Saturday, July 25, 2015

Disneyland—12 Things You Probably Didn't Know

Disneyland—located in Anaheim, California (just south of Los Angeles) and the first of the many Disney theme parks, turned 60 years old on July 17, 2015. I came across a list of 12 facts that most people don't know and, in honor of the anniversary, I'd like to share them with you.

1) Opening Day Pandemonium
Disneyland's first few days were a near disaster. During the invitation-only preview, rides broke, food ran out and a gas leak shut down Fantasyland. The new asphalt on Main Street was so soft that women's high heels sank into it. High heels in an amusement park you ask? Remember, this was 1955. Counterfeit tickets led to overcrowding and the temperature rose to over 100 degrees. A plumbers' strike made Disney choose between working restrooms and drinking fountains. He wisely chose restrooms. Some reporters predicted the park would not stay open for long.

2) A Sneak Peek
On July 13, a few days prior to the invitational sneak peek, a lucky few had early access to the park for Walt and Lillian Disney's 30th-anniversary party. Guests were invited on the Mark Twain Steamboat's inaugural voyage for mint juleps followed by dinner at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland.

3) Tomorrowland Boats
The Tomorrowland Boats, operating in the Tomorrowland Lagoon, hold the distinction of being the first of the Disneyland rides/attractions to be closed. The ride was renamed Phantom Boats in 1956 before being closed in August after only 13 months in operation. The Lagoon went on to host the Submarine Voyage ride.

4) Pack Mules
One of the park's original attractions provided guests with a 10-minute pack mule ride around Frontierland. The live animal attraction was rebranded as Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules in 1956. Being by nature a stubborn animal, the mules would stop along the trail for no apparent reason and refuse to continue, frustrating both the mule handlers and the riders. The mule ride was finally discontinue in 1973.

5) Intimate Apparel
For Disneyland's first six months, Main Street housed a very unusual shop for a family-oriented amusement park. Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Co. of Los Angeles sold a range of bras and corsets as well as presenting a display of the history of underwear. The store also boasted a mechanical magician named the Wizard of Bras. The Brassiere Co. closed its Disneyland location in January 1956.

6) Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship & Restaurant
From 1955 to 1969, the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship and Restaurant in Fantasyland was considered the place to eat when visiting the park—provided you like tuna. The menu included Tuna Clipper Salad, Tuna Dietetic Salad, Tuna Boat Salad, Tuna Pie-Pastry Shell, Tuna Burger, Tuna Sandwich and Shrimp Cocktail (the only non-tuna item on the menu). Prices ranged from 55 to 90 cents. Coffee was 10 cents and something named "Chocolate Drink" sold for 15 cents. Although the restaurant dropped its Chicken of the Sea branding in 1969, it remained open until 1982.

7) Walt's Disneyland Apartment
From the time of the park's opening, Walt Disney kept a small apartment for his family's use on the second floor of the Main Street Firehouse. The apartment was decorated by Emile Kuri, who had decorated many of the Disney films, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The apartment is still there. The Victorian style rooms are not open to the public, but a light always remains on in the window, symbolizing Walt's spirit.

8) Skyway
Opening in 1956, the Skyway ride allowed guests to view Disneyland from above. The gondola lifts ran from a Swiss-style chalet in Fantasyland to Tomorrowland. Following the opening of the Matterhorn roller coaster ride in 1959, the gondolas passed through tunnels in the mountain. The ride was closed in 1994 shortly after a man fell from one of the gondolas. He filed a $25,000 lawsuit against the park. At the later trial, he admitted he had purposely jumped. The Fantasyland ski chalet is still there, but no longer in use.

9) Liberty Street
Over the years, various proposals were made for the development of the area between Main Street and Tomorrowland, but none ever came to fruition. Liberty Street, announced in 1956 for a 1959 opening, was planned as a Revolutionary War-era boulevard but it never happened. A 1958 proposal for Edison Square also went by the wayside. Other ideas included an International Street and Chinatown.

10) Holidayland
If you've never heard of Holidayland, it's probably because Holidayland only existed from 1957 to 1961. Now the location of New Orleans Square, the small area represented a town park with a picnic area, baseball diamond and playgrounds. Holidayland was deemed lacking in spark and finally closed.

11) Submarine Voyage Mermaids
In the late '50s and through the '60s, young women were hired to play live mermaids, swimming and lounging in the Submarine Voyage Lagoon four hours a day. Unfortunately, the lagoon's chlorine turned the blonde mermaids' hair green. According to Disney lore, there were incidents of men swimming out to the rocks to flirt with the mermaids. The implementation of Submarine Voyage mermaids was discontinued in 1967.

12) Monsanto House of the Future
In 1957, Monsanto Company sponsored this glimpse far into the future—to the year 1986. The attraction lasted 10 years and featured a variety of technological innovations such as a replacement for refrigerators named cold zones, dimmer-controlled lights and something called a microwave oven. The living room even featured a television screen mounted on the wall. In 1967 the time had come to demolish the house, but things didn't go as planned. The demolition, was scheduled to be completed in one day. It actually took two weeks. The wrecking ball merely bounced off the durable house. Chainsaws and jackhammers also proved ineffective.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cats Have Super, Psychedelic Vision

Science has known that birds, insects, reptiles and fish can detect ultraviolet light. Recent studies show that more animals share this ability than originally believed. A new study shows that cats and dogs may be able to see UV, too.

Cats are nocturnal and have been thought of as being able to "see in the dark." They have long been a symbol of the mysterious. It's now believed they can see things invisible to humans such as psychedelic stripes on flowers and flashy patterned feathers on birds. The secret to this is ultraviolet light detection, an ability shared by many animals but not humans. Snow reflects UV but white fur does not, allowing reindeer to see polar bears at a distance. Humans would just see a blur of all white.

It is assumed that most mammals do not see UV because they have no visual pigment sensitive to UV. They have lenses like those of man that prevent UV from reaching the retina. Certain people, such as those who have had their lenses replaced during cataract surgery, can see some UV, but most humans cannot.

Humans are good at seeing detail. If we didn't have a lens that removed the UV so that we don't see it, the world would appear more blurry.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

10 Of History's Overlooked Mysteries

History is filled with mysteries, some small scale like the origins of a book and others on a very large scale such as the disappearance of an entire civilization.

I recently came across a list of 10 historical mysteries that don't seem to get too much attention.

The Tarim Mummies
An archaeological excavation beneath the Tarim Basin in western China unearthed more than 100 mummified corpses dating back more than 2000 years.  Even though dug up in China, when a college professor viewed the mummies in a museum, he was shocked to discover they had blonde hair and long noses.  In 1993 he returned to the museum to collect DNA samples from the mummies.  Tests validated his belief, showing that the bodies were of European genetic stock.  Ancient Chinese texts from as early as the first millennium BC mention groups of Caucasian people living in the far east, but there is no mention on any living in the Tarim Basin.

The Voynich Manuscript
This is quite possibly the most unreadable book in the world.  The 500-year-old, 240 page manuscript was discovered in 1912 at a library in Rome.  It contains illustrations and writing in an unknown language.  The best cryptographers have been unable to decipher the text, but statistical analysis of the writing shows that it does seem to follow the basic structure and laws of a working language.

Who Was Robin Hood?
The possible real-life existence of a bandit living in the forest who stole from the rich and gave to the poor is more plausible than the legendary King Author and a magical sword named Excalibur.  The historical hunt for the real Robin Hood has discovered several candidates including Robert Hod, a fugitive in Yorkshire who went by Hobbehod as well as Robert Hood of Wakefield.  The name Robin Hood eventually became synonymous with being an outlaw.  His identity would later become even murkier as various authors wove more characters into the tale such as Prince John and Richard the Lionhearted.

The Carnac Stones
As with the construction of Stonehenge, it was a backbreaking task for the people responsible for the Carnac Stones.  On the coast of Brittany, in northwestern France, there are over 3000 megalithic standing stones arranged in exacting lines and spread out over 12 kilometers (7.2 miles).  The local myth explains them as a Roman legion on the march when the wizard Merlin turned them to stone.  The identity of the Neolithic people who build them is unknown. [Every time I hear the word Carnac/Karnac I immediately flash on Johnny Carson and his routine of giving the answers to questions in sealed envelopes. :) ]

The Bog Bodies
Hundreds of these ancient bodies have been discovered buried around the northern wetlands of Europe.  Researchers who inspected them have found tell-tale signs of torture and medieval foul play.  These clues have led some to suspect that the dead were victims of ritual sacrifice.  [I recall reading about an incident in England, I think in the 1800s, where a body was found in a bog and it was so well preserved that the locals believed it to be a recent murder which resulted in a police investigation.]

Disappearance Of The Indus Valley Civilization
The ancient Indus Valley people were India's oldest known civilization.  Their bronze-age culture stretched from western India to Afghanistan with a population of over 5 million.  Their abrupt decline rivaled that of the Mayans.  Excavations in 1922 uncovered a culture that maintained a sophisticated sewage drainage system and immaculate bathrooms, but found no evidence of armies, slaves, social conflicts, or other vices prevalent in ancient societies.

The Lost Roman Legion
After an underachieving Roman army led by General Crassus was defeated by Persia, legend says that a small band of POWs wandered through the desert and were captured by the Han military.  An Oxford historian who compared ancient records claimed that the lost Roman legion founded a small town near the Gobi Desert named Liqian, which is Chinese for Rome.  DNA tests are being conducted to hopefully explain some of the residents' green eyes and blond hair.

Fall Of The Minoans
The fall of the Minoan Empire has proven just as puzzling as the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Approximately 3,500 years ago, life on Crete was disrupted by a huge volcanic eruption on the neighbor island of Thera.  Ancient clay tablets show that the Minoan Empire continued for another 50 years.  Theories about their demise include a blanket of ash devastating their crops and another one says their weakened society was left vulnerable to an eventual Greek takeover.

Lost City Of Helike
The Greek writer Pausanias wrote about a great earthquake that destroyed the city of Helike followed by a tsunami that swept away what remained.  The once flourishing city had been a worship center devoted to Poseidon.  No trace of this legendary society existed outside of ancient Greek texts until 1861 when a bronze coin was found showing the head of Poseidon.  In 2001, the ruins of Helike were located beneath coastal mud and gravel.  Work is currently under way to unearth what some consider the real Atlantis.

Rongorongo is an indecipherable hieroglyphic writing used by the early inhabitants of Easter Island, often referred to as the other Easter Island mystery.  Rongorongo appeared mysteriously in the 1700s, at a time when no other neighboring oceanic people had any type of written language.  The language was lost along with the best hopes of deciphering it when early European colonizers banned it because of its pagan roots.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


As someone who recently had an up close and extremely painful encounter with a pinched sciatic nerve, an article titled Sciatic Pain Relief that I found while looking for information about this caught 100% of my attention. I have never experienced anything as painful and that includes the time I dislocated my shoulder and fractured my arm.

The article said that as much as 40% of the population will get sciatica, irritation of the sciatic nerve, at some point in their life. I had no idea that it was that prevalent. After about a week of this unbelievable pain, I finally went to the doctor. Or more accurately, a friend took me because I couldn't make the necessary motions to get into my car behind the steering wheel but was able to manage the passenger seat. She also went to the pharmacy and picked up my prescriptions and even went a step farther and did my laundry.

The article went on to say that anything putting pressure on or irritating the sciatic nerve can cause pain that shoots down the back of either the left or right buttock or thigh (for me it was the left side) with the sensation of pain varying widely from a mild ache, a sharp pain, a burning sensation or extreme discomfort. It can also cause feelings of numbness, weakness, and tingling.

The part of the article that amused me stated that pain "may be made worse by prolonged sitting, standing up, coughing, sneezing, twisting, lifting, or straining." That doesn't really leave much of anything that won't aggravate it. :)  And for me, stretching out flat in bed was not possible either. With the pain on my left side, the only way I could sleep was on my right side and I had to find the precise one and only exact position that didn't hurt. The pain kept me from being on my back or stomach. Getting into and out of bed presented another serious and painful problem.

The doctor gave me three prescriptions—a series of muscle relaxant/anti-inflammatory pills, a pain pill, and another prescription to be used only in case of extreme pain. That extreme pain prescription was for oxycodone. I've never taken that before but have definitely heard of it and everything I've heard scares me. I never took any of the oxycodone. I'm one of these people who considers aspirin the miracle drug. All my life…if it hurts I take a couple of aspirins and it stops hurting. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I've taken prescription pain medication and the sciatic nerve was definitely one of them.

The doctor also gave me a series of exercises to do.

The article went on to mention that in some cases a steroid medication is injected into the space around the spinal nerve which apparently is a possibility if the sciatic pain is a result of a herniated or ruptured disc. My doctor determined that my pain did not radiate from a disc problem. And another possible remedy is surgery. I'm thrilled that I didn't require either of these options.

The constant pain continued for approximately six weeks. Right now it's going on five months since I initially went to the doctor with the horrible pain.  I'm still having problems with it. On occasion if I move wrong, I'll get a sudden pain. If I stand on my toes and reach up to get something off a high shelf, I'll get a sudden pain. Hopefully that will eventually go away. All-in-all, a painful and all around uncomfortable time.

Wishing one and all a pain-free sciatic nerve.