Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Texas Garbage Patch

The Texas Garbage Patch is not off the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico, but in the Pacific Ocean north of the Hawaiian Islands about half the distance to San Francisco. It is also called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Eastern Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex. About a decade ago, my wife and I were at the National Seashore in the North Padre Island in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the end of a wonderful vacation in Texas. We were disappointed, rather we were appalled, in the amount of trash we discovered on the National Seashore coming in with the tide. When I first heard the term Texas Garbage Patch, I immediately thought of the National Seashore. But the Texas Garbage Patch was named for its size not its location. It is now the size of a continent about twice the size of Texas.

This garbage patch is made of mostly plastics that for whatever reason has ended up in the ocean either from dumping or by accident. It is plastic bags, bowling balls, plastic bottles, Nike sneakers etc. It weighs approximately 3.5 billion tons and it doubles in size every decade. Here is a link if you like a look:

Texas Garbage Patch

Pretty disgusting huh? It is one of the reasons why we get the feeling the ocean is not pollute because it looks as clean as it always has. But a lot of the trash just gets concentrated in a few spots due to the winds, tides and general motion of the Earth.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Truth about Booth

John Wilkes Booth was a famous actor in his day. Many historians currently believe that he was actually a spy for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The fact that he was an actor allowed him to explain why he travelled around the war-torn country without question. If you're ever in an airport and you see someone famous going through the TSA search quicker than you do, this is something to think about.

Booth was a loyalist to the Confederacy and we was quite upset by the Emancipation Proclamation. The original plan was to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln not assassinate him. The idea was to cause total chaos with the government to cause it collapse. Eventually, the plan was changed to assissination but not just to Lincoln, but to the the Vice President, Andrew Johnson, and the Secretary of State, William Seward. Booth is famous because he succeed but his two buddies, George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell, did not. Atzerodt was supposed to kill Johnson, but he just chickened out. Powell almost succeeded. While Seward was lying in bed sick with his daughter, Fanny, by his side and with a soldier, Private George Robinson, posted for security (good move). Powell gained access by pretending to be a deliverer of medicine. He gained access to the upstairs of the house by pistol whipping Seward's son, Frederick, and then stormed into Seward's room flaying a Bowie knife. Seward survived but he and his family's life changed for the worse. It was a very disturbing event.

Powell, Atzerodt and 2 other conspirators (David Herold and Mary Surratt) were hung the very next day.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Loser Who Rose to Power

If I were to tell you a story about somebody who was a nobody, a failure at everything he ever did, who got his life together and became a leader of a nation, you might find this intriguing. If I were to tell you that this person's name was Adolf Hitler ... your feelings probably would change. Before he came to power, he was a vagabond. He was a failed artist and couldn't find a job. He was homeless. He became a foot soldier in the Austria's army during World War I and this experience transformed him. So while World War I transformed the world, perhaps the most transformative event in world history, this tiny little man was transformed into the most vilified person in modern history.

When World War I ended Hitler was wounded and blind in an army hospital. He thought hard about Germany's predictament and pondered a life of politics. Like most citizens of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria), he hoped to have a fair agreement to come from the peace. When peace came and the agreement was very unfair, he was angered. While Germany struggled to recover from the war many radical splinter groups evolved about the mayhem. Much like how the disenchanted white Southerners after the US's Civil War coagulated to form splitter groups like the KKK, disenfranchised groups sprung up all over the place after World War I in Germany. After the war Hitler got a job from one of his superior officers whose jobs it was to keep tabs on these splitter groups. One of these groups was called the National Socialist German Worker's Party. Hitler attended one of their meetings ... as we say ... the rest is history. They were more commonly known as the Nazi Party and were impressed with their young recruit who had an impeccable ability for public speaking.