Sunday, January 29, 2012

Is the New ABBA Song, the Angel Song Demos?

There has been lots of Buzz about a new ABBA song being released in April, when the new Deluxe version of their "Visitors" Album is reissued. But I don't think it's really an actual song. Sounds more like a mixture of experiments:

ABBA – The Visitors Deluxe Edition CD with previously unreleased demo medley
Wonderful news! ABBA’s last studio album The Visitors is to receive the ‘Deluxe Edition’ CD treatment. As with previous releases in the Deluxe Edition series, this version of ABBA’s final album offers a DVD of archive material along with CD bonus tracks.

Notably, it includes (what sounds like it could be a musical journey through the evolution of Like An Angel Passing Through My Room) a demo medley called From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel, the first previously unreleased ABBA recordings since 1994! [...]

We'll see when it comes out. I looked up their song "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room" on Wikipedia, and found this:
"Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" by ABBA is the closing track from the group's final studio album, The Visitors. It was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

Work began on this track on 26 May, 1981 in Polar Music Studios. [1] At first, the track was given the title, "Another Morning Without You". In later recording sessions it was re-titled "An Angel Walked Through My Room", "An Angel's Passing Through My Room" and also "Twinkle Twinkle". At one point the song was turned into a disco track but this idea was eventually abandoned as the group felt it sounded too similar to "Lay All Your Love on Me".[2] Initially the track featured vocal parts from both Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad but the final version of the song featured Anni-Frid as soloist. It is the only ABBA song to feature just one vocalist. [3]

Unlike many other ABBA songs, the final mix of the track was sparsely produced - the entire track consisting of the soloist's vocals, synthesized strings, and a music box melody (also synthesized). The sound of a ticking clock, also heard throughout the track, was produced by Andersson's MiniMoog.

The designer of the album sleeve for The Visitors, Rune Söderqvist, was partly inspired by this song's theme when he conceived the idea of photographing the group standing before Julius Kronberg's painting of an angelic-looking Eros.[4] [...]

Read the whole thing for embedded links and more information.

The song as it exists right now, is quite nice. Below is a YouTube of the song, with photos of Freida (Lyngstad). Below that, I've posted the lyrics. Enjoy.

(Lyrics from
"Like An Angel Passing Through My Room"

Long awaited darkness falls
Casting shadows on the walls
In the twilight hour I am alone
Sitting near the fireplace, dying embers warm my face
In this peaceful solitude
All the outside world subdued
Everything comes back to me again
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

Half awake and half in dreams
Seeing long forgotten scenes
So the present runs into the past
Now and then become entwined, playing games within my mind
Like the embers as they die
Love was one prolonged good-bye
And it all comes back to me tonight
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

I close my eyes
And my twilight images go by
All too soon
Like an angel passing through my room

I read somewhere, that it was the very last song that ABBA ever recorded.

Also see:

Abba's Agnetha speaks out: "I'm no recluse"

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Rehabilitation of J. Edgar Hoover?

Has his reputation been unjustly tarnished by hippies, crooks and Leftists? Was he actually a hero and a great man? Or is the WHOLE truth a complex mixture that fails to satisfy anyone with an agenda? This article takes a deeper, and more balanced look, than anything else I've read:

In defence of J Edgar Hoover
After his death in 1972, Hoover's reputation swiftly changed from that of a man of integrity and honour to one of a 'monster'. Is it time to revisit the charge sheet against him?


Suggestions that Hoover was gay are “ludicrous,” Branon writes. “There is no much basis in fact for such a portrayal of Mr Hoover. It would be a grave injustice and a monumental distortion to proceed with such a depiction based on a completely unfounded and spurious allegation.”

In reply, Eastwood writes, “Please rest assured that we do not give any credence to cross-dressing allegations... nor do we intend to portray an open homosexual relationship between Mr Hoover and Clyde Tolson.... Though no one can know his private side with certainty, we hope that a thoughtful, intelligent portrayal of the man will put his life story in proper historical context.”

This exchange of letters took place before Branon had seen the film. But now that he has, he’s even more furious than he was before.

“I thought it was terrible,” he says. “An awful thing. I was sick when I saw it, especially in the light of Mr Eastwood’s letter. It’s like he’s turned Dirty Harry into Dirty Harriet. And I’d emphasise that we’re not a bunch of homophobes here; we’re just a few old guys trying to do the best we can for Mr Hoover’s legacy. I worked with both Hoover and Tolson. Trust me, neither of them were gay. If anything, Hoover was like an monk - the FBI was his church.”

The journalist and historian Charles Johnson, author of a forthcoming biography of Calvin Coolidge, also doubts if Hoover was gay. “My gut instinct is that he was probably asexual and wedded to his work. A lot has been made about how he lived with his mother for a long time, but that was pretty common for people who lived in Washington at the time. If you weren’t married and you came from the area, you lived with your family – it was a Southern tradition.”

One of the many strange things about Hoover is that a lot of people who have lambasted him for concealing his supposed homosexuality, have gone on – practically in the next breath - to accuse him of blackening people’s names by spreading unsubstantiated rumours about them. [...]

The excerpt is just about the "gay" issue, but there is LOTS more about other issues as well, read the whole thing. The larger picture of his life and what he did is much more complex and nuanced than many people, be they for him or against, would like to admit.

For even more facts, tidbits and photos, see the Wikipage:

J. Edgar Hoover

Jesus saves... the economy?

Yep. It's the DEMOGRAHICS that count. Here's an article that spells it out:

How will babies named Jesus save the economy?
[...] The currency of the future is babies, because babies grow up to be taxpaying workers. Let's do Demography 101, which is basically the study of baby-making. Demographers have a fancy term called "total fertility rate," which measures the average number of babies a woman has over her childbearing years.

The magic number you need to remember is 2.1. This is the average number of babies a country needs to remain at equilibrium. It makes sense, too. When a mother and father die, they need to be replaced by two babies, or else the population declines. A rich powerful country needs lots of babies to project geopolitical power and increase its productivity. If you won't multiply, who will fight your wars? Who will pay Social Security to support grandpa? Who do you think will start the next Facebook, Amazon or Google?

The U.S. total fertility rate is at 2.09, and at that level we just replace our population. That's not good. But wait a minute, why do we keep growing? Simple: immigration.

Our favorable immigration policy and liberal treatment of the millions of people working without legal documents means our population will grow from 312 million today to 439 million in 2050. Hispanic babies, 83 million of them, will account for 65% of that growth. This is where the total fertility rate comes into play again, 2.84 for Hispanics, but only 1.84 and trending much lower for non-Hispanic whites who will only add 4 million babies to the melting pot. Keep in mind that those Hispanic babies born here to Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" candidates are all red-blooded American citizens -- our future Navy SEALs, entrepreneurs, middle-class working Americans and maybe even a president.

Demography will shape the geopolitics of the two largest economies of the 21st century: the United States and the European Union. They will maintain their status as world powers principally through immigration. [...]

And the demographics don't only apply to economics, but to politics and elections as well. The demographics of the electorate is changing. Any political party that wants to remain relevant needs to recognize that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fish Tank Filters: HOB vs Old Fashioned Box

The New Aquarium kits on the market seem to come with HOB (Hang On the Back) filters as a standard item. The one that came with mine uses special replacement pads, which are supposed to be replaced every 4 to six weeks or so. They cost about two bucks a piece, and while not prohibitively expensive, over time that can add up.

I seem to recall many years ago, that HOB filters were not unlike the box-in-tank filters, insofar as, you could load them up with whatever filter medium material you wanted, at much lower cost. So I looked on to see if such HOB filters still existed. They do:

AquaClear 20 Power Filter
This model also has a flow control, which allows YOU to choose how strong the water flow is. The customer comments are mostly favorable, and it comes in
various sizes.

But what about the old in-tank box filters? I haven't seen any in stores, but they are still around:

Lee's Triple-Flow Corner Filter, Small
Low-tech, but tried and true, and inexpensive to use and maintain.
They also come in small, medium and large sizes.

Why do I say tried and true? Consider this interesting comment posted by a customer:

So far, so good..., July 31, 2011
There's a local fish shop in Lewiston, Maine I visit about every 2-3 weeks or so. The owner is a gentleman I'd guess to be about 70 years old who says he's been in the business for 40 years. I'd estimate he's got well over 100 tanks running in his store. Compared to the other pet stores in the area (Petco & Petsmart types), his tanks are crystal clear. Yesterday, I stopped by and struck up a conversation with him. He started asking questions about my tank (75 gallon freshwater) and my filtration system. When I told him I was running an Emperor 400 HOB filter, he promptly told me it was no good. I asked if I should go with a canister filter. He told me those are "crap".

He recommended that I install a couple large Lee's corner filters. He pointed out that he uses them in all his tanks, and credits the filters with keeping the tanks so clear. He claimed that he's sold 15,000 of them during his career. He emphasized how inexpensive they are to buy and operate, and that they require very little maintenance. He suggested changing out the carbon and polyester fiber about every 6 months...but also stated that he's got filters he hasn't touched in 3 years. For about $30, he set me up with 2 large filters, and enough carbon and polyester fiber to last at least a few years.

On the way home, I got to thinking about my little aging air pump, so I stopped at Walmart and picked up a more powerful Tetra Whisper Air Pump with dual air outlets for about $20. Less than an hour after I got home, both filters were up and running. Like some of the other reviewers stated, the quality of the plastic is disappointing...I'm giving this item a 4 star rating (rather than 5 stars) because of this fact. The unit seems quite fragile and I imagine it wouldn't take much to break it. However, I'm already liking these filters. I like the fact that they are clear, enabling you to see them at work. When I got up the next morning (about 12 hours after installation) I could see a noticeable difference in the water clarity.

For me, the true test will be how they perform over time. But for now, I'm impressed.

The old fashioned box filters are not only cheaper, but have the advantage of being able to run off of a battery operated air pump, should your power go off for any extended length of time.

I like the HOB filter because the pump is quieter than an air hose pump, and because it's external to the tank, leaving more space inside the tank. But all things considered, I'm not sure it's necessarily better. And I think getting some sort of emergency power to run an HOB would be much more challenging. A rather big DIY project.

Toastmasters; more than just public speaking

I've known about Toastmasters for a long time, but never really looked into it, thinking it was just about learning to speak in public. But a look around their website shows that it's more than that.

They say it boosts confidence, develops leadership and inter-personal communication skills, helps with job interviewing skills, and, well:
[...] There is no instructor in a Toastmasters meeting. Instead, members evaluate one another’s presentations. This feedback process is a key part of the program’s success. Meeting participants also give impromptu talks on assigned topics, conduct meetings and develop skills related to timekeeping, grammar and parliamentary procedure. [...]

Part of learning to give "impromptu talks" is "Table Topics", which develops your ability ability to “think and speak on your feet”, when you have minimum or no preparation. It also aids in learning to effectively answer questions.

And of course, there are numerous Success Stories. Not surprising, since Toastmasters has been around since 1924. They must be doing something right. I may check it out.

Monday, January 23, 2012

L.E.D. lights for growing plants? Really?

Apparently, it's true:

LED Plant Lights for Indoor Gardens

Less Energy Use- Conventional grow lights consume between 100 watts and 1,000 watts of power to operate. Each LED Grow Master grow light uses less than 10 watts making them the most efficient plant lighting product available in the market place today. Perfect for solar or wind power.

Less Watering- Using the LED Grow Master light bars your plants will transpire less, letting you extend the time between watering cycles. If plants must be left unattended for a few days they’ll have a better chance of survival if their grow lights are not drying them out.

Longer Bulb Life- Our LED light bars are rated to last ten to 20 times longer than typical glass grow light bulb life expectations and twice as long as high wattage LED grow lights. The expected LED Grow Master bulb life is 100,000 hours or over 11 years of 24/7 operation with minimal light degradation in quality or quantity. Eliminate disposal fees associated with HID and fluorescent lamps. When the LEDs finally burn out- they are recyclable!

Scalable- As your garden expands, simply add another bar with a connect cable. Up to four LED grow bars can run off of a single power supply.

No Heat- Due to patented design features- LED Grow Master lighting puts off only trace amounts of heat and does not require the noisy cooling fans found in high watt imitator products.

Safety- Unlike conventional grow lights, which operate on 120 VAC at the bulb, LED Grow Master lights typically run on less than twenty volts. This fact greatly reduces risk growing environments. Kid and pet safe!

The site has more information via the links on their sidebar.

I first learned about L.E.D. lights for plants when I was reading about lighting for aquarium plants. Apparently, the lights are crafted to allow only (or at least mostly) the light spectrum that plants need to grow. To the human eye they may not look especially bright, but they are more efficient at giving plants what they need. They are becoming popular for plants in and out of water.

Of course there are many brands. And Buyer Beware; some that are marketed as grow lights are really just colored L.E.D. lights.

Solar Storm Continues on with a New Blast

Biggest solar storm since 2005 underway, will peak Tuesday
Fast on the heels of a solar storm that delivered a glancing blow over the weekend — triggering bright auroras in Canada and Scandinavia — the sun released an even more energetic blast of radiation and charged plasma overnight that could disrupt GPS signals and the electrical grid Tuesday, especially at high latitudes, space weather experts warned Monday morning.

Already, the storm could be disrupting satellite communications as streams of radiation from the sun bounce across the Earth’s magnetic field, which extends above the surface into space.

“With the radiation storm in progress now, satellite operators could be experiencing trouble, and there are probably impacts as well to high frequency [radio] communications in polar regions,” said Doug Biesecker, a physicist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo.

Such radio blackouts can force airlines to reroute flights between North America and Europe or Asia.

Biesecker said any rocket launches scheduled for Monday probably would have to be scrubbed, although he said he was unaware of any planned launches.

The solar storm is the biggest since 2005, he added.

The storm will peak Tuesday when a speeding cloud of plasma and charged particles blasts past Earth, distorting the planet’s magnetic field with impacts possibly ranging as far south in latitude as Texas and Arizona.

“We expect moderate to potentially strong geomagnetic storming that can cause pipeline corrosion effects and power grid fluctuations,” Biesecker said.

Predictions from NASA scientists show the storm peaking about 9 a.m. Tuesday, although uncertainty in the prediction means the storm could peak up to seven hours earlier or later, said Michael Hesse of NASA’s Space Weather Laboratory, at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

“It’s not going to be a catastrophe, but there could be noticeable geomagnetic current induced on the electrical grid,” Hesse said. [...]

It goes on to say that this plasma cloud is heading towards earth at high speed, the fastest one so far in this solar cycle. And speed matters, because the speed at which it hits the earths magnetic field will increase it's likely affects.

We shall see.

Planes expected to reroute following massive solar eruption
[...] According to NOAA, this is the strongest solar radiation storm since May 2005, and as a precaution, polar flights on Earth are expected to be re-routed within the next few hours, Kathy Sullivan, deputy administrator of NOAA, said today at the 92nd annual American Meteorological Society meeting in New Orleans, La.


"There is little doubt that the cloud is heading in the general direction of Earth," announced in an alert. "A preliminary inspection of SOHO/STEREO imagery suggests that the CME will deliver a strong glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 24-25 as it sails mostly north of our planet." [...]

A "strong glancing blow". See the whole thing for embedded links.

For updates from NOAA, check here:

NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt Gingrich Wins in South Carolina Primary, is generous with praise for his opponents

Not a bad speech.

I wonder how much the Sarah Palin nod had to do with his sudden surge and victory there? I would guess, a lot.

Magnesium and stroke risk

Magnesium-Rich Foods May Lower Stroke Risk
Study: Risk for One Type of Stroke Lower in People With More Magnesium in Diet
Jan. 20, 2012 -- People who eat more foods rich in the mineral magnesium appear to reduce their odds of having a stroke, a new study shows.

The link between magnesium in the diet and stroke risk was strongest for ischemic stroke, which is when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain.

Researchers found that the risk for ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke in older people, was reduced by 9% for each additional 100 milligrams of magnesium a person consumed each day.

Regularly eating magnesium-rich foods also helped modestly reduce the chances of having any type of stroke. The study found that for every 100 additional milligrams of magnesium per day, people cut their risk of stroke by 8%.

The best natural sources for the mineral are whole grain products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and beans. Foods that supply close to 100 milligrams of magnesium a day include one ounce of almonds or cashews, one cup of beans or brown rice, three-quarters of a cup of cooked spinach, or one cup of cooked oat bran cereal. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details and embedded links.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A History of the Two Worst Circus Tragedies

We recently saw a good movie, "Water for Elephants". It involves a circus in the 1930's, where a tragedy happens.

The story begins in the present, where the main character, now an old man, begins to tell the story of that tragedy to a present-day circus owner. Leading up to that, in their conversation they mention two other circus tragedies, the Hartford circus fire in Connecticut in 1944, at the Ringling Bros. Circus, and the Hammond Circus Train Wreck in Hammond Indiana, involving the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus.

The tragedy in "Water for Elephants" is fictional, but the two tragedies referred to really did happen, so I looked them up. Quite a bit of history there:

The Day the Clowns Cried
The worst tragedy in the annals of circus history occurred during the afternoon show of the Ringling Brothers Circus on July 6, 1944, at Hartford, Connecticut. With nearly 7,000 people enjoying the performance, the big tent suddenly became engulfed in flames. As fire spread up the side walls and raced across the top of the tent, the bandmaster, Merle Evans, swung his band into the song Stars and Stripes Forever -- the circus disaster tune. The sound of this tune moved all employees into high gear. The horses, elephants, the lions and tigers, were quickly led out of the tent out of danger.

People stampeded toward the exit they had entered from. Unfortunately, this was the end on fire. Fire had not spread to the other end yet and employees tried directing them to that exit. In the panic, crowds still stampeded the end on fire. Three minutes later, the tent poles started collapsing and the roof -- what was left -- caved in. In six minutes total, almost all of the tent was burned completely and the entire area was nothing more than smoldering ashes. 168 men, women and children died as a result. Hundreds more were badly injured.

The feeling of responsibility to the victims was uppermost in the circus management's minds. Five of the top management personnel at Ringling's were arrested on changes of manslaughter and subsequently served sentences and were ultimately pardoned by the State of Connecticut. In addition, due to the fire, Ringling's found itself with over four million dollars in damage claims from victim's families. [...]

The rest of the article also has a link to photos at the end.

Wikipedia has a more detailed description:

[...] The fire began as a small flame about 20 minutes into the show, on the southwest sidewall of the tent, while the Great Wallendas were on. Circus Bandleader Merle Evans is said to be the person who first spotted the flames, and immediately directed the band to play "Stars and Stripes Forever", the tune that traditionally signaled distress to all circus personnel. Ringmaster Fred Bradna urged the audience not to panic and to leave in an orderly fashion, but the power failed and he could not be heard. Bradna and the ushers unsuccessfully tried to maintain some order as the panicked crowd tried to flee the big top.

Sources and investigators differ on how many people were killed and injured. Various people and organizations say it was 167, 168, or 169 persons (the 168 figure is usually based on official tallies that included a collection of body parts that were listed as a "victim") with official treated injury estimates running over 700 people. The number of actual injuries is believed to be higher than those figures, since many people were seen that day heading home in shock without seeking treatment in the city. The only animals in the big top at the time were the big cats trained by May Kovar and Joseph Walsh that had just finished performing when the fire started. The big cats were herded through the chutes leading from the performing cages to several cage wagons, and were unharmed except for a few minor burns.

The cause of the fire remains unproven. Investigators at the time believed it was caused by a carelessly flicked cigarette but others suspected an arsonist. Several years later while being investigated on other arson charges, Robert Dale Segee (1929–1997) who was an adolescent roustabout at the time, confessed to starting the blaze. He was never tried for the crime and later recanted his confession.

Because the big top tent had been coated with 1,800 lb (816 kg) of paraffin wax dissolved in 6,000 US gallons (23 m³) of gasoline (some sources say kerosene), a common waterproofing method of the time, the flames spread rapidly. Many people were badly burned by the melting paraffin, which rained down like napalm from the roof. The fiery tent collapsed in about eight minutes according to eyewitness survivors, trapping hundreds of spectators beneath it.

The circus had been experiencing shortages of personnel and equipment due to World War II. Delays and malfunctions in the ordinarily smooth order of the circus had become commonplace. Two years earlier, on August 4, 1942, a fire had broken out in the menagerie, killing a number of animals. Circus personnel were concerned about the 1944 Hartford show for other reasons. Two shows had been scheduled for July 5, but the first had to be canceled because the circus trains arrived late and the circus could not set up in time. In circus superstition, missing a show is considered extremely bad luck, and although the July 5 evening show ran as planned, many circus employees may have been on their guard, half-expecting an emergency or catastrophe.

It is commonly believed that the number of fatalities is higher than the estimates given, due to poorly kept residency records in rural towns, and the fact that some smaller remains were never identified or claimed. It is also believed that the intense heat from the fire combined with the accelerants, the paraffin and gasoline, could have incinerated people completely, as in cremation, leaving no substantial physical evidence behind. Additionally, free tickets had been handed out that day to many people in and around the city, some of whom appeared to eyewitnesses and circus employees to be drifters, who would never have been reported missing by anyone if they were killed in the disaster. The number of people in the audience that day has never been established with certainty, but the closest estimate is about 7,000.[1]

While many people were burned to death by the fire, many others died as a result of the ensuing chaos. Though most spectators were able to escape the fire, many people were caught up in the hysteria and panicked. Witnesses said some people simply ran around in circles trying to find their loved ones, rather than trying to escape the burning tent. Some escaped but ran back inside to find family members. Others stayed in their seats until it was too late, assuming that the fire would be put out promptly, and the show would continue.

Because at least two of the exits were blocked, by the chutes used to bring the large felines in and out of the tent, people trying to escape could not bypass them. Some died from injuries sustained after leaping from the tops of the bleachers in hopes they could escape under the sides of the tent, though that method of escape ended up killing more people than it saved. Others died after being trampled by other spectators, with some asphyxiating underneath the piles of people who had fallen down over each other.

Most of the dead were found in piles, some three bodies deep, at the most congested exits. A small number of people were found alive at the bottoms of these piles, protected by the bodies that were on top of them when the burning big top ultimately fell down on those still trapped beneath it. Because of a picture that appeared in several newspapers of sad tramp clown Emmett Kelly holding a water bucket, the event became known as "the day the clowns cried." [...]

Visit the Wiki page to see all the embedded links, and more details.

Google Images has more pictures from the fire.

And YouTube has film footage, some of it in color:

I grew up in Connecticut, and my mom is from Hartford. She was a little kid back then, and she tried to get her parents to take her to that afternoon show. They wouldn't. What a blessing that turned out to be.

The fire was not only the worst circus accident, but also the worst fire in American history, in terms of loss of life and injuries (or so I read somewhere).

The other disaster involved the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1918:

A circus tragedy lost to history
[...] The largest corner of the plot, the part holding those scores of unidentified bodies, is a mass grave, a result of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train wreck on June 22, 1918; it happened in northwest Indiana, between Gary and Hammond. At least 187 people were injured, and an estimated 86 were killed — according to news reports from the time, many of the bodies were so charred and pulled apart it was hard to finalize an exact count.

The flagman waved a lit flare at the speeding train, now bearing down. It was approaching too fast. His own train, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train, had stopped on the Michigan Central line. Engineers were cooling an overheated axle box. It was 4 a.m., June 22, 1918, just outside of Hammond. The circus train had left Michigan City hours before and was headed to Hammond for a show. The train behind it, a 21-car military troop transport, had left Michigan City about an hour later. It barreled forward now.

The troop train was empty. The driver, a 28-year Michigan Central veteran named Alonzo Sargent, was asleep inside. According to testimony, he passed two yellow signals of caution, then two red signals. In addition, the flagman had left a flare of warning on the tracks about a mile behind the stopped circus train.

Sargent passed this too.

Before the trains collided, the circus flagman testified, that in a last desperate attempt at getting the attention of the sleeping engineer, he flung his flare at the front window of the hurtling locomotive.

Thanks to the growth of railroads, in 1918 the traveling circus was in its heyday, said Steve Freese, executive director of the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wis. "It was the golden age of the circus, and the primary entertainment for small Midwest towns. Hundreds lined the tracks just to watch them unload."

The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, formed in 1907 and headquartered in Peru, Ind. (now the site of the International Circus Hall of Fame), had become one of the most popular circuses in the country. Famed lion tamer Clyde Beatty was a member. So was a young Red Skelton, tagging alongside his father, a Hagenbeck-Wallace clown. The circus also had a history of trouble: train wrecks, fires, even a flood, which killed eight elephants.

Nevertheless, remnants remain. Circus World lent vintage Hagenbeck-Wallace wagons to the production of "Water for Elephants," including animal cages and baggage wagons. "There was really no way we could have ever built them from scratch," said David Crank, the film's art director. "And we had to repaint them, to match the circus that's in the film. But really, it was like handling this whole world that nobody remembers anymore. Those circus wagons were, like, 5,000 pounds apiece. You can't imagine a wreck of these things."

The military train, made of steel, hit the circus cars at 35 mph, slicing through the caboose, then two cars of sleeping crew, then a car carrying black employees, then a car filled with performers. The circus cars were made of wood, and splintered before piling up. Survivors later said the cars were jumbled so high that as they climbed from the wreckage they found themselves standing above nearby telegraph wires.

Many died during the initial collision; many more died from the resulting fire. The old-fashioned cars were still lit by kerosene lanterns. The Flying Wards, a trapeze act, lost a member; every one of the McDhu Sisters, who rode elephants and did aerial stunts, died. Two strongmen died. Joe Coyle, the father in a family clown act, escaped, but watched from the road as his wife and sons died in the fire, just out of reach.

The circus traveled with about 50 cars, in two sets. Most of the performers and crew had been asleep in the second set. The animals were in the first, 90 minutes ahead of the collision. None died. According to a Tribune story that ran the day after the accident, the first set pulled into Hammond and sat unloaded as "a silent group" stood around "the big boss in charge," who solemnly checked off a roster of employees.

After the wreck, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus canceled only one show, the Hammond performance. Circuses around the country pitched in and lent performers and according to the Showmen's League, within a day of the disaster the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was performing its scheduled show in Wisconsin.

Sargent was arrested after the accident and charged with manslaughter. Despite being found responsible by federal transportation officials — the cause was sleeping on the job, they said — he was acquitted.

The rest of this history is a mix of the good, sad and curious. The accident led to regulations mandating sleep for train crews. Joe Dierckx, the only surviving member of the Great Dierckx Brothers strongman act, married his nurse, a sister of Knute Rockne. Oddly, nine years later, a passenger train moving through Aurora hit a herd of elephants being loaded onto another Hagenbeck-Wallace train; there was one fatality, a handler riding one of the elephants was thrown to the ground and crushed to death when the animal tumbled. The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus itself continued for years, was sold in 1929 to Ringling Bros., then, battered by the Depression, closed for good two decades after the Indiana wreck. [...]

The whole article has more information about the cemetery, Showman's Rest, where the victims were buried, and many other circus performers have been buried since.

Here is a photo from the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus, from 1917:

Gone, but not completely forgotten:

A Circus Tragedy and Showmen’s Rest

Where the "Debt Crisis" is going

This is one of the most concise and direct explanations I've read:

How The Debt Crisis Will End
It became increasingly clear this month how the debt crisis will end - and it is not going to be comfortable.

The latest phony solution is for the large, "responsible" countries to demand more fiscal responsibility from the smaller and purportedly "less responsible" countries. In Europe, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy are demanding that other European states give up some of their sovereignty and agree to strict limits on their deficit spending.

President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron, have been lecturing the European Union about being more fiscally responsible. How odd and hypocritical, based on their own behavior.

Given normal growth of roughly 3 percent, annual deficits of 3 percent or less tend not to be a problem. Small deficits tend not to increase the ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) and debt service as a percent of GDP. That is why the annual deficit limit under the European Union Maastricht Treaty was set at 3 percent.

The table on the right shows the dismal record of the major countries when it comes to hitting the annual deficit target during the 13 years that the euro has been in existence.

Of the 17 eurozone countries, only Finland and Luxembourg have been in compliance all 13 years. The three biggest eurozone countries, Germany, France and Italy, have been out of compliance more years than they have been in compliance. The three big, democratic, non-eurozone countries, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, also have had dismal records in keeping their own deficits under the prudent 3 percent rule.

The simple fact is that most democracies are unable to police their own fiscal behavior, let alone the behavior of other countries.

Europe not only is sitting on a fiscal time bomb, which already is starting to explode, but also has a demographic time bomb with a rapidly aging population. Despite the fiscal crisis of the past few years, which is accelerating, most of Europe has done next to nothing to cut back entitlements to a manageable level, which is equally true of the United States.

Looking at the actions of the European leaders, rather than listening to their words, it is obvious that they increasingly are using the European Central Bank to buy the sovereign debt of their members after repeatedly saying they would not. [...]

Read the whole thing, to see the table of countries referred to, and to read the blunt but to-the-point summation of the article. While it's not what most people want to hear, it's none the less refreshing to hear someone being honest about what's really going on, and where it's going. But I would say the details of the "transition" it speaks of, and what comes after, is anyone's guess.


An on-line Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator

Have you ever wanted to know if your weight matches your BMI? This makes it easy to find out:

Interactive BMI calculator

The sites right sidebar also has links to some other health related calculators.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vitamin C rich foods help with Heart Failure

Foods With Vitamin C May Help Heart Failure Patients
Study: Heart Failure Patients More Likely to Be Hospitalized if Their Diet Is Low in Foods With Vitamin C
Nov.14, 2011 (Orlando, Fla.) -- People with heart failure who don't eat enough vitamin C-rich foods are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized or die as those with heart failure who get enough vitamin C in their diet, new research suggests.

They are also more than twice as likely to have high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood, which has been linked to heart disease.

The study is the first to show that people with heart failure who eat enough vitamin C-rich foods live longer, according to study researcher Grace Song, PhD, RN, an assistant professor in the department of nursing at the University of Ulsan, South Korea.

Vitamin C, an antioxidant, may help people with heart failure by calming down inflammation in the body, Song tells WebMD.

Other researchers say that it's not at all clear that vitamin C by itself improves heart health.

More likely, people who get enough vitamin C in their diets eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and are healthier overall, says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, a nutritionist at Tufts University in Boston.

"What we do know," she says, "is that a diet high in fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of heart disease."

Foods that are rich in vitamin C include cantaloupe, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, oranges, papaya, and kiwis. [...]