Thursday, November 9, 2017

Out of this World


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         Out of this World
Information is easily available about the time and direction of the International Space Station, and where it can be seen. We have seen it from our lanai several times.

I recently purchased a new book "Endurance,A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery," by Scott Kelly. In his book he tells all about life  while floating in space. His companions were from Russia,Japan and other European countries.

One of the many problems is physical exercise. It was mandatory to exercise on a treadmill six days a week and at least a couple hours every day. Bone loss is about one per cent per month. Spacemen returning to earth often had broken hip bones.

Another more urgent problem was to keep the two "Seedra" machines working. These machines soak up the CO 2 given off by the crew. If the CO2 levels reach too high, it results in  the difficulty of performing many tasks, and making bad choices. Better to breathe clean air. These machines were often broken, needing repair.

Hand holds are located throughout the station, when a person wants to remain in place. A foot placed around a hand hold, while eating or drinking coffee with a straw from a plastic bag. Scott writes that sleeping while floating is very  nice indeed. And all the urine collected is processed, and becomes drinking water.

The American Space Shuttle was retired some time ago due to a lack of funding. The vehicle taking a three man crew to the space station is aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. This has been safely used many times. The craft has no extra room for anything else. Supplies to the station are carried by a ship called a "Dragon,"built by an American company  called "Space X." A single trip would carry 4,300 lbs.of supplies. Fresh fruit and vegetables (which go bad more quickly than on earth.) Oxygen,spare parts, health care products,experiments, items from home, and so forth.

It is nice to read how everyone all got along. They shared food, celebrate birthdays and holidays while in space. So far over 200 people have visited the space station.

A couple of other things that need to be mentioned. The most dangerous task is a walk in space. A leak-proof clumsy space suit, with gloves like a baseball mitt, requiring delicate working space while traveling at a speed of 17,500 mph. Hand holds required, and a tether to the station. Hours are spent just preparing for the space walk.

Then there is the problem of docking the supply ship to the station requiring the use of a long arm developed by a Canadian company.   Have we become so blasé about space travel? Have we forgotten the moon landing, and the lives that were lost in that historic quest? The International Space Station is working on problems faced by a trip to the planet Mars.

In the nineteen sixties a book "Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth, written by Buckminster Fuller, University of Illinois, created quite a stir. He warned that our planet is a spaceship with limited supplies of food and water. How we used these supplies would determine our fate.
And recently Dr. Stephen Hawking remarked that we may have to travel to Mars, because we are ruining our planet.

Some dark night look up in the sky and you may find something different from all the surrounding stars,shining brightly, it is the International Space Station.

     Aloha
     Grant

Thoroughly Thoreau


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           Throughly Thoreau
For more years than I care to count, I have been a huge fan of the American writer Henry David Thoreau. While I was in the Navy I went with a friend from our ship to try and find the site of Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond. I returned many years later with my youngest daughter Jessica, to find that a replica of his cabin had been built.

Every American literature book has a section devoted to this writer. Much attention is paid to his book "Walden," which contains his essay on "Civil Disobedience." Both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King read and were greatly influenced by this essay. But what I feel is often overlooked is Thoreau's contribution to understanding nature, and his work for the abolition of slavery. He understood ecology before the word was invented. He kept many journals which were left unpublished until now. He was friends of Emerson,Hawthorne,Louisa May Alcott, and William Lloyd Garrison,publisher of the anti-slavery paper "The Liberator." He was also friends with the ex-slave Frederick Douglas, and John Brown. And he met Walt Whitman while he was doing some survey work in New York.

American literature began with these writers in and around Concord, Massachusetts.This small town was also a hot bed of abolitionists. Thoreau delivered a plea to a large crowd,in support of John Brown,following his attack on Harper's Ferry. Thoreau had helped drive one of the the men involved in the attack, to escape into Canada. Also, when the government passed the Fugitive Slave Act, Thoreau's family hid and helped runaway slaves to escape to Canada.

Thoreau graduated from Harvard with understanding of both ancient Greek and Latin. I don't think it did much for him  in his study of Botany. Few know that his father had a pencil making factory, and that Thoreau made his living after Harvard by surveying. He also made paid lecture tours.  He tried his hand at teaching, but quit after refusing to cane students.

A new book "Thoreau, a life " written by Laura Dassow Walls, published 2017 by The University of Chicago Press, is most excellent. I think this is the book for people who really want to know more about     Thoreau. The author provides us with a complete picture of the man. Thoreau died in 1862, at the age of 44, never having seen the end of slavery.

    Aloha  
    Grant

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

They Were All Young Girls


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      They Were All Young Girls
Most Americans know that women served as nurses in WWI and WWII. But few people know that during WWII, Soviet girls served in all branches of the military. When Hitler's army invaded Russia in 1941, every patriotic Russian quickly ran to recruiting offices. This included girls as young as 16 years of age. Many lied about their age and were accepted. A whole trainload of girls came from faraway Siberia.

Their introduction into military life was swift, and sometimes brutal. Russian girls all wore their hair in long braids. These were cut off and replaced by a short man's haircut. Shirts,pants, coats, hats, long men's underwear, and American-made boots way too large. Size 10 for a girl's foot requiring a size 5. No feminine  products either.
 
After a few months of training, they became drivers of trucks and tanks,  Some became nurse aids and snipers. During the four years of war, many girls were killed in combat. One 17 year girl received the "Florence Nightingale " award for dragging 147 wounded men to safety. Another young girl sniper was awarded the "Red Star" for having killed 75 Germans.

Tank girls wore canvas pants with padded knees and a helmet. When a tank was hit, the crew was most often on  fire, and the girls pulled them out of the burning tank.

When victory came at long last, the men who had fought, received all the credit. The role played by the female fighters was forgotten. Young girls returning home had a tough time. Young men refused to date them as they had soiled themselves by living with men. They were seen as having lost their feminism charm. They were often called whores.

Things began to change when  a book The "Unwomanly Face of War," by Svetlana Alexievich  was published in 1985. She went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in  2015. She spent years with her tape recorder talking with the old women who were once young girls. The book was translated into English and published  in 2017. Many women had waited years to tell their stories. Others had tried to forget. Many women refused to either wear or have the color red in their homes. It reminded them of so much blood. Some few married younger men, while others lived alone in apartment houses.

The Russians suffered greatly in WWII. One out of every eight people died in the war. See the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad for examples. How did these young girls find the strength and courage to fight as they did? We may never know the answer.

    Aloha
    Grant    

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Like Hats


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             I Like Hats
I like wearing a hat, and that is not just because I am now bald. The sun here in Hawaii can cause skin cancer. I grew up in Northern Michigan where wearing a hat was necessary in winter, covering your ears too. In summer the hat worn, was a baseball hat. You could shape the bill to a curve of your liking. And this leads me to the fact that I firmly believe that only welders,umpires, and catchers should wear their hat backwards. Otherwise for others to do so, there must be a connection with low I Q.
Here in Hawaii hats are sold having a flat plastic bill. Stupid looking and again I suspect low IQ.

As an enlisted man in the Navy we all(except Chief Petty Officers) wore round white hats. These hats could be shaped by sailors to suit their individual tastes. It bothers me when actors in plays such as "South Pacific," wear their hats simply round and stupid looking. The last hat from my years in the Navy, was eaten by Lake Erie during an afternoon sail.

I mentioned to Teena that I would like to have a soft hat that would protect my ears, and could be rolled up and carried in a pocket. The visiting men and women from Australia who have come to our club to bowl, have just that kind of hat. And low and behold, she returned home recently with just such a hat. The hat also has a lanyard with a wood toggle to help keep it on in the sometimes brisk Trade Winds. She warned me that I should not be wearing it when meeting anybody important.

In Dearborn Michigan there was a small supper club called "Toppers." The club featured good food and a small dance floor with a trio of musicians. The walls were all covered with pictures of people wearing hats. Some famous people and others not at all famous. Alas,"Toppers" was bought by some rich hockey player and the pictures were all replaced by mirrors. Teena and I have fond memories of the place.

    Aloha
    Grant

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rat Lungworm Disease


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        Rat Lungworm Disease
There are a host of diseases found in this part of the Pacific. The most recent disease being talked about is rat lungworm disease. State-wide there are l7 cases so far. It is very hard to diagnose. The symptoms are : severe headache, stiffness of the neck, tingling or painful feeling in the skin or extremities, fever, nausea and vomiting,temporary paralysis of the face, and sensitivity to light.

The disease is carried by rats, snails, and slugs. When larvae carried by slugs and snails get into a person's system, they travel to the brain and form worms that shed antigens, or toxins according to the Hawaii Health Department. When it molts, it sheds antigens and that go into the spinal fluid. There is no known cure. The farmer here who contracted the disease reported that an MRI showed that chunks of his brain had been eaten. He is currently living on painkillers and anti seizure medications.
According to John McHugh, of the Department of Agriculture's Plant Industry Division,
" Rats are the main host for this thing, and the state doesn't have enough resources to control rats throughout the entire state. They are are everywhere on these islands."

People are told to not eat freshwater shrimp, land crabs, frogs, or undercooked snails. Inspect and rinse produce, especially leafy greens in potable water. Boil snails, prawns, crabs and frogs for at least three to five minutes.

I feel that it is also very important to choose eating in a restaurant where the lettuce has been carefully washed. Or better yet, avoid eating salads when dining out. As for me, I am being very careful.

All the above information I stole from our local paper "Star Advertiser" Sunday 10/8/17

   Aloha
   Grant

Essex Disaster


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           Essex Disaster            
Generations have read and enjoyed the novel "Moby Dick," by Herman Melville. It is a tale about a mad man named Ahab, captain of  of a whale ship in  search of a giant whale that had taken one of his legs on an earlier voyage. Readers may remember that when when the giant whale Moby Dick was found, a battle ensued, and the whale ship was sunk by the whale. Fiction? sure, but I bet that few people know that the idea of a whale sinking a ship was used by Melville in writing "Moby Dick." The ship's name was the Essex,and in 1819 it set sail for a voyage to hunt whales. Fifteen months later in the South Pacific it was rammed twice by an enraged bull whale, and in spite of its four inch thick oak sides, was sunk.The 20-man crew set sail for South America 3,000 miles away in three small boats. Three months later only eight were left alive, the survivors having been forced to eat the bodies of their dead shipmates. The drawing of lots in a survival situation had long been an  accepted custom of the sea.

But all of what I have written could easily been gleaned by a search on the internet. However, if you are really interested you should obtain a copy of "In the Heart of the Sea," by Nathaniel Phrilbrick, published by  Penguin Books. I have neither the time nor the desire to summarize the book. It is a fantastic story.

Whales are not fish, they are among the largest mammals on earth. They have brains five times larger than man. The female whales give birth to their young, nurse and guide them to maturity. Why were these great creatures of the sea hunted? The answer is "oil." Whale oil was used to light homes, street lights, and lubricate machinery. Whale hunting continued until the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania.Today, whale hunting is outlawed by international treaties. But the Japanese continue to hunt, ignoring the ban, under the guise of "research."

Whale hunting was a dangerous, stinking business. Voyages of two or even three years were not uncommon. The ships would not return to port until their ships were filled with barrels of oil.

When a whale was sighted by a man on the top of the mainmast, four boats containing harpoons, lances and yards of rope, were lowered over the ships' side. Men rowed to the whale, and if it went into a dive, they waited until it ran out of air and surfaced, and threw harpoons into the whale. The whale caught by the harpoons began dragging the boats in what was called a "Nantucket Sleigh Ride." When exhausted, the whale fought for its life, and boats were often smashed, with men thrown into the sea. At last when the whale had been killed by lances, the  dead whale was towed back to the ship. Once alongside, large blankets of whale fat were poised aboard and put into large pots where the fat was boiled for its oil.

A sperm whale was most favored, as the head of the whale contained up to five hundred gallons of spermaceti,a clear, high-quality oil that partially solidifies on contact with air. The whale's intestinal tract was searched for a fatty substance called ambergris, which was used to  make perfume and was worth more than its weight in gold.

The deck of the ship would be slippery with oil, blood and vomit. It was said you could smell a whale ship before you could see it. After the whale was stripped of all it s blubber it was cast adrift.

Sailors on these long voyages without seeing whales, would sometimes scratch pictures on whale teeth or bones, than fill in the scratches with ink, which are called "scrimshaw." Very artistic, and much sought after by collectors.

Living here in Hawaii we see Humpback whales every year. They mate, rear their young and then leave for the long trip to Alaska. And by April they are gone. During the time the whales are here, whale watching trips take place daily. Teena and I have made many such trips.

On our neighboring island of Maui there is a place called "Whaler's Village." Go directly up to the second floor where there is a small museum devoted to whaling. All of the items used in hunting are displayed. But of particular interest are the open books kept by ship captains, containing details such as the type of whale and even ink drawings.

I learned not long ago that Melville, who had served on a whaleship, worked in a store here in Honolulu. I plan to see what I can find about this,if there is any information.

I am filled with information but too tired to continue. Search the internet, or even better, read the book I mentioned earlier.

   Aloha,
   Grant

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Swastika


      More Letters From Paradise
              Swastika
The hated Nazi symbol is  now often seen among groups of extreme right-wing people and members of the Ku Klux Clan. But free of its Nazi past, the swastika has been used by the Native Americans for centuries. I learned in an archaeology class, its use by ancient Greek pottery makers. During the so-called Geometric period you see swastika bands around the neck of an amphora (storage jar).

My grandfather Beal was an inventor. He invented a vending machine, thermostat, and as he was fond of playing cards, a card game. He named the deck of cards "Swastika." This was before WWII. But with Hitler and its use of the swastika, grandpa changed the name of the game to "Cheyenne." I am looking at a deck of his cards. The deck of cards show the profile of a Native American with a feather headdress. Below there is a tomahawk,arrows, and a string of beads. And below is a swastika. Above and below the name "Cheyenne" is the fact that the game   is a registered trade mark.

The back of the red colored deck we read the words"The Great Home and Social Game" Price 50 Cents Cheyenne Game Co. Adrian,Mich.

Sliding the cards from the pack a swastika is printed on the back of each card, and a sheet of instructions is included. These cards must be very rare. I think I am probably the only person in the family to own a deck. I never learned if grandpa made any money from this invention. I rather doubt it.

Aloha
Grant