Saturday, July 30, 2016

Skeleton In A Tree

I came across this news story about an incident that happened in County Sligo, Ireland, in September 2015 and decided to share it on my blog.

A storm knocked down a 215 year old tree in northwestern Ireland and archeologists discovered a human skeleton tangled in its roots. The skeleton of a young man between the ages of 17 and 20 was determined to be approximately 1000 years old. Numerous injuries were found on his ribs and hand indicating he "suffered a violent death."

The lower leg bones remained in the grave, but the upper part of the body had become tangled in the tree roots, thus being exposed when the tree blew over in a storm. Radiocarbon dating indicated the remains go back to early medieval times, between 1030 and 1200 AD. It was assumed he came from a local Gaelic family and had been killed in a local conflict/battle or personal dispute rather than an incident connected to the Anglo-Norman invasion which occurred in 1169.

The original position of the skeleton indicated he had received a formal Christian burial, but nothing else was found with the remains. The skeleton is still being studied to see what other information it will yield. It was the only skeleton found in the excavation.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

America's Least Favorite Foods

I just came across a list I printed out that had been originally posted by AOL a few years ago—the results of a poll where members were asked about their least favorite foods.  Over 78,000 people participated in this survey.  The top twenty disliked foods were determined not only by the number of people who mentioned it, but also the vitriolic content of their comments.  I'm listing the top twenty foods from that poll along with the comments of those responding.

How many of these are on your list of least favorite foods?

20)  Blueberries – "Blueberries taste a little like aluminum to me."

19)  Maple Syrup – "Just a whiff of maple syrup and I get nauseous."

18)  Cilantro – "Just the smell and taste make me ill."

17)  Onions – "Raw onions.  Yuck.  Yuck.  Yuck.,"

16)  Cooked Carrots – "Raw is fine, but cooked should be illegal."

15)  Raisins – "Raisins cooked into a dish remind me of roaches from my old apartment."

14)  Peas – "They smell like somebody who hasn't had a bath for a week."

13)  Oysters – "Anything chewy that never breaks down like clams or oysters, yuck!"

12)  Pea Soup – "Blechh!  Split pea soup makes me gag."

11)  Sour Cream – "It's like expired chunky milk, I have to hold my nose and look away."

10)  Gelatin – "I can't stand to eat Jell-O with the way it wiggles around in my mouth."

09)  Tuna – "The smell of it makes me sick."

08)  Brussels Sprouts – "Nasty tasting things, but when you eat them cold after having been overcooked, they're even worse."

07)  Beets – "They look like they'd be good, but the taste is just vile."

06)  Okra – "Okra releases a funky slime when not fried, smells like a gym locker, too."

05)  Eggs – "I can't get a hard boiled egg down.  The yolk is no problem, but the consistency of the white part makes me turn green."

04)  Mushrooms – "Mushrooms taste like dirt."

03)  Mayonnaise – "Mayo is the most disgusting substance on the face of this earth.  It reeks."

02)  Lima Beans – "Lima beans are evil."

01)  Liver – "Just the smell of fried liver can make me have an autonomous near-hurl."

Some of the items on this list of twenty least favorite foods came as a surprise to me while others were expected.  The one thing I found very interesting was how many times a poll participant gave smell as the reason for the food choice (eight of the top twenty).  Smell does directly impact our sense of taste.  If we hold our breath (or hold our noses) when putting a bite of food in our mouths, it doesn't have much of a taste without the smell.  When you're sick or have a bad cold and your nose is stuffed up, you might try to eat but you find that the food doesn't have a taste.

I do want to point out that not even a hint of chocolate appeared on the list.  And for that matter, wine wasn't on the list either.  That means my favorite foods are safe!  :) 

What are your least favorite foods?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

America's Greatest Train Rides

It's summer vacation time. This year you might want to consider a train trip.

Train travel in Europe is very commonplace. Whenever I travel to the UK, I always buy a Brit Rail pass before I go and use it for traveling all over Britain—day trips out of London to such places as Windsor, Oxford, Bath, Stratford-Upon-Anon and longer trips such as travel to Northern England and Scotland.

And in the U.S., with more and more restrictions and inconveniences put on airplane passengers and airlines constantly adding fees and surcharges on top of the ticket price, train travel has had quite a resurgence. And even though gasoline prices are down, not surprisingly the last few years have been the best in Amtrak's history. With the suggested arrival time at the airport now being two hours prior to your flight departure and you still have to contend with long security lines, the reduced number of flights which creates longer wait times when you need to change planes for a connection, and even a short flight now takes a lot more of your time than it used to.

The Travel Channel on cable television has a couple of shows about scenic train travel in America.

One of the nation's best rides is Amtrak's Southwest Chief that goes from Chicago to Los Angeles and gives the traveler a way to relive America's 1800s expansion west. The train trip lasts a little over forty hours, traveling through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and the famous wild west town of Dodge City, setting for the long-running television series Gunsmoke. From there it continues into Colorado and New Mexico. Then across northern Arizona with the availability of a side trip to the Grand Canyon on a historic old steam train. And finally into Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

With only a few exceptions, this ride is on the same tracks that were once the Santa Fe Railway which was built along the old Santa Fe wagon train trail, a route that also inspired the highway of the days before Interstates crisscrossed the country—the famous Route 66.

Here are five more great long-rail journeys to consider.

The West Coast's Coast Starlight is considered by most travelers to be Amtrak's most scenic route.  It runs along the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington, traveling through some truly spectacular scenery.

From California, the classic route east is the California Zephyr, following the path of the first transcontinental railway between San Francisco and Chicago. It visits such places as Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, across the Rockies to Denver, through Nebraska and Iowa to Chicago.

By taking the Southwest Chief in one direction and returning on the California Zephyr, you are traveling what the Gilded Age tourists in the 1880s and 1890s called the Grand Tour of America.

If you want a ride that goes through the heart of the country, try the Texas Eagle starting in Chicago. It crosses the Mississippi River at St. Louis, travels down through the Ozarks, across Arkansas into eastern Texas, and continues through Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and on to San Antonio where it connects with the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles.

The East Coast relies much more on rail service than the rest of the country, especially the heavily used tracks in the high traffic corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

One of the country's first scenic rail routes is the Empire Service from New York City up through the Hudson River Valley where Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane encountered the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow.

And if you're on the East Coast and are heading to Florida, you can take the Auto Train where your car travels with you. Passengers board just south of Washington, D.C., and their vehicles are loaded on the train. The trip terminates just outside Orlando, Florida.

Maybe you're not planning a vacation by train, but would like the train experience. There are lots of day trips in various parts of the country, including vintage steam and narrow gauge railroads.  My personal favorite is the Napa Valley Wine Train in California, which includes winery stops. Alaska Railway's White Pass & Yukon Route offers a three hour tour through some truly dramatic scenery.

Have any of you taken a train vacation? A day trip train tour?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fourth Of July Holiday—Some Trivia And A Fireworks Safety Quiz

July 4, Independence Day—on this date in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. The U.S. Constitution, the document that emerged from the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, is the oldest national constitution in the world.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by fireworks, parades, and backyard barbecues. Fireworks displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and religious celebrations. Fireworks were invented in ancient China to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.

With 4th of July fireworks comes the concern for safety. A reality for the holiday is that fireworks cause thousands of injuries, and even some deaths, in addition to enough fires to make July 4 the day with the most reported fires across the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.

So…how much do you know about fireworks safety? Here's a 9 question quiz to test your knowledge. Correct answers are at the end.

1)  How hot does a sparkler burn?
          a:  212 degrees
          b:  600 degrees
          c:  950 degrees
          d:  1200 degrees

2)  What portion of 4th of July fires are caused by fireworks?
          a:  10 percent
          b:  35 percent
          c:  50 percent
          d:  90 percent

3)  Which age group has the most injuries reported from fireworks?
          a:  under 20
          b:  20 – 40
          c:  40 – 60
          d:  60+

4)  You should skip buying fireworks in brown paper packaging as that could be a sign that they're made for professionals, not consumers.
          a:  true
          b:  false

5)  If a pack of fireworks has not fully functioned, you should cautiously relight it.
          a:  true
          b:  false

6)  What's the best way to dispose of used fireworks?
          a:  throw in trash
          b:  use hose or bucket of water to soak them then throw away
          c:  bury them

7)  Last year what was the most common fireworks injury?
          a:  fractures and sprains
          b:  contusions and lacerations
          c:  ear injuries
          d:  burns
          e:  eye injuries

8)  According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation, which of these were common reasons for fireworks injuries?
          a:  holding fireworks in the hand
          b:  mischief
          c:  debris or smoke from a malfunction
          d:  errant flight path from a malfunction
          e:  early or late ignition from a malfunction
          f:   all of the above

9)  Never light more than how many fireworks at a time?
          a:  1
          b:  2
          c:  3

And now, for those of you who want to see how well you did on the quiz—

1)       the correct answer is d…1200 degrees F, hot enough to burn certain metals and ignite clothing.

2)       the correct answer is c…50 percent, when shooting fireworks keep a bucket of water or sand available.

3)       the correct answer is a…under 20, children 10 – 14 are more than twice as much at risk for fireworks injuries.

4)       the correct answer is a…true.

5)       the correct answer is b…false, any malfunctioning fireworks should be soaked in water and then thrown away

6)       the correct answer is b…use hose or bucket of water to soak them and then throw them away

7)       the correct answer is d…burns

8)       the correct answer is f…all of the above

9)       the correct answer is a…light just 1 at a time.

Happy…and safe…holiday to everyone.