Archive for September, 2010

We Could Use The Values and Integrity of Daniel Boone Today
September 26, 2010

Ole Dan'l Didn't Have a Coonskin Cap

Ole Dan'l Didn't Have a Coonskin Cap

Fess Parker's Fraudulent Portrayal of Boone

On This Date In History: Daniel Boone died on this date in 1820. He didn’t get attacked by Indians, he didn’t get eaten by a bear and he didn’t die in Kentucky. He simply died quietly at the age of 86. The cause? He reportedly died of eating too many sweet potatoes and died of indigestion. I never have been able to figure out how a pathologist today could make such a determination though.  It may be just a later addition to the Boone legend.   Today we remain in a credit crisis affecting real estate owners. In Boone’s day, you had to have a proper claim and it seems ole Dan’l didn’t have the proper papers for his land holdings in Kentucky. Because he failed to register his land properly, he lost his land in Kentucky and I suppose that included Boonesboro. Dan may have been gone but they kept the name. Boone in 1799 went west and settled in Missouri at the tender age of 65. He spent his final years hunting and trapping. Later, Fess Parker portrayed Boone in a TV series in the late 60’s. In the series, Parker wore a coonskin cap and there was even a reference to that in the theme song. Trouble was that Boone never wore a coonskin cap. He preferred a broad brimmed beaver hat. Guess Parker had the coonskin cap left over from his previous TV series in which he portrayed Davy Crockett. Kept the Boone series budget costs low. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between Parker’s Crockett and Parker’s Boone as he was one of those guys who acted the same way in all of his roles. But, I must say I think Parker looks more like a Boone than Boone did. There is a statue of Boone, not Parker, near Cherokee Park.

Just about everyone has heard of Daniel Boone, but that wasn’t always the case.  On his 50th birthday, The Adventures of Daniel Boone was published which was an narrative supposedly in Boone’s own words.   While the 1784 release made Boone more of a household name in America, he was certainly already well known in the Ohio Valley when he lived.  Nevertheless,  his fame began to rise after he died when Lord Byron wrote about him in a 1823 poem titled Don Juan.   Byron’s work was read around the world and Boone’s fame quickly went from the Wilderness to the World with others adding to the Boone legend with tales that may or may not have been true.  I read one that said Davy Crockett once killed 105  bears in Tennessee in one season and he is most responsible for that species absence from the Frontier State.  I don’t know about the veracity of the Crockett story but there are many Boone bear tales in Tennesee and other areas that live today.  Quite often, myths surrounding American Folklore are based on fact.  And the stories of Boone are really a reflection of early America as he had a love for adventure and the outdoors while at the same time, maintaining his dignity and perserverance when faced with hardship.  For instance,  Boone did not run out on his financial obligations. Some histories say he actually did his job well and the gov’t changed the rules.  He transferred his claims to members of his family and the debts were his trying to pay back his clients who did lose their claims because he felt responsible since he was the surveyor even though it wasn’t his fault.  This comes from a source that is very Boone-centric, yet it seems well intentioned.   He claimed that the reason he left Kentucky was because of the intrusion of settlers in the late 19th century into the Blue Grass State.  “Too many people! Too crowded, too crowded! I want some elbow room,” he said.  What he wanted was to settle on some land that wouldn’t be taken away from him and the Spanish were all too willing to oblige.   You see, at that time, the area now known as Missouri was under the control of Spain and was called Upper Louisiana.  Shortly thereafter the French gained dominion over the land until Napoleon sold it to the United States. 

 But, in spite of the changes at the top, Boone was able to keep his claim…until the Uncle Sam took charge and, once again, Boone’s claims were challenged by the government.   In 1810, he returned to Kentucky to pay off all of his debts.  He only had 50 cents to his name when he returned to Missouri but he had satisfied his creditors.  It’s too bad more Americans today do not have the character of Daniel Boone.  I’m not sure where we lost it but his actions sure are a contrast to some folks today who purposely default on their mortgages because its “good business.”  Boone probably would not have referred to such action in that manner.  Boone had great satisfaction at his being able to pay his outstanding debt.  Perhaps we as individuals and as a nation should endeavor to gain that same level of satisfaction.

Civil War Balloon Flights Were Not Leisurely Flights of Fancy
September 24, 2010

Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe's Life Rose Like the Incline and Balloons He Developed Before It Came Crashing Back to Earth

On This Date In History: This date in 1861 was not a good day for flying. At 3:30 AM on April 20, 1861 Thaddeus S C Lowe decided it was a good time to test his new 20,000 cubic foot balloon called Enterprise. I’m not sure if the balloon was shown in the Star Trek movie that showed all of the previous vessels called Enterprise. I don’t think that I recall that being the case. Anyway, he took off from Cincinnati before the sun comes up and his little test mission turned into a misadventure. He got whisked away by 100 mph winds aloft that sent him to South Carolina. He thought he’d get welcomed like a crowned prince like the Wizard of Oz. Instead he was arrested as a spy. Apparently the professor was absent minded as he had no clue that 6 days before Fort Sumnter had fallen and the Civil War had begun. Fellow academics convinced the state authorities that Lowe was on a scientific mission and they let him go.

Lowe's Intrepid

I’m not sure if Professor TSC Lowe was ticked at being arrested or if his buddies were wrong because Lowe promptly went north and became the leader of the Union’s Army of the Potomac Aeronautic Corps of balloonists. Lowe designed and built several balloons for a whole Union fleet with the largest being the 32,000 cubic foot Intrepid that required 1200 yards of silk. This was a group of mainly civilians who made some 3000 flights in the first two years of the war. They would tether up and view the battlefield from aloft and then use a telegraph to wire down the enemy position and direct artillery fire. It was the forerunner to aerial reconnaissance. In fact, later in WWI, the airplane was used initially for recon missions until it was discovered you could drop bombs from planes or put machine guns on the plane and shoot down enemy planes and blimps. Anyway, on this date in 1861 Lowe himself was shot down. Somehow he ended up behind enemy lines. I don’t know if he got caught up in another 100 mph wind or enemy fire cut his tether or if he was just going on another “scientific excursion” but down he went and he was captured again. His wife Leontine was a witness to the whole thing. Did she sit and cry? Did she hope that academics would again get her husband set free? Nope. Instead, she personally led a raid of nighttime commandos who moved in and rescued the professor before he could be captured again.

Railway was cool but it cost Lowe his fortune

Before the war, Lowe had established a reputation for new theories and study in Chemistry, Meteorology and Aviation. He had a dream of a transatlantic balloon flight. I guess he got rich because after the war, he moved to Pasadena, CA and built a 24,000 foot house.  The professor made a bunch of money after he invented the ice machine in 1865 followed by a number of other inventions.   He also founded Citizen’s Bank, which I remember as a kid being the sponsor of my friend’s Little League baseball team.   He tried to build  a railroad to Mount Wilson but, when that fell through, he built a rail line to Echo Mountain and then on to the summit of  the mountain named for him and the Lowe Observatory among other things. Funny thing is the guy ended up living with his daughter in her Pasadena home as he lost his fortune.  Seems his financial grasp had extended beyond his reach when it came to that railroad up the mountain overlooking Altadena.   Makes you wonder if now California will rename its mountains something like Mount AIG or Mount Lehman Brothers.

Weather Bottom Line:  Count yourself lucky if you got any rain out of the frontal passage on Friday.  It was the 83rd day of Louisville having temps 90 or better this year which betters the old mark of 81 days in 1954.  While the upper air was too warm and the air too dry to support much in the way of rain, the front will bring a halt to the hot weather as highs will be in the upper 70’s on Saturday and Sunday.  A winter-like low will drop into the Ohio Valley and southern states beginning early in the week.  This will greatly enhance our much-needed rain chances on Monday and clouds and scattered showers should hold temps in the low to mid 70’s for a good chunk of the week ahead.

The US Banks Were Bailed Out in the Past, But Uncle Sam Wasn’t The Savior
September 22, 2010

Banks Have Been Bailed Out Many Times in US History

Banks Have Been Bailed Out Many Times in US History

Dow Jones Since 1900-It Took Until the 1950's for the Dow to reach Pre-Depression levels
Dow Jones Since 1900

On This Date in History In 1906, San Francisco had a great earthquake. The effects of that quake led to a financial trouble spot that turned into a full-blown economic crisis. At that time, there was no central bank or Federal Reserve. With the system stretched by the stress of the San Francisco quake, some doofus tried to corner the copper market and when that failed, all of the banks who made loans to back the scheme were in trouble so they started calling other loans and the Panic of 1907 was created. People lost confidence in the system and several banks  failed. A bailout was needed. President Theodore Roosevelt was claiming that everything was fundamentally in great shape and threatened a federal takeover of all trusts if the bankers and financial gurus couldn’t get thier houses in order. Who came to the rescue? None other than J. Pierpont Morgan was the savior; the same JP Morgan who had bailed out the system in 1871 and 1895 and the same JP Morgan that is related to JP Morgan Chase who bailed out Bear Stearns in 2008.   To fend off the threats from Teddy Roosevelt, Morgan huddled with his banking brethren and convinced them that they needed to work together to salvage the system in order to save all of their hides and the future of the banking system.   He also convinced the Secretary of the Treasury to pony up $25 million to the effort. The recession did not turn into a depression and the 1907 Panic led directly to the eventual establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

JP Morgan May Have Looked Like a Wild Old Man But He Saved Uncle Sam Bailed Out the Nation Several Times

JP Morgan May Have Looked Like a Wild Old Man But He Saved Uncle Sam Bailed Out the Nation Several Times

While the numbers are not as large…not the $700 billion to $800 Biillion that the banking bailout became in 2008-09, the other numbers are not as large either. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 39% in 1907. On this date in 2008, the market had lost and gained about two percent over the previous month and politicians ran around making comparisons to the Great Depression when a comparison to 1907 might have been a better barometer . In order to equal the fall of the 1907 panic, the Dow that was around 11,015 on September 22, 2008 would have had to fall to 7000 and it was on this date in 2008 that the Dow fell some 300 points and arguably didn’t stop falling until March 9, 2009 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average bottomed out at 6547.   So, while it was, and in some measure still is, an extremely difficult and precarious situation, it was not totally unprecedented and it wasn’t necessarily a good match with the Great Depression. It’s just the depression of the 1930’s is all the general public, politicians and most people in the media know about.  Several times in the past,  it was JP Morgan engineering a bailout with some government help and this time it was the Federal Reserve and Uncle Sam engineering a bailout with some other private help. When you hear also of rumors that today’s problem was a plot by those who stand to profit, keep in mind that in 1907 it was rumored that the banks had caused the whole panic just to line their pockets.   Aside from the Great Depression, there were a bunch of “panics” in financial circles and the resultant recessions or depressions  that came fairly regularly…perhaps too regularly. The Dow is currently in a trading range between about 9900 and 10,70o and, in recent days, there has been a declaration that the recession is over. 

Year Unemployment rate
1923-1929 3.3
1930 8.9
1931 15.9
1932 23.6
1933 24.9
1934 21.7
1935 20.1
1936 17.0
1937 14.3
1938 19.0
1939 17.2
1940 14.6
1941 9.9
1942 4.7

With unemployment still hovering near 10%, the rebound of the stock market and the claim that the recession is over are by no means a guarantee that the market and economy won’t go back in the tank.  Nevertheless, both are, and especially the Dow Jones, are certainly at a different place than anyone in March 2009 could have foreseen.   If something happens that causes a big drop in stock prices again, then maybe we can start to refer to the Great Depression as it relates to the stock market, which is but one indicator.   Unemployment is pretty bad but its more like the late 1970s and early 1980’s, not the 1930’s.

No Hoovervilles Today Like in 1930

No Hoovervilles Today Like in 1930

The big thing about the Great Depression is that its depths were so far reaching that it led to new regulation by the government into financial markets than had ever been contemplated by the founders or anyone else in an effort to try to control the economy such that these setbacks wouldn’t be so deep or so frequent. To a large degree, it has worked pretty well but to expect these things to never happen or think its some sinister plot just is to not accept reality.

Sometimes, news people say they need to give commentary to “give perspective” or a particular news event. Dan Rather used to defend journalists providing analysis instead of just reporting for that specific reason. Yet, it helps if those giving “analysis and perspective” had some perspective in the first place. It’s probably hyperbole and just outright ignorance that media types or politicians trot out the Great Depression comparison.  I remember when President Clinton was running for his first term against George H. W. Bush, they said then that it was the worst economy since the Great Depression.  It certainly wasn’t even close to the economy of the Great Depression then and it’s arguably not the same now.   It’s probably best to leave that moniker on the shelf until its truly warranted.   Let’s hope it can stay on the shelf and we can call this the great recovery. Some of us need a job, not panic.

Weather Bottom Line:  We will continue with this mid to upper 90’s nonsense through Friday.  A front will be approaching then and will pass through.  As it does so, our rain chances will go up. Trouble is that we are so dry there may not be enough moisture for this guy to give us as much rain as one might ordinarly expect from a strong front.  But, it’s a chance.  The good thing is that it will knock the mercury down to the upper 70’s to low 80’s for the weekend and it may be the sign of a pattern change.  Some models are showing a big ol’ storm dropping down into the central plains and the Ohio Valley by the middle of next week.

America Could Have Been First In Space Had the Shackles Been Removed
September 20, 2010

What Would Have Happened Had the Imaginations of Von Braun and Disney Been Allowed to Develop to The Max?

Von Braun Happy Being Captured by Americans

On This Date in History:  According to Wernher Von Braun, he was forced to join the Nazi Party in 1937.   Some sources claim he joined as early as 1932.  But, Von Braun said that ” My refusal to join the party would have meant that I would have to abandon the work of my life. Therefore, I decided to join. My membership in the party did not involve any political activities …”  Von Braun was perhaps the world’s leading scientist involved in rocket theory and design and the deal was that he had to be a party member if he was to continue his work.  And, that work was dedicated to weapons development and not the venture into space as Von Braun desired.  Nevertheless, his work advanced rocketry.  When the war was over, Von Braun surrendered to the Allies, figuring that he’d get a better post-war deal from the Americans than from the Soviets.

Redstone Medium Range Ballistic Missile

On June 20, 1945 Secretary of State Cordell Hull approved the transfer of Von Braun and his colleagues to America following a procedure that used paperclips to indicate the transfer paperwork.  Hence, the process became known as “Operation Paperclip.”   This program allowed people like Von Braun who were once considered as war criminals or security risks to work in the United States; mostly for the government.  In Von Braun’s case, not only did he go to work for the US Army, he also contracted with Walt Disney to develop educational films.   He and his associates were transferred to Fort Bliss, TX to work with US personnel in training and developing military uses for rockets.  In 1950, Von Braun and his team were sent to Huntsville, Alabama where the former Nazi Party member led the Army’s rocket development team at Redstone Arsenal where they eventually developed the Redstone rocket.    Von Braun became a US citizen in 1955. 

1953 Collier's Sparked Space Interest But Didn't Inspire the Press to Look Forward

Much as he had been with the Nazi’s, Von Braun was trapped in the military world, yet, he still dreamed of a world in which rockets would be used in space exploration.  In 1952, he published a series of articles in Collier’s Weekly titled Man Will Conquer Space Soon!  He wrote about a 250 foot in diameter space station orbiting at 1075 miles above the earth as it rotated to provide artificial gravity.  In spite of his successful development of the Redstone rocket, The first half of the 1950’s were extremely frustrating for the space dreamer.  You see, while he and his mates were focusing on military applications of rocketry, scientists in the Soviet Union were pushing forward with their Sputnik program.  Beginning in 1954, Von Braun lobbied the Eisenhower administration to look beyond the earth’s atmosphere.  He contended that the Redstone rocket could place a satellite in orbit.  In 1956, he even demonstrated the Redstone’s capability when a Redstone blasted 3000 miles over the Atlantic Ocean to an elevation of 600 miles.  Had the rocket carried additional fuel instead of a payload of sand in the upper stages, Von Braun said he could have achieved orbit.  Nevertheless, on this date in 1956, the Eisenhower administration denied Von Braun permission to use a missle to launch a payload into orbit. 

An allie in Von Braun’s efforts could have been the press but, instead of considering the material Von Braun published in regard to a potential space station, the media focused on his past membership in the Nazi Party and the slave labor used to build his V-2 rockets during the war.   The administration had budgetary concerns.  The snoozing boys in the press room and the folks in the administration were suddenly awakened October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit called Sputnik.  It was apparent for the entire world to see just how far the Americans were behind the Soviets in rocket capabilities.  The US Navy developed an inconsistent  and largely unsuccessful Vanguard rocket that was not acceptable so, suddenly, Werner Von Braun and his team was transferred to NASA, which was established on July 29, 1958. 

Unleashed Von Braun Produced the Saturn V

Eventually, the Americans surpassed the Soviets in the “space race” with the ultimate achievement being man first setting foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.  It was made possible by Von Braun’s design of the giant Saturn V rocket that propelled the astronauts to the moon.  At the time, Von Braun said that the Saturn V could be developed further and that missions to Mars would be possible by the 1980’s.  But, budget concerns once again came to the forefront and the press once again lost enthusiasm and Von Braun’s dreams died with him on June 16, 1977.    I wonder what might have  been had Wernher Von Braun’s unlimited imagination not been prohibited from reaching its full potential.

Weather Bottom Line:  Some hope lies ahead for some rain and temperatures will eventually get back to seasonal levels after autumn officially begins on Wednesday.  On that day, a front will come down close enough to perhaps trigger some t’storm activity on a scattered basis.  But, it won’t move through.  So, we’ll still be talking about the low 90’s until the weekend.  Wednesday’s front backs up in advance of another system…that one will come through.  Look for rain and a threat for t’storms on Friday evening and night and the weekend looks great with highs in the low 80’s.   Be patient…the calendar says that summer is almost over and Mother Nature may, in fact, be paying attention.

Mexico City Shook To Its Foundation 25 Years Ago; It will Probably Happen Again
September 19, 2010


Original City Was Literally on Lake Texcoco

On This Date in History:  Mexico City has an interesting history.  It is built on the ancient Aztec City of  Tenochtitilan which was built as a water based society really on top of Lake Texcoco through the use of chinampas or water gardens.  When the Spanish showed up in the early 16th century, they eventually conquored the Aztecs and decided that this big lake just would not do.  Lake Texcoco was an enclosed lake and tended to flood the city and beside that it impaired their use of horses.  So, they began projects to drain the lake.  Well, in 1519 the city had 250, 000 inhabitants which was a lot of folks when one considers that London had about 200,000 people and Madrid about 64,000 around the same time.  By the turn of the 20th century, Mexico City still had about the same population that it had in 1519 but by 1953, the city’s population had mushroomed to over 3 million and the area went from 29 square miles to about 150.  Much of the expanded city was on the dry lake bed of Lake Texcoco.   By 1996, Mexico City covered 870 square miles and was home for about 17 million people. 

15 Story Steel Reinforced Nuevo Leon Building Collapsed

Now, with the lake gone and the population rising, water became scarce so they started drilling wells on the old lake bed for water.  The result of the extraction of groundwater has been some serious subsidence.  Beyond that, an old lake bed is not a very stable geological formation on which to build a city.  It has the ability to jiggle alot when shaken.  That makes Mexico City one of the most vulnerable cities in the world when it comes to earthquakes.  On this date in 1985 an earthquake registering 8.0 on the richter scale shook Mexico City and the surrounding region.  The earthquake struck at about 7:17:47 AM on September 19, 1985 releasing about 5.61 x 1024 ergs (10 to the power of 24) or about 19 kilotons of TNT which was about twice as much energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.   It was the greatest earthquake event in Mexico since the Great Jalisco Earthquake of 1932.  The geology of the former lake bed is suspected to have contributed to great resonance effects with dominant two second horizontal ground accelerations that were recorded in the area.  The epicenter of the quake was relatively shallow but was 300 km away from Mexico City which is pretty far away in relation to the damage.   Evidence supporting the assertion that the physical characteristics of the earth around Mexico City contributed to the extreme effects is the fact that a large percent of the building damaged or destroyed were between 8 and 18 stories high.  Think of it has buiding a house on jello.   

Steel Reinforced Concrete Suarez Apartments Couldn't Stand

The earthquake was felt as far north as Houston, Texas and as far northwest as El Paso, Texas and all the way in Tuscon, AZ a swimming pool at the University of Arizona lost water due to the sloshing from the vibration.  To the west, a tsunami was generated that was about 3 meters high at Zihuatenejo and 1.4 meters at Acapulco.  That tsunami resonated across the Pacific to Hawaii and even a 5 cm rise was recorded at Tahiti.  An aftershock of magnitude 7.5 on Sept 21 caused a second tsunami, though some geologists suspect that this was a separate earthquake rather than an aftershock.  That is something for academics to argue about because it really makes little difference.  The damage was horrific.  Obviously, severe damage was experienced in Mexico City and the death toll has been pegged in excess of 9500 with some estimates of fatalities approaching 35, 000.  At the time, Mexico City probably had about 15 million people so, when you think about it, the percentage of fatalities vs the total population was pretty small…but when you are talking about such huge numbers. small percentages can translate into large numbers of people.   Like the fatality totals, total casualties may never be known for certain but injuries numbered at least 30,000 and some 100,000 people were left homeless.  412 buildings collapsed and 3124 were severely damaged in Mexico City.  The earthquake affected about 825,000 square miles.  Damage was caused across Central Mexico from Lazaro Cardenas on the Pacific Coast to Vera Cruz on the Gulf Coast. 

Ruins of the Hotel Regis

An interesting aspect of this event was that, initially, the political power of the country said it didn’t need  any help.  The Revolutionary Party had been in power for so long that it was considered by many to be an institution.  But, many political analysts suggest that the governmental early rejection of foreign aid led to the downfall of the Revolutionary Party.  A number of rather somber ceremonies were held today to commemorate what happened in Mexico City 25 years ago with civic memorial services as well as Roman Catholic Masses conducted to remember the dead.  At the location of the Hotel Regis, patrol cars and ambulances lined the streets and turned on their sirens to mark the time of the quake.  That was a particularly imfamous building collapse as shortly following the hotel’s demise, a gas leak fed a fire that made it quite difficult to try to rescue anyone who may have survived.

Notice the Uprooted Foundation of this 8 story building that split in two

The really sad thing is that this type of catostrophe will probably happen again.  When the Spanish first conquored the city they considered moving it but chose not to do so.  The center of the city is really pretty close to the center of the old lake bed and that lake bed has a relatively high water content.  Hence, when there is considerable shaking then liquification of the sediment takes place making it unsuitable to support large structures.  The same thing happened in the landfill areas around San Francisco Bay in the 1991 earthquake there.  In California, there is the San Andreas Fault which makes that part of the US susceptable to earthquakes but Mexico is extremely vulnerable as there’s a lot of constant friction between the North American Plate, the Cocos Plate and the Pacific Plate.  It’s one of the more seismically active regions of the world with some 90 temblors of maginitude 4.o of more recorded on average each year.  Not only is the region active and the dry lakebed not overly stable, the lakebed also has a natural harmonic pitch of about 2.5 which means everything on the lakebed shakes at the same frequency and it just happens that 2.5 is a very common frequency of shallow earthquakes.  Mexico City is kinda like New Orleans, or Los Angeles or Pompeii or Seattle or any of a number of large, urban environments that are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters that have come in the past and will come again in the future.  It’s just part of the risk of living on an active planet.

Typhoon Fanapi Set To Strike Taiwan Before Weekend is Over
September 18, 2010

Click on Image for Most Recent Western Pacific Rainbow IR Image Loop

Typhoon Fanapi Forecast Track as per Joint Typhoon Warning Center

The people in Taiwan are anticipating the arrival of Typhoon Finapi.  Among other things, it is disrupting the fishing season that just started at the beginning of the month.  Perhaps more importantly, the Typhoon is packing winds that will cause concern for damage and a potentially devastaing surge.  However, the actual surge is determined by geograhpical features of the island as well as the physical features of the shelf and I am not aware of the physical features around Taiwan.  I cannot find any buoys in the region that are in operating condition but reports of 28 foot seas have been made.   While the forward speed of around 12 mph might limit the storm surge potential to a small degree, winds running at 105 kts (120 mph) will be sufficient to push a substantial amount of water up to the right of landfall.  Typhoon Fanapi’s intensity puts it as an equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.   Beyond the wind and surge threat, the topography of the island will serve to enhance rain totals and authorities are expecting up to 20 inches in some areas.  With a storm travelling around 10 mph, Typhoon conditions can be expected in several parts of the island for up to 8-12 hours.

Total Precipitable Water-Click on Image For Most Recent Loop

When you look at the satellite imagery, you find that Finapi is a well formed, compact tropical cyclone but the outflow to the north is almost absent while there remains some outflow to the south.  There is a big fat high to the north of the cyclone that is inhibiting the poleward outflow which may have inhibited the storm from becoming even more intense.   The central pressure of 935 mb has the potential to support winds higher than previous estimates.  Nevertheless, tropical storm force winds extend up to 150 miles from the center and typhoon winds some 35 to 40 miles from the center of circulation.   I suspect that there is the possibility that this storm may be getting slightly more intense as it approaches Taiwan for landfall as it appears that Fanapi has completed an eyewall replacement cycle.  An eyewall replacement cycle is a natural occurence related to a well developed tropical cyclone and typically, the maximum winds decrease as the storm goes through the cycle of replacing an eyewall, though the overall strong windfield expands.  Once the cycle is complete, then the storm returns to its previous intensity.  Hence, the satellite imagery suggests that the cycle is complete and Fanapi may be ramping up toward maximum potential just prior to landfall.

Fanapi IR Satellite 09.18.10 1732Z

For what it’s worth, Fanapi is the Micronesian name for “sandy islands” and it is expected to continue on its track generally to the west at around 10 kts and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center Forecasts points  to a landfall about 70 miles SSE of Taipei near the coastal town of Hualien.  Geographically speaking, it seems to me that the little bay to the north of Hualien may be vulnerable to an enhanced surge.  Once the storm makes landfall, the topographical features of Taiwan will disrupt the storm sufficiently that it will fall to below 100 kts when it re-emerges over the Taiwan Straits and will move into China within 36 hours with winds of around 80 to 85 kts about 150 miles Northeast of Hong Kong.  Inland flooding will be a concern for China as the storm dissipates, particularly when one considers that China has experienced flooding problems all summer long in many parts of the huge nation.

JP Morgan Rejects GM’s Pleas, the Company Thrives; Morgan Bails Out GM, The Founder Lost His Job
September 16, 2010


Nice Guess

Nice Guess

On this Date in History: I read an article from the Wall Street Journal from January of 2008. It read that oil prices were around $90 a barrel and were expected to remain around that level. It had a quote from a learned man who said, at that time,  that he expected the price of oil  to drop to about $67 a barrel.   While he didn’t put a time qualifier on the statement,  about 6 months after this artcle came out the price of oil was over $140 a barrel.  I related this story to one of my classes and one student said that it sounded like someone sucks at their job. The point is we often hear these great ideas and pontifications from “experts” that turn out to be wrong by a long shot, if not completely opposite of reality.

Durant Was No Quitter

Durant Was No Quitter

At the dawn of the 20th Century,  animal power remained much of the energy that drove the economy, though certainly not as much as at the turn of the 19th Century.  Aside from the railroads, animal power was particularly necessary for transportation and for agricultural interests. A United States Senator, Chauncey Depew, said with full confidence that “nothing has come along to beat the horse.”  He suggested to those who might invest in alternative forms of transportation to “keep your money.” Now, one who is looked up to as one who had a great financial mind and who was quite savvy in investing was J. P. Morgan. Well, Morgan had a chance to get into the automobile business in 1908 when he was approached by William Crapo Durant for a loan. Durant and Benjamin Briscoe wanted financing for the proposed merger of their two fledgling automobile companies, Buick and Maxwell-Briscoe. Durant told Morgan that automobile sales would reach a half million per year. Upon hearing Durant’s prediction, one of Morgan’s partners sniffed, “If he has any sense, he’ll keep such notions to himself.”

Depew Left Holding the Horse Shovel

Depew Left Holding the Horse Shovel

Well, the deal didn’t go through and Briscoe is left to the asheep of history. But Durant soldiered on without any backing of financiers and formed a holding company on this date in 1908 with $2000 and without J.P. Morgan. Instead, he sold shares of stock and raised about $12 million in a couple of weeks. He called it General Motors. He acquired Olds Motor Works later that year, then subsequently bought Cadillac, Pontiac (originally known as Oakland), Cartercar, Ewing and Elmore. But, in 1910, Durant was in a tight financial situation and he turned to competitors of Morgan for help. Durant apparently used the financing to continue to acquire other companies. That led to more problems but, by then,  automobiles were getting popular enough that I suppose JP Morgan had changed his mind.   Around 1920, General Motors found itself with $30 million in debt and huge obstacles ahead. Durant went back to Morgan and Pierre du Pont who were two giants of the financial world. The financiers saved the company but effectively finished off Durant at GM. See, part of the deal was that Durant was out and du Pont took over as President. But, don’t feel too bad for Durant. He’s one of those guys who never quit, following the advice of the old gridiron sage, Granville Hambright who often told his Junior High football players that “a winner never quits and a quitter never wins.”    Durant went on to found a new company. You might have heard of it…Chevrolet.

Sloan: Father of Modern Corporation?

Sloan: Father of Modern Corporation?

Dupont served as President of GM until 1923 when he turned the reigns over the Alfred P. Sloan who focused his attention on managing the company more effectively. Ever wonder why there are new models to cars every year? It was Sloan’s idea. How about the different pricing structure of different brands in the company? That was Sloan too. By the late 1920’s, GM passed Ford as the leader in automobile sales.  For his company,  Henry Ford  focused his attention on more efficient manufacturing instead of management, marketing and finance. Later in the 20th century, GM became the largest corporation in the world…a title it later lost and did so in quite a spectacular fashion.

Ford Legacy: Don't Give Up Control

Ford Legacy: Don't Give Up Control

Some interesting aspects of this story. First off, it took the geniuses like Morgan a dozen years to figure out that a visionary like Durant was right all along. Durant had the vision but he didn’t have the know-how regarding making his dream come to fruition. What is interesting is that Henry Ford rebuffed the attempts of outside financiers to take over Ford Motor Company when things turned tough in the Depression. Yet, General Motors has an early history of near disaster before they got it right.

gm__cracked_logoAt the first part of the 20th century, General Motors needed help and so they went to private financial institutions for that help. When they were denied, founder Durant figured out a way to move ahead while some of his competitors went by the wayside. Then additional help came in the form of the previously reluctant Morgan. Ford probably worked with Morgan on a number of deals, but none with the expressed intent of saving the company. In fact, in the early 1920’s when Ford faced potential bankruptcy, Henry Ford turned down financing from big investment houses who required that Ford turn over control of the company, like Durant did. In the early 21st century, it’s deja vu. But, this time, General Motors turned to the Federal Government (taxpayers) to get saved and private investors (stock holders, bond holders) ended up with the short end of the stick. Instead of financiers like du Pont taking control of the company, the government fired the head of GM. Meanwhile, Ford did not take government money and continues to move forward and maintain control of the company, in the same tradition of the company’s founder, Henry Ford.   While Ford Motor Company in late 2010 still had about $27 Billion in debt, it had reduced its debt by $4 Billion, had positive cash flow and the outlook for Ford looks bright in some circles with some analysts project Ford having more cash than debt by 2012.  But, be careful, those are just “expert” opinions and remember, Morgan’s experts thought that the automobile was a loser investment 100 years earlier.  What a difference a century makes. In some ways, not one bit. In other ways, a huge difference.

Weather Bottom Line:  We got the light rain in the morning but it doesn’t look like it will help advance the notion of rain, let alone thunderstorms on Thursday evening or afternoon.  It’s just too stable an atmosphere and that’s too bad because we need the rain.  This was our big chance and it wasn’t too good to begin with.  Look for a pleasant Friday with a return to hot, but relatively dry, conditions for the weekend into early next week.

The First Landship Was Such a Secret That It Was Called a “Tank”
September 15, 2010

Little Willie Didn't Fair Too Well in Its Debut But Big Willie Soon Followed

Leonardo Da Vinci's Early Version of what later was known as a Tank

On This Date in History:  In the mid to late 15th century, the Scots used covered war carts when they did battle with the English.  Leonardo da Vinci sketched a design for what became known as a tank in the 1480’s and in later centuries, various attempts at creating wind powered or steam powered “landships” were made.   The idea of ships being covered with iron plating for protection had been around since the US Civil War as “ironclads” became pretty popular by the end of that conflict.  Much like the submarine had gotten a boost from the vision or science fiction writer Jules Verne, perhaps the idea of a workable “landship” seemed to be more practical with the 1903  publication of H.G. Wells’ of “The Land Iron Clads” in Strand Magazine.  What most probably pushed the idea of a enclosed attack platform from the drawing board to the battle field was circumstance.  By 1916, trench warfare had taken hold in Europe during World War I and a case of stalemate had emerged in which neither side could gain an advantage facing another recent development: the machine gun.

This Part of "No Man's Land" in WWI Was Once a Forest

For miles and miles, mainly through France and Belgium, the axis and allies had dug series of connecting trenches.  The area in between the lines was known as “no man’s land” because any attempted advance over the top of the trench was met by heavy machine gun fire that cut down anything standing.  Barbed wire was also used to delay any advance attempted by footsoldiers and that made for an easy target.   The casualties in World War I were horrific and between flying bullets through the air and constant artillery bombardment, no living things survived;  grass disappeared and trees cut to pieces.  The result was a muddy muck that made any sort of travel exceedingly difficult.  Not long after the war began and trench warfare had taken hold,  British Colonel Ernest Swinton was sent to the front to make observations and recommendations.  Colonel Swinton noticed that he only way for travel was with caterpillar tractor with moving treads.  He had the notion that, if an armored vehicle with such tracks were developed, then perhaps the trenchlines of the Germans could be breeched.  He kicked his idea upstairs, but at first, General Sir John French flatly rejected the idea of a steel plated, caterpillar tracked vehicle.  But, Swinton did not give up.  He passed his idea on to Colonel Maurice Hankey and from Hankey it landed in the hands of Sir Winston Churchill, who at the time was the First Lord of the Admiralty

Little Willie Now Lives In a Museum

As the head of the Royal Navy, Churchill knew the value of armored plating and he got the project going.  Development began but it was done under ultra-secret conditions.  Those who worked on the project were told to tell anyone who questioned them that they were working on water carriers or water tanks.  It seems that, especially in the military, abbreviated terms come into common usage for a variety of topics and this was no exception.  Hence, the term “tank” was coined.  Officially, it was called a “Landship” and the Landships Committee and New Inventions Committee agreed that it was an idea worth exploring with certain specifications.  Lieutenant W. G. Wilson of the Naval Air Service and William Tritton of William Foster & Co. Ltd. of Lincoln were given the task of building a landship that could hold 10 men, move at up to 4 mph and be capable of making sharp turns at top speed.  The landship had to be able to climb a 5 foot earth parapet, cross an 8 foot gap and operate in reverse.  The armament would feature at least two machine guns and a 2 pound main gun.  

Mark I or "Big Willie" or "Mother" at the Sommes Sept 25 1916

The result was the 26 foot long, 14 ton No. 1 Lincoln Machine or “Little Willie” outfitted with the “creeping grip” track from the Bullock Tractor Co. of Chicago.   The nickname came about in reference to German Kaiser Wilhelm.   When the first prototype was demonstrated to the Landship Committee on September 11, 1915, it was a bit underwhelming.  Willie could barely muster a speed over 3 mph and over rough ground that dropped off to about 2 mph.  The biggest set-back was that it failed to overcome broad trenches.  But, Swinton was convinced that his tank could be improved and provide the needed push for an Allied victory.  A second model was created which looked very similar to the original and it didn’t work too well either when it was tried out in December 1915.  So, a new design was undertaken that put the track around the superstructure and it had a 6 pound gun.  The new version was referred to as “Big Willie” or “Mother,” though it was officially the Mk1 or Mark 1. 

Whoops! Some of the Big Willies Couldn't Negotiate the Big Trenches

The first use of tanks in battle was in the Battle of the Somme near the villages of Flers and Courcelette in France on this date in 1915.  The tanks included a crew of a subaltern, 3 drivers and 4 gunners.  One of the gunners was a non-commissioned officer who commanded the machine.  Rarely did the landship reach 4 mph in battlefield conditions and conditions for the crew were pretty tough.  It was extremely hot and noisy and exhaust from the engine made breathing difficult.  Hot, molten metal flew about as the armor was struck by machine gun fire.  As a result, the crews often became sick and incompacitated thus rendering long term operation impossible.  Then there was the issue of communication, which was very difficult within the tank and nearly impossible between tanks.  Because men could usually walk faster than the tank could move, officers would often get out of the tank and walk to another one nearby to coordinate their movements or tactics.

US M1A1 Abrams Tank descended from Little Willie

The first attack was supposed to come at 6:20AM on September 15, 1916 but it got going about an hour early.   Seems that Captain H.W. Mortimore got cranked up early.  His was supposed to be one of three tanks to initiate the action but the other two were delayed.   Mechanical issues proved to be a big bugaboo the first time out as only 32 of the 49 tanks available got off the mark that day.  Of those, 5 ended up stuck in a trenches or shell holes, 9 broke down and 9 were too slow to keep up with the other tanks, let alone the troops.   However, the 9 slow pokes were successful in mop-up operations as the 9 that managed to keep going, breeched enemy lines and caused considerable damage.  The sight of these new beasts were quite a shock to the German army.    While the British had a long way to go in fixing the problems associated with their first tank effort and they had to figure out how the new machine could most effectively be used, the Germans saw the benefits and started their own tank development program.  By April 1918, the Germans deployed their own version of the tank.  But, advancing Allied armies, German losses and the economic disaster that had become Germany were such that the new German tank could not save the day.  By November 11, 1918 an armistice was signed to end the war with terms that were very harsh to Germany.  Many say the signing of the Armistice in 1918 in a railway car in France set the stage for World War II.  Some historians argue that World War II was simply an extension of World War I.  By the time that war had come about, engineering advancements made the tank a necessary and needed tactical weapon on the field of war and tank technology has continued well into the 21st century, over 100 years after Little Willie first showed up.

SPC thinks strong storms are possible Thursday

Weather Bottom Line:  On Wednesday evening, the dewpoint in Louisville was 49 and the humidity 23%.  There is a front approaching and normally I’d say there was a chance for scattered showers on Thursday morning but I don’t see how it happens without moisture.  The morning event may serve to moisten up the column sufficiently to allow for a better chance for rain and t’storms with the actual cold front on Thursday afternoon or evening.  If we are moist enough, then we may be able to support a squall line ahead of the front and if that happens, some of the storms could be rather strong.  After that, no rain chances are in sight.  We will pull back on the dry heat temperatures that we’ve had on Friday with highs in the low to mid 80’s but as high pressure moves to the east, we go back to the 90’s for Saturday and at least the first part of next week.

When Willie Nelson Smoked a Joint at Jimmy Carter’s White House
September 14, 2010

Willie Prefers an "Austin Torpedo"

Willie Prefers an "Austin Torpedo"

President CarterOn This Date In History: It’s just an odd coincidence that former presidential press secretary Jody Powell died a year ago today some 33 years after a rather interesting footnote to history that revolves around his old boss. Remember during the 1976 Presidential election how Jimmy Carter used his stellar integrity as a campaign club? Remember the famous “adultery in my heart” comment to Playboy magazine and the focus on his Southern Baptist upbringing? President Carter was extremely bright. He served honorably in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant directly under the command of Admiral Hyman Rickover aka the “father of the nuclear navy”. President Carter was known as a peanut farmer in campaign literature but the truth is he was a nuclear engineer of great ability. He and President Herbert Hoover are the only academically trained engineers to serve as President…you can draw your own conclusions. Anyway, all of this makes what happened in the middle of September 1980 all that more remarkable.

On this date in 1980, the old Red Headed Stranger was probably feeling pretty good about himself.  On the night of  September 13, 1980 President Carter hosted a concert by none other than Willie Nelson at the White House. Willie Nelson of “Whiskey River” and “Outlaw” fame. Willie Nelson on his 3rd marriage at the time. Later Nelson went on to run up an interesting rap sheet of marijuana arrests and was convicted of failure to pay his income taxes. Not one to be kept down, Willie made a new record called The IRS Tapes: Will You Buy My Dreams? A lot of people did because Willie paid back the hundreds of thousands, if not millions(I can’t remember how much it was) in back taxes.

Willie Nelson

But, I suppose to forgive is Divine, especially if you are forgiving a country music star with some good tunes. Seems President Carter liked to listen to Nelson’s music while pondering policy and other items associated with the pressures of being President. Carter told Rolling Stone magazine, “All the good things I did as president, all the mistakes I made — you can blame half of that on Willie.” Nelson, who was a public supporter of NORMAL (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) exercised his protest right, I suppose, by lighting up what he called “a big fat Austin torpedo” while on the White House roof.   That would be a giant joint for all of you lacking in the hip verbiage of the day. According to a recent biography, Nelson has been smokin’ weed since he was 10.   Most likely, Willie did the tokin’ just prior to or after midnight which means that on this date in 1980, like in Luckenbach, Texas he was feelin’ no pain.  Carter said he never knew about it but Nelson claims the Secret Service kept a sharp eye on him while he sparked up on the Carter White House roof. Nelson has traced his lineage to the American Revolution. Perhaps he was doing his version of the Boston Tea Party as he toked away on top of the Presidential residence. As it turns out, apparently Willie wasn’t the only entertainer to spark up at the White House. Here is a list of 5 who make the claim to smoking doobs at the Executive Mansion.

Weather Bottom Line:  Through Wednesday we will be similar to what we had on Monday which is a high lurking around 90 and overnight low around 60.  Front on Thursday will try to make some rain but it better bring its own moisture because we are so dry that it won’t have much to work with. 

Uncle Sam: The Son of Three Fathers
September 13, 2010

Who is This Guy?

Who is This Guy?

Will the Real Sam Wilson Please Stand Up?

Uncle Sam Wilson Though I Suspect The Photo is Not the First Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy NY

On This Date In History: On This date, Samuel Wilson of Troy, New York was basking in the limelight shown by Congress….or he would have been had he been alive in the 20th century.  He was born in on September 13, 1766 in Massachusetts. He moved to Troy and was such a kindly man, that people affectionately called him “Uncle Sam.” During the War of 1812, Sam sold 300 barrels of beef and pork to food wholesaler Elbert Anderson who stamped each barrel “EA-US”. Anderson had a contract with the US Army and the lettering was meant to stand for Elbert Anderson and United States. When a worker was asked what the letters stood for, he said “Uncle Sam Wilson.” The name stuck. 150 years later, on this date in 1961, Congress passed a resolution honoring Sam Wilson of Troy, NY as the progenitor of America’s Uncle Sam. Congress must not have had much else to do that day, even though it was but a month before the Cuban Missile Crisis. Some things never change….like in the fact that Congress may have gotten it wrong.

Seems another Samuel Wilson was born in 1778 in Delaware and this Sam Wilson also moved to Troy, New York. He took a job as a clerk in a store owned by…Ebenezer Anderson. During the War of 1812, Sam oversaw orders taken from the government.  The claims associated with this story is that this Sam Wilson was known as “Uncle Sam” around the store.  So, he marked the boxes for the proprietor and for himself, using his the initials of his nickname.   The boxes were therefore also stamped “EA-US” for Ebenezer Anderson and Uncle Sam.   Again, someone identified the initials as those belonging to Uncle Sam.

Rice: Model for Uncle Sam?

Rice: Model for Uncle Sam?

The first Sam was born first but only lived to be 87. The second Sam was born later but lived to be 100. While the first Sam was the first, then the title should go to him.   But the second Sam was the last Sam, so the title should go to him.  Then again, the first Sam had been referred to as “Uncle Sam” by his neighbors before Ebenezer Anderson ever provided supplies for the government.  Nevertheless, both Sams were procuring orders for the military for the War of 1812 so the title should end in a tie. You can make your choice.  But oh…those clever 19th Century Newspapermen caught wind of it and the moniker Uncle Sam as a synonym for the US government began appearing in newspapers in 1813. So, you see, the press pack-mentality of everyone running with the same stuff began long ago and there has been no shortage of uninspiring, un-original stories in the press ever since.

Dan Rice in His Patriotic Garb-Precursor to Uncle Sam Image?

But, there’s more. There was a man named Dan Rice, who was a professional clown and who was also politically active. He was friends with both President Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. His popularity was such that he even made it on the ballot for the 1868 Presidential election. Now, Rice had been a supporter of Zachary Taylor during the 1848 presidential campaign and he had a habit of showing up to campaign events wearing red, white and blue tights, a tail coat that looked like the flag and a top hat and he sported a goatee. At least that part looks a little like the famous cartoon character of which we are familiar. Some say that is the true beginning of Uncle Sam and that was a result of the artistic work of James Montgomery Flagg. He was the artist who made the recruiting poster in 1917 encouraging enlistment for Americans into World War I. My guess is that Flagg took the stories of Uncle Sam Wilson and then used the appearance of Rice as a model.

You Figure it Out!

Flagg's 1917 Uncle Sam

Here’s the kicker….I’m not so sure that the photo attached in the upper left and widely spread as the 1766 Sam Wilson is not really the 1778 Sam Wilson as the 1766 Sam Wilson died in 1853 which would have been prior to photographs being so easily available. Further, his attire looks more like the Civil War Era and it seems possible that it was taken during that conflict as a sort of propaganda instrument for the North. But, I may be mistaken. Whatever it is, he sure doesn’t look like the more familiar character that started showing up in World War I. Funny how Uncle Sam seems so closely associated with war. Perhaps he was a product of the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.

Weather Bottom Line:  The front came through on Saturday and as expected a line of thunderstorms formed.  However, they formed just east of Louisville, much to the chagrin of my sunflowers and hydrangia.   This is climatilogically our driest part of the year and we will hold to that tradition throughout the week.  We have exceedingly dry air over the top of us and that will make for warm afternoons and relatively mild overnight temperatures.  The drier the air, the lower the heat capacitance and the result is pretty wide temperature swings.  For the next several days the difference between the highs and lows will be about 23-29 degrees.  I really don’t see much of a chance for rain until…maybe…th end of the week.