Archive for October, 2010

Erie Canal Is a Great Example of American Ingenuity and Boldness
October 26, 2010

Without a Mule or a Horse, You Went Nowhere on the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal Stretches 363 miles across Upstate New York; Quite an accomplishment in the early 19th Century

On This Date in History:  In 1817, DeWitt Clinton became governor of New York following a victory we only see today in totalitarian countries.  DeWitt received almost 97% of the vote as he gained 43, 310 votes with those opposed only registering 1,479 votes.  That kind of victory would give anyone the notion that perhaps he had a mandate.  Only trouble was that he had promised something that had never been done and many suggested could not be done.  You see, the United States was still a small, largely coastal nation but expansion contintually pushed the nation westward through the continent and away from the coast.  Trade was a great necessity for the fiscal stability of the nation and for the needs of settlers in the nation’s interior.  Roads were unreliable and rivers didn’t flow toward the East Coast so a great need developed for a quick, reliable way to connect the interior parts of the nation to the seaports on the East Coast.  An impediment was the Appalachian Mountains and, not only did the mountains impede economic concerns but they also were a potential limitation to national security.  If the young nation could not find a way over or around the Appalachians, then it could lose its frontier to Britain or France. 

Erie Canal Today Near Albany, NY

So, Clinton had seized upon and idea that had first surfaced in 1784 which was to link the Great Lakes with the Hudson River with a canal.  Initially, it was called the Great Western Canal but later took on the Erie Canal moniker.  Now, that was a great task as the rise in elevation from Albany to Buffalo is about 675 feet so it was not a matter of simply digging a ditch.  There were huge engineering obstacles to overcome.  Clinton had served on a commission to study the issue in 1810 and that New York State Commission concluded that the project went beyond the state’s means and that federal funding would be necessary.  Federal funds had never been used in such a manner in the past and, at the time, the states looked at themselves as independent entities loosely held together in a confederation rather than a unified nation.  The changeover from a “union” to a “nation” would not come about until after the Civil War.  So, other states objected to New York getting federal monies as they reasoned the Empire State would get all of the benefit.  Thomas Jefferson said building the canal was “a little short of madness.”

Towns Like Baldwin Built Feeder Canals to the Erie Canal To Connect The Township to the rest of the world

Undeterred, Clinton went on a crusade to build the canal.  Using the power of his vote total, he proposed and the legislature passed a funding bill but the legislative approval was not the final tally.  New York had a Council of Revision which was made up of 5 men and they had to approve the measure.  Two were in favor of the canal project and two were firmly opposed.  That left it up to one man to decide.  That one man was New York Supreme Court Chief Justice James Kent and he was all set to vote “no” when he got a surprise knock at his door.  US Vice-President and former New York Governor Daniel Tompkins made a call and he told Kent that another war with Great Britain was imminent.  The Vice-President cautioned that New York should not waste its time and money on such a foolish project.  Most of the time, presidents tend to want vice-presidents to be seen and not heard.  If Tompkins’ feeling mirrored those of the adminstration,  then President James Monroe would have done better to send his VP to a funeral than to pay a call on the Council of Revision.  Kent was so peeved at the intrusion and saber-rattling attempt at coercion that he said, “If we must have a war, or have a canal, I am in favor of the canal!”  An odd twist to this part of the story is that Tompkins had been plagued by charges of misusing federal funds while serving as governor of New York.

Locks Were Needed to Overcome the 675 ft change in elevation over the distance of the canal

So, the project was approved but it started off quite curiously as there were no American engineers who any expertise in building canals, let alone one of such a scale.  For some reason that gave the state the great idea to hire two lawyers to lead the project. At least one newspaper of the time took note of the rather unorthodox appointment of Benjamin Wright and James Geddes to face the challenges posed by the canal when it described them as “a brace of country lawyers with a compass and a spirit level.”   However, the state wasn’t totally out of its mind because it was not unusual for men to have more than one profession and both Wright and Geddes are remembered today as engineers more than their jurisprudence with Wright earning a popular distinction as “the father of Civil Engineering.” 

Boats Had to Bring Their Own Mules; They Rotated Them Over the Course of the Journey

I’m not sure if it was considered a “shovel-ready” job, but the shovels must have been ready because work began on the job in July 4, 1817 and it was initiated in an easy spot.  The land west of Frankfort in Oneida County was soft and level.  By today’s standards, or even those of the late 19th century, the canal was quite small.  The specifications called for the canal to just be four feet deep and only 40 feet wide.  Bret Favre could possibly have thrown a football across the canal without throwing an interception.  But, one must remember that flatboats were relatively small at that time and the boats that used the canal had to be pulled along by animal power.  Teams of mules or horses walked along the banks of the canal with the boat in tow.  Before the canal could be dug, trees had to be cut, stumps removed and underbrush cleared.  Parts of New York State were still quite an untamed wilderness so such an undertaking was no easy task.  The clearing work was done in sections as small as just a quarter mile long.  Local contractors and farmers  contributed animal and human muscle to the endeavor, though some work-related contraptions were invented to help with the work.

Quite a View From Lockport

Within the challenge of overcoming the elevation change was problem of how to construct the Erie Canal locks.    Canvass White was considered by many to be the most gifted engineer on the entire project.  He had been recruited for the project by Governor Clinton who suggested the young engineer go to England to study that country’s canals.  He did so on his own dime and studied the methods used, including the use of hydraulic cement to seal the mortar used to connect the stones.  But, importing hydraulic cement from Europe was costly so they tried to simply coat the mortar with a thin layer of hydrolic cement.  It was no solution because it would take no time at all to crumble.    As it turns out, while digging the canal, limestone was discovered that doubled as a natural cement rock.  White, who was working on the middle section, calcinated the local rock, turned to to powder and mixed it with water and sand.  The new substance was found to harden with time under water and form an underwater cement that was far better than anything used before.   White patented his new discovery and the new material caught on rapidly.  Trouble was for Canvass, no one paid much attention to the patent and he received next to nothing for his effort.  When he died, his wife was left with an estate that included little more than the house furniture which she subsequently was forced to sell. 

Governor Clinton boarded the first boat to traverse the Erie Canal on October 26, 1825

Another challenge was the number of streams and rivers that had to be crossed and to overcome those hurdles, a page was taken out of the Roman playbook.  Much as White had observed on his tour of England’s canals, aqueducts were built over rivers and pipelines were used to divert streams.  In Western New York, the marshes were a prime breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitos so workers wore necklaces that served as mini-smudge pots that kept mosquitos away; they must have smelled lovely at the end of the day.  Beyond all of those challenges, the issue of the elevation change remained but that was overcome with a series of 83 locks along the 363 mile canal.  Not all of the land was made up of soft earth as New York is famous for its granite subsurface.  Five of the locks had to be blasted from solid rock near the future site of Lockport.  This series of locks lifted boats 76 feet over the Niagara Escarpment. On this date in 1825, the Erie Canal was completed and, a few weeks later, the canal boat Seneca Chief brought a keg of water from Lake Erie to New York Harbor for a “Wedding of the Waters.” 

Passengers as well as cargo used the Erie Canal

In the end, the Erie Canal not only proved that great engineering obstacles could be overcome, even with lawyers in charge.  It also showed that government could effectively build a public works project as the total cost came in at $7 million and it was paid off in tolls after just 12 years.  Between 1836 and 1862, the canal was enlarged to a depth of 7 feet with a width of 70 feet to accomodate the larger boats and needs of the expanding nation.  The number of locks was reduced by 9.   By 1900, boats had outgrown the canal and once again expansion was needed.  An enlargement project was proposed in 1903 and completed in 1918 that increased the depth to 12  to 14 feet, broadened the width to 120 to 200 feet and reduced the number of locks to 57 that could handle barges carrying up to 3000 tons of goods.  Today, the Erie Canal is used largely by boating enthusiasts and not be commercial traffic but, in its day, it was a true marvel.

High Risk for Severe Weather is a Bit Unusual

15% Chance for Tornadoes in Ohio Valley

Weather Bottom Line:

  After a very long, boring stretch, it would appear we have some action afoot.   The boys at the Storm Prediction Center have us in the High Risk for Severe Weather for Tuesday.  A warm front of sorts came through and opened the door for warm, moist air from the South.  First time we’ve had the Gulf open up for some time.  There is a strong upper level jet which is not unusual for this time of year and is indicative of a changing season.  See, the time of most severe activity will be in seasonal transition.  The primary time is the spring with the secondary prime time being the fall when we still have some times of warm moist air coming from the Gulf but we have the introduction of winter-like systems from the North with accompanying strong upper level energy.  It’s going to be windy all day with something like 20-30 mph winds with gusts to 40.  We should see a line of thunderstorms, most likely racing through the area between noon and 3 pm.  The potential for high winds will be the biggest threat though tornadic activity can’t be ruled out, especially along any bowing segments of the line.  There is such a strong level of dynamics that the SPC has issued a Tornado Watch for the area until 4 PM EDT on Tuesday

Wind Biggest Threat For Damaging Conditions


This situation is not very unusual to have such a storm this time of year.  In fact, this situation is really a bit similar to that of the in 1975 when the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk.  In that situation, there was an extremely deep low pressure area making its way across the Great Lakes that produced very strong winds and the result was huge waves on Lake Superior and Michigan.  The common nature of the scenario is why Gordon Lightfoot referred to the storm as the Gales of November.  Mariners know that there are some tough weather conditions found in November in that area and Lightfoot had the famous line “When the Gales of November come early”.  Well, this is a little before November so I’d say that the Gales of November will be coming early to the Great Lakes as this storm will have a central pressure of about 959 mb which is would support a category two hurricane.  Like the storm with the Fitz, this storm will have a very long cold front extending south that will sweep through the area.  It will be racing through so the action will be quick and possibly rather ferocious.

Typhoon Megi Slated For 2nd Landfall in East China; Taiwan not totally out of woods
October 21, 2010

Note Typhoon Megi ragged, off-center eye at 18:30Z 10.21.10 on West Pacific Rainbow IR image (click for most recent loop)

Typhoon Megi JTWC Forecast Track 10.21.10

Typhoon Megi:  4 days ago, prior to then Super Typhoon Megi’s landfall on the Philippines, I had mentioned in my long term analysis that “… if the trof is fast and very deep, it could conceivably turn the storm north and then northeast.  While there may not be sufficient room in the sea for this to occur without striking land, that scenario would put Taiwan at risk of a hit from the Southwest…”  At the time, the forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center called for the storm to track well to the Southwest of Hong Kong, perhaps toward the South China island of Hainan.  As it turns out the trof that was expected to turn the storm northwest was, in fact, deeper than forecast and Typhoon Megi turned North-Northwest not long after it emerged in the South China Sea. 

Typhoon Megi Visible Satellite 10.21.10

The damage from then Super Typhoon Megi to thePhilippines was largely to agricultural concerns. (Image Gallery) While the current agricultural outlook for the Philippines is stable, longer term consequences could result.  The loss of life was limited, considering that prior to landfall Megi had hit nearly 167 kts (190 mph) sustained winds with gusts to 220 mph.  It weakened a shade at landfall but was still an extremely strong super typhoon.  But, it moved across the island at a steady clip and had its greatest impact on less populated parts of the nation so flooding and loss of life was limited.

10.21.10 TPW image clearly shows Typhoon Megi nearing the Taiwan Strait (click for real time previous 72 hour loop)

Map of South China and Vicinity

At 15 UTC (Z) October 21, 2010 Typhoon Megi was about 250 nm southeast of Hong Kong moving North-Northeast at just 4 kts.  The trof in Southeast Asia dug so deep that it created a contraction in the steering ridge over the Western Pacific and the storm is now moving around the periphery of that ridge.  It is moving into cooler water which will hamper any further development but its got such a good outflow to the North that the decreasing intensity trend will be slower than what might otherwise occur.  Nevertheless, as it interacts with southwesterly flow aloft as it runs up along the trof to the northeast, it will begin to get ripped apart.  As I had mentioned a few days ago, if it weren’t for land getting in the way, this guy may have been a threat to Taiwan but the Chinese coast should get into the way. 

Note 7 day rainfall total related to Typhoon Megi ending 15 UTC (Z) 10.21.10 From NASA TRMM

In all likelihood, China will experience a weakening typhoon making landfall across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan somewhere in between Shantou and Xiamen.  It is possible that the winds may have fallen to below typhoon strength by then.  I would think that the greatest concern would be for flooding as the storm, while dissipating, will have the potential to bring very heavy rains and the flooding threat will increase should the remnant of Megi move at a snails pace, which is not uncommon for a dissipating tropical cyclone.  Still, it is not totally out of the question that this guy gets so caught up in the trof that it tracks a bit more northeast, as some models suggest.  Should that occur, then Taiwan may be under the threat of a dissipating tropical cyclone from the Southwest.  As it stands, the time frame of ultimate landfall would be about 6 UTC (Z) October 23, 2010 and I suspect that would be the case if it follows the current forecast track or if it wandered farther north or northeast.

Weather Bottom Line: Our weather is lame. Nice…but lame.  Highs in 70’s lows in 40s  tonight.  A rain chance does show up by the second half of the weekend, but we’ll talk about that tomorrow.  Only caveat is that we had a little boundary come through and cooler drier air will filter in taking us down into the 30’s in some spots.  Frost possible in some areas but if the breezes persist, it may not get as chilly as some may think and the wind would also tend to limit frost.

1987 Stock Market Crash Example of Increasing Risks in Investing
October 19, 2010

Biggest Single-Day Market Drop in History Oct 19 1987

On This Date in History:   After a run-up in the Dow Jones industrial average over the past several weeks that put it in positive territory by some 8% for the year, it took a tumble.  The Dow gave back about 1.5%, or 165 points to close as session that saw the big board showing a deficit well over 200 before the close.  Profits have been up for a large number of companies during the most recent “earnings season” but the Dow took a hit anyway.  The general consensus is that China raising its interest rates was the catalyst.  With a rise in Chinese interest rates, that economy may slow down and so the dollar got stronger.  The dollar rose 1.7% and commodities, including oil, fell.  Oil had been up about 13% over the past month, mainly due to a weakening dollar.  Since most commodities, including oil, are traded in dollars then when the dollar gets weaker the price of commodities rise.  Earlier this year when there was the European fiscal crisis, the dollar rose and oil prices fell.  When the crisis seemed to pass, then the dollar got weaker against other commodities and oil prices rose.  So, it would appear that, at the current time, the Dow Jones and other indices such as the S&P 500 are responding to currency exchange rates.  I think the volatility in the face of positive earnings reports just shows how nervous the investing class is at this time.

Media Hype in 1987 Proved Unfounded

However, Wall Street is not as nervous as it was 23 years ago when, on this date in 1987, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 508 points.  It became known as “Black Monday,” though its seems that moniker has been used in some form in the past.  That represented a decline of over 22% in one day of trading.  For a similar shock to happen today, the Dow would have to fall about 2400 points in one day.  Back in 1987 on October 19, the S&P 500 fell over 20% so it was a broad sell off of stocks.  The date marked the end of a bull market that had driven the Dow from 776 points in August 1982 to a high of over 2700 points in August 1987.  There was great concern in the media that we were in the midst of another potential 1929 scenario but the market said otherwise.  The very next day, the market had its biggest gain ever when it rose over 100 points and two days later rose 186 points.  By 1989, the Dow had recovered all it had lost on that one day and continued to rise for many years thereafter.  In comparison, the largest single day point drop for the Dow Jones happened on Sept 28, 2008 when it fell 778 points but that represented only a 7% decline.

Thousands lost jobs on Wall Street After 1987 Crash

So often, we hear that the market is a forecaster of the days to come so many experts thought the crash meant that it was the sign of a new recession.  The fallout though turned out to be relatively minimal.  Now, it certainly was a recession for the 15,000 folks on Wall Street who lost thier jobs, but the rest of the economy wasn’t overly affected. An easy answer to simply say that the Dow had risen about 300% in 5 years and people simply took their money off the table.  That is certainly true and probably was an incentive to sell at the first time of trouble.  Still,  it’s not totally clear of the cause, though there are numerous opinions.  However,  there seems to have been a number of factors that had more to do with a changing trading envrionment and new technology than anything else. 

Traders in a Frenzy like in this photo from 1987 may be a thing of the past with the increase in computer trading

It’s as if it was a hiccup in a transition from the old world to the new.  The Brady Commission, formally known as the Presidential Task Force on Market Mechanisms, determined that the failure of stock markets and derivatives markets to operate in sync was the major factor behind the crash.  Several sources put the blame on the then relatively new practice of using computer programs to initiate trades.  The idea is that when certain conditions were met, computers used by large, institutional investors sold large quantities of stocks and a waterfall effect followed suit.  Only trouble with this argument is that markets that did not use computers also dove.  But, it seems to me that if traders on other markets saw the Dow tanking that maybe panic would set in.  Another finger has been pointed at the lack of liquidity of the market.  Traders were unable to handle the large number of trade orders that came in and trading was halted for many stocks.  While it clearly was a problem it doesn’t explain why so many people decided to sell at once.  The bond market at the time featured yields that had risen from 7.6% to over 10% and that provided a nice haven for folks investing in the equity market but those rates did not rise overnight.  Perhaps it provided for a nice alternative and may have encouraged nervous investors who found it a lucrative place to park their tidy profits, but it doesn’t explain the everyone overboard scenario.

Politicians Have Gotten Involved With The Economy for Years

So, a look at what might have happened in preceeding days that may have caused people to collectively decide the party was over might be useful.  Many historians look to consideration by Congress of the Smoot Hawley Act as the cause for the crash in 1929 followed by an extension of doldrums when Herbert Hoover actually signed it.  Now, from October 14, 1987 to October 19 1987, the Dow lost about 30% of its value so the decline really started a few days before the bottom fell out.  It just so happens that on October 14, 1987 US Secretary of the Treasury James Baker announced that there may be a need to follow a weak-dollar policy as part of a larger scheme to stablize global currencies.  That announcment may have influenced foreign investors to pull out of dollar denominated assets.  Then, on October 15 the House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation that eliminated tax deductions by corporations on debt used for corporate takeovers.  Securities and Exchange Commission economists Mark Mitchell and Jeff Netter pointed exactly to that legislation as the underlying cause of the crash in their 1989 published report. 

People Take Different Approaches to "Playing" The Market Though Wise, Prudent Investing May Be the Best Course of Action..But It Can Be Boring

One this is for certain, investing in markets is not a simple proposition and it becomes more complicated every day.  The more we advance in technology, the more new concerns arise and new rules or limitations get considered.  The more the world gets intertwined in the business of economics, the more events in other parts of the world affect the markets at home.  Then there are the traditional risks of interest rates, exchange rates, market risk and just plain the risk involved with the specifics of any underlying company.  The stock market is not for everyone but the more people get involved in markets through their pensions or 401K’s the more markets volatility directly affects individuals.  But, most people assume that the market just goes up and their 401K is always going to grow and that is not the case.  If you want a guarantee, get a toaster.  Better yet, brokers and financial advisors are charged with recommending investments that are suitable to their clients needs, desires and sophistication.  I would submit that most folks who lose money have not been advised properly.  Many of the former employees of Enron were misled into believing that their company stock was a sure bet.  No doubt, many people let their own greed get in the way, preferring to believe that there is a quick way to make a buck as opposed to taking a more prudent way to invest.  One thing I found that is wrong with our markets is that so many people see the market as a horse race or a casino.  They don’t invest in a company but instead bet that it will go up.  Day traders could care less about the company’s long term viability and are more interested in short, quick gains or losses.  They get in or get out by buying and selling or selling short and closing out the position.  That is especially true of options  traders.  That attitude has spilled over into commodity markets where people buy and sell contracts to purchase and underlying commodity, like oil, with no intention of ever taking delivery on that contract.  The bottom line is we have many examples of the complexities of the markets and it would be wise to learn the rules of the game before you jump into the pool.  Its not for the faint of heart.

Without William H. Seward, Sarah Palin May Have Been Unknown to the World
October 18, 2010

Want To See the $7.2 Million Dollar Check For Alaska Purchase?

Want To See the $7.2 Million Dollar Check For Alaska Purchase?

Gov. Palin Owes Career To William H Seward?

Gov. Palin Owes Career To William H Seward?

Governor Palin’s Path is Set: Had it not been for the dogged determination of Secretary of State William H. Seward, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin may not have been the Vice-Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 2008.  It was not an easy task, but, ultimately, Seward got Congress to simply write a big’ol check to the Russians and America had gained the final frontier.

In the 19th Century, Russia laid claim to the Alaskan territory with the establishment of the fur-trading Russian-American Company. The company was quite profitable for awhile but by the 1860’s, business wasn’t too good. In order for the company to remain viable, the Tsar would have to heavily subsidize operations.  But, only a few hundred Russians had emigrated to Alaska and the Russians had no way of defending the vast region. The Tsar and his ministers thought it was in their best interest to sell the land to the Americans rather than lose it in battle to one of the world powers, like Great Britain.

Thanks Bill! Monty Hall Would Be Proud!

Thanks Bill! Monty Hall Would Be Proud!

In 1867. Secretary of State William H. Seward began negotiations to acquire the territory. Now, Seward was a hold-over from the Lincoln administration and was serving under President Andrew Johnson at the time. Johnson became quite unpopular due to his Reconstruction policies and some in the public derisively called the plan “Seward’s Folly”, “Seward’s Ice Box” or “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.” There were also facticious calls for the opening of the “Polar Bear Bureau” and the establishment of the “Superintendent of Walruses.” At the time, it was seen as a vast, empty wilderness opposed by many public figures such as Horace Greeley. But, some histories now suggest that most of the general public thought it was a shrewd deal. Political opponents in Congress who were trying to figure out how to impeach Johnson delayed approval of the $7.2 million needed to complete the deal.  Perhaps because public opposition wasn’t as great as has been advertised because Congress ratified the deal on April 9, 1867, though it did by just one vote.   The Senate’s approval opened the door for the United States to acquire an area about twice the size of Texas for the purchase price of $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. Funny thing is, Congress didn’t appropriate the money until July 1868.  I’m guessing that, while the Senate is charged with approving treaties, the House of Representatives has a say in the approval of funding and I suspect that opponents in the House hoped to halt the purchase by keeping the purse strings tight.  If you notice the check above is dated August 1868 so there must have been some politicking and horse trading. Guess the Tsar didn’t care too much about the slow payment but I suppose any Americans  who were in Alaska before the check cleared could have been considered considered to be squatters. 

Bill Had a Great Catch for the US

Bill Had a Great Catch for the US

In any event, the deal got done and the public remained generally non-plussed about the whole thing until gold was discovered in 1896 the territory’s Klondike region and suddenly the acquisition wasn’t such a folly after all. As time went on, the deal became to be on par with buying Manhattan for $24.  Today, 20% of America’s oil is found in Alaska and about half of the seafood. It also produces a huge amount of natural gas, timber and other natural resources.   Pokiness seems to be part of Alaska’s history because, after Congress delayed cutting the check, it took until 1912 to establish the Alaska Territory.  And statehood wasn’t exactly around the corner from there.

Johnson's Polar Bear Swimming Pool?

Andrew Johnson's Polar Bear Swimming Pool?

Today, it has produced “Sarah Barracuda”, the first female Republican nominee for Vice-President. Alaska became a state in 1959 which seems kinda odd when one considers that California gained statehood very shortly after it’s gold rush broke out.  Alaska is too big for just one day of recognition so there are two state holidays marking its heritage. One is “Seward’s Day” which is in March every year to mark the day that William Seward signed the treaty (Mar 30, 1867) and the other is “Alaska Day,” which commemorates this date in History when on October 18, 1867, the United States formally took possession of the 586, 412 square miles of Alaska. If this Global Warming caper goes the way that Mr. Gore suggests, then “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden” will have to find a new name…perhaps “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Swimming Pool” would be more appropriate.

Weather Bottom Line:   We need rain.  Count yourself lucky if you get it this week. Officially, Louisville has gotten .56 inches of rain since Sept 1.  Now, climatologically, Sept and Oct are the driest month in Louisville but his is a bit out of hand.  A boundary snuck through yesterday but its not too far to the south.  The previous thinking was that a wave of energy would run along that front and bring us some light rain on Tuesday.  But, the front appears to be inching farther south so when the wave goes by, the rain will be mainly in Tennessee.  That’s okay because they could use it too but…anyway, maybe a slight shot on Monday night or Tuesday but probably only if you do a rain dance in your backyard.  Cooler air filters in beginning Tuesday and we will at least be pleasant with highs in the upper 60’s Tuesday and lower 70’s the rest of the week.

Super Typhoon Megi Set To Strike Philippines With Extreme Intensity
October 17, 2010

Super Typhoon Megi Cast an Impressive Multispectral Image at 2330Z Oct 16, 2010

For a more recent update regarding Typhoon Megi’s approach to China CLICK HERE

Japan Meteorological Agency Forecast Track Super Typhoon Megi (Juan)

The Philippines is making preparations ahead of a powerful Super Typhoon set to strike the island nation Monday morning with effects being felt on Sunday. The storm, known locally as Juan, is feared to have the same flooding potential as Typhoon Ketsana in Sept 2009. Typhoon Megi (a.k.a. Typhoon Juan) has behaved exactly as expected and it is now a very powerful storm designated as Super Typhoon Megi, Super Typhoon Juan or Super Typhoon 15W.  Whichever moniker you choose, it is a force to be reckoned with as its energy release compares favorably to an excess of the global electric generating capacity or as an equivalent to the largest yield atomic weapon every minute.  Another estimate puts a well developed tropical cyclone energy release on par with 500,000 Hiroshima style atomic bombs per day

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Central Pressure Progression

In any event, the inhibiting factors to the storm have gone by the wayside as anticipated and the central pressure has dropped to 908 mb, which is extremely low.  To provide a frame of reference of how that compares to intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic,  Hurricane Camille in 1969 bottomed out at 909 mb and had winds approaching 200 mph.  Hurricane Andrew in 1992 had a minima pressure of 922 mb and the lowest that Katrina had in 2005, well before landfall, was 920 mb.   Super Typhoon Megi is not too far from the all-time lowest recorded atmospheric pressure which occured in 1979 with Typhoon Tip, which had a remarkable central pressure of 870 mb.  Previously, Typhoon Ida held the record of 879 mb when it was 750 miles east of Luzon (very close to the current location of Megi-450 miles NE of Manila) in 1958.  So, extremely intense storms in the region are not totally uncommon.  The clouds that had been obscuring the center have gone by the way-side and a well defined, relatively small eye has developed. 

West Pacific IR Rainbow Satellite Featuring Typhoon Megi-Click Image for Most Recent Loop

Super Typhoon Megi (Juan) JTWC Forecast Track 00Z 10.17.10

A pressure approaching 900 mb can easily support higher winds than the 3 UTC (Z) Oct 17 2010 analysis of 140 kt sustained winds of 140 kts and gusts to 170 kts, which translates to sustained winds of 161 mph or 259 kph and gusts to 195 mph or 315 kph.  Some further intensification is possible as the forecast calls for sustained winds to increase to 145 kts and gusts to 175 kts.  While the pressure can support even higher winds than that, at this point, they are so strong that it almost becomes academic in relation to the destruction potential and the ultimate intensity at landfall will most likely be subject to eyewall replacement cycles.  When a tropical cyclone goes through an eyewall replacement cycle, central winds typically fall off but the breadth of gale force winds expands.  That was the case with Hurricane Katrina which “only” had winds of 125 mph at landfall as it headed  into Mississippi but 100 mph winds were felt all the way to Mobile.  Another factor that may inhibit substantial intensification would be a slight disruption of the northern outflow.  This is an example of why it is difficult for an extremely intense tropical cyclone to maintain its maxima for long as environmental conditions must be perfect and perfect conditions rarely last long.  Nevertheless, as it stands, the official forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center puts the winds around 140 kts at landfall sometime after 00 UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  It would not be out of the question for winds to exceed forecast levels at some point in time.  The timing of eyewall replacement cycles, however, is beyond current forecast abilities until the beginning of the cycle change is actually observed.

West Pacific Total Precipitable Water Latest 72 hours-Click Image for Loop

West Pacific IR Satellite with Wind Barbs (Isotachs)

As was anticipated, the trof of low pressure near Okinawa that was causing a weakness in the steering ridge to the North has moved northeast and the ridge filled in.  Consequently, the previous west northwest track of Megi has shifted westward at 12 kts.  The ridge is expected to continue to build such that the westward track should change around the time that the storm gets to the coast of Luzon such that it moves west-southwest.  That track would take Megi over the mountainous regions of northern Luzon but well north of Manila.  The storm surge on the eastern, northeastern and northern part of the island will be extreme but exact levels will be determined by the geogrpahy of the coast.  The mountains will enhance the rain totals which will most likely be extreme.  Even as it loses intensity rapidly over the mountains, the circulation will be such that there will be an onshore flow off of the South China Sea toward Manila for a period of time so rain totals will most likely be high on both sides of Luzon. 

Super Typhoon Megi Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery with max Wind Velocity-Click Image for Loop

If there is any good news to report it is that the forward speed may increase a bit and so the center of the storm may be over Luzon for only about 12 hours.  That’s plenty of time to do plenty of damage but at least its not going to crawl across the Philippines and extend the high risk for catastrophic flooding.  By 12UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 Typhoon Megi should re-emerge over the ocean in the South China Sea with winds forecast to have been reduced to 95 kts.  However, once over the warm waters of the ocean, Typhoon Megi will regain some strength but most likely will not get back to it’s former self…that would be extremely rare and there simply will not be time nor will the environmental conditions support such a scenario.  Even so, It is expected to get back to 115 kt sustained winds by 00UTC (Z) October 22, 2010. 

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Wind Speed Progression

Previously, the extended forecast track had suggested a second landfall on the South China island of Hainan followed by a final landfall after crossing the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam.  Modeling data though has formed a consensus though of another trof coming down through Asia. 

Map SE Asia

That trofiness is expected to influence Megi northwest after it enters the South China Sea.  The depth of that trof will determine the fate of Megi.  If it is slow or not so strong, then Megi may run into China south of Hong Kong, though it would still be close enough to affect that city.  If the trof is a little deeper, then it could turn Megi for a more direct affect on Hong Kong and if the trof is fast and very deep, it could conceivably turn the storm north and then northeast.  While there may not be sufficient room in the sea for this to occur without striking land, that scenario would put Taiwan at risk of a hit from the Southwest and potentially even Japan after that.  It’s way too soon to tell.  One thing seems invevitable:  the Northern Philippines will be affected adversely of the effects of a major tropical cyclone by 00UTC (Z) 18 October 2010.

Typhoon Megi Probable Super Typhoon Threatens Philippines
October 16, 2010

23:30 UTC (Z) Rainbow IR image of Typhoon Megi Not totally impressive but it should become better defined over next 48 hours (Click image for most recent loop)

Typhoon Megi 17:30Z IR Satellite 10.15.10


Typhoon Megi continues to intensify and is expected to be a significant threat to the northern Philippine province of Luzon by late this weekend.  Americares is making preparations to bring relief.   Typhoon Megi is currently the only tropical cyclone anywhere on earth but it could be one of the strongest of the year to affect land.  While it is very likely that the storm will go well beyond the threshold of Super Typhoon status with winds in excess of 100 kts, the specific track seems to be a little problematic and that could mean all the difference for the Philippines.  By 18 UTC (Z) October 17, 2010 the typhoon is expected to have sustained winds of 135 kts with gusts to 165 kts.  Roughly, that would be just shy of the North Atlantic Category 5 classification.  Environmental conditions are such that intensification from the 18 UTC (Z) October 15, 2010 95 kt level to the loftier, stronger classification is likely.  Megi is the name of a catfish in South Korea and is related to the feeling of getting wet, according to the Hong Kong Observatory

Equatorial Total Precipitable Water-Click Image for latest 72 hour loop As Typhoon Megi Develops

Typhoon Megi JTWC Forecast Track 18UTC (Z) 10.15.10 (click to enlarge)

Typhoon Megi was about 1000 miles east of Manilla at 18 UTC (Z) 10.15.10 moving WestNorthwest at about 17 kts with a central pressure of 955 mb which will in itself support higher winds than the current estimates.   The pressure trend has continued to be down.  The typhoon has been traveling around a big ridge of high pressure to the north but has taken the more northwesterly track over the past 24 hours due to a weakness in the ridge just south of Okinawa, Japan.  The general model consensus and analysis of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is for that weakness to get squished out and the ridge reassert itself.  As that happens, Typhoon Megi will resume a more westerly course around the ridge.  However, previous forecasts had been calling for that turn more to the west to have already occured.  Since it has not, the landfall point on Luzon has been shifted farther north to somewhere near or north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  The northern part of the island is very mountainous and the terrain is anticipated to do a number on the storm and it should rapidly fall apart with the land interaction.   However, the rising terrain of the mountains will provide for a lifting mechanism that will tend to enhance rainfall.  It is for that reason that in the Philippines and other island nations with central mountain ranges that flooding and mudslides are often the greatest threat as rainfall totals can be exceptionally extreme in a relatively short period of time.  Given the counterclockwise flow of a typhoon in the northern hemisphere, even locations on the other side of the island such as Laoag can expect and onshore flow from the north that will also provide adverse conditions of wind and heavy rain.

Typhoon Megi Morphed Intergrated Microwave Imagery 00Z 10.16.10 (Click for Loop)

The thinking now is that the storm will run across the northern part of the Philippines in 48-72 hours and lose much intensity, but not completely.  It is expected to re-emerge in the South China Sea as a 75 kt typhoon where it will continue west and regain some strength over the following day or so back to 90 kts.  From that point, it is expected to make a second landfall, perhaps on the South China island of Hainan.  From there, it could move across the Gulf of Tonkin and make a 3rd landfall in North Vietnam.  While it will certainly have lost considerable intensity by then, it is not uncommon for typhoons on the downside of life to prove a risk to life and property in Vietnam due to flooding concerns. 

Map SE Asia

I would think that the fly in the ointment is the weakness in the ridge.  It is caused by a shortwave trof that came off the Asian continent.  As mentioned it is forecast to be squished, or more correctly, it is expected to lift to the northeast as the ridge fills in.  However, if that trof does not lift out in a timely manner or slower than currently anticipated, then it is plausible that Megi proceeds on its current west northwest track a bit longer than forecast before making its turn more toward the west.  Should that happen to a great enough degree, then the typhoon could run over the islands in the Luzon Strait.  That would also bring Hong Kong into the picture as a potential threat to receive at least adverse effects of a major typhoon.

Bottom line is that this is going to be a serious typhoon.  It will affect the northern Philippines to some degree.  The current forecast calls for a landfall in Northern Luzon.  However, unanticipated but possible changes in the atmospheric conditions to the north that are steering the storm give rise to a degree of uncertainty as to the ultimate story of Typhoon Megi.

When Teddy Roosevelt Gave a Speech After Being Shot In Chest By Would Be Assassin
October 15, 2010

If Not For The Case For The Spectacles of Teddy Roosevelt (like this set auctioned in 2005) the Name of John F. Schrank Might Be As Well Known as that of John Wilkes Booth

On This Date in History: Lost to much of the pages of history are attempted assassinations. (Here is a list of failed presidential assassinations) President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 was a former President who was running to get his old job back. He had filled the term of the assassinated President McKinley and finished his own term in 1908. In deference to the precedent set by President Washington, Teddy Roosevelt decided against running in 1908, instead promoting his Vice-President William Howard Taft who won handily. Teddy was not happy with the way in which Taft ran things and decided to challenge him for the Republican nomination for the 1912 election but power interests in the party which had fared better with Taft than Roosevelt, backed Taft and Roosevelt did not get the Republican nomination at the 1912 Republican Convention. So, he formed his own party, the Progressive Party, which came to be known as the “Bull Moose Party” after TR’s tough-guy bull-moose image. Roosevelt ended up getting more votes than Taft but the pair split the Republican vote which led to the election of Woodrow Wilson as President.

While on the campaign trail prior to the election, on October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt got into a car after dining at a hotel in Milwaukee. He was headed to give a speech. When he turned to wave to the crowd, a shot rang out from the .38 caliber revolver in the hand of John F. Schrank. Schrank, a Bavarian-born immigrant, had been stalking Roosevelt since at least September 1912 when he left New York in pursuit of his prey .  It was reported that the assailant felt that no one should get more than two terms as president and had also been having dreams of William McKinley.  His dream supposedly occured on the September 6 anniversary of the assassination of President William McKinley which vaulted the then young Vice-President Roosevelt into office.  His dream was said to have involved McKinley in a coffin.  McKinley suddenly sat up straight and pointed to Roosevelt who was dressed like a monk.  The dead president floating around Schrank’s head then said, “This is my murderer. Avenge my death!”  So. Schrank did his best to follow the orders of the ghost in his dream.  When Roosevelt turned to the crowd from his car, it opened up an opportunity for Schrank to shoot the candidate at close range.

Chest X-Ray of Teddy Roosevelt Shows Location of Bullet That Was Never Removed

The shot struck Roosevelt squarely in the chest. But, in his breast pocket, Teddy had the thick,  folded up 50-page text of his planned 90 minute speech.  It must have been some pocket because, in addition to the 4-dozen sheets of paper the pocket also contained a metal spectacle case.  The bullet was slowed by the eye-glasses case and the thick manuscript.  The bullet, however, entered his body but it did not penetrate his heart. Initially, Roosevelt did not realize that he had been shot.  Once he had discovered that he was indeed the victim of a gunshot wound he still insisted on giving his speech. Using his experience as an avid hunter as a guide, he reasoned that since he was not coughing up blood, then no major organs were damaged.  Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt and had not been assassinated so, when he arrived on the podium. Teddy proudly showed the crowd the hole in his speech and thundered, ” it would take more than that to kill a Bull Moose!”   While the speech (text of speech) was abbreviated, most accounts report that Mr. Roosevelt still spoke before the crowd for 80-90 minutes and rebuffed attempts to get him to conclude the speech so he could go to the hospital for attention.  

Mrs. Medill McCormick and TR daughter Alice Roosevelt Longwell Leaving Mercy Hospital Oct 15, 1912 After Visting the Original Bull Moose

Only after he concluded his speech did Roosevelt finally go to the hospital in Milwaukee and reluctantly allowed for a tetnus injection.  On This Date in 1912, the former president was in Chicago’s Mercy Hospital where he stayed for observation for 8 days. the bullet was found lodged in tissue such that it would be more dangerous to attempt its removal.  The slug remained in Roosevelt’s body for the rest of his life.  After making the determination that the bullet would stay where it was,  Teddy was  released  from Mercy Hospital on October 23.  Both Woodrow Wilson and William Howard Taft suspended their campaigns until Roosevelt was released but they were back on the campaign trail with  just a little more than a week before the election.  While his opponents were back on the stump, TR was prevented from making important campaign stops.  Some speculate that his absence from the campaign trail in the critical final days may have influenced the election results.  In any event, Roosevelt was unable to convince enough Republicans to swing his way and the GOP vote was split between he and Taft.  While he received 88 electoral votes to the sitting president’s 8, Wilson skated to victory with 435 votes from the Electoral College.  However, Wilson’s popular vote total was about 6.3 million while, collectively, Taft and Roosevelt collected 7.6 million votes.  

Schrank Lived His Lonely Final 31 Years in a Mental Hospital Only To See the 2 Term Tradition Broken By Teddy's Cousin

Wilson went on to be re-elected in 1916, again with less than a majority of the popular vote.  He took in 49.2% of the vote and became a two term president never to receive a majority of the popular vote by a narrow 277-254 electoral victory over his Republican opponent, Charles E. Hughes.  18 times in US presidential elections has the winner not received a majority of popular votes since the popular vote was first reliably recorded in 1824.  So, it’s not that unusual.  However, only Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland and Bill Clinton served two terms and never received a majority of the popular vote.  For his part, Schrank was whisked away to a mental institution where he remained for the rest of his life.  Apparently, no one came to visit him. His health began to fail in 1940 shortly after he learned that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 5th cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, was going to run for a 3rd term as President of the United States. Schrank died at the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconson on September 16, 1943; about a year before FDR was elected to a 4th term.

Poor Attitude Cost Apollo 7 Crew Rightful Recognition and Perhaps Trip To The Moon
October 12, 2010

The Brave and Successful Men of Apollo 7 Paved The Way For Man's Walk on the Moon But They Never Flew in Space Again

Apollo 7 Flight-Tested A Significant Amount of Never Before Used Equipment and Procedures Including the Saturn IB Rocket at Liftoff on Oct 11, 1968

On This Date In History:  Our old neighbor, Walter Cunningham, on this date in 1968 was in orbit as part of the Apollo 7 crew that launched the previous morning  and marked America’s return to manned spaceflight following the fire that killed the Apollo 1 crew about a year and a half earlier.   Cunningham, Donn Eisele and Wally Schirra were undertaking a very dangerous mission.  It was the initial test flight of the Apollo spacecraft and, from top to bottom, it was a brand new machine that had never been flown before.  The mission was open-ended to some degree with no conclusion time scheduled except for the maximum of 11 days.  The flight featured numerous tests to systems and procedures and the results allowed for crucial developments that led to the successful first landing on the moon less than a year later.  Cunningham said that, “We launched on the longest and most ambitious engineering test flight in history, testing the spacecraft systems, verifying the operating procedures, checking out the worldwide tracking network, and that’s not to mention testing our crew.”   Wernher Von Braun said that ” The Apollo 7 performed… as nearly perfect as one can rightfully expect a development flight to be” and NASA’s Apollo Program Office Director General Samuel C. Phillips said,  “Apollo 7 goes in my book as a perfect mission.  Our official count is that we have accomplished 101 per cent of our intended objectives.”   However, the crew of Apollo 7 did not receive NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal as all other Apollo flight crews.  Instead, they were given the Exceptional Service Medal

My Old Neighbor, Walter Cunningham, Hard At Work During the Mission of Apollo 7

Now, Cunningham and his family lived around the corner from us. I went to his house a few times as he had a son named Brian who went to my school. I never saw Brian’s father at home, though I did see him when he visited our school once in the early 1970’s.  It never occurred to me why he was available to come to an elementary school but I always wondered why he never flew again.  The official NASA recount of Apollo 7 gives no reason.  But, other accounts reveal circumstances that NASA may have preferred stayed lost to history.   The reason was that he and the crew was grounded.  The little known story behind the successful and crucial Apollo 7 mission was that the crew were deemed to be uncooperative and “grumpy.”  It began when Schirra developed a cold a day or so into the mission.  It spread to the other crew members, though Cunningham wrote in his 1977 book (updated 2003)  The All-American Boys only that he felt a little “blah” by the 3rd day.  In space, there is no drainage from the head of mucus accumulation that fills the nasal passages,  The only relief is to blow hard and in space that can be quite painful to the ear drums.  Hence, this is the reason behind the grumpiness of the crew, in particular Schirra. 

Not Only Equipment But Also Critical Procedures Were Tried For the First Time On Apollo 7 Such As Lunar Module Rendevous Methods

Schirra was one of the original Mercury 7 and had flown in in the Gemini program so one might think, as a NASA veteran, he would know what was kosher and what was off-limits.  Then again, perhaps as an original American space hero, he had a little issue regarding hubris.  Or maybe, it was just the cold.  In any event,  the crew members complained about the sleep schedule, which did not correspond to normal earth conditions.  They complained about the sleeping arrangements; clasps that held the sleeping bags in place were apparently in inappropriate places.  They complained about the food.  Following his Gemini mission, Schirra vowed to take coffee with him if he ever flew on Ap0llo; he did.  They complained about noisy fans in the environmental control.  And, to be fair, I have not read about any complaints about something that would cause anyone to complain but it had to cause irritation.  The defication bags were cumbersome and the whole process took some 40 to 60 minutes with malodorous consequences.  Hence, the crewmen tended to hold off on releasing body wastes as long as possible.  There are all sorts of issues that arise with a test mission and they had to contend with every one.  But, it was their reaction to the problems that got them in trouble.

Schirra and Crew Clowned Around While On TV But Their Mood Was Anything But Fun

Some problems may have been kept in-house but the crews demeanor became known throughout the NASA hierarchy when Schirra decided unilaterally to cancel one of several scheduled television hook ups with the world.  Remember, NASA and the United States was really into the publicity of the efforts of the space program in the midst of the Cold War.  Donald “Deke” Slayton was also one of the original Mercury 7 and was in charge of crew assignments,  He tried to talk Schirra out of his decision but was tersely told by Schirra that there would be no TV show that day.  Eventually, they did broadcast from space  several times with the first live TV down-link from space with the crew appearing to have great fun as they managed to hide their discomfort from the world-wide audience. Schirra even shouted “Yabbadabbadoo!” like Fred Flintstone.  But, the colds persisted and the  complaints continued even as they prepared for their return.  They feared that they would not be able to blow their noses during the re-entry process and that pressure build-up might cause their eardrums to burst.  Therefore, the crew refused to wear their helmets as they returned to earth.   Once again, Slayton tried to convince Schirra to wear the helmet and once again Schirra dug in his heels.  The crew took decongestants and returned to earth safely without any problems with their ears.

There Might Not Have Been An Apollo 11 Success Story of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins Had It Not Been for Apollo 7

Schirra was a space veteran and hero and undoubtedly he was in a good spot to receive a mission to the moon.  Cunningham and Eisele would also have certainly merited consideration considering the technical success of their dangerous and imperative mission.  Nevertheless, Flight Director Chris Kraft wrote in his 2001 memoir that “I told Deke (Slayton) that this crew should never fly again.”  None of the men of Apollo 7 did go into space following their return.  Cunningham described himself as “NASA Hero, Second Class” in his book,  a reference to the lesser honor bestowed on the crew and their subsequent unofficial grounding.  But, in 2008, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin looked back at the accomplishments of the Apollo 7 crew and, while acknowledging the decisions by his predecessors, decided that the crew deserved more.  So, on October 20, 2008, Forty years after flying NASA’s first manned Apollo mission, the crew of Apollo 7 was honored  with the space agency’s highest award, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Schirra and Eisele had both passed away at the time of the ceremony but my old neighbor Walter Cunningham was on hand as was Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr and Neil A. Armstrong, the first men on the moon as well as fellow lunar astronaut Alan Bean.  By video link, the crew of the International Space Station attended and video tributes were received from President George H. W. Bush, Wayne Newton and Houston Mayor Bill White.  Everyone acknowledges that the space program may never have gotten off the ground successfully following the Apollo 1 disaster had it not been for the bravery and efforts of Wally Schirra, Walter Cunningham and  Donn Eisele…not matter how “grumpy” they were.

Weather Bottom Line:  Our best and only chance of rain in the forseeable future will be on Wednesday with the passage of a cold front.  It’s not a huge chance and won’t be a drought buster but we need all we can get as we will return to exceedingly dry, but lovely, conditions for the rest of the week through the weekend.

The Forgotten 2-shot Suicide of Meriwether Lewis
October 11, 2010

How does one shoot himself twice with a large caliber, muzzle loading pistol? Thomas Jefferson, amongst others, believe that's exactly what Meriwether Lewis did at age 35 during the height of his fame

Two Shot Suicide?

Two Shot Suicide?

On This Date in History: One thing is certain and that is that famed explorer, Meriwether Lewis, died on this date in 1809. What is unclear is how he died, though there are reports that his ghost still roams.

Well, he died of two gunshots. One to the head and another to the chest. Weapons of the day were single shot firearms typically of a large caliber that required the use of a ram rod to reload.  I have yet to read any account that suggests Lewis had two pistols.  One account from the woman of the house (Mrs. Grinder) that Lewis called out to her to help heal his wounds.  Does that sound like a suicide to you?  That is what the official account was and the suicide story of Meriwether Lewis was accepted by Thomas Jefferson, William Clark and the one accepted by most historians. On the surface it sounds pretty fishy.

Grinder Inn Replica in Lewis County, TN Where Lewis committed suicide by shooting himself twice...quite a feat

Lewis had been appointed as Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. He had replaced General James Wilkinson who had been implicated in a plot to establish a separate nation in the Louisiana Territory  along with that infamous Vice-President Aaron Burr. Lewis was traveling back to Washington with a bunch of his papers that he hoped to have published in a book. He came down with malaria and he and his servant, John Pernier, stayed in Fort Pickering (now Memphis) for two weeks. They were then joined by Major James Neeley, an indian agent for the Chickasaw Indians, and the pair with their two servants went on their way. Shortly after they left there was a big rainstorm and two of the pack horses ran off. Neeley went to look for the horses while Lewis and the two servants went on.

General James Wilkinson: Got Even with Lewis?

On the night of October 10, 1809 Lewis was shot twice and died the following morning. How the 35 year old explorer came to that condition is in question because the story kept changing. The captain at the fort and Neeley said that Lewis had been acting drunk and deranged. Yet, twice while at the fort, Lewis wrote very detailed and lucid letters to Jefferson. On the night in question, Lewis had gone to the home of John Grinder. He was away but his wife let Lewis in. From that point, things get shadey because Mrs. Grinder changed her story several times. She says that she heard Lewis pacing around and talking to himself and then heard two gunshots. Yet, neither Lewis’ nor Neeley’s servants heard any shots. Mrs. Grinder claimed at one point that Lewis had shot himself in the head and a little below the breast with two pistols and said “I have done the business my good Servant give me some water.” Later she said that Lewis had crawled into the woods and the next day Pernier arrived wearing Lewis’ clothes. Pernier died suddenly just 7 months later in Washington.  Rumors at the time said that Pernier’s throat had been cut from “ear to ear,” but the man with whom Pernier boarded said in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that Pernier had also committed suicide.  The man claimed that Pernier deliberately took an overdose of laudanum

Would've Solved the Mystery


John Grinder was brought up on murder charges but was acquitted due to lack of evidence and motive. Why he was brought up on charges is a mystery because if there was a motive for murder, it was with Neeley. Neeley is said to have had no money when he left Fort Pickering with Lewis but Lewis had $120. There was no money found in Lewis’ possession yet, Neeley was able to give Pernier $15 to travel to Virginia to make a report to Jefferson. Further, Neeley and the man in charge of the fort, who both reported that Lewis was deranged had both been appointed by Wilkinson, the former governor and conspirator.  Pulitzer-Prize winning historian David L. Chandler wrote that  Lewis discovered certain secrets about General James Wilkinson, his predecessor as Governor of Upper Louisiana. These secrets if revealed, would destroy not only the reputation of General Wilkinson, who was the highest ranking officer in the US Army at the time,  but also that of Thomas Jefferson, who was no longer president. Chandler believed the real reason for Lewis’ trip to Washington was to expose the plot in order to collect his money. The  most efficient way to make certain that no scandal arose was to keep permanantly.  Other suspects would be those who supposedly were helping Lewis in his final days like Major Neelly and Captain Russell.   Whatever the case, Lewis was dead and somehow history has recorded his shots to the head and to the chest with two different guns to be the result of a suicide. Too bad Lt. Columbo wasn’t around.

When A President Threatened to Abolish Football in the United States
October 10, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt Cut A Manly Figure as a Collegiate and Liked College Football But That Didn't Prevent Him From Threatening the Game with a Big Stick

1st Football Game Between Rutgers and Princeton Nov 6, 1869

On This Date in History:  President Theodore Roosevelt had an affinity for football.  It provided physical fitness to build bodies and competition to build character.  He liked the way that it taught teamwork and inspired individuals to never give up.  American football had been in its development stages during the 19th century and at least 10 of his Roughriders listed their occupations as football players when they signed up in 1898.  While the beginnings of the NFL did not come about with George Halas until 1920, professional football in America can be traced to as early as 1892 and college football to 1869.  Perhaps all those football players joining up with Teddy Roosevelt to fight the Spanish is an indication of the rather wild and woolly landscape surrounding college football at the time.  Now, you have to remember, at the turn of the century western colleges and universities were in a relatively fledgling state and the dominance of higher education resided in what we now call the Ivy League.  That also held true for college football and the three reigning powers of the gridiron were Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Robert "Tiny" Maxwell in 1905

The presidents of those institutions as well as others were scratching their heads on this date in 1905 as the previous day they had been taken to the proverbial woodshed by the young President of the United States.   You see, President Roosevelt had seen a photograph of Swarthmore College lineman Bob Maxwell who had been savagely beaten during a game.  Seems that Penn knew that the agile, 250 pound Maxwell was the best player on Swarthmore so the team focused its effort on everyone pounding Maxwell early and often.  The photo of him staggering off the field  was so graphic that the Old Roughrider must have thought that the game had gotten too rough.  As it turns out, he had good reason.  Players wore very little padding and helmets were nothing more than a leather cap.  Routinely, slugging and punching took place on the field and gang tackling was rampant.  A favorite play was the “flying wedge” in which an entire team formed a  V and plowed down the field like a tank. The players would often lock arms or even grab on to one another’s belts equipped with special handles.  More often than not, the result was players strewn across the field and slugfests erupting.   In 1905, there was roughly one-fifth the number of college football players as there are today, yet, 18 were killed and 159 severely injured in that one year alone. 

The "Flying Wedge" Formation

So, on October 9, 1905, Teddy summoned representatives from Yale, Harvard and Princeton to the White House.  When they arrived, he may have walked softly but he certainly brandished the Big Stick.  He told them that if footbal could not put an end to on-field brutality, then he would abolish the game with an Executive Order.   It’s kinda funny that young men being maimed or killed on the field did not make the coaches and presidents of the schools to consider changes and  it took a roar from the Bully Pulpit got their attention.   They should have noticed all by themselves that interest in football was on the decline due to the violence, high risk of injury and potential for fatalities.  On the West Coast, Stanford and Cal had  even dropped football due  in favor of English Rugby.   So, the following day the coaches got to work on making changes in order to save their jobs if not to help save some lives. 

Football Has Never Been For the Faint of Heart

First, the American Football Rules Committee was formed with the three influential forces on the governing body rising in the form of Walter Camp,  Harvard’s William Reid and Captain Palmer Pierce of the United States Military Academy.  The committee established a neutral zone along a line of scrimmage between the opposing teams with a requirement that at least 6 men had to be on that line.   The distance required for a 1st down was changed to 10 yards instead of 5.  The forward pass was put into the rules and, perhaps most importantly, mass formations were banned as was gang tackling.  Game times were reduced to one hour with two 30-minute halves.  While it doesn’t appear to monumental on paper, these rules changes had some dramatic results.  The forward pass was used sparingly but the defenses were forced to weaken their lines due to the threat of the pass.   That little neutral zone reduced the number of fights that broke out and the 6 man requirement took away the mass momentum plays.  Two yards and a cloud of dust off-tackle plays became more common.   With a less-potent ground attack, the additional five yards required for a new set of downs resulted in more frequent punts and an increased use of the field goal, which were worth 4 points at the time, compared to 5 points for a touchdown.   In 1906, only 6 players were killed and 3 of those were Ivy Leaguers who died in fistfights. 

Walter Camp Did Not Outlaw Touchdown Celebrations

The committee changed its name to the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States when it met in 1906 before eventually settling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association moniker.   Whatever the name, conditions for football improved and Roosevelt did not ban the game.  Nevertheless, the NCAA football rules committee became much more vigilant. In 1907, the number of deaths on the football field were up again to eleven.   In reaction to the new rules, the Minnesota Shift was developed in which the line and backs would shift, sometimes twice, prior to the ball being snapped in a somewhat intricate manner.  The maneuvers were designed to outflank the defense.   The death toll rose to 33 in 1909 (The NY Times via the Chicago Tribune claimed 26 deaths at the time) and it was that year, specifically a game between Harvard and Yale in November 1909, that veteran sportswriter Frank Deford says was the real turning point in the sport.  So, in 1910, new rules were implemented that made the line of scrimmage requirement 7 men and reduced the reward for a field goal to 3 points. By 1912, the touchdown was changed to 6 points.   Pushing and pulling the ball carrier was disallowed and players running interlocked interference was banned.  The flying tackle, which called for a tackler to leave his feet, was also put on the shelf.  But, they did not ban touchdown celebrations.

Weather Bottom Line:  Look for Sunday and Monday to be carbon copies with lots of sun, a cool start and an afternoon high about 40 degress higher than the morning as it pushes toward 90.  A trof comes through Monday night but its too dry to provide rain.  The temperatures Tuesday should back off a shade though to the mid 80’s.  Keep in  mind the normal high is about 72.  Wednesday, we get a system from the southwest coming up that kicked off some severe weather in the Southern Plains but it will be too dry for even it to give us more than just a smattering of showers.  But, cooler air filters in behind it and we go to near average or slightly above average temperatures for the end of the week into the weekend.  We need rain.  We’ve had .20″ of rain since Sept. 1.