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Showing posts from 2015

The Dale- The Car That Was a Fraud

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 The 1970's were a bad time for the auto industry in America. Due to rising insurance rates, emissions regulations, and rising gas prices; the age of the muscle car came to an end in 1972. 1973 came and things continued to get worse with the OPEC oil embargo which brought not only high prices at the pump, but shortages as well. Detroit was still making mostly large lumbering vehicles with thirsty engines. The few economy cars such as the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Vega, and Volkswagen Beetle offered improved fuel economy, but not enough. The rather spartan VW barely achieved 30 miles per gallons when babied.  Congress tried to stretch the gas supply by enacting a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour to better fuel economy. But the problems persisted and a solution evaded everyone. That is when a stranger burst upon the scene with a new company and a new idea. The stranger was named Geraldine Elizabeth "Liz" Carmichael, and she announced in 1974 that her company, the

Porsche's First Hybrid

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     In today's world, we seem to see hybrid gas and electric vehicles everywhere. Even the famous performance minded Porsche came out with various forms of hybrids for their line of vehicles recently; from smaller cars all the way up to their larger SUV line. However, this was not the first time Porsche had tried to power an off road vehicle with a hybrid drive train. Porsche actually tried to do it twice in the 1940s.     In 1942 Ferdinand Porsche was battling with the larger firm of Henschel for a Wehrmacht contract. Impressed by the work done by Porsche on various smaller vehicles such as the Kubelwagen and KdF Wagen; later known as the Volkswagen, Hitler was willing to give the designer more opportunities. So in May 1941 Porsche was given a chance to design the ultimate off road vehicle...a tank. In the 1940's, the performance of engines was much better than it had been twenty years before, but were still rather anemic given the tasks they were asked to do. So big tanks

Death Proof- The Case of Iron Mike Malloy

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 In the late 19th and early 20th centuries getting away with murder was not a difficult thing in the United States of America. That was only beginning to change in the 1920's as police utilized forensic science to help solve murders that previously went undetected. During this same time one of the primary reasons for murder was insurance money. Crooked insurance salesmen and unscrupulous characters often worked in conjunction to place life insurance policies on relative strangers and murder them. This is a strange tale of one such plot.  Michael Malloy was an Irish immigrant living in New York that had fallen on hard times. He was at one time a firefighter, but now was a homeless alcoholic. He was a frequent visitor to a local speakeasy in the area. While prohibition had made owners of such illegal establishments rich since its implementation in 1920; there was a push to end the law with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Seeing their livelihood in danger; the owners

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

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Paul von Lettow Vorbeck is one of the most interesting and least known characters in 20th century German history. He was born the year Prussia went to war with France in 1870. Von Lettow Vorbeck was very much a son of the Imperial  and newly united Germany which formed at the conclusion of that conflict. His origin was of lower noble birth, and like many Germans of this station, it gave him a straight line into the officer corps of the military. He had a storied career and was considered a hero at home  In his early years he put down the Boxer Rebellion in China and was given assignments in Germany's prosperous African colonies, ending up in German East Africa in the spring of 1914. He was effectively second in command of the entire colony, behind only the colonial governor himself. Well by late summer the First World War broke out, and the governor of German East Africa was concerned. His colony was surrounded by colonies of his enemies and thoughts were that if wa

Going Out With a Bang- Henry VIII and William the Conqueror

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     We have all heard the term "Go out with a bang" right? Well if there were ever any great men in the history of Western Civilization that took this literally they are William the Conqueror and Henry VIII. And while we tend to think of that phrase in a positive way, I can assure you there were very few present that found it a pleasant experience.     So how did they go out with a bang? Well it is important to note that William died in the 11th century AD and Henry passed in the 16th century. Back then when a person kicked the ye olde bucket, no one would preserve or embalm the body. And if you understand what happens with decomposition, you would know that as the bacteria in the human body get working to break it down, they produce gases that cause bloating.    William the Conqueror died while in France on campaign in 1087, some 20 years after leaving that nation to conquer England(still the last man to do so). When the King died in a France, many of his attendants(who

Glowing After Midnight- The Radium Girls

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     The late 19th and early 20th century were the dark age for worker safety in America. Factory workers had made strides by the time America entered First World War. Hours were more humane and pay was more "liveable". The entry of the USA into the European conflict during the spring of 1917 created a great demand not only for products to maintain the war effort, but to replace the men going over to fight against the Central Powers.      Trench warfare was a horrible and ghastly affair. Men died like dogs every day, so any piece of equipment that allowed them to have a better chance of survival was of a high priority. At night for instance, any light would be shot at by the enemy. Manufacturers soon noticed the need for things that allowed soldiers to operate and live in the dark. One was the trench lighter, a way to light cigarettes without an open flame. Another was the use of "Undark", a special paint that allowed just enough of a pretty blue-green luminescenc

The Studebaker Forest

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     Pardon the long period between posts. I was feeling a smidgeon burnt out and needed some time to find/remember a good story. And just a bit ago my memory was jogged out of thin air.      Maybe you have seen these things called the "Bios Urn". Basically it is an alternative means of dealing with the remains of a loved one. For those people that wish to be closer to nature when they pass, they have an alternative to traditional ash scattering. These new urns basically use your cremated remains to turn you into a tree when you pass. You plant the urn and a tree grows using the material(some of which is the deceased's ashes) to remember those that have passed. This is a story about how someone else used trees remember something long gone...the Studebaker forest.      Studebaker was one of the pioneers of the automobile industry in the United States. In the days of horse driven travel it was at one time the world's largest manufacturer of vehicles. It transitioned to

A feast fit for a king...or president

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     So Professor Bob was sitting at home earlier watching The Trailer Park Boys. There is an episode that reminded  me of a historical story. So you can thank Canadian TV for this one.      In the entire history of the Presidency there has only been one occasion where a President became a widower and remarried while in office. That President was Woodrow Wilson. Wilson's first wife Ellen passed in 1914 during his first term after battling Brights Disease which caused renal failure. Wilson met a woman the next spring named Edith Bolling Galt, herself a widow. After approximately nine months of courtship, the two were wed in December 1915.     The secret courtship and fast wedding on the heels of the death of Ellen Wilson made for harsh gossip in Washington. Rumors were abound that the two had been engaged in an affair while Ellen Wilson was still alive and that the president and the widow Galt killed the first lady to get her out of the way so they could be married. Eventually,

God Save the King.

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     Sometimes it is hard to trace the origins of older melodies. Until the early 19th century there were not strict copyright laws on music. For instance one of the reasons that Mozart died broke and was buried in a pauper grave was because he was unable to copyright his intellectual property. However a generation later, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to and defended his compositions with vigor. He was able to live and die with much more change in his pocket because of this. So that brings us to the story of where the tune we know as "God Save the King/Queen" or "My Country Tis of Thee" came from.    Well as I mentioned, without copyrights we are left with a somewhat muddled puzzle. Some pieces of music going back to the early 17th century share similarities with the tune...there is an old Scot carol that is said to be the earliest piece with similar note progression as well as a tune by John Bull. However, the accepted story says the piece seems to be most simila

Cool Places- The National Motorcycle Museum

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     Well this is not a story, but just a blurb about one of the coolest places I have been in some time. If you are a person who loves motorcycles or just dig vintage styling, then the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa Iowa is a place you should check out. I visited there on February 13th and was very impressed by what they have going on there. You get to see a wide variety of bikes from many countries and across many eras. You especially get a rich appreciation for the early years of American motorcycle manufacturing which was very diverse unlike today. I have included a TON of pictures and even a few videos for your enjoyment. Be warned, I am a TERRIBLE videographer, and on one clip I say "ya know" an annoying amount of times. That was because there was a photographer setting up a photo shoot near me and looking at me like I was crazy, which caused me some social anxiety. I don't think she noticed my small handheld Nikon at first.     Mid 60&