Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Make Forensic Laboratory Certification Mandatory and Accountable!

The Chemistry World website tweeted yesterday a report of malpractice at a forensics laboratory in Oregon. Nika Larsen, a forensic scientist at the Bend Crime Laboratory, allegedly would take drugs and other items from samples she was testing and replaced them with OTC drugs.  The District Attorney of the Deschutes County said they will have to review 1500 criminal cases in which Larsen analyzed evidence.

Another forensic scientist in Oregon, Jeff Dovci, who retired from the Central Point Lab in 2013, has come under scrutiny because of his testimony in a 2005 trial.  Although the convictions in that case were overturned in 2012 for reasons unrelated to Dovci’s testimony, an examination of his court records has cast doubt on his testimony.

Back in 2013, Annie Dookham, A Massachusetts forensic scientist, was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison for falsifying thousands of drug tests, which could affect the convictions of over 1100 defendants.  In their October 2012 report of the Dookham case, Chemistry World included a quote from Josh Lee, a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, who teaches forensic chromatography.

“Forensic science is very much a ‘wild, wild west’ where everyone does what they want.”  There is no true oversight such as the pharmaceutical industry or the Environmental Protection Agency’s labs.

Seriously?  Why not?

 Forensic labs can become certified under the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors or even ISO17025, requirements for testing laboratory management systems, but neither of these are mandatory, like EPA’s programs.  The EPA keeps a close watch on their laboratories since they, and we, are concerned about the environment and the health of the populace.

Shouldn’t we be as concerned with the forensic laboratories and the manner it collects, analyzes and stores samples?  How many innocent people were convicted based on testimonies from Larsen and Dookham?  How many were guilty and got away?  How much money is it going to cost tax payers to review all the cases to determine if a re-trial is warranted?  These are just two examples.  There have been cases of forensic scientist fraud in Pensacola, Florida and Walker County, Texas.

Making processes such as training and maintaining documentation mandatory will not solve the problem, since there will always be unscrupulous laboratory workers, but it would add more layers of supervision.  And tougher penalties.  Labs won’t be able to operate with a ‘wild, wild west’ attitude.  The EPA has had to send out the SWAT team but these incidents have been much fewer.

Environmental chemists are working their butts off to maintain their certifications.  Make the forensic chemists do the same.

Truman Capote, American author, novelist, playwright born in 1924

Truman Capote, known for literary classics as "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was born September 30, 1924.  His final novel "In Cold Blood" was widely praised but afterwards many of the events he portrayed in the brutal murder of a farmer and his family in Kansas have come under question.  Even though it was published in  1966, he managed to maintain his celebrity status by appearing on talk shows.  He passed away on August 25, 1984.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Oklahoma can't shove religion down its residents' throats!

The monument of the Ten Commandments erected in front of Oklahoma's state capitol building in 2012 has been ordered removed by Capitol Preservation Commission.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June it violated the Oklahoma Constitution. 

It's about time!  The monument has been a source of controversy for the past several years and should never have been put up in the first place.  But it's no surprise it was erected.  Oklahoma, the buckle of the Bible Belt, is as red a state as they come.  They vote Republican even though most registered voters are Democrats.  They've been against Obama since Day One, and still claim they're not being racist.  Come on.  I was born and raised there.  Zebras can't change their stripes.  They do not approve of gay marriages, despite the fact that very few of them would get one.

Of course, people are up in arms about it.  According to Associated Press, former state representative Mike Reynolds wanted to address the commission but the chairwoman Linda Edmondson said public comment was not part of the meeting.  She's right. 

Although I don't always agree with the ACLU, I like what this guy said.  Brady Henderson was quoted as saying, "Like (the judge) said, whatever somebody thinks about the decision itself in the Ten Commandments case, we live in a country where the rule of law is supreme. And that means once the Supreme Court has spoken, the district court here has a very clear mandate as to exactly what it has to do.”

Amazingly short-sighted Attorney General Scott Pruitt said: "The Oklahoma Supreme Court's stunningly broad interpretation of Article II, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution created a hostility toward religion that violates the balance struck by the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of freedom of religion."

Removing the monument is NOT hostility toward religion.  It's a separation of church and state!  Not everyone in Oklahoma is either Christian or Jewish.    If there is to be a monument of religious "do's and don't's" then it needs to include codes of ethics from all religions.  Right now, it only speaks to Christians and Jews to behave and the Christians certainly are NOT behaving.

Meco hits #1 on the Hot 100 with Star Wars Theme - 1977


"Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" by Meco reached #1 of the Hot 100 September 29, 1977!  The single was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance at the 20th Grammy Awards Ceremony held on February 23, 1978, but lost to John Williams and the London Symphony for "Star Wars".

Happy birthday, Madeline Kahn!

This uber-talented actress came into this world September 29, 1942 in Boston.  She trained in opera while attending Hoffstra University on Long Island and she starred in several productions during her studies. 

She appeared in her first feature film "What's Up, Doc?" (one of my favorite slap-stick movies ever) with Barbara Streisand.  Her performance as Lili Von Shtupp in "Blazing Saddles" has been ranked by Premiere Magazine as #74 of the top 100 performances of all time.

One of my favorite scenes starring this wonderful actress, who left us way too soon, is the farewell scene at the train station in "Young Frankenstein".

Monday, September 28, 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

Ellis Peters, creator of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, born in 1913

Ellis Peters (aka Edith Mary Pargeter) was born in Horsehay, Shropshire, September 28, 1913.  She is probably best known for her creation Brother Cadfael, a monk living in 12th century England.  The backdrop of her stories is the civil war that raged between King Stephen and his cousin Empress Maud for the crown of England.  Cadfael had been a soldier before becoming a monk at St. Peter's and St. Paul's in Shrewsbury. 

He works as an herbalist for the monastery so he is called upon to leave its confines to visit the village if someone becomes ill or wounded.  This gives him the chance to interact with the secular world and its share of murder and death.

Her first Brother Cadfael novel is "A Morbid Taste for Bones" was published in 1977 and is tied at #42 of the Top 100 Crime Novels of all Time, with "The Leper of St. Giles", also by Ellis Peters.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Star Trek - The Next Generation premiered in 1987

The first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation aired September 26, 1987.  "Encounter at Far Point" introduced us to a whole new crew of the starship Enterprise, and the recurring character "Q", an omnipotent being.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Skylab 3 mission ends in 1973

Three astronauts took off from Earth July 28, 1973 on the second manned mission to Skylab.  Commander Alan Bean, Jack R. Lousma and Oklahoman Owen K. Garriott returned on September 25, after just over 59 days and 11 hours in space.

The astronauts conducted medical experiments on themselves, since at this point, it would be the longest stay in space, almost 2 months.  Skylab 3 astronauts performed biological experiments, such as the effect of microgravity on mice, fruit flies and single cells.  Student experiments conducted on board included studying X-rays from Jupiter, spider web formation and neutron analysis. 

The astronauts conducted an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) to install a sunshade to keep the station cool and as a solution for the destruction of the micrometeoroid shield during Skylab's launch.

Enid native Owen Garriott operates the Apollo Telescope Mount.

The Pointer Sisters release "Priority" in September 1979

My girls, the Pointer Sisters, released "Priority", their 6th studio album in September 1979.  It was their second with producer Richard Perry but, unfortunately, it was not as successful as some of their other work, which is surprising given the sisters' wonderful vocals and the upbeat sounds. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the 20th century's greatest writers

F. Scott Fitzgerald, born this day in 1896 in St. Paul Minnesota, is best known for his novel The Great Gatsby, which did not receive critical acclaim until after his death in December 1940.  Widely regarded as one the greatest American writers of the 20th century, he wrote only five novels, but the fifth, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. 

When The Great Gatsby was published in April 1925, it received mixed reviews and sold only 20,000 copies in the first year.  He supplemented his income by writing short stories to magazines and sold stories and novels to Hollywood studios, ‘whoring’ as he called it.

He died of a heart attack in Hollywood after attending a movie premiere the night before.  Fitzgerald is buried in the family plot at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, Maryland.

Hurricane Rita, the "forgotten hurricane"

On September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita roared ashore between Sabine Pass, Texas and Holly Beach, Louisiana.  Had she hit in another year, she would have been the strongest storm of the season, but this was 2005.  Less than a month earlier, Hurricane Katrina, less powerful than Rita, devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, killing over 1800 people and causing well over one hundred billion dollars in damage.  That year saw three of the six most powerful Atlantic storms recorded: Wilma was #1, Rita #4, and Katrina #6.

With the horrors of Katrina still painfully present, people in Rita’s path decided to flee.  Contra-flow measures were initiated but much too late.  With millions of people hitting the road at the same time, disaster was almost assured.  Huge traffic jams formed and a bus with nursing home residents caught fire near Dallas, Texas.  Twenty-three people lost their lives in the blaze.  The evacuation killed almost as many people as the hurricane.

The small coastal community of Cameron, Louisiana, sat directly in Rita’s path and the storm destroyed forty percent of the structures in the parish.  Miraculously, Cameron suffered no casualties but ten years later, the community has yet to recover.  Prior to Rita, the parish population hovered around 10,000.  Presently, less than 6700 inhabit the town.

Rita also flattened Holly Beach, Louisiana, another town struggling to recover a decade later.  As a result, the Louisiana legislature implemented new building codes, including mandates to elevate homes in flood-prone areas.  Three years later, when Hurricane Ike came through, houses built in the post-Rita era, weathered him with minimal damage.

The lessons learned in 2005 were hard ones and failing them brought us out of our complacency.  Unfortunately, those lessons were unnecessary.  The Department of Homeland Security’s Hurricane Pam scenario, carried out a year before Katrina let the Republican occupied White House know that New Orleans would not withstand a storm rated Category 3 or higher.  Inaction on the recommendations went unheeded and almost two thousand people paid the price. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Billy Joel released "The Nylon Curtain" in 1982!

My main man, Billy Joel, released "The Nylon Curtain" September 23, 1982!  It was his eighth studio album and reached No. 7 on the Billboard album charts.  It received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.  I find it to be one of his most emotional albums from the frantic "Pressure", to the declining steel industry in "Allentown" to the Vietnam War in "Good Night, Saigon". 

Happy birthday, Keiko O'Brien!

Rosalind Chao, who played Keiko O'Brien in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was born today in 1957. 

The episode "Disaster", in which the USS Enterprise is hit by a quantum filament, Worf and Keiko are trapped in Ten Forward, cut off from everyone else.  Although a month early, Keiko goes into labor and Worf must help deliver her baby in one of the funniest scenes in the entire show.

Halloween released by Mannheim Steamroller in 2003

Mannheim Steamroller's Halloween album released today in 2003!  It's the first of three Halloween albums they released.  I couldn't find any original videos from this album other than composites like the one below. 

"Sorcerer's Apprentice" is the best track!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Science news this week: Europa, Mars and a Super-Moon!

When Voyager 2 flew past the Jovian moon Europa in 1979, Earthlings received images of a flat white surface, no craters, just mysterious brown streaks across the moon’s exterior.  The lack of features meant some force was present to erase the evidence of asteroid impacts.  I even remember reading news reports saying the closer Voyager 2 got to Europa, the younger the moon looked.  In fact, according to Popular Science, the discoveries prompted Arthur C. Clarke to write a sequel to his highly successful 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In his novel 2010, they beings warned the Earthlings, “all these words are yours – except Europa.  Attempt no landing here.”  Author Corey S. Powell reports that this warning has become a in-joke and a taunt to scientists.

Last week, NASA reported a huge global sub-surface ocean on the Saturnine moon Enceladus but this week they reported Europa as being the wettest known world in the solar system with more than twice the water on earth.  Life needs water.  Everywhere water exists on Earth so does life.  So to find alien life, one must look for alien water.  Europa has about 3 million cubic kilometers of it.

Life also needs good and energy, which Europa also contains.  Scientists suggest the oceans could be ‘nourished by a drizzle of organic chemicals’ stirred by volcanic vents.

Proving it will be a task worthy of Jupiter himself.  It’s about 600 million miles from here to Europa and that could take about 6 years.  The surface of the moon receives an average radiation dose of 500 rem/day, which can fry unshielded electronics in just a few days.  Lastly, the ice shell is about 10 miles thick, much more than the ice covering the Antarctica.  Many scientist are saying we should try, though.
The last probe to visit Jupiter and her moons was Galileo in 1995 and lasted until 2003 when the mission ended.  In May this year, NASA began developing a probe to visit Europa sometime in the 2020’s.

We might never find out what is below the surface of Europa unless we ignore the warnings of Arthur C. Clarke and put a lander on it.


In other news this week, it has been one year since NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) entered orbit above the Red Planet. Among its objectives, MAVEN will try to figure out where the water went.

Gases escaping from Mars:

And don’t miss the lunar eclipse with a Super-Moon, this Sunday, Sept 27.

Monday, September 21, 2015

P. C. Doherty, history mystery author

Paul Doherty (P. C. Doherty) is another favorite author of mine who celebrates a birthday today.  But to say he’s prolific would be an understatement.  He’s written over 100 novels and non-fiction works.  I’ve especially enjoyed his historical novels featuring Hugh Corbett, set during Edward I’s reign in the 13th century. 

Doherty has published novels set in the Middle Ages to ancient Egypt and Greece under pseudonyms such as Ana Apostolou, Michael Clynes and Paul Harding.  I read the The White Rose Murders which he wrote as Clynes, set during Henry VIII’s reign but did not like it enough to continue that series.  His series involving Alexander the Great written as Ana Apostolou were more enjoyable and I kept looking for more of these books, until I learned there would be no more.

I also enjoy his ancient Egypt novels featuring Amerotke, chief judge of the temple during the reign of Queen Hatusu in the 15th century BC.
Like all the other historical mystery authors, you always learn more about history with each page of his books.

New pictures from Pluto!

New pictures from the New Horizons spacecraft have been released from NASA.  These pics were taken just 15 minutes after the closest fly-by.

No doubt Pluto will continue to fascinate us for many years to come. 

H. G. Wells, the father of science fiction, born in 1866

Although Wells, born today in 1866 in Kent, England, was a prolific writer in many genres, he is mostly remembered for his works in science-fiction: The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Wells liked to include scientific and social forces in his writing.

His first novel, The Time Machine, written in 1895, was an instant best-seller.  I enjoyed reading this story.  I’ve seen the Rod Taylor production as well as the Guy Pearce/Orlando Jones production.  To little surprise, they don’t tend to follow the novel too closely, but they did have some interesting interpretations.  I found it amazing and incredible that the time traveler in the story is never named.  In fact, he has several guests at a party and they are all known by their vocation or social standing.  He had an incredibly vivid imagination to have created the future worlds seen as the traveler moves hundreds of thousands of years ahead, to when the sun has become a red giant and almost all life on Earth has been exterminated.  Almost, but not quite.  The traveler has to make a hasty escape.

Probably one of the most famous (or infamous) events during Well’s life was Orson Welles reading The War of the Worlds on the radio Halloween night, 1938.  A panic incurred when much of the public tuned in late and thought aliens had actually landed in New Jersey.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Happy birthday, Isis!

I know, I know.  The plots were hokey, the writing sub-standard and the acting so-so, but remember ‘Isis’ was meant for children.  I watched every episode in grade school!  I thought Joanna Cameron, born today in 1949, was beautiful (how come we didn’t have teachers that looked like that?).  Imagine having powers of a goddess that you could do anything!  How cool is that?  If only she didn’t have to recite an incantation every time.

‘Isis’ aired before ‘The Bionic Woman’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ to be the first live action TV show with a super-powered heroine!
Every story had a moral to it with a lesson to be learned, re-iterated by Isis at the end of each episode.  I always wondered though, how everybody knew who she was at her first appearance. 

During the second season, the producers beefed up her powers but it wasn’t enough.  I still watch ‘Isis’ on Hulu every now and then.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy birthday, Adam West!

Probably the most famous Batman of them all!  Adam West was born September 19, 1928.

You think you have it rough?  Some days you just can't get rid of bomb!

Friday, September 18, 2015

"I Dream of Jeannie" debuts 1965

Everyone's favorite genie debuted September 18, 1965!

Project Runway Season 14, Episode 7 - WTF?

Project Runway lost designer Jake Wall last night but not by elimination.  His beloved pet was ill and needed his immediate attention, so we can wish him well because so many of us have lost our cherished animals. A competition, even as one as coveted as this, is no match for being with a loved one at a critical time.

That didn't stop the judges from sending home the wrong person, for the unconventional materials challenge. Last night, the contestants had to choose electronic leftovers, such as PCB's, cameras, wiring, computers etc. for their fabric. 

For once I'm in partial agreement with the judges that they made the right choice for the winner: Kelly Dempsey, cast in the role of the quirky girl, previously played by Carrie Sleutskaya (Season 13), Miranda Levy (Season 12), Louise Black (Season 6) and so on.  Her dress looked amazing.

Ashley Nell keeps wowing the judges but came up the bride's maid again.

In the end, it was Designer/Bear Joe Poli sent home for a dress not nearly as hideous as Swapnil's:


Happy birthday, Cyclops!

Super-sexy James Marsden celebrates his 42nd birthday today! I didn’t realize he was a fellow Okie until reading his bio on, but it should have been obvious! I’ve drooled over him since the very first X-Men movie in 2000, but since then he’s been in “Hairspray” as Corny Collins and starred as Lois Lane’s husband in “Superman Returns”.  And never seems to age!

Scientists developing a cloaking device

First, a tractor beam and now, a cloaking device!  We’re getting even closer to the 23rd century that probably most people expected.  Researchers in materials science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have managed to build an ultrathin ‘invisibility cloak’, a thin film consisting of “50-nanometer-thick layer of magnesium fluoride, topped by a varying pattern of tiny, brick-shaped gold antennas, each 30 nanometers thick.

Before anyone starts thinking about the cloaking devices wielded by the Romulans and Klingons in Star Trek, the scientists have only used a tiny, irregularly shaped object measuring about 36 microns across and shining light at 730 nm wavelength.  And for this to work, the object must remain stationary.  So no Harry Potter and his Invisibility Cloak or alien from Pedator.

If you have a subscription to Science Magazine, you can read the whole article here.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862

In the days preceding September 17, 1862, Union and Confederate armies amassed on opposite banks of the Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, a standoff leading to the bloodiest day in American history.

Major General George B. McClellan, put in charge by President Abraham Lincoln, commanded the Union Army of the Potomac and faced Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. 

The Union corps under command of Major General Joseph Hooker attacked Lee’s left flank at dawn, September 17 on what had been known as simply the ‘Cornfield.’  Cannon fire opened up, sending puffs of white smoke into the sky.  When the Union soldiers emerged from the stalks, Confederate troops from Georgia, waiting patiently, rose and opened fire.

With the noise, smoke and artillery, terror gripped the men, with bodies and wounded screaming everywhere.  Ten thousand men lost their lives in the first battle which ended in a draw.

McClellan had a two-to-one superiority over Lee and a copy of Lee’s complex strategy which apparently had been lost.  Despite these advantages, McClellan was unable to capitalize on them. 

Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate forces held their ground near Dunker Church, but the Union army advanced on Sunken Road.  An old country farm lane had been worn down about five feet below ground level, from erosion and years of wagon traffic.  It provided a perfect defense for the Confederates and the Union army suffered terrible losses.  However, the Union army managed to circle and Confederates and Sunken Road became a death trap for the men inside.  It has been called ‘Bloody Lane’. 

The third phase of the battle came late in the day, when Major General Ambrose Burnside attacked the Confederate right flank where a stone bridge crossed the Antietam Creek.  According to, the Union army spent three hours and made three assaults to take the bridge.  But Lee received reinforcements from Harper’s Ferry and helped him drive the Union back to the bridge.  The battle ended in another stalemate. 

In one day, nearly 23,000 Americans lost their lives.  Even though historically considered a draw, Abraham Lincoln and the Union declared it a victory for them.  It gave Lincoln the leverage he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery.


"Godzilla vs. Mothra" - US release 1964

"Mothra vs. Godzilla" was released in the US on September 17, 1964 under the title "Godzilla vs. the Thing", somewhat of a marketing ploy for western audiences. It starred Akira Takarada as Ichiro Sakai. 

A huge egg is washed ashore during a violent typhoon and a greedy developer wants to put it on display.  The Cosmos give him permission without realizing his true intent.  When his nefarious plans become clear, the Cosmos refuse anymore help, even when Godzilla is awakened from his hibernation and is threatening Japan.  But soon Godzilla advances on the egg, now in a huge glass cage, and the Cosmos must summon an aging Mothra to protect the egg.

 According to, this is the final Showa Era film in the series where Godzilla is a malevolent figure.  For a while, he appeared as a protector of Earth until Godzilla 1985 he was back to being a bad guy.  Perhaps that changed with 2014's hit "Godzilla". 

Book Review - The Reeve's Tale by Margaret Frazer

Silly me.  In the beginning of The Reeve’s Tale, the ninth in Frazer’s Dame Frevisse series.  St. Frideswide’s reeve, Master Naylor’s freeman status is called into question and is temporarily relieved of his duties until the matter can be resolved.  Domina Elisabeth charges Frevisse to assume his duties as reeve until that time.  I thought Frazer had run out of ideas to get Dame Frevisse out of the convent and into the secular world where her sleuthing abilities are needed.

I underestimated Frazer’s creativity, since nothing in her novels is superfluous. 

Although Frevisse spends most of her time in the confines of St. Frideswide, she is not uninformed about the world outside the cloister.  Almost from the moment she takes on Master Naylor’s duties, she becomes involved in a land dispute over a tract up for grabs.  One contender a wealthy man with a Midas touch and therefore not well-liked.  The other is the brother-in-law of the village’s reeve, Master Perryn, Naylor’s counterpart.

Mary Woderove, Perryn’s sister and Matthew’s wife, has the disposition of a rabid wolverine. It’s no surprise to the village when Matthew disappears and nobody is grieving when his body is discovered a few days later, miles away. Not even Mary who turns to her paramour for comfort. And to take up her cause for the tract of land.

But things don’t go in her favor and soon her lover is killed.  Frevisse and Master Perry struggle to find out who hated the two men few people even cared for, less kill them. Although unpopular, neither man was hated.

The king’s crowner, Thornton, shows up in his boisterous manner, more interested in lining his pockets than finding the truth.  As before, he and Frevisse clash but this time she finds an ally in Thornton’s son.   He’s not like his father and is eager to find the truth, as much as Frevisse does. 

The Reeve’s Tale is the first novel that I found to be an actual page-turner, not that the others were not, but during the Reeve’s climax, Frevisse takes Mary head-on with an anger and coldness she hasn’t exhibited before. It was interesting and exciting to see Frevisse shed her nun’s habit, so to speak, and bring out the claws!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cherokee Strip Land Run, Oklahoma Territory 1893

At the time of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1893, America was in the clutches of the worst economic disaster it had experienced.  President Benjamin Harrison and Congress were under pressure to open Indian Territory to white settlement.  This territory had been occupied by Native Americans forced from their land in the southeast to their new ‘home’.  The Trail of Tears, as it became known, was one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history as some 4,000 Cherokees lost their lives during the brutal overland trek.

Early explorers had deemed Oklahoma Territory worthless desert, too arid and treeless for white settlement.  But by the latter half of the nineteenth century, farming had devised better methods for raising crops and the public pressured the government to open the Indian Lands.

The Cherokee Outlet, as it was initially named, was a large section in the northwest of what is present day Oklahoma, larger than Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island put together.  It had originally been given to the Cherokee Nation but two different surveys left the ownership in doubt.  The U.S. Government finally purchased the land from the Cherokee and named it the Cherokee Strip.

To make the Run, people had to register at a registration point and pay a $14 fee and sign a certificate.  According to the Robinson Library, some people stood in line for over a week.  One hundred and fifteen thousand people registered for only 42,000 parcels of land, far less than the number of people in the Run.  Some registrants brought families and friends with them so the actual number of participants was closer to 150,000 people, far greater than the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889.

The Cherokee Strip Land Run, the fourth and largest of Oklahoma’s five land runs, started at 12 noon on September 16, 1893.  Legend has it that a nervous soldier accidentally fired his gun at 11:55am but an eyewitness account makes no mention of that.

A racer then had to stake out his claim of 160 acres.  Literally.  After that, he had to go to one of four claim offices and pay a fee, $1 up to $2.50 per acre.  The fee was determined by the quality of land he was claiming.  If he made improvements to the land, found not to be a sooner, stayed there for 6 months and no one contested his right to the land, he got the deed.  Unfortunately, only 20-30% of those who filed claims received their official deed.



Saturnine moon Enceladus has global subsurface ocean

For the past ten years, the scientists at NASA have been studying data from the Cassini space probe in orbit above Saturn.  Launched October 15, 1997, the orbiter named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini, reached its destination in mid-2004.  Since then, the probe has been collecting and sending data on Saturn’s atmosphere and rings, Titan’s atmosphere, Iapetus and Enceladus.

Researchers noticed a slight wobble in Enceladus, the sixth largest moon, as it orbited Saturn.  According to Carolyn Porco, the scientist leading the exploration of Enceladus, members of her team looked for a libration, a “small, cylindrical, back and forth deviation from uniform rotation”. They found what they were looking for but only in the thin, outer ice shell.  This means the shell and the rocky core are separated by a liquid layer and it is global.  Had the core and the ice shell been connected, the wobble would have been much less.
Why isn’t this liquid layer frozen? 

Scientists noticed plumes rising from the surface of Enceladus as early as 2005 and subsequently discovered icy ‘material’ emerging from warm fractures near the south pole.  They suggest hydrothermal activity is occurring on the subsurface ocean floor.

However, the pull of Saturn’s gravity might be generating more heat within Enceladus, which could also explain why the liquid layer is not frozen.

On October 28, Cassini is scheduled to fly only 30 miles above the surface of Enceladus, its closest approach ever, through the plumes of icy material.  Perhaps it will confirm the presence of organic material, the building blocks of life.

The Glossip Execution

I've only recently been made aware of this story now that it's come down to the wire that Richard Glossip might be put to death today in Oklahoma. Since my sources are only from the internet, I'm sure many of the 'facts' can be taken with a grain of salt but the sources agree on one thing - Glossip was only convicted on the testimony of Justin Sneed, who actually carried out the murder of motel owner Barry Van Treese. 

The main question is why should Glossip be put to death while the actual murderer lives?  A very good question, since Sneed got a life sentence instead of the death penalty in exchange for his testimony against Glossip.

Unfortunately, Glossip's fate hinges on Gov. Mary Failing who has until 3pm today to stay the execution.  However, she seems disinclined to do so.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Monty Python's Flying Circus: Agatha Christie Sketch

Nothing was sacred to Monty Python's Flying Circus!  Not even Agatha Christie!

Happy birthday, Agatha Christie!

Born September 15, 1890, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller would grow up to become Dame Agatha Christie, who, as listed by the Guinness Book of World Records, is the best-selling novelist of all time.  Her stage play, The Mousetrap, has the longest initial run on record.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has been voted the best crime novel in history by the Crime Writer’s Association.

She introduced the world to Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.  Interestingly enough, And Then There Were None, her most successful novel ever, features none of her recurring sleuths.  Originally published as Ten Little N****rs, its title was changed for release in the U.S. where the term was considered racist.  The setting for the novel was Torquay, England where Agatha Christie was born and raised.

The first book I ever read by Dame Agatha was Murder on the Orient Express.  Since having just read every Hardy Boys mystery available at that time, I decided to take it to the next level and read something written for adults (I was in the 6th or 7th grade).  Imagine my surprise when Hercule Poirot actually figured out ‘whodunit’ instead of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Frank and Joe Hardy.

And Nancy Drew.

When the movie adaption premiered in November 1974, Agatha Christie said it was the only adaption she was completely satisfied with.  Up until this production, she was considering not having any more movies made from her novels.

I doubt she would be pleased with the Jane Marple series featuring Geraldine McEwan.  Their production of Nemesis was a super-edited version of the novel and (in a quite clever but stupid move) the producers combined the characters of two pairs of women into one pair.  Therefore the ending made no sense to someone who had not read the book.  Because of the massive rewrite, it didn’t make much sense to me.

However, Agatha Christie would be extremely pleased with David Suchet’s portrayal of Hercule Poirot.  His long lasting series which began in 1989, wrapped up earlier this year.  Agatha Christie’s grandson, who is in charge of her estate, appeared in a special about the making of the Poirot series.
Hundreds of authors, including me, write mysteries but Agatha will remain far above the rest of us as untouchable, but she left us with a legacy that will continue forever.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Soviets reach the moon first - 1959

Americans were surprised in the fall of 1957 when the Soviets launched Sputnik I into orbit.  Suddenly, being in last place of a 2-man race to the moon, the Eisenhower Administration accelerated its own space program and launched Explorer I in 1958.

 However, the Soviets raised the bar the following year.  On September 14, 1959 Luna 2 crashed onto the surface of the moon. Luna 1 launched earlier in the year but missed the moon by a ‘tad’, as Elaine (Julie Hagerty’s role in Airplane II) would’ve said. Khruschev used the event to praise the advantages of communism.

Luna 2 wasn’t designated for any more science than reaching its target, but it did verify the moon had minimal or no magnetic field or radiation. It crashed on the side of the Autolycus crater, near the Archimedes crater.
The large crater to the left is Archimedes and Autolycus is to the right.

Americans began to imagine the Soviets building up an arsenal of weapons which could be fired from space.  But the US won the Space Race when the crew of Apollo put the first man on the moon.

Star Trek Parody-Carol Burnett Show

This is what happens when you get two comedic geniuses like Carol Burnett and Andrea Martin together!  It's too funny not to share!

Happy birthday, Walter Koenig!

Walter Koenig, probably best known for playing Pavel Chekov on Star Trek, the original series and the movies following after the cancellation of Star Trek, Koenig picked up a recurring role as Bester, a moderate a**hole Psi Corps cop, celebrates his birthday today.  I always found it interesting that he was cast to appeal to a younger audience, i.e. girls, because the producers wanted someone like Davy Jones from "The Monkees" which was extremely popular at the time. He certainly got better looking as he aged.

I was glad to see him on the TV screen in the 1990's as Bester, even though he played a heavy. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" released in U.S in 1965

For an early movie, this one had a surprisingly good (i.e. not nearly as super-campy) plot.  A princess from a small country leaps from a plane just before it is blown up by assassins.  She re-appears in Japan possessed by a Martian, showing up at sites where Godzilla and Rodan are hibernating. A strange meteorite falls to Earth.  As it happens, the meteorite contains King Ghidorah, the monster that destroyed the Martian's planet. 

To save the Earth, the Cosmos and Mothra have to convince Godzilla and Rodan to stop attacking each other and join forces to defeat King Ghidorah.