Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 30, 2015
Canadian anti-aircraft team in 1918

Canadian anti-aircraft team in 1918

September 30, 1915: For the first time, ground-to-air fire brings down an aircraft. During World War I, Serbian Army troops watched as three aircraft neared Kragujevac. The soldiers fired at the planes with machine guns but were not able to keep them from dropping 45 bombs over the city. Military installations and railroads were hit as were many other civilian targets. As the city was being bombed, Private Radoje Ljutovac fired his cannon at the enemy and managed to bring one of the planes down. The plane crashed in the city and both men aboard were killed. The cannon Ljutovac used was not designed as an anti-aircraft gun but it was a slightly modified Turkish cannon captured in 1912 during the First Balkan War.

Before the Great War broke out, Britain realized the need to protect themselves from aerial attack. In the July 8, 1914 edition of the New York Times, it was reported the British government intended to build towers, each armed with two “quick-firing guns of special design”, all along the coast and encircling naval installations as well as other particularly vulnerable points. By December 1914, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was manning AA guns and searchlights which were placed at nine ports. The Royal Garrison Artillery was responsible for AA defense in the field. The tactic of firing on planes was well established and the practice spread quickly as a defense against attacks from above.

Between the two World Wars, it was realized that battles would not just be fought on the ground or at sea. The air was also a battlefield. Many countries developed an Air Force to supply this need for any future confrontations. But with every tactic to secure superiority, a countermeasure is also developed and so anti-aircraft guns were seen as necessary equipment and vital for national safety as well as for protection both at sea and on the ground. After studying the effects of AA guns during the Great War, there were five major areas to work on to improve the equipment.

AA guns are still in use today but they are being replaced by missiles. The onetime best AA gun, the GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm seven-barrel Gatling gun is being replaced by new systems such as the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile which is both smaller and faster and allows for mid-flight course correction, another name for guidance. These are being thwarted by stealth technology as they need a longer flight path, something the stealth feature mitigates. Detection ranges are shorter and there is not enough time to intercept the plane – that’s if the plane is seen at all. Detection systems are then the key to success and these are also being updated. There are other ways on the books to try and halt attacks from the air. World Peace seems a distant dream.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack. One defends when his strength is inadequate; he attacks when it is abundant. – Sun Tzu

War, except in self-defense, is a failure of moral imagination. – Bill Moyers

The best missile defense system of all would be a just and lasting peace. – Hillary Rodham Clinton

Also on this day: Meet the Flintstones – In 1960, The Flintstones came to prime time television.
FBI HQ – In 1975, The J. Edgar Hoover Building was dedicated.
Farm Work – In 1962, the first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association took place.
Magic – In 1791, The Magic Flute premiered.
Rebellion – In 1955, James Dean died.

Surviving a Mid Air Collision

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 29, 2015
The planes landed in a field

The planes landed in a field

September 29, 1940: A mid-air collision takes place over Brocklesby, New South Wales. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) opened a flight training school in July 1940 to train pilots for combat during World War II. No. 2 Service Flying Training School was based at RAAF Station Forest Hill near Wagga Wagga, NSW. At the time, pilots were being trained on Avro Ansons, a British twin-engined aircraft use throughout the British Empire by their forces. The planes were primarily used for training and on this day, two planes took off from the base for a cross-country training exercise.

Tail number N4876 was piloted by Leonard Fuller (22) and Menzies Sinclair (27) was navigator. The second plane, tail number L9162, was piloted by Jack  Hewson (19) with Hugh Fraser (27) as navigator. All men were classified as Leading Aircraftmen. The planes were to travel to Corowa, then to Narrandera, and then return to Forest Hill. They were at an altitude of 1,000 feet and making a banking turn when Fuller lost sight of Hewson’s aircraft which was beneath him. They collided in mid-air. It was described as a grinding crash and bang. The propellers struck each other and bit into the engine cowlings. The two planes remained wedged together with the lower plane’s turrets rammed into the upper plane’s left wing root.

Both engines on the upper plane were knocked out. The lower plane’s engines were working at full power. Fuller, the pilot of the upper plane, was able to control both planes with his ailerons and flaps and began looking for a place to attempt a landing. Both navigators were able to bail out immediately. Hewson, the pilot in the lower plane, had been injured during the impact but he, too, managed to bail. Fuller flew about five miles after the collision before he was able to find a large field where he managed to set down the two planes. The planes slid along the bumpy grass for about 200 yards before coming to stop. Fuller proclaimed the landing had been better than those he had been able to make the day before when practicing at the airfield.

The accident made the news worldwide and Fuller was honored as a hero. Not only did he keep the planes from crashing and causing harm to those on the ground, but he managed to save about £40,000 in military hardware as the top plane was able to be removed and returned to service. The lower plane was used as an instructional airframe. Hewson’s injury was treated and he returned to service and was discharged in 1946. Sinclair survived the war, Fraser and his crew were killed on January 1, 1942 during another training exercise. Fuller became a decorated pilot and after seeing action and was posted back home as a flying instructor. He died on March 18, 1944 when his bike collided with a bus.

Well, sir, I did everything we’ve been told to do in a forced landing—land as close as possible to habitation or a farmhouse and, if possible, land into the wind. I did all that. There’s the farmhouse, and I did a couple of circuits and landed into the wind. She was pretty heavy on the controls, though! – Leonard Fuller

It’s amazing what one can do when one doesn’t know what one can’t do. – Jim Davis

Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit — a magic blend of skill, faith, and valor — that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory. – Walter Lord

One of man’s most amazing self-deceptions is his pretense of having self-control while his life flies apart before his very eyes. – Vernon Howard

Also on this day: Come Up and See Me Some Time – In 1650, the first documented dating service opened in England.
Physics – In 1954, CERN was established.
The Met – In 1829, the Metropolitan Police of London was formed.
What a Headache – In 1982, the Tylenol murders began.
SEPAW – In 1966, the Chevrolet Camero was put on the market.

Vaccine Wars, Early Edition

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 28, 2015
William Hingston

William Hingston

September 28, 1885: The Montreal smallpox riot begins. A train had been to Chicago, where a smallpox epidemic was in progress and arrived at Bonaventure Station after a stop in Toronto. The conductor was running a fever and he had blisters on his hands and face. Smallpox is a virus and even now is difficult to treat. At the time, there was nothing to do but pray for a cure. Dr. William Hingston was Montreal’s former mayor (1875-77) and a smallpox expert. He had been involved in the epidemic of 1872-75. The virus is very easily transmitted and the disease had a high mortality rate. When the blisters affect blood vessels, the patient can hemorrhage to death. The blisters can form anywhere and left scars on those who survived. If the corneas were affected, the patient was blinded.

The need to contain the epidemic was paramount. But there were few options available. The patient needed care, but the disease was communicable. If they were brought to the hospital, they had to be quarantined or else they and their caregivers had to be quarantined at home. There was another option. A smallpox vaccine existed. Local doctors were divided as to whether or not mandatory vaccination should be carried out across the city. The vaccine was created years before and had proved effective against contracting the disease, and if already exposed, lessening the symptoms of the disease.

The vaccine was offered for free but the poor and less educated residents were loathe to submit to the public health measures. If approached, they refused. The French print newspapers and a few doctors insisted the vaccinations were unneeded. Children in a local orphanage were vaccinated but the conditions were appalling and while they didn’t contract smallpox, many became ill due to unsanitary conditions. The city was in peril. The ten day incubation period meant that people who felt fine were contagious and capable of spreading this often fatal disease. More people were getting sick and dying. Something had to be done. The authorities went to the newspapers and explained the necessity of getting a vaccine.

Explained in the papers was the treatment of smallpox patients with forced entry into a newly reopened hospital explicitly to treat smallpox. Those who refuse were taken by force. On this day, after the papers came out, the people in poorer neighborhoods began to rebel against both the forced hospitalizations and the vaccinations. They began to gather and throw stones and break windows of pharmacies and doctors’ offices where vaccines were freely available. They also attacked City Hall. Rioting continued into the night despite a strong police presence and shots fired. Compliance was impossible to enforce. About 9,000 people contracted the disease in Montreal alone. Of those, 3.234 died. More were taken ill and died in neighboring towns.

A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent. – John Kotter

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is. – Winston Churchill

If everything is God’s will, then so is the invention of the vaccine, just like the seatbelt. – Els Borst

Education is the vaccine for violence. – Edward James Olmos

Also on this day: Victory – In 1781, George Washington began his assault on Yorktown, the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
Hostage Taking – In 1975, the Spaghetti House siege began.
Black Sox – In 1920, eight Chicago White Sox players were indicted.
Races – In 1919, the Omaha Race Riots began.
Nice Guys Finish Last – In 935, Good King Wenceslaus was killed.

USA’s Capital City

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2015
Lancaster, Pennsylvania today*

Lancaster, Pennsylvania today*

September 27, 1777: The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the capital of the United States for one day. The town was originally called Hickory Town but the name was changed when John Wright renamed it after Lancaster in England. The city’s symbol is the red rose as is the House of Lancaster. The colonial town was part of the 1682 Penn’s Woods Charter. It was laid out by James Hamilton in 1734, was incorporated as a borough in 1742, and incorporated as a city in 1818. And during the American Revolutionary War it became the capital of the fledgling country when Philadelphia was captured by the British and the Continental Congress fled there. The next day, they moved even farther afield and went to York, Pennsylvania.

In 1799,  Lancaster became the capital of Pennsylvania and remained so until 1812 when it was moved to Harrisburg. Although Harrisburg remains the capital today and is larger in area (11.4 compared to 7.9 square miles), Lancaster has a larger population (59,322 compared to 49,528). The first paved road in the US was the former Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike and it remains today as part of US Route 30. The paved road opened in 1795 and had been designed by John Loudon McAdam and it was there that asphalt was called macadam. The city is also famous for its Lancaster County Prison which was built in 1851 and is still in use today. It was the site for public hangings until 1912. The prison was styled after the Lancaster Castle in England.

After its brief stint as national capital, the borough became an iron-foundry center. Two of the most important items used by those settlers out west were made in Lancaster. The first was the Conestoga wagon named for the Conestoga River which runs through Lancaster and the second was the Pennsylvania long rifle. William Henry was the gun’s designer, but he went on to other ventures and was a US Congressman and a leader during the Revolutionary War. Meriwether Lewis came to Lancaster before he and Clark began their momentous journey. He came to study with Andrew Ellicott, a famous surveyor, in order to learn how to plot latitude and longitude. Woolworth opened his first successful five and dime store in Lancaster.

Lancaster’s economic base has shifted. Shopping has become a major source of revenue as gentrification spreads and a series of specialty shops, boutiques, bars, and clubs have opened downtown. “Gallery Row” was opened in 2005 and has led the city to be a destination spot for those interested in art. Unused polluted areas are also being given a facelift and the old brownfields are being turned into parks and playing fields. The largest employer remains Lancaster General Hospital. The Mayor is Rick Gray. While the city itself is small, the metro area covers 802 square miles and has about a half million people living there.

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man: yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hair’s breadth of time assigned to thee live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it. – Marcus Aurelius

The glory that goes with wealth is fleeting and fragile; virtue is a possession glorious and eternal. – Sallust

How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks. – Dorothy L. Sayers

Also on this day: Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.
Aquarius – In 1968, Hair opened in London.
Help Wanted – Again – In 1590, Pope Urban VII died.

* “Lancaster Pennsylvania downtown” by Randolph Carney – japanese. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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Vera Destructive

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2015
Seawall damage from Typhoon Vera

Seawall damage from Typhoon Vera

September 26, 1959: Vera makes landfall. The tropical cyclone developed between Guam and Chuuk State on September 20, 1959. As it moved westward, it became a tropical storm the next day. It began to intensify rapidly and reached its peak on September 23 and had maximum sustained winds that would place it in a Category 5 hurricane today. The course of the storm began to shift northward and on this day, it made landfall on Honshu near Shionomisaki. It then moved into the Sea of Japan but again shifted course and headed back to Honshu, making landfall a second time. As the storm moved over land, the intensity fell off and it entered the North Pacific later in the day. By the following day, it was an extratropical cyclone and the storm lasted two more days out at sea.

Tracking at the time was available and it was known that the storm was both strong and headed towards Japan. The country was still recovering from World War II and telecommunications weren’t as sophisticated as today. News outlets also did not create any urgency about the impending storm. There was no call for moving inland, out of the raging winds and rains. The outermost rainbands came first and brought enough rain to cause flooding in river basins even though the storm was still far out to sea. As it approached, there was a huge storm surge which destroyed many flood defense systems and inundated coastal areas and sunk ships moored in the area.

The damage from the storm was listed as US$600 million or about $4.85 billion in today’s currency. The number of deaths has not been agreed upon but there were at least 4,000 people killed with the possibility the number was much higher. Vera is the deadliest typhoon to ever hit Japan. Relief efforts after Vera passed were also substandard. Both the Japanese and American governments rushed to help, but the systems in place were inadequate. These have since been reformed. The coastal areas which had been flooded led to local epidemics of both dysentery and tetanus. With the diseases spreading the area, relief efforts were hampered which meant more debris left in the area causing more spread of disease.

While in eastern America, we are faced with hurricane season, the Pacific Ocean creates its own typhoons. With better tracking, it is hoped that some of the damage to both life and property can be mitigated. The worst Pacific typhoon was the Haiphong typhoon of 1881 when 300,000 people died when the storm made landfall in what is now Vietnam after ravaging the Philippines first. Nina made landfall in Taiwan and China and resulted in 229,000 deaths most a result of the Banqiao Dam failing. Vera is the tenth deadliest Pacific storm with the worst storm in the world the Great Bhola Cyclone which struck Bangladesh in 1970. It left up to a half million people dead.

The typhoon came out of the sea first as a deep hollow roar. … I was surrounded by the madness, the unreason, of uncontrolled, undisciplined energy. None of this made any sense. It was worse than useless — it was nature destroying its own creation — its own self. To create by the long process of growth and then to destroy by a fit of wild emotion — was this not madness, was this not unreason? – Pearl S. Buck

If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. – Morris West

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. – Aesop

The preparations are what they are. We’re here. The storm is coming. We are as best prepared as we can be as the eye of the storm approaches. – Russel Honore

Also on this day: The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.
Lurking Evil – In 1937, The Shadow premiered.
Thrown Games – In 1908, Big Ed Reulbach pitched a no hitter double header.
Pop Gun Kelly – In 1933, Machine Gun Kelly was arrested.

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Evil Weed

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 25, 2015
Charles Drysdale

Charles Drysdale

September 25, 1878: Dr. Charles Drysdale writes an article for the London Times. At the time of publication, he was the senior physician at the Metropolitan Free Hospital and already a proponent of the evils of smoking. He estimated that Britons were spending £15 million annually for tobacco products. He had published in Med. Circular fourteen years earlier the deleterious effects tobacco use had in otherwise healthy men. He noted that young men smoking just ¾ ounce daily exhibited jaundice while those smoking just ½ ounce daily had heart palpitations. He wrote Tobacco and the Diseases it Produces in 1875. He also published books about syphilis, the evils of prostitution and was the first president of The Malthusian League and wrote a biography about Thomas Malthus.

Tobacco was discovered and used by natives in the Americas long before any Europeans arrived. The new visitors brought it back to Europe and the use of tobacco spread from there around the world. At high enough doses, tobacco can become hallucinogenic and in these doses it was used by experienced shamans or medicine men. It was also used recreationally and many Eastern North American tribes carried tobacco in large pouches as a trade item and to smoke in pipes. This could be done during a proscribed sacred ceremony or to seal a deal. Children were even permitted to participate. Tobacco was a gift from the Creator and the smoke exhaled could convey one’s thoughts and prayers to heaven.

The Spanish crewman Rodrigo de Jerez is credited with being the first to smoke in Europe. It was not seen as a good omen and he was imprisoned by the Inquisition. Smoking became a more common sight and by 1571, Nicolas Monardes wrote a book about medicinal plants in which he claimed tobacco could cure 36 health problems. King James I of England did not agree and in 1604 wrote A Counterblaste to Tobacco, a diatribe against its use. In the Ottoman Empire where it arrived in the late 16th century, it was first described as a medicine, but it was soon found to cause many health problems, not the least of which was bad breath.

Regardless of the bad press, John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1609 and became the first settler to establish a successful tobacco plantation, at the time referred to as “brown gold”. The tobacco native to the region did not suit British taste and so Rolfe tried a different variety from seeds he had brought back from Bermuda. Tobacco was used as currency by many colonials. His plantation was so successful that in 1620 he was able to ship 40,000 pounds of tobacco to England. The total export of tobacco from Jamestown in 1620 was 119,000 pounds. Not only did the product produce health consequences, but it also increased the use of slave labor used to grow the crop.

The use of tobacco is one of the most evident of all the retrograde influences of our time.  – Charles Drysdale

A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse. – King James I

Neither do thou lust after that tawny weed tobacco. – Ben Jonson

Under the pressure of the cares and sorrows of our mortal condition, men have at all times, and in all countries, called in some physical aid to their moral consolations — wine, beer, opium, brandy, or tobacco. – Edmund Burke

Also on this day: The Supremes – In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
Fasssssst – In 1997, a new land speed record was set.
Lots of Water – In 1513, Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean.
Spread the News – In 1690, the American colonies got their first locally printed multi-page newspaper.
Off Course – In 1866, the Alexander Nevsky sunk.

One Hour

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 24, 2015
60 Minutes Logo in use today*

60 Minutes Logo in use today*

September 24, 1968: 60 minutes premieres on CBS TV in the US. The original program ran every other week and was based on the Canadian program W5, already two years old. Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace hosted the show. The premise of the program, created by Don Hewitt, was to be a kind of magazine, but for television. There were seven segments on the first show and much of the time was spent on the upcoming presidential elections. The first “magazine-cover” was a chroma key photo of two helmeted policemen (one segment was about police brutality). In the beginning, the backdrop behind the hosts was ecru and the familiar black, still in use today, appeared in 1969. Alpo dog food was the sole sponsor of the first show. What was not present on the first show was the stopwatch that came to be synonymous with the show’s opening.

The name of the show was the numeral 60 with minutes all in lower case and written using Helvetica type. In 1974, MINUTES was put into all uppercase and Eurostile font was used. The show is based on investigative journalism and used many techniques to create interesting segments. Re-editing interviews, hidden cameras, and “gotcha journalism” (interviews designed to entrap the interviewee – a pejorative term) were all used. There were always feature stories that were national in scope, but usually focused on individuals involved in or in conflict with the issues. Features were usually limited to 13 minutes in length.

Reasoner left CBS to co-anchor a news program on ABC  and Morley Safer joined the team in 1970. The FCC was trying to give networks an opportunity to present programs locally and passed the Prime Time Access Rule in 1971. This took time away from networks but the private affiliates found it expensive to create programs. It was not until 1975 that 60 Minutes moved to its permanent spot at 7 PM EST on Sundays. It has aired at that time for the last 40 years setting records for the show. But it has caused problems. The show has been preempted  and delayed because of programming issues and forced CBS to alter the way it broadcast many of its weekend sports shows.

Andy Rooney joined the show in 1978 and offered his curmudgeonly insights until 2011. He died one month later at the age of 92. The show continues to air on CBS and is based out of New York City. The executive producer now is Jeff Fager who took over in 2004. Hewitt had remained in the position until that time, but retired when he was 82. The show is hosted by Steve Kroft, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl, and Bill Whitaker with a list of correspondents who add segments to each issue. The list of former hosts, correspondents, and commentators is long and includes many famous names from the ranks of television newsmen/newswomen. Based on ratings, 60 Minutes is the most successful program in US history.

Confrontation is not a dirty word. Sometimes it’s the best kind of journalism as long you don’t confront people just for the sake of a confrontation. – Don Hewitt

If you’re a good journalist, what you do is live a lot of things vicariously, and report them for other people who want to live vicariously.  – Harry Reasoner

To go around the world, to talk to almost anybody you want to talk to, to have enough time on the air, so that you could really tell a full story. What a voyage of discovery it was.  – Mike Wallace

A lot of sponsors over the years have left us. They’ve all come back. But they chose to leave us for a while because of stories we have done about them or their products or their friend’s products or whatever. – Morley Safer

All this time I’ve been paid to say what is on my mind in television. You don’t get any luckier than that. Andy Rooney, his last broadcast

Also on this day: Powerful Serve; Best Backhand – In 1938, John Donald Budge became the first tennis player to win the Grand Slam of tennis.
Majestic 12 – In 1947, Harry S Truman did not form a secret society.
Devil’s Tower – In 1906, this landmark was declared a National Monument.
Byzantine – In 1180, Manuel I Komnenos died.
Not Rigid Airship – In 1911, a German airship blew apart.

* “New60minutes” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

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House of Cards

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 23, 2015
Nintendo's former headquarter plaque*

Nintendo’s former headquarter plaque*

September 23, 1889: Nintendo is founded. The company was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi in order to sell Hanafuda cards. The Japanese government had banned all foreign playing cards and games in 1633 in order to stop gambling. They issued new bans each time a new card game came on the market and continued to do so for 250 years. Then, Hanafuda was invented and used illustrations rather than numbers. But after so many bans, the country was not eager to start again with a new game. Yamauchi began making cards with hand crafted artwork rather than general illustrations. His shop in Kyoto helped to boost the popularity of the game and was so successful, he was able to open a second shop in Osaka. Even now, Nintendo continues to manufacture playing cards in Japan and even sponsors their own contract bridge tournament, the Nintendo Cup.

In 1956, Hiroshi Yamauchi, Fusajiro’s grandson, visited the US and noticed the business was inherently limited. While aboard, he acquired a license to use Disney characters on his cards in the hope of boosting sale. By 1963 with the name changed from Nintendo Playing Card Co. Ltd. to Nintendo Co., Ltd. they began to experiment in other ventures. They opened a taxi service which was successful but sold it off after labor disputes. They opened a love hotel chain (exactly what it sounds like), a TV network, a food company, and many more. Nothing was successful.

In 1966, they moved into the toy industry with Ultra Hand, an extendable gripping device. They tried other toys but could not gain market share. In 1973, focus shifted to family entertainment with the Laser Clay Shooting System which had some modest success. Due to higher costs, they too had to be shut down. They entered a new market in 1974, video games. They got rights to distribute Magnavox Odyssey game consoles and began to produce their own hardware in 1977. Shigeru Miyamoto was hired and he designed a new box for the game and went on to design some of Nintendo’s most famous games. The company also moved into the video arcade game industry.

The Nintendo gaming system branched out into mobile games with Gameboy in 1989. Games became mobile and traveled with players and nearly 120 million were sold. Wii game systems began using a different type of interactive system in 2006 and have sold over 100 million units. Still headquartered in Kyoto, today, they have Genyo Takeda as IRD General Manager and Miyamoto as EAD General Manager. They employ over 5000 people at their only store and had a revenue of ¥571.726 billion in 2014. The company is Japan’s third most valuable listed company with a market value over $85 billion.

Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock-n-roll.

I try not so much to create new characters and worlds but to create new game-play experiences.

Anything that is impractical can be play. It’s doing something other than what is necessary to continue living as an animal.

I don’t think as a creator that I could create an experience that truly feels interactive if you don’t have something to hold in your hand, if you don’t have something like force feedback that you can feel from the controller. – all from Shigeru Miyamoto

Also on this day: I Shot the Sheriff – In 1980, Bob Marley played his last concert.
No Crash – In 1999, Qantas suffered its worst incident of the century.
40-40 Club – In 1988, Jose Canseco began the 40-40 Club.
Lost at Sea – In 1641, the Merchant Royal, a British merchant ship, sunk.
Firefox Comes Online – In 2002, Firefox went live.

* “Nintendo former headquarter plate Kyoto”. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

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Calorie Counter

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 22, 2015
Wilbur Olin Atwater

Wilbur Olin Atwater

September 22, 1907: Wilbur Olin Atwater dies at age 63. He was born in Johnsburg, New York in 1844 and grew up in New England. He did not fight in the US Civil War, instead pursuing his studies at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He was interested in civil engineering and agricultural chemistry and in 1868 he enrolled in Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School. There he studied agricultural fertilizers for mineral content and received his PhD in 1869. He then spent two years in Leipzig and Berlin visiting agricultural experiment stations. He also visited Scotland, Rome, and Naples and wrote of his travels for US newspapers. He returned to the US to teach at East Tennessee University and later went to Wesleyan to serve as their first Professor of Chemistry.

Atwater is best known for studies of human nutrition. He and fellow Wesleyan scientists Edward Rosa and Francis Benedict worked to create a system to measure “precisely” the energy provided by food – what we know today as calories. They did this by their invention of a respiration calorimeter which was housed in the basement of Judd Hall. Annual costs for experimentation surpassed $10,000 and it was considered a dream project for the 19th century. Atwater ran about 500 experiments in his lifetime with the first done in 1896. He studied respiration and metabolism in animals and humans.

He ran food analysis, dietary evolution, work energy consumption, and digestible foods all aided by his calorimeter. Atwater’s studies were based on the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy can be transformed, but it cannot be created nor destroyed. Applying this law to humans was a new concept but Atwater was able to prove that whatever food was consumed by a human and not converted to energy for use, was stored in the body. It changed how people thought about science and about humans and their place in the world ecology. His studies helped people understand the food calorie in both terms of consumption and metabolism.

The Atwater system or derivatives of it are still used today. They are used to calculate the available energy found in foods. However, it is not without dispute, but no better alternatives have been proposed. Atwater measured the heat of combustion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and noted they varied slightly depending on the sources. It is argued that his values were based on a typical diet of the time and are not appropriate for the diet we consume today. The digestibility coefficients for mixtures varies and are not the same as for individual items of food. Even with improved systems today, Atwater’s system remains the basis for the science of nutrition in the US.

Food imaginatively and lovingly prepared, and eaten in good company, warms the being with something more than the mere intake of calories. I cannot conceive of cooking for friends or family, under reasonable conditions, as being a chore. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Cookie pieces contain no calories. The process of breaking the cookie causes calorie leakage. – Lewis Grizzard

To say that obesity is caused by merely consuming too many calories is like saying that the only cause of the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party. – Adelle Davis

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. – James Beard

Also on this day: Manassa Mauler v. The Fighting Marine – In 1927, “The Long Count” fight took place.
Regrets – In 1776, Nathan Hale was executed as a spy.
Tevye’s Family – In 1964, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway.
Movies – In 1910, the Duke of York’s Picture House opened.
Ford Tough – In 1975, the US President survived an assassination attempt.

Oppau Explosion

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 21, 2015
Oppau explosion

Oppau explosion

September 21, 1921: The Oppau explosion takes place. Oppau today is part of Ludwigshafen, Germany. It is located along the Rhine River in southwestern Germany and remains home of BASF. They are the largest chemical producer in the world and had been founded in 1865. One of their storage silos was the site of the explosion on this day.  Prior to 1911, the plant produced ammonium sulfate as fertilizer. But during World War I, Germany was unable to obtain sulfur due to both war conditions and embargos. So the plant began producing ammonium nitrate as well, possible because the Haber process did not need overseas resources. The Haber or Haber-Bosch process remains in use as an artificial fixation process for producing ammonia.

Ammonium nitrate is far more hygroscopic (attracting water from the environment and holding it) than is ammonium sulfate. The two products mixed together and under the pressure of its own weight, formed on solid mass of plaster-like stuff. The 65 foot high silo was packed solid and the only way to get it out was to use pickaxes. However, if anyone dared enter the silo, they were threatened by being buried in collapsing fertilizer. It was understood at the time that the substance was volatile, but even so, it was decided that small charges of dynamite would be safe. The process had been used safely during World War I.

Tests done in 1919 concluded that the mix, if it was less than 60% nitrate, was unlikely to explode. Tests indicated that mixtures at 50/50, it was stable enough to store in 50,000 tonne lots which was ten times more than the amount involved the explosion. So dynamite was used. There had been an estimated 20,000 firings in an attempt to clear the silo and they were done safely. Since everyone involved in the explosion was killed, it is not clear what went wrong. More recent testing has shown that the theory of less than 60% nitrate is safe is simply wrong. When nitrate is less than 50%, explosions are confined to a small space, but the higher the concentration, the more likely an explosion will take place. Nearby nitrates can be ignited by small explosions and detonate and expand.

BASF had changed the process for making nitrates and the humidity level of the mixture was lowered by nearly half, which lowered the apparent density. Both of these factors increased the explosive potential. The charge fired on this day caused the entire silo to explode. The sound was heard in Munich, almost 200 miles away. Windows were shattered in Heidelberg, 18 miles away, stopping traffic. About 80% of the buildings in Oppau were destroyed and 6,500 people were homeless. About 500-600 were killed and thousands more were injured. Where the silo once stood was a crater 300 x 400 feet and 60 feet deep. There were 450 tonnes of fertilizer in the silo (and 4,500 tonnes in the warehouse). The damages were listed as 321 million Marks at the time, but inflation in Germany was bizarre and it is not possible to convert that to a meaningful number in today’s economy.

If people will bring dynamite into a powder factory, they must expect explosions. – Dorothy L. Sayers

Fertilizer does no good in a heap, but a little spread around works miracles all over. – Percy Ross

Decay is quiet but ghastly, explosion is dramatic and dreadful. There’s not much to choose between the two of them in reality, and most of our lives have sufficient of both. – Anne Roiphe

Two out of every five people on Earth today owe their lives to the higher crop outputs that fertilizer has made possible. – Bill Gates

Also on this day: Yes, Virginia – In 1897, Virginia found out there was a Santa Clause.
Got Milk? – In 1995, the Miracle of the Milk began in India.
Monday Night Changes – In 1970, Monday Night Football premiered.
Ablaze – In 1776, New York City was on fire.
Dead Poet’s Society – In 19 BC, Virgil died.