Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Crone

      To start this post off, I would like to refer you all to a blog that is listed at the bottom of my posts. This particular writing expresses perfectly one of the stages of womanhood that I am going to describe today in this post -- the stage of motherhood.  Read this post and then read on in mine. http://writingloud.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-jump-in-deep-end.html

     The Stages of Womanhood.
This is the symbol of the Roman goddess Venus and is often used to represent the female gender.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Owney, the Railroad Mail Dog

    Philately is another one of my interests. I would like to tell you and show you how I have used that interest to help youth become more interested in stamp collecting as a hobby.  I have prepared a presentation for the youth members of the ATA (American Topical Association) Chapter 5 at a monthly meeting. Recently the US Post Office released a stamp honoring Owney, a dog who lived in the late 1800s and became a mascot of the US Rail Mail Service. He was a Scotch Terrier mix stray who wondered into the Mail Service office, began to sleep on the mail bags, and was adopted by the mail clerks there in Albany, NY. He became so comfortable with the mail bags as his bed, perhaps attracted somehow to their scent, that he began to travel all over the United States on the mail cars with the bags. A mail bag once fell off the mail wagon and Owney jumped off, and sat on the mailbag until the wagon driver came back to get it.

     At that time railway accidents were very common. There were a lot of injuries and even deaths in the US railway mail departments. It soon became obvious that the trains on which Owney took passage had no accidents. He became a sign of good luck and was well taken care of , no matter where he went. He road the rails for about 9 years, traveling all over the United States. There is documentation of two visits to Milwaukee, and one to Lancaster, Wisconsin. He also took ship on mail boats that went around the world on at least one occasion. Owney became known to postmasters and to the mailmen who sorted mail on the railroad cars. They began to attach mail tags and other metal buttons to his collar. Then someone made him a jacket and these tags were attached to that piece of apparel. Soon he had so many tags, that the mailmen had to ship them separately back to his home office in Albany, NY.
The above two photos are provided courtesy of the US Smithsonian Institute.
More information about Owney including some videos about him, can be
found at the following URL: http://postalmuseumblog.si.edu/owney/

     Now the US Post Office is honoring Owney with his own Forever stamp. It should be available in your local post offices right now.

     The Smithsonian sells a stuffed little dog whose name is Owney patterned after the real mascot. My husband and I took the Smithsonian stuffed little dog with us to Southeast Asia last November and to Turkey and Israel in April. Similar to Flat Stanley, I forced my reluctant husband to take photos of Owney at various tourist sites, in front of post offices, on mail boxes, and with mailmen and postmasters in these locations. Then I used these photos to make cachets (special envelopes to be used with certain stamps and postal cancellations) to be used with the First Day of Issue cancellation at a special ceremony held at the Wisconsin Humane Center on July 27, 2011 in Milwaukee. The First Day of Issue cachets that I made are shown at the end of this post. At the ceremony, I was asked to read a Milwaukee Journal article from May 11, 1896 which nicely tells Owney's story. Here is that article quoted from that time:

The Milwaukee Journal - May 11, 1895, Page 6

The Globe Trotter

Railway Mail Service Animal Visits Milwaukee

-Fame of a Scotch Terrier

While in Milwaukee “Owney” was the guest of Chief Clerk Frank Smith – He Came Near Being an Elbe Victim.

A wanderer upon the face of the globe, if there ever was one, appeared in the office of Chief Clerk Frank P. Smith of the railway mail service this morning.

A veritable globe-trotter is he – one who is as persistent and constant a traveler as that restless but distinguished playwright, Mr. Bronson Howard, and one which can “do” a city in a style which discounts the swiftest accomplishments of a G. Washington Phipps. The visitor was none other than the widely talked about “Postoffice Owney.”

“Postoffice Owney” is a dog, but he is no ordinary dog. He s is the property of 7,000 railway clerks, who think a sight more of their property than they would of a pension amounting too half their salary should your Uncle Sam be disposed to be so generous with his gold dollars. Owney came to town at at 5:155 o’clock last evening, in the company with Railway Postal Clerk Dugard of the Milwaukee and Rock Island division. Last evening he was the guest of the clerk and today, previous to hiss departure for Rock Island at 12:20 o’clock, he called to pay hiss respects to the chief clerk. It was there that a reporter for thee Journal made his acquaintance.

A famous dog is Owney and one known by every postal c clerk in the railway service from St. Augustine to Seattle and from Santa Cruz to Bangor, for he has traveled ever since he s has been able to tell the difference between a porterhouse steak and a ham bone.

He travels exclusively in mail cars and always finds contentment and repose on top of a mail bag in sight of the clerks who are his constant companions. His journeys have extended across the waters, too, and he came near meeting hiss doom in the Elbe disaster, after making a trip to Germany. He a s was due to leave on the Elbe, Clerk Dugard explained today, b but did not embark, taking the next steamer.

He is a Scotch terrier, somewhat larger than the ordinary specimen of that kind of dog. He has had many a knock in his time and he looks it. One eye has ceased to serve its original purpose of discovering large, juicy bones, and the other looks as though it also would fail. A huge collar, from which dangled a half-hundred or more tags from almost every conceivable corner of the country, indicating that the possessor is entitled to almost everything from a chance in a raffle for an upright piano to a free lunch and a glass of beer, is fixed firmly about his neck. These tags collect so rapidly that it becomes necessary to remove them at times and the clerks along the line take them off and send them on to “Owney Albany, N.Y”, where they are carefully stored away in a room provided for the purpose in the Albany post office.

It was in Albany, more than a dozen years ago, that Owney went into the service of the government. He began as a tramp dog and after his first trip liked the business so well that he remained.

When Mr. Wanamaker was postmaster-general, he had a very handsome set of harness made for Owney and had his picture taken in a dozen different attitudes. Owney will go to Rock Island and then to Savannah, Ga, and away to the southwest. The clerks keep close tab upon him. He was once stolen in Toronto, Can, and was found again with great difficulty.

     Also while traveling with Owney as our mascot, I purchased postcards from the various countries, wrote on them as though Owney were describing his travels, and franked them with local stamps, of course. There is now a nice collection for the youth members. Also I put together stamps from those countries and photos we took while traveling, maps of the countries and our itineraries. All of these will be distributed to the youth members so that they can put together a nice Owney travel scrapbook. This project will also be an ongoing one. It allows stamps and Owney's example to help the children learn about other countries and cultures.

     Here are my First Day of Sale cachets, using my husbands photos, and a brief discription of our itinerary on each cachet.

     Here are also a couple of the postcards that Owney sent back to the United States. If you are at all involved in stamps or stamp collecting and wish to interest young collectors, these ideas will work very well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mystery Photo 13: The Pantheon, Rome

     Did anyone guess this one?
     It is one of the most famous and best preserved ancient buildings in Rome. The Pantheon. The word means "Place of all the Gods". It was built originally in 27 BC by the Roman consul Agrippa. That structure, also a round building, was destroyed by fire in 80 AD, rebuilt by Dormitian , struck by lightning and again destroyed by fire in 110 AD. The Emperor Hadrian then oversaw a reconstruction, actually the third reconstruction of the building in 126 AD. Hadrian still kept the same lettering across the pediment of the Corinthian columned porch: M. AGRIPPA L.F.COS TERTIUM FECIT which means M. (Marcus) Agrippa, son of Lucius, three times consul, made it."  Agrippa was the son in law of the Emperor Augustus. 

     Many of the surrounding Roman antiquities are just ruins, but this building seems in perfect shape and is one of  the oldest continuous use buildings in the world. The columns were are granite brought from Egypt. Behind the deep colonnaded porch, there is a cylindrical building 43 meters in diameter capped by a hemisphere the apex of which is 43 meters from its floor. If the dome were taken off and tipped upside down it would fit perfectly inside the cylindrical base. The only light enters by its only opening other than its doors, which is the oculus, a 2.3 meter open air circle in the center of the dome. Very few Roman buildings had an oculus and this is the largest known. The sun or moon light coming in this opening would circle the room showing the magnificence of the cosmos. There is some controversy about the building's purpose. It was probably built as a temple and yet it is very different than the usual Roman Temple such as the Roman Forum. Some say it was built to Mars and Venus. Its name suggests that it was built to "all the Gods". However, some ancient writers said that that word meant that the dome suggested the heavens where all Gods live.  There was no dome as big until one in Florence was built in the 15th century. 
     The Romans appreciated the weight that this huge concrete dome would present to its base. Therefore they started with arches and niches in the cylindrical building that would help support the weight. The structure of the dome cement also contains circles and arches that support weight.  They also lessened the thickness of the dome as its walls became higher. In addition they used lighter and lighter material as the walls of the dome rose. Near the base they used travertine poured concrete. Higher up they began to add tufa rock to the mix. Then it became tufa and brick, then brick alone,and finally on the higher ceiling, pumice, the most porous material was used. Probably the dome was lined with gold leaf. The oculus still has its original bronze liner. The interior has been restored many times and is lined by marble at this time. 
     In 609, the Byzantine Emperor Phocas gifted the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it to a Christian church, consecrated it to Sancta Maria and the Martyrs, probably saving it for until the present. It is now known as Santa Maria dei Martiri. It is still used to celebrate the mass on special Catholic Church events.
     Over the generations it has also been used as a tomb. The Renaissance painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, the composer Arcangello Corelli and the architect Baldassare Peruzzi are buried here. Also buried here are two kings of Italy: Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto's Queen, Margherita. Italy has been a republic since 1946, volunteers members of Monarchist organizations still maintain a vigil over the royal tombs of the Pantheon . 


     The architectural structure of the building and its dome has influenced many later Western structures. The first was probably the Church: Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy, completed in 1436 with a dome 41 meters high. Note the photo here above, courtesy of Wikipedia, of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia designed by Thomas Jefferson. Many such Western city halls, libraries and university buildings repeat this symmetrical and monumental design. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

An ethical dilemma? Measles vaccine or not?

     Andrew Wakefield is a former British surgeon and medical researcher who published articles which he said related Measles vaccine as a cause of a new form of inflammatory bowel disease he called autistic enterocolitis. Medically there is not such a disease recognized. He also said that the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine may have caused autism in children who received it. There is absolutely no evidence that such is case. Multiple blinded medical studies have been done and there is no evidence of any kind of a causative relationship. Others have suggested that the mercury (thimerosol) used in some vaccines as a preservative and antiseptic could be toxic to infants and might play a role in causing autism. Again multiple studies have been done looking for such a connection. None was found. Now thimerosol is only used in tiny amounts in influenza vaccine. It is not used in an other vaccines that are given routinely to children
     Multiple lawsuits have been filed in all directions. Dr. Wakefield's article which was found to have tampered with results, unethical recruitment of study patients, invasive and harmful tests performed on study patients without approval of ethics committee among other more minor but still significant problems with the data. There was even evidence suggesting that Dr. Wakefield was paid by a legal group to produce this article, that he had applied for a patent for a single Measles vaccine which he stood to make money from should MMR become suspect and be withdrawn, and also a test kit for this supposed new form of inflammatory bowel disease.      .
     Wakefield's conclusions were broadcast in the media worldwide and resulted in fear of children's vaccines and a drop off of the vaccination rates. It is estimated that MMR vaccination rates in Britain dropped from 92% to 73% in the late 1990s after Wakefield's press conference raising the concerns about MMR which he raised in his article in Lancet, the British medical journal. The effect was less in the US but it is still estimated that as many as 125,000 children born in the late 1990s in the US also were not vaccinated due to this scare. Many children therefore got sick and some died from complications of measles. The lawsuits have subsided. Lancet retracted the article and 10 of the 12 coauthors of the original Lancet article withdrew their support for the conclusions. Wakefield left England after losing his medical license to practice there. He is still trying to do research in the US and is still claiming that his research was honest, that there was no deceitful data changes and that there is still a reason to be concerned about the MMR. He still has a small group that supports his conclusions. But the greater medical and scientific community agrees that he is a fraud and there is absolutely nothing to fear with MMR and a bowel disease or autism or any developmental behavioral problems.
     What does all this mean for society? How can one man and at best a very bad medical study, at worst a completely fraudulent publication perpetrated in order to make money have such a broad effect on medical care world over? I recall a few years ago when my grandson started daycare, my daughter in law was concerned. She knew there were some parents of children at the daycare who were not vaccinating their children because of just these fears. She then had concerns about her own infant who would be at this daycare and subjected to exposure to these children and their possible illnesses before our grandson's own vaccinations would have had a chance to take effect. It does become a personal issue when a family member might be involved. This is sort of like the Ponzi scheme of medicine. It doesn't affect people's wealth but instead may affect children's lives. It is true that every area of human endeavor has its bad people who don't care about doing harm to others, whose self interest outweighs any concern for others. However, it is particularly heinous when that person is in the field of medicine. People generally tend to trust their own doctor and by inference the medical profession at large. They would normally believe these allegations coming from a researcher and printed in a prestigious journal like Lancet. Of course, they would react with fear concerning their own children. The legal system and the medical self policing system (British Medical Council, Lancet) and the media itself have more or less shown Wakefield for what he is, but there are still concerned parents out there who don't know the whole story and still wonder. What else could we have done? We are limited in a free and just society in order to protect the rights of the innocent. But I sometimes wonder if the rights of the fraudulent and the criminal are protected too strongly in our Western democracies. What do you think? Send me some comments. Let's get this comment section going!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mystery Photo 13

     A famous building from a famous city from our first extended tour, taken 7 years ago already. It is hard to believe that seven years with 2 extended world trips per year have passed. This country is still one of my favorite. What is this well known building that defies physics principles?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rumi, Hafez and their poetry -- Wonderful!

     At a recent meeting of our Spirit Mind Body Group, which I attend every Thursday morning, we were treated to a wonderful surprise presentation. Our regular member, Sky and his guest Karen Kolberg, took turns to regale us with the Sufi poetry of Rumi (Sky with props) and the Hafez poetry recited and acted out by Karen Kolberg. Sky is a comic with Rumi one-liners. He uses various hard props such as his bucket of "Industrial Strength Philosophy" or "Philosopher in a Drum" to add to the humor and the depth of his presentation. Karen herself suffered a serious intracerebral bleed and lost all of her memorized Hafez poems except one. But she has relearned them all. She carries her "verse purse" with her which contains all the titles of the 360 Hafez poems she knows in it. She asks someone in her audience to draw one out and she recites it with heart and vigor. The combination of these two presenters and the words of these two poets creates a performance at once deep and yet light and airy, like heaven.

     I keep a blog for this group and did this write up for that blog. I thought it warranted placement here on this blog. I would venture to guess that many readers are not familiar with either Rumi or Hafez.

     Read on for information about who these two poets were and also view some photos of Rumi's Mausoleum in Konya, Turkey.