Sunday, September 30, 2012

October In History

Every month (probably every day of that month) has significant events of historical interest and importance.  Those listed here are only a cross-section, most of them related to American history. 

October 1   The Twilight Zone television series premiered (1959)
                   Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, Florida (1971)

October 2   Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schultz first appeared in newspapers (1950)

October 5   The World Series first broadcast on radio (1921)

October 6   Thomas Edison showed the first motion picture (1889)

October 11 Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space (1984)

October 12 The first Oktoberfest is held in Munich (1810)

October 14 Martin Luther King Jr. awarded Nobel Peace Prize (1964)

October 15 I Love Lucy premiered on television (1951)

October 16 Marie Antoinette guillotined in France (1793)

October 17 Al Capone convicted of income tax evasion (1931)

October 19 American Revolutionary War ended (1781)

October 21 Thomas Edison invented incandescent light bulb (1879)

October 23 In New York City 25,000 women march demanding the right to vote (1915)

October 24 Anna Edison Taylor is the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel (1901)

October 25 U.S. Forces invade Grenada (1983)

October 26 The Gunfight at the OK Corral occurs (1881)

October 28 France gave the U.S. the Statue of Liberty (1886)

October 29 Black Tuesday, the New York Stock Exchange crash starting the Great Depression (1929)

October 31 Magician Harry Houdini dies from complications of a ruptured appendix (1926)

Obviously there are many more historically noteworthy events in October.  I've presented only a sampling here.  I didn't mention Halloween because…well, I'm saving that for next week when I blog about October holidays, both bizarre and legitimate.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Say Goodbye To Summer And Hello to Autumn

Saturday, September 22, 2012, at 10:49AM it's the end of summer and start of autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere—the Autumnal Equinox.

The last couple of days in my little corner of the world have provided a delightful taste of the fall weather to come.  That crisp feel in the air with cooler temperatures replacing the heat and dryer air shoving aside the retched humidity of summer.  That change to cool dry air brings a renewed vigor, a revived energy to replace the lackluster feeling resulting from the summer heat and least for me.  (Do you get the impression that I don't function well in heat and humidity?)

Just as I love the renewal of life in the spring—bright green new leaves on the trees, colorful flowers, the awakening of nature from winter's hibernation—I also love the change of the leaves to their brilliant array of fall colors in autumn.  Unfortunately due to the drought conditions, many of the deciduous trees dropped a lot of their leaves during the heat summer in an act of self-preservation.  I'm not anticipating much of a fall color display this year.

I can say with all sincerity that I'm happy to welcome the end of summer.  Oh, yeah…also happy to welcome the start of fall.  But this year it's the end of summer's heat and humidity that thrills me the most.

The summer of 2011 was brutal.  We ended up setting a new heat record—the hottest summer since they started keeping track back in the 1880s with 53 days where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees and several of those days reaching 110 degrees and higher.  At last year's Autumnal Equinox, the extreme heat of the summer led me to speculate about an equally severe winter with bitter cold and lots of snow and ice.  The reality turned out to be just the opposite.  We had an unseasonably warm winter with several days actually getting into the low 60s.

The summer of 2012 started out mild, lulling me into a false sense of relief, allowing me to think the brutal temperatures of the previous year's summer would not repeat.  Well, silly me.  The heat once again hit along with drought conditions (my poor yard looked terrible, but it did come back to life when we finally got some rain).

So, here I sit enjoying the fact that it's 8:00pm and the outside temperature is 66 degrees rather than 96 degrees.

Welcome autumn...I'm thrilled to see you!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

12 Top Secret Sites From Around The World

Just the words Top Secret conjure up images of intrigue, conspiracies, and clandestine operations.  These off-limits sites exist all over the world with the various governments keeping activities hidden from public knowledge…safely ensconced behind those closed doors and security fences.  It's a given that most of the secrets probably have to do with research for new weapons and defense systems.

I recently came across an article listing 12 top secret locations, certainly not the total number of these sites…not even close…but an interesting list.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex
This bunker near Colorado Springs is a relic from the days of the Cold War.  Located literally inside Cheyenne Mountain, it was originally designed as a combat operations center with its own water, electricity supply, air filtration system and built to withstand a nuclear blast (a 1960s size nuclear blast).  This facility has been given new vitality as a result of 9/11.  It currently participates guarding against ballistic attack, supports space operations, and assists in keeping American and Canadian airspace safe.  The U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Space Command, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Missile Defense Agency all maintain a presence at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex…and that's a lot of organizations devoted to secrecy.  But the secrecy of the location?  Well…there is a picture of it on NORAD's website and I recall seeing a kind of mini-tour several years ago on a television documentary.  But, with that many secrecy organizations involved, there's probably a lot more going on there than meets the eye.

Area 51
Undoubtedly the most famous…or infamous…secret facility in the world.  Even though its location in the Nevada desert was known and a topic of much speculation, the government refused to even acknowledge its existence until 1995.  And anything that secret is ripe for all kinds of conspiracy theories, some going back to the Roswell, New Mexico, alien spacecraft crash in 1947 with the alien bodies supposedly taken to Area 51.  With many of the stealth technology aircraft tested there in secret, it must have looked like strange alien craft flying overhead.  And now you can see Area 51 via Google Earth.  Sort of takes away some of that mystique and secrecy.

Site R
It's official name is Raven Rock Mountain Complex and it's an underground relocation facility for the Department of Defense, sometimes referred to as underground Pentagon.  It's located in Pennsylvania about 6 miles from the Camp David  presidential retreat.  There's speculation that a tunnel connects Camp David and Site R.  Like Cheyenne Mountain, this was a cold war era bunker given new purpose and life following 9/11.

The Capitol Visitor Center
Located on the east side of the Capitol, as the name implies its purpose is to welcome visitors to Washington, D.C.  But there is a theory that within or beneath the 580,000 square-foot building is a top-secret area for Congress to use in emergencies.  Giving credence to this theory are 4 bomb-proof skylights, a tunnel system large enough for vehicles to move around and a sophisticated IT infrastructure with thousands of feet of fiber-optic cable.

National Security Agency/Stellar Wind
According to Wired Magazine, the NSA is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah.  This is where the NSA will intercept and inspect billions of calls, email, Google searches, travel itineraries, book purchases, and other miscellaneous digital information.  Stellar Wind is the codename for this surveillance program.  The NSA created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes.  While the CIA is better known as an intelligence gathering agency, the NSA is three times its size and costs more.  The NSA is considered the most powerful intelligence agency in the world today.

Pine Gap, Australia
This is considered my many to be the Australian Area 51, the ground station for a network that intercepts telephone, radio, and data links from around the world.

Camp Peary
Located near Williamsburg, Virginia, Camp Peary (known as The Farm) is an area of 10,000 acres said to be where CIA agents receive covert training.

Mount Yamantau
Located in the Ural Mountains, the U.S. suspects this Russian site of being a large secret nuclear facility.  It's near one of Russia's last remaining nuclear labs and is part of their Dead Hand nuclear retaliatory command structure.

Liberty Crossing
Based in a complex in McLean, Virginia, this is home to the National Counterterrorism Center.  It utilizes experts from the CIA, FBI, Pentagon, and other agencies, to avoid large scale terror plots.  Each office is essentially a vault.

RAF Menwith Hill
This Royal Air Force station located near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, is said to be the largest electronic monitoring station in the world.  It is operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and is part of ECHELON, created during the Cold War.

Negev Nuclear Research Center
Located in Israel's Negev Desert, it's suspected of being a nuclear facility built in 1958 even though Israel has never publically declared that it even has a nuclear capability.

Porton Down
This is a government and military science park located near Wiltshire, England.  Although the term science park makes it sound more like a children's learning-can-be-fun type of place, that's not even close.  In World War I, it studied chemical warfare.  With the passing decades, studies changed from mustard gas to nerve agents in the 1940s.  It continued to study biological warfare.

Planet Earth might be a global society out of necessity, but we obviously are not a harmonious global society.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2012 Bizarre and Unique Holidays

Every month seems to have at least one holiday for each day, some well-known and celebrated and others wrapped in varying stages of obscurity.  And in addition to the daily holidays, there are also month long celebrations devoted to various endeavors.

In the year 2012, the following month-long observations for September include:  Classical Music Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Fall Hat Month, International Square Dancing Month, National Blueberry Popsicle Month, National Courtesy Month [shouldn't this be a year long observation, every year?], National Piano Month, Chicken Month, Baby Safety Month, Little League Month, Honey Month, Self Improvement Month, and Better Breakfast Month.

Here's a list of the daily holidays (some dates having multiple celebrations scheduled for the same date).  I've even included an explanation for a few of them.

Sept. 1        Emma M. Nutt Day—in celebration of the first woman telephone operator.

Sept. 2        National Beheading Day—every once in a while there's a holiday that has no obvious reason for being.  Why would someone declare beheading as an activity that warrants a special holiday celebration?  Beheadings have been a method of execution for both commoners and royalty throughout history.  Probably the most famous royal beheadings were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in 1793 during the French Revolution.  There isn't any factual information about this holiday.

Sept. 3        Labor Day—since Labor Day is the first Monday in September, the date changes from year to year.  This is the only legal holiday in September, one honoring the nation's workers, where government offices are closed along with the banks and other facilities and no mail delivery.  This is the unofficial close of the summer season, as Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning.  Canada also celebrates their Labor Day holiday on the first Monday in September.

Sept. 3        Skyscraper Day—a celebration of tall buildings?  Something to celebrate on those years when Labor Day falls on a different date.

Sept. 4        Newspaper Carrier Day—to honor those who deliver the newspaper to our homes.

Sept. 5        Be Late For Something Day—if you are among the millions who can't seem to stay on schedule, then this is a holiday for you.  Being late is a common occurrence and can be caused by any number of things from it being a conscious desire to it being caused by circumstances beyond your control.  There is no factual information about this holiday, but it leads us to the September 6th holiday which is…

Sept. 6        Fight Procrastination Day—for those of you mired down in Be Late For Something Day, this is a day to get things done.  Many people consider procrastination as a way of life.  There are even clubs dedicated to procrastination.  Today is the day to make a decision…to take action.  Fight those procrastination urges.  There is no factual information about this holiday.

Sept. 6        This is also Read A Book Day—self-explanatory and important for those of us who write.  Perhaps it's also an opportunity to read about beheadings.

Sept. 7        Neither Rain Nor Snow Day—this sounds like a tribute to those who deliver our mail.

Sept. 8        International Literacy Day—another holiday pertinent to those of us who write.  Something we should all support with the goal of wiping out illiteracy in all countries.

Sept. 9        National Pet Memorial Day—this falls on the second Sunday in September, so the specific date changes from year to year.  A day to honor the pets we've lost to time.

Sept. 9        Teddy Bear Day—a holiday for those years when National Pet Memorial Day falls on a different date.  A day to honor our teddy bears, those past and those present.

Sept. 10     Swap Ideas Day—a day to share information, plans, ideas, and maybe even dreams.

Sept. 11     911 Remembrance—while not a legal holiday in the manner of Labor Day, it's certainly far removed from the frivolous and fun nature of the other holidays that fall into the bizarre category.  The day in 2001 when 4 commercial airliners were high-jacked by terrorists; 2 flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, 1 flown into the Pentagon, and 1 brought down by the passengers in a field in Pennsylvania thus preventing it from reaching its target in Washington D.C.  To quote FDR:  "A date which will live in infamy."

Sept. 12     Chocolate Milk Shake Day—all I can say is yummy!

Sept. 13     Defy Superstation Day—this is the day for you to defy all those superstitious beliefs that surround us.  And the defiance starts by celebrating on the 13th.  This holiday was created to help you eliminate all those superstitions from your daily life.  There isn't any group who claims responsibility for this holiday, but it dates back at least 1999 in origin…which, coincidently, was 13 years ago.

Sept. 14     National Cream-Filled Donut Day—again, all I can say to this holiday is yummy!

Sept. 15     Make A Hat Day—I can only assume it's a holiday dedicated to making hats of all type.

Sept. 16     National Women's Friendship Day—this is celebrated on the third Sunday in September.  It's nice to have a holiday dedicated to friendship.

Sept. 16     Collect Rocks Day—for the years when National Women's Friendship Day doesn't fall on the 16th, here's an alternative holiday.  For all your rock hounds out there, this is your day of celebration.

Sept. 17     National Apple Dumpling Day—and once again, all I can say about this holiday is yummy!

Sept. 18     National Cheeseburger Day—and even more yummies!  Have you noticed how many holidays celebrate food and drink?

Sept. 19     International Talk Like A Pirate Day—a day to let out the pirate in each of us.  You need to brush up on your pirate-speak in anticipation of this holiday.  You're not required to dress like a pirate on this date, only to talk like one.  This holiday was created by John Baur and Mark Summers in 1995 while they were playing racquetball and started talking to each other in pirate-speak as a fun thing to do.

Sept. 20     National Punch Day—I'm assuming this relates to the beverage rather than hitting someone.  So, I have to give it a yummy!

Sept. 21     World Gratitude Day—we all have things for which we need to express our gratitude.  This is the day to do it.

Sept. 22     International Rabbit Day—this is celebrated on the 4th Saturday in September, for those of you who love your pet rabbits or are fans of Bugs Bunny.

Sept. 22     Elephant Appreciation Day—for the years when International Rabbit Day falls on a date other than the 22nd, you can show your appreciation for all the elephants in the world.

Sept. 23     Dog In Politics Day—well, this is definitely a year for politics.

Sept. 24     National Cherries Jubilee Day—oh, yes…and another yummy!

Sept. 25     National Comic Book Day—for those who enjoy reading, writing, drawing, and collecting.

Sept. 26     Johnny Appleseed Day—in honor of the real or fictitious young man who planted apple trees across the country.

Sept. 27     Crush A Can Day—the beer can (hopefully empty) on the forehead?  All I can say about this is ouch!

Sept. 28     Ask A Stupid Question Day—this is a chance for you to get all those stupid questions out of your system, all those questions you've been saving up because you thought they were too stupid to ask.  And for this day, we have a special quote:  "Stupid is as stupid does." (Forrest Gump).  The origins of this holiday goes back to the 1980s when there was a movement by teachers to try to get kids to ask more questions in the classroom.

Sept. 29     Confucius Day—this is the day to get a fortune cookie and check your fortune.

Sept. 30     National Mud Pack Day—and another yummy!  Oops, wait a minute…that's wrong.  Mud packs…I've never understood how smearing mud on your face is suppose to be good for the skin.

And that's a listing of the bizarre and unique holidays for September of this year.  Do any stand out as a favorite for you?