either way, if the message has a medium and receiving audience, the result can move the human spirit. Artists are always looking for an emotional or intellectual response.  Sending sounds to an ear or words to the thought process can accomplish this, sometimes at the expense of the artists’ well-being. They are at once happy doing what they do best but seek more afterwards and find themselves wanting.

Cover of "Pearl"
Cover of Pearl

Janis Joplin and Sylvia Plath

Janis Joplin

Sylvia Plath

Born: January 19, 1943  Port Arthur, Texas Born:    October 27, 1932   Boston, Mass.
Died: October   4, 1970    Hollywood, Ca. Died: February 11, 1963   England
Cause: Accidental Heroin overdose Cause: Suicide by gas oven
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in   1995 First poet to receive Pulitzer Prize   after death in 1982
Known for distinctive voice Known for intense imagery and   alliteration
Lead singer for the group, “Big   Brother and the Holding Company Poetry: The Colossus (1960); Ariel (1965); Crossing the Water   (1971); Winter Trees (1972); The Collected Poems (1981)
Hits include: Piece of my Heart, Mercedes   Benz, Me and Bobby McGee Prose: The Bell Jar (1963) The   Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982) The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia   Plath (2000, edited by Karen V. Kukil)

 

Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I could try to analyze and compare these talented women but the best window into a soul is through their own words.

In the words of Janis Joplin

In the words of Sylvia Plath

“Onstage,   I make love to 25,000 people – then I go home alone.” “If they substituted the word “Lust”   for “Love” in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth.”
“‘I   feel, you know, I hurt, please help.’ I’m saying words, man, and if I look at   an audience and they ain’t understanding me, it’s just like getting kicked in   the teeth.”

 

“Can you understand? Someone,   somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my   despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I   have so much – so very much to learn.”
On performing in concert, “…I dig   it! I dig it so much, man!” “Perhaps   when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously   near to wanting nothing.”

 

“People, whether they know it or not, like   their blues singers miserable. They like their blues singers to die   afterwards.”

 

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t   the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”
“It used to make me very unhappy,   all that feeling. I just didn’t know what to do with it. But now I’ve learned   how to make feeling work for me.” How frail the human heart must be — a mirrored   pool of thought.

 

They were both lonely despite having many people around them.  Janice Joplin tried to find the answer through drugs and alcohol and died of an overdose way before she should have left us. Radio stations play her songs today and her CDs sell well.  Sylvia Plath used her depression to create works that are studied in school and university literature classes to this day.  They both live on through words and music.

Alexander Graham Bell and Johann (John) Roebling

English: Engraving of John Augustus Roebling
English: Engraving of John Augustus Roebling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rick Bretz

John Roebling and Alexander Graham Bell conquered barriers. John Roebling practiced construction engineering to break down barriers while Alexander Graham Bell used the art of communication transmitted by wires and electrical engineered devices.   One is famous for the Brooklyn Bridge while another is famous for the telephone.  However, both men accomplished much more during their lives than just those achievements they are known for in history books. John Roebling pioneered the construction of suspension bridges and built more in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other places as well as running a successful business in New Jersey. Bell in addition to inventing and perfecting the telephone, founded a school for speech and communication.   He also helped many people with diction and voice problems so they could function better during their daily lives.

Similarities   between Roebling and Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

Johann Augustus Roebling

Born: March 3, 1847-Edinburgh, Scotland Born: June 12, 1806-Muhlhausen, Prussia
Engineer, inventor, linguist, scientist Civil Engineer, innovator, designer, businessman
Educated overseas: Edinburgh University Educated overseas: Royal Polytechnic School
Invented and perfected telephone system to connect people and cities Built bridges to connect people and cities
Was recognized as a math talent at an early age Recognized for the ability to fix things at early age
Died:  August 2, 1922 Died:  July 22, 1869

 

John Augustus Roebling

John Roebling came early in the 19th Century and died before his time from complications  from an accident working on the beginning stages of the Brooklyn Bridge.  While surveying for the Brooklyn Bridge, his toes were crushed and had to be amputated.  He developed tetanus and later developed lockjaw.  He suffered a painful gruesome death after many seizures and lapsing in and out of a coma.  John Roebling taught his son, Washington Roebling, the business and kept him at his side during the planning stages of the bridge.  This enabled the bridge construction to continue after his death.

English: Aerial view of the John A. Roebling S...
English: Aerial view of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Roebling built other suspension bridges over the Ohio River from Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio as well as a railway suspension bridge over the Niagara River. In addition, Roebling built a suspension bridge over the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh, Pa., and four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canals.  All of this while running a wire cable business in Trenton, New Jersey.

Roebling was a meticulous man who demanded perfection.  He also was a micro-manager who needed to approve and inspect every aspect of a project or business. Roebling was in the business of completing projects that were to be used by people.  Because of this, he was involved in every detail.  He eventually trusted two people during his professional life, his assistant and his son, Washington Roebling, who completed the Brooklyn Bridge after his father’s death.  While other engineer’s bridges failed after a few years, John Roebling’s bridges are still going strong to this day due to his calculations and use of wire strands.  Drivers and pedestrians are crossing the Brooklyn and Cincinnati Bridges today because of Roebling’s demanding standards.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Roebling

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jun12.html

 

Alexander Graham Bell

Bell on the telephone in New York (calling Chi...
Bell on the telephone in New York (calling Chicago) in 1892 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While John Roebling connected people commercially and socially by giving them opportunities to cross one land mass to another, Alexander Graham Bell united one another through speech, communication, and the baby steps of information technology.

Alexander Graham Bell’s interest in speech, elocution, diction, communication patterns, and the physical development of Visible Speech was brought to him by his grandfather and father where he grew up in Scotland. Alexander’s father, Melville, became a leading authority on elocution and speech correction and Alexander began to learn about these techniques from his family.  After the family moved to Toronto, Canada, Alexander Bell accepted a position and began working at Boston School for Deaf Mutes in 1871 where he taught his father’s system of Visible Speech.  He taught there for only a semester but liked the Boston area and began tutoring deaf children on his own. He became successful at this business.

While Bell and his partners were working on sending multiple telegraph transmissions over the same wire on using different harmonic frequencies, he became interested in human voice transmission over those same wires.  He teamed up with another electrician to do this, Thomas Watson.  From 1974 to 1876, Bell and Watson worked on the harmonic telegraph and voice transmission. The stories of the first phone call have different versions but the important part is that Watson heard a sound transmitted over a wire. On March 10, 1876, Bell and Watson were working on their devices in the lab and Bell likely heard a noise over the wire and told Watson called to his assistant.  Watson probably heard Bell’s voice over the wire also, which became the first telephone call.  From there, Bell increased the distance of the wire transmissions.  On July 9, 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was organized and it was just a matter of time before a phone was in everyone’s home.  He had to defend his telephone patent over the next 18 years in court 550 times but he beat them all and the company fortunes and Bell’s fame grew. Thomas Edison had a part in improving the telephone which the invention of the microphone.  The microphone aided in the sound level so that the user didn’t need to shout into the receiver.

English: Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell
English: Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to the telephone, Bell founded the Volta Laboratory where people could devote their efforts to science.  He developed metal jacket that helped people with lung problems, engineered a metal detector to local bullets in bodies, and invented an audiometer that tested a person’s hearing ability.  He founded the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf in 1880.  Bell also met and worked with Helen Keller during this period, becoming lifelong friends. He described what Anne Sullivan did to help Keller as a hugely successful experiment rather than a miracle. When he died on August 2, 1922, the entire telephone system was turned off for one minute as a tribute.

Sources:

http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-graham-bell-9205497

Two pioneers in their fields who accomplished a great deal furthering the idea that people from different countries, states, cultures, neighborhoods and abilities  can connect in  different ways.

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