February 20, 2017
George Washington, "First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen"
Biographer Ron Chernow wrote Alexander Hamilton which inspired the current smash Broadway musical, but he is most celebrated and rightly so for his gripping portrait of our first president in Washington: A Life which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
From the sculpture by Jean-Antoine Houdon
Publishers Weekly noted Chernow's goals: Using the recent "explosion of research," he wants to render George Washington "real" and "credible," to replace "frosty respect" with "visceral appreciation." And that he did. Hendrik Hertzberg reviewed the book in The New Yorker, calling it, “A truly gripping biography of George Washington... I can’t recommend it highly enough—as history, as epic, and, not least, as entertainment. It’s as luxuriantly pleasurable as one of those great big sprawling, sweeping Victorian novels.”
I can attest to that as I am in the middle of listening to this amazing biography. So far I've learned: (cribbed text from Amazon)
-Washington was the only major founder who lacked a college education. John Adams went to Harvard, James Madison to Princeton, and Alexander Hamilton to Columbia, making Washington self-conscious about what he called his “defective education.”
--Washington never had wooden teeth. He wore dentures that were made of either walrus or elephant ivory and were fitted with real human teeth. Over time, as the ivory got cracked and stained, it resembled the grain of wood. Washington may have purchased some of his teeth from his own slaves.
--Washington had a strangely cool and distant relationship with his mother. During the Revolutionary War and her son’s presidency, she never uttered a word of praise about him and she may even have been a Tory. No evidence exists that she ever visited George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon. Late in the Revolutionary War, Mary Washington petitioned the Virginia legislature for financial relief, pleading poverty—and, by implication, neglect by her son. Washington, who had been extremely generous to his mother, was justly indignant.
--Even as a young man, Washington seemed to possess a magical immunity to bullets. In one early encounter in the French and Indian War, he absorbed four bullets in his coat and hat and had two horses shot from under him yet emerged unscathed. This led one Indian chief to predict that some higher power was guiding him to great events in the future.
--By age 30 Washington had survived smallpox, malaria, dysentery, and other diseases. Although he came from a family of short-lived men, he had an iron constitution and weathered many illnesses that would have killed a less robust man. He lived to the age of 67.
--While the Washingtons were childless—it has always been thought that George Washington was sterile—they presided over a household teeming with children. Martha had two children from her previous marriage and she and George later brought up two grandchildren as well, not to mention countless nieces and nephews.
--That Washington was childless proved a great boon to his career. Because he had no heirs, Americans didn’t worry that he might be tempted to establish a hereditary monarchy. And many religious Americans believed that God had deliberately deprived Washington of children so that he might serve as Father of His Country.
--Though he tried hard to be fair and took excellent medical care of his slaves, Washington could be a severe master. His diaries reveal that during one of the worst cold snaps on record in Virginia—when Washington himself found it too cold to ride outside—he had his field slaves out draining swamps and performing other arduous tasks.
--For all her anxiety about being constantly in a battle zone, Martha Washington spent a full half of the Revolutionary War with her husband—a major act of courage that has largely gone unnoticed.
--Washington was obsessed with his personal appearance, which extended to his personal guard during the war. Despite wartime austerity and a constant shortage of soldiers, he demanded that all members of his personal guard be between 5'8" and 5'10"; a year later, he narrowed the range to 5'9" to 5'10."
--While Washington lost more battles than he won, he still ranks as a great general. His greatness lay less in his battlefield brilliance—he committed some major strategic blunders—than in his ability to hold his ragged army intact for more than eight years, keeping the flame of revolution alive.
--Washington ran his own spy network during the war and was often the only one privy to the full scope of secret operations against the British. He anticipated many techniques of modern espionage, including the use of misinformation and double agents.
--Washington tended his place in history with extreme care. Even amid wartime stringency, he got Congress to appropriate special funds for a full-time team of secretaries who spent two years copying his wartime papers into beautiful ledgers.
--For thirty years, Washington maintained an extraordinary relationship with his slave and personal manservant William Lee, who accompanied him throughout the Revolutionary War and later worked in the presidential mansion. Lee was freed upon Washington’s death and given a special lifetime annuity.
--The battle of Yorktown proved the climactic battle of the revolution and the capstone of Washington’s military career, but he initially opposed this Franco-American operation against the British—a fact he later found hard to admit.
--Self-conscious about his dental problems, Washington maintained an air of extreme secrecy when corresponding with his dentist and never used such incriminating words as ‘teeth’ or ‘dentures.’ By the time he became president, Washington had only a single tooth left—a lonely lower left bicuspid that held his dentures in place.
--Washington always displayed extremely ambivalence about his fame. Very often, when he was traveling, he would rise early to sneak out of a town or enter it before he could be escorted by local dignitaries. He felt beleaguered by the social demands of his own renown.
--At Mount Vernon, Washington functioned as his own architect—and an extremely original one at that. All of the major features that we associate with the house—the wide piazza and colonnade overlooking the Potomac, the steeple and the weathervane with the dove of peace—were personally designed by Washington himself.
--A master showman with a brilliant sense of political stagecraft, Washington would disembark from his coach when he was about to enter a town then mount a white parade horse for maximum effect. It is not coincidental that there are so many fine equestrian statues of him.
If you don't have time for this 928 page biography, do make a visit to MountVernon.org to learn more about this remarkable man, the father of our country, which I note has never accepted government funds, but is entirely run on private support.
"First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen"
February 15, 2017
Firefighter adopts baby he delivered on emergency call "It was meant to be," says the proud dad.
Fireflghter Marc Hadden, who worked with the medical unit, was eating dinner in the middle of his 24-hour shift when he had to hop in the ambulance and head out to the emergency. He and his partner found a woman in labor, and as soon as they got her in the ambulance she was ready to give birth. Hadden took charge — his first time ever being in charge of a delivery in 20 years of his work, according to a story on CBS News. Little did the firefighter know at that moment that he was helping his own daughter take her first breath.
Students of Troy High School, in Ohio, received a wonderful Valentine’s day surprise yesterday when each student found an origami heart stuck on their locker. The truly impressive part is that all of these hand crafted gifts were made by one anonymous student ---who began making them last September.
Mohamed Bzeek has chosen a tough, heart-wrenching vocation. The quiet, devout, Libyan-born Muslim has for more than two decades been a father to terminally ill children in Los Angeles County’s foster care system. And as a long profile in the Los Angeles Times makes clear, he is very good at what he does. Bzeek reportedly has buried about ten children -- some of whom died in his arms -- yet still maintains the patience and empathy to do what even the children's parents can't or won't do.'I know they are going to die'....
after they decided to care exclusively for terminally ill kids. He has buried ten children in the past 20 years of fostering severely ill children. Dawn died in 2013. Bzeek cares for the kids, and his disabled son, by himself. Bzeek is currently caring for a six-year-old girl who is paralyzed, deaf and blind. Foster care workers say he is the only person they can turn to with an ill child.
'The key is, you have to love them like your own,' Bzeek told the Los Angeles Times. 'I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God.'
For the three siblings who lost their parents to cancer within days, a nation pulled out the stops. A homeless beggar donated his day’s earnings, a family in Scotland offered a home, countless others gave a tenner in anonymity.
Luke, 21, Hannah, 18, and Oliver Bennet, 13, were “astounded” as the total amount raised to keep them in full-time education soared above £192,000 in five days. The money poured in via the website JustGiving after Julie and Mike Bennet’s children, who live in the Wirral, released a picture of their parents holding hands on their deathbeds.
Mike Bennet, a cabinet-maker, had a brain tumor diagnosed four years ago. Last May his wife, Julie, a primary school teacher, had liver and kidney cancer diagnosed. Last month, after their treatments failed, the couple were admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral and put in adjacent beds for their final days. Mr Bennet died there on February 6, aged 57. Mrs Bennet was then moved to St John’s hospice in Bebington, where she died on Saturday, aged 50.
“They are extremely, extremely grateful,” Ms Gallagher said. “They just cannot believe the support they have been given. They are proper down-to-earth kids whose parents brought them up well. It is not about cars and new shoes with them. It is about rallying around each other.”
The money will allow the siblings, Oliver 13, Hannah 18 and Luke 21, to continue in full-time education
February 14, 2017
Sometimes you just don't have the words...
The language of love: 10 romantic expressions around the world for which there is no English word.
Their 71st Valentine's Day Together
John Mackay will celebrate his 71st Valentine's Day with the prisoner he saved. During WW2, his unit liberated Jewish prisoners, among them his future wife. Edith Steiner caught Mr Mackay's eye at a dance to celebrate their liberation.
The couple married on July 17, 1946, and have been 'wholly dedicated' to each other since. With a family of two children, seven grandchildren and five great-grand-children, they worked as hoteliers before retiring to live at a care home in Dundee.
February 13, 2017
I really admire this weatherman's sang-froid on live TV. This Arizona weather report started out normally… except for one small glitch on the green screen. After all, he was reporting on the hottest day of the universe.
Aaron McAvoy’s washing machine makes a banging noise while washing clothes so he played The Devil Went Down to Georgia in time with the banging. This is the most perfect little internet entertainment…I actually started crying I was laughing so hard. A much needed respite from the world.
Ann Carrington produces sculpture that elevate objects used in the everyday... In her series Bouquets and Butterflies, Carrington gathers hundreds of spoons, knives, and forks both shiny and tarnished to create elegant bouquets. Clumping spoons together she is able to recreate the shapes of roses and tulips, some appearing so realistic you wonder if they are organic flowers dipped in a layer of silver.
Scientists Engineered the Perfect Song to Make Babies Laugh with video at the link.
Get a professional musician together with some psychologists, brush up on the baby-laughter literature, write some tunes, write some lyrics, and cobble it all together into a research-backed piece of sonic science. There are easier ways, sure, but this one’s still pretty cool: As Caspar Addyman, a developmental psychologist at the University of London, recently explained in the Conversation, he and his colleagues — including singer Imogen Heap — have created the first song engineered specifically to elicit adorable baby giggles.
The two birds were discovered by a priest in Weisendoft, northern Bavaria. Foresters cut the remains of the kingfishers from the ice with saws It is assumed that either they could no longer find the exit while underwater, or the hole froze over quickly. Forestry director Peter Proebstle called it a 'tragic, but also a bizarre and somehow beautiful sight'
On the last of NASA's manned moon mission, Apollo 17 in 1972, Astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt came down with lunar dust hay fever. Schmitt, it turns out, was basically allergic to the Moon....Of all the difficulties involved with putting a man on the Moon, “the major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust.” Moondust may look soft and pillowy, but it’s actually sharp and abrasive, largely the detritus of micrometeorite impacts. With no wind or moving water on the Moon’s surface, moondust never erodes. Effectively, no natural process exists on the lunar surface that can round its edges. When astronauts inhale what is essentially finely powdered glass.....
Schmitt was the first, and only, professional scientist to walk on the Moon, a Harvard-educated geologist who had dedicated the better part of a decade to studying the Moon’s landscape
In December 1972, Schmitt landed in the Moon’s Valley of Taurus-Littrow, surrounded by mountains and endless stretches of moondust. During their first moonwalk, the lunar roving vehicle lost a fender. The tires spun, and the rover kicked up a cloud of dust. The sediment got lodged in every wrinkle, fold, nook, and cranny of Schmitt’s spacesuit. The dust “gummed up the joints” of his suit so badly that he had trouble moving his arms. The powder chewed up his footwear, too. “The dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jack’s boot,” Taylor said.
My favorite Gifs of the week.
Dog confronts robot dog
Timeline of Queen Elizabeth's Life As Told Through Banknotes.
Entire crowd goes nuts when special needs player scores final basket
February 9, 2017
The Religious Persecution you don't hear much about
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity reported around 70 percent of Christians murdered in 2016 died in tribal conflicts in Africa. .... very often they involved Christians who refuse to take up arms for reasons of conscience."The other 30 percent, or 27,000, were killed in terror attacks, the destruction of Christian villages, or government persecution."
The United States has for the first time been named among the top 12 nations where Christians are targeted for their faith by a persecution watchdog group in its "Hall of Shame" report for 2016.
"We felt it was very important this year that we highlight three countries where religious discrimination and persecution are deemed unusual but have reached a certain threshold of concern. These are Mexico, Russia, and sadly, the United States," explained in a press release Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern.
"While conditions in the US are in no way comparable to other countries on the list, a certain segment of the culture and the courts seem to be intent on driving faith out of the public square. There have been too many court cases with bad decisions to miss the clear trend line."
Only one-in-seven registered Democrats in America believe that Islam is more violent as a whole than Christianity, according to a new CBS poll.
Fifty-six percent (56%) of Democrats, however, believe most Muslims in this country are mistreated, a view shared by only 22% of Republicans and 39% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Fewer Democrats (47%) think most Christians are mistreated in the Islamic world, compared to 76% of GOP voters and 64% of unaffiliateds.
Open Doors USA said in its new report that some 215 million Christians around the globe are facing some degree of persecution. But that number, it noted, could actually be much higher. “Our report is conservative because it only calculates incidents that are reported and can be validated.” ... “It is likely that there are thousands of incidents that are never reported and nobody knows because Christians are often fearful to tell anyone – even their own family members."
While racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic attacks have seen a huge fall since 2008, those on Christian places of worship more than doubled in this period of time, France’s interior ministry reported last week.
For the outside world, what is happening to the Christians of northern Nigeria is both beyond our imagination and beneath our interest. These tribal-led villages, each with their own ‘paramount ruler’, were converted by missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. But now these Christians — from the bishop down — sense that they have become unsympathetic figures, perhaps even an embarrassment, to the West. The international community pretends that this situation is a tit-for-tat problem, rather than a one-sided slaughter. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the press fails to report or actively obscures the situation. Christians in the south of the country feel little solidarity with their co-religionists suffering from this Islamic revivalism and territorial conquest in the north. And worst of all, the plight of these people is of no interest to their own government. In fact, this ethnic and religious cleansing appears to be taking place with that government’s complicity or connivance.
The moment three years ago when Boko Haram abducted 300 Christian schoolgirls from the north-east and ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ briefly trended on Twitter was the closest this situation has come to catching the world’s attention. But the moment passed. Those girls are still missing and the story of Boko Haram has receded from the headlines. But similar atrocities go on all the time.
Displaced Christians in the region had not received any aid from U.S. aid agencies or the United Nations in two years....Poland and Hungary already have, he pointed out, with the Hungarian government opening an office with a budget of over $3 million euros to aid persecuted Christians.
The Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, has denounced the hypocrisy of those protesting President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, wondering aloud where all of the demonstrators were when Islamic State fighters were slaughtering Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
From my perspective in Iraq, I wonder why all of these protesters were not protesting in the streets when ISIS came to kill Christians and Yazidis and other minority groups. They were not protesting when the tens of thousands of displaced Christians my archdiocese has cared for since 2014 received no financial assistance from the U.S. government or the U.N. There were no protests when Syrian Christians were only let in at a rate that was 20 times less than the percentage of their population in Syria. I do not understand why some Americans are now upset that the many minority communities that faced a horrible genocide will finally get a degree of priority in some manner.
I would also say this, all those who cry out that this is a “Muslim Ban” - especially now that it has been clarified that it is not - should understand clearly that when they do this, they are hurting we Christians specifically and putting us at greater risk. The executive order has clearly affected Christians and Yazidis and others as well as Muslims.
Is higher education as the West has known it for eight hundred years possible any more?
Institutions are disregarding true education in favor of offering a ‘college experience.’ - an excerpt from Anthony Esolen’s new book Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture.
Any dispassionate observer must conclude that higher education in the United States, and in many other Western nations, is in a bad way. I am not talking about troubles that are easily remedied or errors that require adjustment and reform. I am talking about whether higher education as the West has known it for eight hundred years is any longer possible.
it is insufficient to say that higher education suffers. Except in the most technical of disciplines, and perhaps even in those, the very possibility of higher education comes to an abrupt halt. If a professor must negotiate an emotional and verbal and political mine field before he opens his mouth, then he is no professor any longer. He is a servile functionary, no matter his title and no matter how well he is paid. He instructs his students not in freedom but in his own servility. That many of the students demand this servility of him and of themselves makes their capitulation all the worse.
The colleges have not abandoned moral considerations utterly. Relativism is an unstable equilibrium — imagine a pyramid upside down, placed delicately upon its apex. It might make you break out into a cold sweat to stand in its shade. The question is not whether some moral vision will prevail, but which moral vision. The colleges are thus committed to a moral inversion. High and noble virtues, especially those that require moral courage, are mocked: gallantry in wartime, sexual purity, scrupulous honesty and plain dealing, piety, and the willingness to subject your thoughts, experiences, and most treasured beliefs to the searching scrutiny of reason. What is valued then? Debauchery, perversion, contempt for your supposedly benighted ancestors, lazy agnosticism, easy and costless pacifism, political maneuvering, and an enforcement of a new orthodoxy that in denying rational analysis seeks to render itself immune to criticism. You sink yourself in debt to discover that your sons and daughters have been severed from their faith, their morals, and their reason. Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.
February 8, 2017
USPS mailman builds a ramp for an aging black Lab on his day off, easing centuries of postal/canine tension
Indeed, Kramer is not only a friend to Tashi but most of the other dogs on his route. “Most of them are now my friend,” he admitted. “In my opinion if you’re not a dog person and you’re a mailman, you’re in the wrong line of work. I’ve got about 30 or 40 that enthusiastically greet me,” Kramer claimed.
Roseann Sdoia was a spectator near the finish line and was hit by shrapnel. Boston firefighter Mike Materia rushed to her aid and accompanied her to the hospital, where Sdoia's mother stepped in as the matchmaker.
"In the hospital, my mom tried to set me up with him," Sdoia told the New York Post. "She was like, 'Oh, did you see that firefighter? He's so cute.' And I was like, 'Mom, I just got blown up.' "
But Mom's persistence paid off. The victim and her hero struck up a romance that will soon lead to marriage which is planned for the Fall.
Raise a Glass to the Smithsonian's First Beer Scholar Theresa McCulla is ready to start the “best job ever” chronicling the history of American brewing
No one will hire girl with Down syndrome. So she starts her own business - In the North End of Boston, Colletty Divitto is baking up a storm of Colletty's Cookies.
Collette's story was picked up by CBS local Boston, and aired as a "feel good" story for the holidays. Well it became more than that!! Within 10 days, she had over 9.5m views of FB, and over 50,000 cookies ordered. She received over 65,000 letters from people all over the world within 10 days, admiring her determination and ambition and finding her inspirational offering them hope.
Scientists have turned cooking oil into a material 200 times stronger than steel A cheaper way to make graphene.
You have to smile at this Sold Puppy Dancing
Mother Of 4 Builds House From Scratch By Watching YouTube Videos (link to video)
Cara Brookins, 45, explained that when she and her four children started building a house in 2008, they were looking for a way to move on from a troubled past. From putting up windows to running the gas line, they did it all with some help from YouTube. She says they had been through a really tough domestic violence situation and when they left, were pretty beaten down. During times when they had no idea how to continue, Brookins put up an front and rallied her children to keep trying.
He Saved 669 Children During The Holocaust… And He Doesn’t Know They’re Sitting Next To Him.
Not many people know who Sir Nicholas Winton is, considering he is older than 100, most can be forgiven for not being aware of who he is. There are 669 people who will certainly never forget the man’s name, mainly because he managed to save them from death. You see Sir Nicholas Winton saved the lives of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia.
From the years 1938-39 he organised and successfully completed the goal of saving the children, bringing them to the safety of Britain. Post war, his deeds went totally unnoticed for almost 50 years, until his wife found records naming every children, along with a picture in one of his scrapbooks. What happened next is truly beautiful, as the man who saved these helpless children 50 years ago shares the audience with those who owe him their lives.
At the link a 1/1/2 minute video that brought tears to my eyes.
The report in Tuesday's journal PLOS Biology is based on four people with complete "lock-in" syndrome, meaning they are unable to move at all due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), which destroys the part of the nervous system responsible for movement. Patients are unable blink or move their eyes, and they breathe with the help of a ventilator. But using a non-invasive brain-computer interface that measured levels of oxygen on the brain, researchers were able to detect whether the patients were thinking "yes" or "no" in response to a series of questions, with an accuracy rate of about 70 percent.
"We were initially surprised at the positive responses when we questioned the four completely locked-in patients about their quality of life," said lead author Niels Birbaumer, professor at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland. "All four had accepted artificial ventilation in order to sustain their life, when breathing became impossible; thus, in a sense, they had already chosen to live. We found that all four patients we tested were able to answer the personal questions we asked them, using their thoughts alone. All four patients in the study were asked, "Are you happy?" They each consistently responded "yes," over weeks of questioning."