February 24, 2014

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


55th day of 2014 with 310 to follow.

Holidays for Today:

*Estonian Independence Day

* Flag Day (Mexico)

* National Tortilla Chip Day



  • 1766 Samuel Wesley, England, composer/organist (Exultate Deo)
  • 1786 Wilhelm Karl Grimm, Germany, folklorist (Grimm’s Fairy Tales)
  • 1836 Winslow Homer, Boston, Massachusetts, landscape artist (marine subjects)
  • 1885 Admiral Chester Nimitz, Fredericksburg, Texas, US Admiral (commanded Pacific fleet in WWII)
  • 1917 William Fairbank, Minneapolis, Minnesota, physicist (superconductivity)
  • 1921 Abe Vigoda, New York, NY, actor (Barney Miller, Fish)
  • 1938 James Farentino, Brooklyn, NY, actor (Dead & Buried, Final Countdown, Blue Thunder, ER)
  • 1946 Barry Bostwick, San Mateo, California, actor (Spin City, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lexx, Megaforce, Challenger, Scruples, Foul Play)
  • 1947 Edward James Olmos, Los Angeles, California, actor (Commander Adama/ Battlestar Galactica, Miami Vice, Stand & Deliver)
  • 1955 Steve Jobs, San Francisco, California, computer pioneer (co-founder Apple, co-founder Pixar, Walt Disney Board Directors)
  • 1959 Beth Broderick, Falmouth, Kentucky, actress (Aunt Zelda/Sabrina Teenage Witch, Hearts Afire, Lost)
  • 1966 Billy Zane, Chicago, Illinois, actor (Caledon Hockley/Titanic; Dead Calm, Twin Peaks, The Phantom)
  • 1967 Brian Schmidt, Australian astrophysicist (Nobel / evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating)
  • 1971 Josh Bernstein, New York City, explorer / author / tv host (Into the Unknown with Josh Bernstein)
  • 1972 Manon Rheaume, Quebec, Canada, 1st female NHLer (Tampa Bay)
  • 1974 Bonnie Somerville, New York, NY, actress and singer (Grosse Pointe, Count Me In, NYPD Blue, Santa Paws 2, Golden Boy)
  • 1979 Jesse Billauer, Pacific Palisades, California, quadriplegic surfer (Step into Liquid)
  • 1991 Madison Hubbell, Lansing, Michigan, ice dancer (2011 & 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy champion, 2014 Four-Continents gold medalist and the 2012 U.S. national bronze medalist)


“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” – Albert Einstein



  • 1803 In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court of the US establishes the principle of judicial review.
  • 1831 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act, is proclaimed. The Choctaws in Mississippi cede land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.
  • 1839 Steam shovel patented by William Otis, Philadelphia.
  • 1863 Arizona Territory created.
  • 1918 Estonia declares independence from Russia.
  • 1938 Du Pont begins commercial production of nylon toothbrush bristles.
    1942 Voice of America begins broadcasting (in German).
  • 1970 National Public Radio is founded in the United States.
  • 1981 Britain’s Prince Charles announces engagement to Lady Diana Spencer.
  • 2002 XIX winter Olympics closes in Salt Lake City UT/Québec City.
  • 2008 Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba after nearly fifty years.
  • 2011 Final Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103).


The boys had been up in the attic together helping with some cleaning. The kids uncovered an old manual typewriter and asked her, “Hey Mom, what’s this?”

“Oh, that’s an old typewriter,” she answered, thinking that would satisfy their curiosity.

“Well, what does it do?” they queried.

“I’ll show you,” she said and returned with a blank piece of paper. She rolled the paper into the typewriter and began striking the keys, leaving black letters of print on the page.

“WOW!” they exclaimed, “That’s really cool. But how does it work like that? Where do you plug it in?”

“There is no plug,” she answered. “It doesn’t need a plug.”

“Then where do you put the batteries?” they persisted.

“It doesn’t need batteries either,” she continued.

“Wow! This is so cool!” they exclaimed. “Someone should have invented this a long time ago!”


A farmer in his pickup truck in Alabama was driving across a bridge when he noticed a man standing on the rail of the bridge ready to jump to his death in the river below. The man stopped his truck ran up to the man and said, ‘Hey fellow, why are you doing this?’

The man replied, ‘Well, I have nothing to live for.’

The Alabama man replied, ‘Well, think of your wife and children!’

The jumper replied, ‘I have no wife or children.’

The Alabama man then said, ‘Well, then think of your mother and father!’

The man replied, ‘Mom and Dad passed on many years back.’

The Alabama man then said, ‘Well, think of General Robert E. Lee!’

The would-be jumper replied, ‘Who?’

With that the Alabama man said, ‘Jump, you stupid Yankee, jump!’


Old photographers never die, they just lose their focus.

Old poets never die, they are just reversed.

Old college deans never die they just lose their faculties.

Old professors never die, they just lose their class.

Old psychiatrists never die, they just shrink away.


It was mealtime during a trip on a small airline in the Northwest.

“Would you like dinner?” the flight attendant asked the man seated in coach.

“What are my choices?” he asked.

“Yes or no,” she replied.


pic of the day: Northern Cardinal

Wild bird - Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)


A botanist was trying to research some details about a particular kind of fern, so he sent a request to all his colleagues, asking them to send him any information they had about it.

Unfortunately, he didn’t word his request very well, and all the botanists he’d contacted thought he was looking for details about any ferns, rather than just the one species. So within just a few hours of sending it out, his fax machine was buzzing with piles of useless documents about all kinds of ferns – there were tree ferns and wood ferns, ostrich ferns and cinnamon ferns… but very few about the particular type he wanted.

So he sent another message to everyone:

If it ain’t bracken, don’t fax it.
As the crowded airliner is about to take off, the peace is shattered by a five-year-old boy who picks that moment to throw a wild temper tantrum. No matter what his frustrated, embarrassed mother does to try to calm him down, the boy continues to scream furiously and kick the seats around him.

Suddenly, from the rear of the plane, an elderly man in the uniform of an Air Force General is seen slowly walking forward up the aisle. Stopping the flustered mother with an upraised hand, the white-haired, courtly, soft-spoken General leans down and, motioning toward his chest, whispers something into the boy’s ear. Instantly, the boy calms down, gently takes his mother’s hand and quietly fastens his seat belt.

All the other passengers burst into spontaneous applause. As the General slowly makes his way back to his seat, one of the cabin attendants touches his sleeve. “Excuse me, General,” she asks quietly, “but could I ask you what magic words you used on that little boy?”

The old man smiles serenely and gently confides, “I showed him my pilot’s wings, service stars and battle ribbons and explained that they entitle me to throw one passenger out the plane door, on any flight I choose.”


Our minister announced that admission to a church social event would be six dollars per person.
“However, if you’re over 65,” he said, “the price will be only $5.50.”
From the back of the congregation, a woman’s voice rang out, “Do you really think I’d give you that information for only fifty cents?”


A Delta Airlines pilot was badly embarrassed about the a particularly rough landing. He was reluctantly fulfilling company policy that required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited. Nevertheless he stood there and gave each person a smile, and said: ‘Thanks for flying Delta.’

He had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, awaiting that inevitable harsh comment on the landing, which by extension would impugn his professional skills and probably his manhood as well.

There were fewer smiles than normal, but no comments. Finally, everyone had gotten off except for this little old lady walking with a cane. She said, ‘Sonny, mind if I ask you a question?’

‘Why no M’am,’ said the pilot, ‘what is it?’

The little old lady said, ‘Did we just land or were we shot down?’


TODAY IN TRIVIA:The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.


Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that’s the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So who built these old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United State standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Specs and Bureaucracies live forever.

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s ass came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.

QUIP OF THE DAY: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain


Thought for the day. . .
For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money. – Arne Garborg

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