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.
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.
1800– Invention 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.
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.
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.
1859–Internal 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.
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.
Gas lights first installed in the White House during the James Polk administration.
1897–Swiss 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.
Thomas Edison patents his Kinetograph (movie camera)– later first movie critic invented.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Man does not have a monopoly on inventions. It just seems that way because Mr. Bell, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Edison have been hogging all of the publicity the last 250 years or so. In fact, several women have made significant contributions to industry, the home, science and information technology. Some were the first to contribute to their particular field and forge new accomplishments for others to advance. If it weren’t for these women on this list, life would be more difficult today in many ways.
Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) She is best known as movie star actress during the WWII era. She starred in “Samson and Delilah”, “Algiers” and many others. She also wanted to contribute to the World War II effort by figuring out how to prevent the jamming of and intercepting of frequency communication systems by the enemy. She and her co-inventor, George Anthiel, figured out the technique of “frequency hopping” or what they call today, “spread-spectrum” communication, proving that she was not just a pretty face for the movies. This technology is used today for everything from military weapons to cell phone transmissions. They received a patent for it but it didn’t earn her any significant wealth. In 1997 she was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award.
Sybilla Masters (died 1720) She was a significant contributor to the field of farming and weaving. Masters was the first recorded American woman inventor. She earned a patent for “Cleansing, Curing, and Refining of Indian-Corn Growing in the Plantations” and for a new methods for weaving straw for hats and bonnets. However, her husband had to put his name on the patent because of the laws at the time in 1715. She deserves credit now for not being recognized back then.
Josephine Garis Cochran (1839-1913) The world’s population owes this woman a collective thank you. The reason? She invented the first working automatic dishwasher in 1889. It was first shown at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The next phase for anyone out there, of course, is an automatic loader and un-loader.
Marion Donovan (1917-1998) She invented the first waterproof, disposable diaper in 1950. The key word is “waterproof”. Amazingly, business leaders weren’t interested in this at first, which showed an incredible lack of understanding to the plight of their wives and mothers. She wasn’t discouraged. She started her own company, Donovan Enterprises, and then sold it for a million dollars later. At last the sweet smell of success!
Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) An engineer, educator and a naval officer rising to the rank of Rear Admiral, every computer programmer owes a debt of gratitude to her. She invented the concept of compiling programming languages. She popularized the term, “debugging” which refers to a weeding out code errors in a program. She is a legend in the Navy and in the fields of Mathematics and Computer Engineering.
Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace (1815-1852) She was a mathematician and a collaborator with Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Analytical Engine, who built the first mechanical computer that could calculate numbers. She also foresaw that computers could do more than calculate numbers, such as composing music, creating graphics and would be used for practical and scientific use. She also wrote the first computer program (Bernoulli numbers) for calculating numbers for Babbage’s machine. She was indeed a pioneer and a profit of the computer age.
Marie Curie (1867-1934) Here is a woman who literally put her life on the line for science. She was a polish physicist and chemist who discovered radioactive metals such as Radium and Polonium. She also discovered that the harmful properties of x-rays could kill tumors. She made a decision to not seek patents for methods of processing radium or how it could be used for medical applications. Curie was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. She died of Leukemia caused by overexposure to radioactive material during her years of research.
Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878-1972) She was a pioneer in the field of ergonomics as well as an author, industrial engineer and inventor. Gilbreth invented several helpful items for the kitchen to make our lives easier. Everyone should give a collective bow of thank you (she saved our backs) to her because she invented the trashcan with the foot-pedal lid-opener. She conducted several significant Time and Motion studies that simplified and improved industrial work. She also determined that stress affected worker efficiency as well as lack of sleep. While working for General Electric she conducted interviews with women to determine the proper height for stoves, sinks and other kitchen appliances.
Do you have any that you think significant? Leave me a comment and I will respond.
Nuclear power has the ability to create energy, liberate countries from other energy sources like coal, oil, and water, and therefore pull a nation’s struggling economy forward after years of lagging behind other nations. In the process, the same nuclear power source can produce tension between players on the world stage as North Korea and Iran are doing today or force every global leader to deal with a disaster and the environmental fallout that leads to an energy policy debate about the viability of nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy has positives and negatives but the one point every one agrees with is that nuclear accidents are devastating to the environment and can wipeout entire city populations if the fallout isn’t controlled. As with any new technology, the process and procedures continually evolve. Engineers learn from design flaws and build systems that have better fail safes. Operator training improves as scientists and political leaders develop better ways to handle the unique challenges of running nuclear power centers.
The following is a comparison of how two disasters were handled. Research indicates that Chernobyl and Fukushima have both been labeled “Accidents”. I prefer to call Chernobyl a “Disaster” because several lives were lost. Fukushima should be labeled an “Accident” because no loss of life has been documented from it. The lives were lost due to the Tsunami. The chart below shows how the two governments handled the crisis, and more importantly, how much Japan may have learned from other nuclear problems, including the United States’ own nuclear accident, “Three Mile Island.”
Radioactive fallout-The Chernobyl accident released 10 times more material into the atmosphere than the Fukushima accident.
Immediate casualties-50 people died immediately from radiation poisoning that includes the first responders (fireman, helicopter pilots, soldiers and miners)
Immediate casualties-21 plant workers have been affected by radiation sickness. Several thousand people died from the Tsunami.
Long term casualties unofficially in the thousands, still assessing.
Long term casualties-No radiation linked deaths have been reported, still assessing
Environmental Impact-livestock, vegetation, top soil, the surrounding communities and fallout that was moved by the atmosphere to surrounding countries
Environmental Impact-More than 70,000 people have been evacuated within a 12 mile radius of the plant.
Health Impact-4,000 children and adolescents contracted thyroid cancer soon, 4 died.
Health Impact-Still being monitored.
Immediate Public Information-Information about the severity was withheld from the public for several days
Immediate Public Information-Public was informed and evacuated as soon as possible after Tsunami
IAEA Severity Level-7
IAEA Severity Level-Initially set at 5 and then raised to 7
Several years before area will be habitable
Several years before area will be habitable
There are websites devoted to the analyzing what went wrong and how the fallout from Chernobyl affected the surrounding towns. YouTube has several documentaries devoted to how the nuclear disaster was handled by the Soviet government. What is interesting about each accident is the way information was publicized to local towns and to the workers dealing with the problems. It is study in how risk and crisis communication affected the aftermath of each accident.
The Chernobyl disaster became more of disaster because officials did not tell primary people in government the severity of the problem. Therefore, they could not make decisions about moving people from the local area, specifically the town of Pripyat, near the Chernobyl plant where most of the reactor’s workers lived with their families. I took several days before the families were moved from the area. Six hundred workers answered the call or the order to clean up the nuclear debris after the explosion as well as pour sand and boron from the air by using helicopter flying over. All the while, pilots and other workers were absorbing massive amounts of radiation. According to the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Comission, 600 workers initially worked at the site immediately after the accident. Among those, 134 had radiation sickness. Of these, 28 died within the first four months of the disaster. In addition to the pilots who were hovering and flying over the reactor for long periods, miners were brought in to dig a tunnel underneath the reactor where a concrete sarcophagus would eventually be built. The miners were not told how much danger they were near when digging the tunnel right underneath the disabled reactor. The Chernobyl disaster is a testament to how people can answer the call. The Soviet era miners who are still alive to tell the story have commented in documentaries on the subject that who else would have been able to do it but us.
The Fukushima accident was caused by an Earthquake and the resulting Tsunami which caused the meltdown of three reactors from the loss of power to the generators. This is different from a power surge that caused the Chernobyl disaster. Two different paths of communication exist when accidents and natural disasters occur. One is crisis communication that originates from the government and local agencies through the use of corporate media to the citizens affected by the natural or man made disaster. The other is risk communication that relies on the layers of government and other agencies to pass on vital information so decisions can be made and the public alerted. The Soviet government failed on many levels pertaining to Chernobyl while the communication process from the Japanese government to various affected groups performed better during and after the Fukushima crisis. Informing the public and making the decision to move citizens within the danger zone out of the area is one aspect of the disaster that went relatively smoothly, considering the Japanese government was also dealing with the damage done by the Tsunami.
Nuclear power is here to stay. The challenge is to learn from the past while having enough imagination to think about future problems and put measures in place to prevent any accidents or disasters that may have dire consequences.
Today’s headlines reveal that once a dictator has power they are reluctant to give it up. I submit to the court of history as evidence the countries of Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Haiti, and many others. You can’t blame them. As Mel Brooks said in his movie The History of the World, Part I, “It’s good to be King.”
The three stories of one Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and two Kings, England’s Charles I and France’s Louis XVI can be reduced to isolated adolescences and lack of situational awareness in their homelands. This isolation continued into their adult lives and created a stubbornness and sense of entitlement. Their refusal to understand the plight and basic needs of citizens and the nobility forced their enemies to take action. The lack of leadership at crucial times gave their enemies the chance to strike and force a surrender. In all three cases, the revolutionaries that captured them felt it necessary to execute them so that they would not be a living symbol for their supporters. In two cases, King Louis XVI and King Charles I were beheaded. In the case of Tsar Nicholas II, he was gunned down along with his entire family. Louis XVI’s wife, Marie Antoinette, also met the executioner’s guillotine. When there are wars, lack of basic needs like food and shelter, and general unrest, it can force people to desperation and revolution. History’s lesson for these three rulers from the genetic lottery is that their lofty stations in life didn’t necessarily mean safety from scheming enemies.
King Charles I of England ruled during the years from 1625 to January 30th, 1649. It was during his reign when Puritans and Catholics began leaving England due to religious persecution. He also kept dissolving parliament (3 times) so that he could run things his way within the first three years of his rule. This forced him to raise funds by other forceful means. What really got him trouble was creating enemies within the nobility. Due to wars with Scotland and Ireland and creating tensions within the religious communities, he was on a collision with powerful groups. Eventually, civil war began in 1642. The Royalists were defeated in 1646 due to the Parliament’s alliance with the Scott’s. Charles surrendered to the Scott’s who handed him over to Parliament. He escaped to the Isle of Wright in 1647 and a second Civil War began and was finished within a year. Parliamentarian General Oliver Cromwell defeated the Royalists. Charles was captured. The conquering parliamentarians decided that the country would never have peace if the King continued to live. Cromwell and his associates put the King on trial, found him guilty of treason. He was executed outside the Banqueting House on Whitehall, London on January 30th, 1649.
France’s King Louis XVI
Louis the XVI got into trouble by not having the necessary leadership qualities to understand the social and political climate of the period. He preferred hunting rather than sitting in his office trying to figure out budget concerns and other political matters. He relied heavily on the court member’s advice. In addition, his treasury secretary’s financing part of the American Revolution reduced the funds or canceled out any savings from the reforms the King approved. His laissez-fair attitude got him trouble with parliament, the nobility and his subjects. Once the debt got to be unmanageable the King tried to tax the notable or privileged classes. The assembly balked at that demand. The King sent troops to Paris to force his will. This was the spark that ignited Bastille Day, where the Bastille was stormed on July 14, 1789. The royal family was confined to Paris in Tuileries Palace a couple of months later. They tried to escape but were recaptured. At the time, France was at war with Austria and Prussia. Marie Antoinette’s was the daughter of an Austrian royal family. The Austrian’s made it clear that should any harm come to Louis and his family, they would march on Paris. Louis’s communication with the Prussian’s infuriated the revolutionaries. After the family’s imprisonment in the Temple in August of 1792, incriminating evidence was used to try Louis XVI in January of 1793. He was found guilty and guillotined on January 21, 1793.
Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas was unprepared for managing a country as large a Russia when he assumed power in 1894. He mistrusted a majority of his ministers and was
influenced by his wife Princess Alexandra. He got off to a bad start when he tried to gain more land by getting into a war with Japan over Manchuria. This resulted in a humiliating defeat on land and sea. This provoked riots and demonstrations due to poor economic conditions in Russia. In January 1905, Russian troops fired into a crowd who were demonstrating for reforms. This event forced a change. The Tsar, in order to keep power, accepted a constitution and a ruling government body called the duma. This enabled the middle class to have more say in government affairs. However, the Tsar still had his secret police to stifle radicals. This held off the inevitable, but with the start of World War I in 1914, the Tsar made an unwise decision. He went to the front to lead the Russian Army . The Army was experiencing heavy losses and with each one, the blame was attributed to the Tsar. Combine that with food shortages, high inflation, suppression and general unrest, Vladimir Lenin had the chance to strike. In 1917, widespread demonstrations in Petrograd, combined with the Tsar’s loss of support from the Army, Nicholas II abdicated the throne. After the end of World War I, a civil war began between the Bolsheviks and the anti-Bolsheviks. The Bolshevik’s moved the royal family from place to place until Lenin gave the order to execute the whole family.
Feel free to comment about this post or any other one.
Since Memorial Day is a few days away I wanted to give a list of memorials in remembrance of American service members.. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude for defending the United States and its values. Choosing the top eight military memorials is a tough task. I think all of them honor the veterans with splendor and reverence. Throughout history, leaders and politicians from America’s adversaries have underestimated the spirit of our fighting men and women. Arguably, when given a mission and left alone, they have achieved success time after time. American servicemen aren’t politicians so they have no control over decisions made by the government. The military is an essential position for diplomacy. It’s President Teddy Roosevelt‘s analagous “Big Stick.” Politics aside, they have achieved success in every war, conflict, police action and peace-keeping mission given to them—and that means every mission. These memorials are a testament to the widely held belief that servicemen would rather have peace because they know more than any other citizen the price to be paid for war.
Other Notables: Normandy American Center and Memorial (D-Day); Missing Man Formation; Empty Boots, Rifle and Helmet; Gettysburg National Park; Taps on the Bugle; and any resting place for an American serviceman and family member.