Archive | March 13, 2019

Another remnant of the nineteenth century railroads



As the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad (5/10/1869) approaches I’m reminded of another consequence of the influence once wielded by the American railroads.

In the early days, as the railroads were spreading out through the country as it grew across the plains west of St. Louis, passenger service was its most important business. To accommodate the traveling public it was necessary to implement train schedules. As the railroads developed schedules it became apparent that there was a serious problem.

At that time there was no standard system of time keeping. Essentially each city or town established their own time based on the position of the sun. It was high noon when the sun reached its zenith each day. This satisfied everyone’s need; it didn’t make any difference until the railroads came along. Without some sort of standard time system it was impossible for the railroads to produce practical train schedules.

So, on Nov. 18, 1883 the railroads adopted the time zone system that is still in use today. Until the passage of the 1918 Standard Time Act there was no other legal system of standard time in the U.S. Apparently between 1883 and 1918 somehow the railroads convinced all the communities throughout the country to adopt their standard time system. Then on Jan 1, 1960 the Coordinated Universal Time system was implemented which is the standard time system used around the world.


My fellow Children of the Greatest Generation………..

Born in the 1930’s to the early 1950’s, we exist as a very special age group.

We are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900’s.

We are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.

We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.

We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available.

We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.

We are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors whose sons died in the War.

We saw the ‘boys’ home from the war, build their little houses.

We are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio.

As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood “playing outside”.

There was no little league. There was no city playground for kids Soccer was unheard of.

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.

On Saturday afternoons, the movies, gave us newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons that were at least a week old..

Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party Lines) and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy).

Computers were called calculators, they were hand cranked; typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage, and changing the ribbon.

The ‘INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist

Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on our radio in the evening by Paul Harvey.

As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.

The GI. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.

VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand coupled with new Installment payment plans opened many factories for work.

New highways would bring jobs and mobility. New cars averaged $2,000 full price.

The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands.

Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.

We weren’t neglected, but we weren’t today’s all-consuming family focus.

They were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on or Mom called us for supper.

They were busy discovering the post-war world.

We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world where we were welcomed, enjoyed ourselves and felt secure in our future. Although depression poverty was deeply remembered.

Polio was still a crippler.

We came of age in the 50s and 60s.

The Korean War was a dark passage in the early 50s and by mid-decade school children were ducking under desks for Air-Raid training.

Russia built the “Iron Curtain” and China became Red China.

Eisenhower sent the first ‘Army Advisers’ to Vietnam.

Castro took over in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power in Russia.

We are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland. The war was over and the cold war, Muslim terrorism, “global warming”, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.

Only our generation can remember both a time of great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty, we lived through both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better not worse

We are “The Last Ones”.





The Editor:  What is the story of brain waves, LL ?

Mensa Cat:  It isn’t anything new.  Almost everyone knows that your thinking process often works in your subconscious.  That leaves a large part of your brain free to make current and new decisions, like where to get drugs.  Your subconscious lets you know if current decisions to be made are harmful, based on previous experience.

Guess who just had a birthday ?    She was one of the first females to be punished, persecuted, and made fun of for being white, christian and attractive.

Carmakers need to give new quiet electric cars a sound to let people using their smart phones know that danger is near.   (  see link one )

Princess White Dove has a good idea.

Zuckerberg has an escape plan.  I hope it is better than Sadam Hussein’s.

Some of the Trump haters in Hollywood have been cheating.

Getting Some Mammoth (metaphorically)



I just came across (on a T-shirt in an online ad, of all things) this much-retweeted item—13K retweets, 13K likes—from @existentialcoms:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“An honest, brave, compassionate human being.”

“No … I mean, how do you want to sell your labor?”

The message, I take it, is that we overemphasize what we do for a living — to the point of labeling that “what we are” — instead of how we behave towards others. (Checking the Twitter feed, which has a generally anti-free-market tone, supports that view.)

Now I appreciate that this is a witty way of putting the assertion, but it seems to me to miss the deeper point, which I’ve long framed in my mind as Getting Some Mammoth. (I’ve been thinking about this especially now that I have teenagers, so I wonder how they will get some mammoth themselves someday.)

Here’s the problem: For my tribe to survive, we’ve got to go out there and kill mammoths. That’s hard and dangerous work. It’s not for everyone, and it’s fine if you don’t go on the mammoth hunt. (Indeed, maybe some tribes value the mammoth hunters a little too much, and more people go on the mammoth hunt than really ought to.) But then you need to find something to do so people who do kill the mammoth are willing to give you some; you can call it “sell your labor,” but you can also call it “pay your way.”

Now you probably don’t have to do that something all day every day. And there’s nothing wrong with preferring, when possible, to do something that doesn’t go towards Getting Some Mammoth.

Still, every week, you’ve got to set aside some time for Getting Some Mammoth (or, at a different stage of development or with different dietary preferences, Getting Some Potatoes), whether directly or by doing something that the mammoth-hunters will trade for. And if you want to respect yourself (and be respected by others), you shouldn’t complain too much about it — because if you think you’re entitled to get some of that mammoth and you haven’t either hunted it yourself or given the hunters something in exchange for it, then (in most cases) you’re kind of a schmuck.

True, you can be an honest and brave human being without Getting Some Mammoth the way I describe: For instance, some brave people get mammoth by Hunting the Mammoth-Hunters instead, which I don’t endorse but which is often (though not always) a brave thing to do (and can involve being “honest” in the sense of “not untruthful,” though not in the sense of “an honest living”).

But to be honest, brave, and compassionate — including being compassionate to the people from whom you want to get some mammoth — actually you do need to figure out a way to sell your labor.


The wrong side of the tracks



Along with the decline of the once almost ubiquitous railroads the term “the wrong side of the tracks” is also disappearing from the American scene. Young people today probably don’t know that it used to be a very common expression denoting the less affluent part of town. The section that was less desirable, the place you wanted to move away from if you had a little more money. But who decides which is the wrong side of the tracks? And why would one side be better than the other?

During the nineteenth century railroads were extending their tentacles almost everywhere bringing increased prosperity to towns throughout the land. Being close to the railroad was a huge economic advantage, but there were disadvantages as well. The railroads also brought along the concept of the right and wrong side of the tracks, but few people today know how that originated. It is no longer apparent how one side of the tracks could be better than the other, but to the early Americans the difference was quite obvious.

Almost all of the locomotives used to be fueled with coal, which produced massive amounts of smoke and dirt, which was blown by the prevailing winds mostly toward one side of the tracks. People living on the downwind side of the tracks had to deal with the soot and dirt while their neighbors on the other side did not. Life on the right side of the tracks was definitely better than it was on the wrong side.


Astronomy Picture of the Day

> Highlights of the North Spring Sky
Image Credit & Copyright:

Explanation: What can you see in the night sky this season? The featured graphic gives a few highlights for Earth‘s northern hemisphere. Viewed as a clock face centered at the bottom, early (northern) spring sky events fan out toward the left, while late spring events are projected toward the right. Objects relatively close to Earth are illustrated, in general, as nearer to the cartoon figure with the telescope at the bottom center — although almost everything pictured can be seen without a telescope. As happens during any season, constellations appear the same year to year, and, as usual, the Lyrids meteor shower will peak in mid-April. Also as usual, the International Space Station (ISS) can be seen, at times, as a bright spot drifting across the sky after sunset. After the Vernal Equinox next week, the length of daytime will be greater than the length of nighttime in Earth’s northern hemisphere, an inequality that will escalate as the spring season develops. Also as spring ages, Jupiter becomes visible increasingly earlier in the night. As spring draws to a close, the month of May will feature two full moons, the second of which is called a Blue Moon.

Tomorrow’s picture: open space