News: Some New, some Old:
Tsunami: Flotsam Debris Reaches U.S. West Coast. 12/15/11 05:11 PM ET Associated Press
PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- "Some debris from the March tsunami in Japan has reached the West Coast.
The float was displayed at a Tuesday night presentation at Peninsula College by Seattle oceanographers Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham, consultants who produce the "Beachcombers Alert" newsletter.
Tons of debris from Japan will likely begin washing ashore in about a year, from California to southern Alaska, they said. Items that wash up may include portions of houses, boats, ships, furniture, portions of cars and just about anything else that floats, he said.
Flotsam in a current travels an average of 7 mph, but it can move as much as 20 mph if it has a large area exposed to the wind, Ebbesmeyer said. The latest float sits well atop the water, has a shallow draft and is lightweight. Similar floats have been found on Vancouver Island in British Columbia."
We can't wrap our brains around that amount!
US troops welcomed home
"As the United States winds down its controversial war in Iraq, the last remaining troops are due home by the end of the year.
After traveling thousands of kilometers home, soldiers look forward to seeing their families and friends again -- and none more so than at First Calvary headquarters at Fort Hood in Texas - the country's largest army base.
"Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports from Texas.
Sen. Cornyn Welcomes Home U.S. Troops From Iraq Dec 15 2011
WASHINGTON—"U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement welcoming home U.S. service members returning from Iraq:
“Today I pay tribute to the more than 1.5 million American men and women who have sacrificed, persevered and secured freedom in Iraq over the past 9 years. Many of these heroes hail from Texas; sadly thousands of them made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield. My heart is full of pride and gratitude when I think of the selfless contributions that all of our brave troops—and their family members—have made on our behalf. As they return home, let us welcome them with open arms, show them our appreciation and respect, and do everything we can to help them make a smooth transition. May God bless our troops and their families this Christmas.”"
Another in Conroe, TX:
Congressman Brady On Ending the Iraq War and Bringing our Troops Home
"I was honored to be a part of the welcome home ceremony this fall for Conroe's own 1-158th Aviation Regiment.
It’s time. Iraq is no longer a safe haven for terrorist training, planning or transit. In my view our American fighting forces have been magnificent, and have done everything possible to help the Iraqi government and security forces stand up on their own. Plus I don’t want our troops deployed anywhere where they fight with one hand tied behind their back, and that’s the case now in Iraq.
As the brother of an active duty Army soldier and the son of a Korean War Veteran, I'd just like to say Thank You again to everyone who dons the uniform each day to protect our great nation. They are my heroes."
"The Royal Canadian Mint, the manufacturer of Canadian currency, has come out with a new sleek coin celebrating Canada’s vast and wild boreal forest. This new toonie (Canada’s $2 coin) fits with Mint’s current trend expanding awareness of Canada’s natural heritage. It was preceded by a loonie ($1 coin) dedicated to the centennial of Parks Canada and will be followed in 2012 by three quarters featuring the Orca, Wood Bison, and Peregrine Falcon. Three noble and worthy species to showcase in my humble opinion.
The fact that Canadian Mint chose to highlight the boreal forest on their new $2 coin demonstrates the growing awareness about the importance of this critical forest. While it’s significance has surely been understood by the hundreds of First Nations and Aboriginal groups who have resided there for thousands of years, its importance was less understood by more urban Canadians as well as the international community for a long time. However, over the past 20 years or so, this has gradually changed. Today the words “boreal” and “natural heritage” are practically synonymous in Canada. Its beauty, ecological and social importance are as recognized as ever, and this coin helps it take one more step forward.
It is fitting that the coin features a bird given the boreal is one of the most important breeding grounds for migratory birds anywhere on earth. Billions of migrants flock to the boreal each spring to feast on the abundance of food emerging from the snow-covered winter. It’s also fitting that it features a person given humans have co inhabited this vast network of trees, wetlands, and waterways for millennia." More at:
"Winter's grip tightens on much of the continent this week, as the colder weather that has, up to now, largely stayed north of the Canadian border, pushed down into much of the central part of North America eastward. In the Mid-Atlantic states, a recent front brought the second big snow storm of the year. Snowy Owls continue to irrupt in impressive numbers all across the Canada/United States border as far south as, for another week, Kansas, keeping birders in the southern states looking anxiously northward for that most definitive winter bird.
Some incredible birds in California this week highlighted by the 2nd state record (and the 2nd record for the Lower 48) of Red-flanked Bluetail (4), found by a team of researchers on San Clemente Island, Los Angeles County. Sadly, the bird is on private property and inaccessible to the public. (photo by Justyn Stahl, used with permission)
List of rare birds seen at: http://blog.aba.org/2011/12/rare-bird-alert-december-9-2011.html
On This Day:
France formally recognizes the United States. Dec 17, 1777:
"On this day in 1777, the French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, count of Vergennes, officially acknowledges the United States as an independent nation. News of the Continental Army's overwhelming victory against the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga gave Benjamin Franklin new leverage in his efforts to rally French support for the American rebels. Although the victory occurred in October, news did not reach France until December 4th.
Franklin had quickly mustered French support upon his arrival in December 1776. France's humiliating loss of North America to the British in the Seven Years' War made the French eager to see an American victory. However, the French king was reluctant to back the rebels openly. Instead, in May 1776, Louis XVI sent unofficial aid to the Continental forces and the playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais helped Franklin organize private assistance for the American cause.
Franklin, who often wore a fur cap, captured the imagination of Parisians as an American man of nature and his well-known social charms stirred French passions for all things American. He was the toast of Parisian society, enchanting salons with his wide-ranging knowledge, social graces and witty repartee. Nevertheless, he was not allowed to appear at court.
It took the impressive and long-awaited victory at Saratoga to convince Louis that the American rebels had some hope of defeating the British empire. His enthusiasm for the victory paired with the foreign minister's concern that the loss of Philadelphia to the British would lead Congress to surrender, gave Franklin two influential allies with two powerful--if opposing--reasons for officially backing the American cause. A formal treaty of alliance followed on February 6, 1778."
First airplane flies, Dec 17, 1903:
"Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.
Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world's first airplane.
After exhaustively researching other engineers' efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina's Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers' systematic experimentations paid off--they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.
In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.
During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army's Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.
The historic Wright brothers' aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C."
This is a story that made celebrating Christmas seem desirable.
A Christmas Carol is published, Dec 17, 1843:
"Charles Dickens' classic story "A Christmas Carol" is published.
Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown into debtors' prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors' jail became topics of several of Dickens' novels."
"There are two ways you can live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein
"Don't worry about the world ending tomorrow. It's already tomorrow in Australia!" - Charles M. Schulz
After Misty had her walk-about when we picked up Jay, we took every thing out of my computer corner. We vacuumed the carpet, baseboards, blinds, even got the carpet steamer down from my attic, and cleaned that area. It is such a hassle to move computers that we hadn't steam cleaned that part of the carpet for ages.
We brought a little table down from the attic, and put it in the corner so we could move the little chest of drawers out of the corner, so the drawers are more accessible. We put in another part of the room, so I can store more computer stuff in it now. Then we made a shelf underneath the table for the new computer. That got it out of the way. So now the second table just has the monitor, etc for it, and my laptop.
Jay couldn't believe how many wires are in that corner, especially now that I have the new computer and monitor too. There are THREE six-outlet strips in there. OK, some of the outlets are for the TV, cable modem, clock, desk lamps, air cleaner, etc. Jay was so worried that I wouldn't know where the all wires went, but I was careful to put the cords with each item, and one can usually tell where they go.
I did find out one great thing, there is nothing wrong with my favorite keyboard, it is the place where it plugs in to my old computer that has become defective. So once I get switched over to the new computer, I can still use it.
It was 55 deg., T-shirt and sweater weather in the morning, but got colder during the day.