Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

14 October, 2014

A GRANDMOTHERLY GUARDIAN ANGEL TO THE RESCUE

People have so many different ideas about angels, but the only authoritative guide in understanding angels is the Bible -- God's Word.  Some think that angels are little, chubby babies flying around with a toy bow and arrow. More often than not, angels are depicted as beautiful young women with wings and a halo.  But the Bible describes angels as great warriors that are here to guide, protect and deliver us when we believe and "speak His word".  Some, including my wife Rosanne, also think that angels are people who have died.

Rosanne has simplistic beliefs, the result of early Roman Catholic schooling and Ukrainian family influences.  She has her own rather unique private relationship with God and the spirits of loved ones who have passed away.  She constantly prays to God and frequently talks to the spirits of her son, her mother, her grandmother -- even my late wife -- all people she considers "angels" for whom she declares deep love and enduring devotion. It works for her and that is all that matters.  I have reason to believe that this mystic phenomenon just might be working for me too.
Maria Shmorhai
1901-1970

Rosanne's grandmother

Many of her "prayers" to God and her angels are directed at me and the things that I do, or experience. She feels that I often need help and I readily acknowledge that she is probably right. Her main go-to spirit or angel is her grandmother.  "She has been there for me in so many ways," explains Rosanne.  "She never lets me down.  I don't ask for miracles...Only for her presence and guidance in our lives."

Let me relate just two of the countless incidents where Rosanne's favorite angel has tended to me personally. Certainly, if it was not her grandmother's spirit looking out for me, someone or something definitely was.  You may draw your own conclusions.

One of my first experiences occurred shortly after we were married 12 years ago.  I was having problems with my nerves and in an extremely agitated state.  An emotional wreck, I could not sleep on this particular night and rather than disturb Rosanne, I got out of bed.  After a drink of water and a breath of fresh Lake Huron air, I collapsed on the living room sofa and eventually drifted into a disturbed, half-conscious stage of sleep.

I was awakened by the approach of soft, shuffling, slippered foot steps on the carpet.  Thinking that I was merely hearing things, I chose not to open my eyes. As the shuffling sound drew closer to me, I was enwrapped in a sudden and unexplainable cloak of warmth.  A hand touched my shoulder, ever so gently, and an instantaneous state of calm came over me.  I opened my eyes, expecting to see Rosanne's figure hovering over me, but in the darkness all that was visible was a coffee table in the reflection of a street light penetrating a split in the living room curtains. There was no one there.  I even reached out and waved my hand to make sure.

"How surreal...I must have been dreaming," I rationalized as I drifted off to a much welcomed, uninterrupted sleep.

The first thing that I asked Rosanne in the morning was "Did you come into the living room last night and touch me?"

"No I didn't!  Why?" was Rosanne's quick reply.

She was equally prompt in interrupting my brief explanation with a matter-of-fact follow up: "Oh, that was my grandmother.  I prayed that she would come into your heart to comfort you and to help get you through the night."

Kind of makes you think, doesn't it?  Without a doubt, it certainly made me think -- and wonder.  It was another introduction to Rosanne and the mysticism that I had previously taken for granted.

A most recent incident in my life was even more remarkable because of unique circumstances and deadly potential.

Our little dog Lucy dog has required eye surgery this past summer.  Due to cataracts and glaucoma, she eventually lost the site in her left eye and required emergency surgery and a lens implant to save the site in her right eye. She had her final surgery on a Monday morning in Ilderton (near London), a three-hour drive from our home in Southampton.  A return trip to the pet eye doctor's clinic was necessary the following morning, the equivalent of a 48-hour endurance test for both me and Lucy.  Under normal conditions, pet owners who travel great distances, stay over night for the mandatory next-day follow up check after eye surgery, but that was out of the question for me because I could not leave Rosanne for an extended period of time due to her delicate health situation.

I was on the last lap of my return trip Tuesday afternoon on Highway 21, between Goderich and Kincarden, when I found myself defying the inevitable.  Traffic was fairly heavy and I was following a grey van in the northbound lane of the single-lane highway.  The van, approximately 75 yards ahead of me and without directional signals, suddenly stopped on the highway to make a lefthand turn into a trailer park.  I applied my breaks but realized that at 85 kilometers an hour I was not going to stop before colliding with the van.

Instantaneously, I elected to avoid disaster by swerving to the right in favour of the soft shoulder of the highway.  With that initial quick action, my car spun out and I could sense a roll-over in the making. Miraculously, however, the car righted itself as I hit the shoulder of the road and entered a 12-foot-deep ditch.  Something seemed to tell me to crank the steering wheel, take my foot off the brake and to accelerate along the ditch.  All I could see was flying dirt and grass to my right and what appeared to be a white orb of some description in the distance.

It is amazing what you think and how much you can think in a fleeting few seconds when your very life is at stake.  I was reconciled for the worst, but kept my foot on the accelerator as I drew closer to that white light.  After a good 50 feet, I felt my tires finally taking grip and I began to exit the ditch at a right angle, coming to a miraculous, abrupt halt with the car's under low under carriage deeply embedded in the soft gravel at the side of the highway.  My right back wheel was four feet off the ground and my front left wheel one foot from the side of the pavement.  I hate to think of what would have happened had my car actually re-enterd the highway at the rate it was going.  Traffic stopped in both directions and for a moment, I was frozen in time.  I had forgotten about Lucy, but there she was trustingly tucked close to my side, almost as if nothing had happened.

With a break in southbound traffic, the driver of the grey van was able to pull into the trailer park driveway and after stopping momentarily, sped out of sight, never to reappear.

People ran up to me from all directions as I opened the door and exited the vehicle.  "Are you all right?" "That van driver didn't give you much warning." "I can't believe that you did not roll at least twice!"  "God, are you ever lucky, it could have been so much worse!"  "You really did a good job of keeping your car under control...I didn't think that you would make it!" were some of the comments.

Among those who rushed to my aid was a Provincial Park warden, a young lady perhaps in her late 20s. She parked her truck in front of my car, leaviing her trouble lights flashing.  She offered to call a tow truck from Goderich, relaying my information to the dispatcher on her cell phone.  She then called a fellow assistant warden from the nearby Point Farms Park and asked him to attend the scene with another truck to serve as a warning for oncoming traffic.  A delightful girl, she engaged me in roadside conversation (often cautioning me when I got too close to traffic and checking on how I was feeling).  She maintained her vigil until the arrival of the tow truck some 45 minutes later.  I could have kissed her, but I opted for a hug as we parted company.

In short order the tow truck operator pulled my car from its precarious position on the side of the ditch and happily announced that there was absolutely no damage to the undercarriage of my car -- not a scratch nor a dint anywhere, thanks in large measure to the loose gravel and long heavy grass.  Less than an hour and $56.00 later, I was on my way again.

When I reached home sweet home, I did not tell Rosanne what had happened until much later that evening. Quite frankly, I did not feel like talking about it at that point in time.  I needed to collect my thoughts, have a glass of wine and a bite to eat before sharing my experience.

"I had a feeling that something had delayed you when you took longer than usual to get home," exclaimed Rosanne when I finally did break the news to her.  "I never stopped paying from the time you left until you walked in the door.  I asked my grandmother to be with you and Lucy and to bring you home safely to me," she added.  The more we talked the more Rosanne was convinced that her grandmother had, once again been my guardian angel.

Several weeks have passed since that incident and I continue to replay the scene in my mind and to ask questions.  1) Were my reflexes and reaction time slow that day due to the fatigue of the two-day ordeal? 2) Could I have reacted sooner to avoid the van stopped in the middle of the highway? 3) Why did my car not roll over at least twice when it was balancing on two wheels at a 45-degree angle in the ditch?  4) What was that white light "orb" in the distance that I drove toward, all the while struggling to keep my car under control?  5)  Why was there not a scratch on my car when it should have been totally demolished?  6) Were there actually two angels looking after me that day -- Rosanne's grandmother and a much alive, young provincial park warden?

There are no doubt rational answers for most of these questions.  I know that Rosanne has hers...and I am becoming a believer!

11 October, 2014

HAVE I REMEMBERED TO TELL YOU LATELY ABOUT MY FORGETFULNESS?

I have a major problem with my short-term memory.  How bad is it, you ask?

It is so bad that I lose things that aren't really lost. I forget current things that I remember -- well eventually.

This from a guy who has a reputation for possessing a long-term memory as sharp as an elephant's, for heaven's sake. No problem with dates, faces, names and events dating back more than 75 years; but I can't remember what I had for lunch, where I put my glasses, where I left my car keys, and what I did with my wallet.

I find myself going to the refrigerator and not knowing why...I rush into a room and don't know what I went there for...I find myself driving my car and temporarily having to stop and ask myself where I am going...I leave the grocery store and leave my shopping in the cart -- back in the store no less. Its driving me crazy(er)!  I stopped public speaking because I lose my train of thought in mid sentence.  I am becoming self-conscious.
Without a word of a lie, I have difficulty getting things done through the course of a day because I spend half my time retracing my steps looking for things.

I really outdid myself two days ago. I was in a store and wanting to pay for a purchase with my Visa card. I opened my wallet and, you guessed it, no credit card.  I had an instant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. You see, after a three-week wait, a new card had just been reissued to me because I had lost the old one.  Left it behind in a store somewhere and out of desperation, had it cancelled.

With some prodding by the sales clerk, I thought back to when I last used the card.  To my credit, I remembered that I had used it about four hours earlier at another store in nearby Port Elgin. Frantically, I rushed back into Port Elgin and questioned a young man at the cash counter.  "I was in here earlier today and think that I may have left my credit card in your machine...Is there any chance that it was turned in?"

"I don't know...I just came on shift, but I'll have a look in the office for you," he replied, sensing the urgency in my demeanor and leaving a somewhat annoyed cash-paying customer holding his money.  In a few seconds he returned empty handed and I feared the worst.  "Sorry sir, nothing has been turned in...Are you sure you didn't leave it somewhere else?"  Poor kid was trying to be helpful.

Dejectedly and completely befuddled, I left the store and walked to my car in the parking lot.  Yes I remembered where I left the car, but there have been times when I did not.

Almost as an after-thought as I checked all of my pockets for the 10th time and scanned the car's front seat and floor board for an equal number of times, I reached for the wallet in my back pocket and pulled out the two-sided card holder...And what to my wondering eyes should appear as I flipped over the card holder, none other than the beautiful, familiar grey and blue colours of the "lost" card.  It was not in its customary slot on the front of the holder, but it was there on the back nonetheless.  I had obviously and absentmindedly misplaced it in the holder earlier in the day and was overlooking it in the haze of a very protracted senior moment.  With a "thank you God!" and a deep sigh of relief, I placed the card back in its usual spot in my wallet and went on my way to live another day, vowing to never let it happen again.  I must keep my wits about me and be more conscious of what I am doing at all times, I tell myself...If only I remember.

With that preamble, you can imagine then, my amusement when today I read a piece written by Canadian singer, songwriter, broadcaster and author Jann Arden. I have admired Jann ever since she burst onto the music scene some 30 years ago, so much so that I follow her writings on-line.  I not only appreciate her music, but also her quirky sense of humour and personality.  In a recent post, Jann talks about bearing the weight of her parents' forgetfulness.  Here's what she wrote:
JANN ARDEN

There are days when I feel like I am the worst person in the world. I sit in a chair and feel like everything I do and everything I say is mean spirited and selfish. This is the weight that slithers my way on occasion, when it comes to the care of my mom and dad. Both of their memories are all over the place and I find myself getting more and more impatient, more snippy, more grumpy, more frustrated. 

My mom said to me the other day "You always seem mad at me Jann..." I died a little inside after she let that sentence fall out of her mouth. I told her I wasn't mad at all, that I was just somehow caught off guard with this new version of them. 


"This is new to me too", she said, "And I can't do a darn thing about it. I am practically drinking that coconut oil you bought us..."  That really made me laugh. I told her that I hoped she was kidding. 


I loathe watching them misplace every single thing; keys and purses and credit cards and hats and coats and money and electric bills and coffee mugs and glasses and the TV remote...ALL of it, goes missing. There are elves in the house, "movers" my mom calls them, that take little things and put them just out of reach, just out of plain sight. "The movers move things" she said. "Either that, or your dad and I are going crazy. At least we're doing it together." 


They are indeed doing it together. They NEVER get mad at each other. My dad will answer the same question from my mom a hundred times and not even flinch. After about the fourth time mom asks me something, I seem to lash out like a whip and I feel completely ashamed. I called her the other day and told her how sorry I was and she said "About what?"  It gave me a lump in my throat the size of a toaster. 


"About you being so short with me," she added, "well, you're doing the best you can, you always do and we appreciate everything you do..."  I can feel my heart pump the blood to the end of my fingers. I can feel it fill my cheeks and pulse in my running shoes that are tied too tight again.


My mom is so kind. It baffles me most days how my dad's drinking and carrying on back in the day didn't make her coarse and bitter and unmerciful. No matter how much he yelled, or how drunk he got, or how often he stormed around like a four year old, my mom just kept right on being herself -- empathic, good natured, generous, funny and thoughtful. And here I am, turning into some kind of memory referee, blowing my whistle and crying fowl, every time either of them repeat themselves or get mixed up. 


After much reflection, I have realized how scared I am. I am scared of them forgetting themselves into oblivion and taking me with them. I am scared of all the changes, how their lives seem to be stolen day to day, their pasts thrown into a blender and set to STUN. I am just scared. The funny part of all of it, is that they aren't the least bit concerned. They, on the contrary, are not scared at all. They are happy.  They are so good humored and light hearted, positive and faithful and easy going. I am the only one freaking out. I need to tear a page out of their book and just calm the hell down. 


So what if they put the remote in the fridge? So what if the car keys are in with the dog food?  Mom said: "We find things eventually Jann, it's not the end of the world."  Indeed, it is not.


God bless Jann Arden as she learns to accept and live with what her parents are going through at present time.  May some of their sense of humour rub off on her...She's going to need it more and more in the days ahead, trust me!

Are you taking note, Rosanne, Debbie and Cindy?

08 October, 2014

THE UNTOLD STORY OF ELDRED BRANDON

Ken Wright (left) and Eldred Brandon, lifetime 
friends and members of the Dresden Continuation 
School Soccer Team, 1914-15.

My father, Ken, and Eldred Brandon were best chums all through school in Dresden (ON) and life-long friends.  They were both born in the year 1899 and their families were neighbours in the small town in the heart of Kent County.

There was always a mystique about Eldred, even in those early days.  He was unquestionably a genius and by my dad's account, just a little different than the other kids.  They got along well however.  Ken and Eldred just seemed to have mutual respect and understanding, the type that transcends years and distance. 

After high school, my dad embraced the barbering trade and Eldred, for some unexplained reason, decided to join the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, February 29, 1916.  He was only 17 years of age at the time and lied about his birth date.  It took the army seven months to catch up to his deception and he was officially discharged November 8, 1916, after being declared unfit for military service. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Prior to World War 1, Canada had a small permanent standing army and a much larger Canadian militia. The Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam Hughes, was ordered by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden to train and recruit an army for overseas service. At the time, Canada had a regular army of only 3,110 men and a fledgling navy.  Although the Chief of the General Staff, Willoughby Gwatkin, had been planning for a mass mobilisation of Canada's armed forces for some time, the mobilisation plans were scrapped in favour of mobilising a completely new land force, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, to be based on numbered battalions and reporting to a separate ministry, the Ministry of Overseas Forces of Canada
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Eldred Brandon
...short-lived military career
Always a brilliant student, an undeterred Eldred then turned his mind to higher education by applying, and being accepted, to Queens University where he earned an honours degree in mathematics and was awarded a fellowship in the Canadian Bankers Association.  He would subsequently become a director of the Controllers Institute of America and was associated with a bank and trust company in the United States. He was employed as an accountant with Sylvania Electric Products in New York when, by some strange quirk of fate, he became involved with the American government.  In story book fashion, he would climb diplomatic ranks, culminating with an appointment as a valuable and highly-regarded attache to General Douglas MacArthur, stationed in Washington where he would entertain international dignitaries in his penthouse apartment.

I well remember Eldred's letters to my dad and Christmas cards bearing the return address of the American Embassy in Japan.  After Japan's World War 11 surrender, MacArthur's occupation staff in Tokyo at first numbered about 1,500 and grew to more than 3,000 by 1948. Like Eldred, most of MacArthur's minions ranged politically from conservative to ultraconservative, and they established policies that continued, rather than dismantled, the zaibatsu (business conglomerates) that had long dominated the Japanese economy. 

Eldred also travelled with MacArthur to Honolulu and the Philippines. Without going into third-hand classified detail, it seems Eldred was privy to some extremely sensitive and potentially damaging inside information involving MacArthur's command and as a result was methodically degraded and discredited to the point that he was eventually hospitalized with his mental stability very much a bone of contention.  There were hints in the recounting of his experiences that Eldred was methodically brainwashed during his hospital confinement. In 1949 he returned to Canada, virtually a broken man, and lived out the balance of his life with his elderly parents in Dresden.  

The much decorated MacArthur meantime (seen in this photo with his  celebrated  corn cob pipe), Commander of U.S. Forces in the Far East from 1941 to the end of the war in 1945, was synonymous with the conflict in the Pacific.  Often referred to as a "megalomaniac" and an extremely "political" general, MacArthur imposed complete censorship of everything in his theatre.  All words attributed to him had to be good news, otherwise they were censored.  All credits went to him instead of his respective field commanders.  He was known to pander and manipulate those on his staff.  Everything that came out of MacArthur's headquarters from 1942 onward, was predicated on the next U.S. presidential election which he coveted.  Poor Eldred had the misfortune to be caught up in all of this...He knew too much and was dispensable.  Effectively eliminated, you will find no mention of an "Eldred Brandon" ever being a member of MacArthur's staff in the 1940s.  His "military aircraft" flights to Manila in the Philippines and Honolulu, Hawaii, via Pan American airways in 1947, are clearly documented however.

I recall a nervous Eldred sitting in our living room at home in Dresden, incommunicado and complete with hat pulled over his ears, half covering sun glasses that he never removed, and a trench coat down to his ankles (a Great Dane guard dog at his feet), relating his incredible story to my father. His last visit to our home was cut short when the Great Dane began barking uncontrollably. "They've caught up to me. They're outside!" stated Eldred obviously referring to Secret Service agents he claimed were constantly following him. "I'll take my leave Ken," he said with eyes darting in all directions..."I don't want to put you and your family in harm's way!"  In haste, he was gone and I don't recall him ever again crossing the threshold of our home other than to be a pallbearer at my dad's funeral in 1952.

Eldred had previously entrusted Ken with the authorship of a book that would tell his story in detail, potentially blowing the lid off the secrecy of the extremely controversial MacArthur era...An untold story, as it were. Sadly, the longtime friends both died before the book ever saw the light of day and they took Eldred's tale of intrigue with them. I was too young then to appreciate it all, but it has always bothered me that I could not turn back the clock and capture all that priceless information for myself.  I am left only with the vague recollections of a spellbound little boy sitting at the feet of two old friends and a huge, panting dog.

I wish I could do better for Ken and Eldred, but they did not leave me with much to go on...This is the best I can manage after so many years.

I trust that in due course I will stop looking over my shoulder for any secret service agents who might still be lurking in the shadows 70 years later.

Special Note:  I originally planned to post this item on the Dresden Virtual History Group's web site, but it was rejected by Facebook for some unknown reason.  The mystique strangely continues...Perhaps coincidental, but curious nonetheless.  I AM DETERMINED.  I OWE IT TO TWO OLD DRESDEN CHUMS who never got to tell their amazing story. 

Eldred, incidentally, was the son of Dresden Postmaster and local historian Robert Brandon and wife Edith (Hazlett).  They lived on the north corner of Holden and St. George streets.  Eldred had two younger brothers, Alfred and Grant.  He was twice married while living in the United States.  A daughter, Daphne, died in infancy.

A truly brilliant and complex man, always a little different.

01 October, 2014

THE SAD STORY OF CANADA'S GREAT WHITE HOPE, ARTHUR PELKEY



Arthur Pelkey and Luther McCarty square off in fateful Calgary boxing match.
"Calgary's new Manchester arena was packed to the rafters with fight fans, the air thick with hubbub and cigar smoke as the city basked in the spotlight of the boxing world. No one was more excited than promoter Tommy Burns, the famous former world champ who had moved to Calgary in 1910. Here was the slugfest he knew would put the city on the map: Canadian brawler Arthur Pelkey versus Luther McCarty, a handsome, fleet-fisted Nebraska boy touted as the next "Great White Hope". Spectators and sports writers travelled from near and far to attend. A $10,000 purse and a potential title shot were on the line.

What happened in the ring the afternoon of May 24, 1913, would indeed change fortunes, but not as expected." -- The Calgary Herald

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My father was a boxing aficionado and he talked often about his admiration of Jack Dempsey who wore the world heavyweight crown for an extended period in the 1920's. He also told me about the tragic story of another boxer of his acquaintance who preceded Dempsey on the world boxing stage by a few years.

Arthur Pelkey (27 October 1884 – 18 February 1921) was a Canadian boxer who fought from 1910 to 1920. Born Andrew Arthur Pelletier, it is difficult to determine the actual birthplace for this amazing athlete. Some records list him as a Chatham, Ontario, native while others have him being born in nearby Pain Court. Adding to the confusion is the fact that a Chatham Sports Hall of Fame tribute clearly shows his hometown as being Dresden, the place of birth for both my father and I. While I do not remember my dad actually ever saying where Pelkey was born, my research suggests that it was in fact Pain Court, a largely French Canadian community in Kent County, like Dresden, not far from Chatham.
Arthur Pelkey

Somehow, my father who was about eight years younger, knew that as a teenager Pelkey moved from his Kent County home to the United States where he went to work in a cotton mill. He apparently started boxing to supplement his meagre earnings from the mill.

Nevertheless, at 6′ 1½″ and between 206 and 210 pounds, and after a series of local bouts, the hard-punching and durable Pelkey fought in the heavyweight division. He was one of the "White Hopes" of a period when African American Jack Johnson was the world heavyweight champion.

The height of Pelkey's pro career and its nadir happened simultaneously when on 24 May 1913, he met Luther "Cowboy" McCarty at Tommy Burns's Manchester Arena in Calgary, Alberta, with McCarty's World White Heavyweight title at stake. Tommy Burns had been the world heavyweight champ who had lost his title to Jack Johnson, and the title had been created to crown a white heavyweight champ in light of the failures of successive White Hopes to wrest the title from Johnson. Before he retired from the ring, Burns met Pelkey in a match that ended in a draw and was so impressed with him that he became his manager and arranged for what amounted to an exhibition bout with McCarty as a warm up for an ultimate encounter with the American Johnson.

Approximately, two minutes into the first round of the scheduled 10-round bout, Pekley kayoed McCarty with what appeared to be a glancing blow to the chest. Eight minutes later, still laying on the ring's canvas, McCarty was pronounced dead. Pelkey reportedly broke down and wept when told of McCarty's death. Manchester Arena, actually built by Tommy Burns himself, burned down the following day, likely as a result of arson in protest of the fight.

Four days after the controversial fight, professional boxing was officially banned in Alberta. Pelkey and Burns were charged with manslaughter, but the charges were later dropped. A coronor's jury eventually ruled that McCarty’s death was determined to have been from a brain hemorrhage, probably brought on by a fall off his horse a few days before. While they were exonerated, the lives of Pelkey and Burns were changed forever. Burns left Calgary and became an evangelist preacher. Legal troubles from the incident bankrupted Pelkey. He kept fighting, but only for the money, and he didn’t win much after that. Some suspected he was pulling his punches.

What began as a sensational exhibition ended in tragedy. A 21-year-old rising star was dead, a legend’s reputation was once again tarnished, a top notch contender was ruined, and Luther McCarty’s untimely end delivered a death blow to professional boxing in Calgary.

Pelkey reportedly was never the same after the McCarty incident. He lost the white heavyweight title to Gunboat Smith on New Year's Day 1914 at Coffroth's Arena in Daly City, California, via a T.K.O. in the 15th round of the scheduled 20-round bout.

When he retired in 1920, he had compiled an official career record of 22 wins (17 by K.O.) against 21 losses (having been kayoed 16 times) and three draws. He also had 10 *newspaper decisions: five wins, two losses and three draws.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(*) A "newspaper decision" was a decision in professional boxing rendered by a consensus of sportswriters attending a bout after a no decision bout had ended. A "no decision" bout occurred when, either under the aegis of state boxing law or by an arrangement between the fighters, both boxers were still standing at the end of a fight and there had been no knockout, no official decision had been made, and neither boxer was declared the winner. The newspaper reporters covering the fight, after reaching a consensus, would declare a winner and print the newspaper decision in their publications. Officially, however, a "no decision" bout resulted in neither boxer winning or losing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Arthur Pelkey eventually became a police officer in Windsor and died of "sleeping sickness" (a form of encephalitis) at 38 years of age in 1921.

NOTE: On April 5, 1915, the remarkable Jack Johnson finally lost his title to Jess Willard, a working cowboy from Kansas who started boxing when he was 27 years old. With a crowd of 25,000 at Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba, Johnson was knocked out in the 26th round of the scheduled 45 round fight. Johnson, although having won almost every round, began to tire after the 20th round, and was visibly hurt by heavy body punches from Willard in rounds preceding the 26th round knockout. Willard would ultimately lose his title to my dad's hero Jack Dempsey on the 4th of July, 1919, in one of the most lopsided championship fights on record.

27 September, 2014

INVENTION IS CALCULATED "MUSIC" TO THIS MAN'S EARS

Mike Sterling shows his musical instrument invention, the 'Bernoulli', to Eli and Dalia Maor
I like interesting people, especially those who think outside (or beyond) the box...The inventive and creative Mike Sterling of Southampton is one of those guys!

Most mathematical and musical heroes for Mike are lost in the annals of history, except for one, Eli Maor, a historian of mathematics, the author of several books on the subject and an in-demand lecturer and speaker. With a PhD from the Israel Institute of Technology, he teaches the history of mathematics at Loyola University of Chicago and was the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica article on trigonometry, as well as being a contributor to the esteemed publication.

Mike was anxious to exchange notes with the man whose thesis for his PhD, based on using mathematics to solve musical acoustic problems, reflected his own intense interest in the relationship between science and arts, particularly music.

Maor's article, "What is There so Mathematical about Music" received the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics award for being the best article on teaching the applications of mathematics. He and his wife, Dalia, who is an engineer, also have a fascination with astronomy and have traveled the world chasing eclipses, as members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Mike first learned of Maor some 10 years ago upon reading his book, "The Story of a Number". After several attempts to contact Maor, it was not until this year, 2014, that he succeeded. Sterling had been working on a musical instrument based on mathematics and sent an outline of his project to Maor who immediately became intrigued.  Mike's persistence had paid off.

"I receive many messages through my printing firm, Princeton University Press," said Maor, "but Mike's message and what he was doing definitely drew my attention."
Mike Sterling and Eli Maor discuss the mathematical
intricacies of another potential instrument that Sterling
is creating called "The Bernoulli Involute"
So intrigued was Maor, that he and his wife drove from their home in Chicago to Southampton to meet Mike and see first-hand his ingenious mathematical musical invention and some of his other brilliant contributions to the local museum where Sterling had his unique 'Bernoulli' instrument set up for the Maors, in addition to mathematical graphics set to music that he has designed.

Both the Maors were inquisitive about their surroundings and, although only spending one day in Southampton, took advantage of their time in the community to tour the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre, the Bruce Power Visitors' Centre, the boardwalk on the beach and the Saugeen First Nation Amphitheatre dry-stone wall project.

"It dawned on me", Mike said, "that Eli saw what others do not see. He sees beneath the surface and knows the relationship of objects one to another and he sees the world as a wonder.  The world is written about best in terms of mathematics. Words bind the hidden concepts by the mathematics that embody them,  It's a way of thinking and expressing oneself with precision. Eli, does just that.

His world view is vibrant and different from ours. It's like he has x-ray vision of a special type. He sees through the haze of reality into the essence. "

"We will definitely be returning to Southampton when we have a chance," said Maor. "It is a beautiful place with so many interesting features. The museum is amazing and we would like to spend an entire day there."

It goes without saying that they would also like to spend some more time with Mike Sterling...He'd no doubt have another invention to show them on their next visit.

I would explain a little more about the Mike's "Bernoulli" musical instrument, but it is beyond my comprehension -- as is the guy who invented it. Maybe I'll get him to write something about it for me, in dumbed-down terms that mere mortals can understand.

Where did Mike get the name "Bermoulli" for his instrument? What I can tell you is that Daniel Bernoulli FRS (/bərˈnli/; Swiss [bɛʁˈnʊli];[1] 8 February 1700 – 17 March 1782) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist and was one of the many prominent mathematicians in the Bernoulli family. He is particularly remembered for his applications of mathematics to mechanics, especially fluid mechanics, and for his pioneering work in probability and statistics. His name is commemorated in the Bernoulli principle, a particular example of the conservation of energy, which describes the mathematics of the mechanism underlying the operation of two important technologies of the 20th century: the carburetor and the airplane wing.

Mike Sterling explains how he crafted the replica cannons on the deck 
of the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre's H.M.S. General 
Hunter British war ship commemorating the War of 1812.

And another interesting project...The Helix

A giant 15-foot-high helix made from the anchor chain of an 1866 schooner rises majestically on an outdoor alcove at the new Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton.

This unique double-helix sculpture, named The Renewal, is another brainchild of Mike Sterling, one of many volunteers from the Southampton Propeller Club who value and honour the marine heritage along the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay coasts.

The chain was originally salvaged along the Lake Huron shoreline near MacGregor Point. It came from the 120-foot schooner, AZOV, which sprang a leak on October 12, 1911. The captain and crew abandoned ship and the schooner drifted across Lake Huron as a ghost ship, finally coming aground at MacGregor Point, just south of neighbouring Port Elgin.
Mike explains towering helix to museum vistors.

The sculpture has two helical strands winding 270 degrees from base to top and measuring 19 feet each. The links of the chain are huge, each measuring seven inches long by five inches wide with a girth of 1.5 inches. Total weight of the chain is 800 pounds.

“The shape is beautiful and can be seen for just that, without knowing the background or the inner meaning,” says Sterling, who, along with Giles Roy, worked on a full-scale wood model to establish the proper sight lines. To both men, the inner meaning of the sculpture is a fitting symbol of everything they value about Bruce County life.

The creative beginning of the anchor chain helix has its roots firmly embedded in Sterling’s life as a mathematician, studying shapes and the mathematics of producing them. He reaches his third floor study in Southampton by climbing a helical staircase. At the top, pictures of renowned scientists Albert Einstein and Dr. James D. Watson are linked with a small length of chain to depict the connection between these two men and their epic findings.

Sterling and Giles believe the “inner meaning” of the AZOV helix is many things.

It’s a symbol of renewal through all of Bruce County as well as the newly expanded and enriched museum. It also depicts “our tight connection with Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, which are at the core of our love for the area.”

“An anchor chain is on the seam of safety and danger, and helps us visualize our ancestors who braved the harsh waters and environment. The chain of life was sometimes held together by a blacksmith’s art.”

See what I mean about this guy and his ability to think beyond the scope of the average person?

Mike Sterling was given the Canadian Museums Association & Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums Award for 2012.

25 September, 2014

WORTH A LISTEN...

Actress Emma Watson Gives The Most Powerful UN Speech...“Feminists Are Not Man-Haters”

Actress Emma Watson recently made a powerful speech to the United Nations on gender, which has sent waves across the world. The 24-year-old “Harry Potter girl” and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launched HeForShe Campaign, a U.N. Movement for Gender Equality, last weekend in New York.

It was hoped she could be used to stop violence against women and help fight the fight for gender equality. In her presentation, a very poised Emma regretted the fact that women today are choosing not to identify as feminists. "If you hate the word "feminist", it is not the word that is important, it is the idea and ambition behind it," she stressed.

She also emphasized that gender equality is a male issue too, but I cannot do justice to her 11- minute talk in a brief summary of her remarks in this post. Instead you are invited to click on the attached video which captures the essence of her very carefully worded and poignant presentation. Personally, I truly believe it is time for all genders to be treated equally and we can learn a lot by listening to this beautiful young woman's words. It may even change your mind about feminism in today's world.

21 September, 2014

THE "QUIET" TRUTH ABOUT BEING AN INTROVERT

“Introverts need to trust their gut and share their ideas as powerfully as they can. This does not mean aping extroverts; ideas can be shared quietly, they can be communicated in writing, they can be packaged into highly produced lectures, they can be advanced by allies. The trick for introverts is to honor their own styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.” -  Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

Don't get me wrong, by no means am I putting myself in the aforementioned company, but I do not mind admitting that I am a born and bred introvert -- so is one of my grandsons. Some acorns do not fall far from the tree.  Because I have lived introversion, and the awkwardness that often goes along with it, I have worried about the wasted and brilliant potential of a 23-year-old young man in a society today that honours extroversion.
SUSAN CAIN

You can imagine then, my delight in being introduced to the refreshing views of another self-admitted introvert, Susan Cain.

In her best-selling book "Quiet", Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions.

The book was written as a passionate and provocative defense of those who are negatively labeled as "introverts".  She begins by reminding her reader that having an extroverted personality is more highly valued by our culture. Little Brennan and Brianna are encouraged to be more outgoing; shyness is seen as a social liability. Most classrooms reflect that goal. Where we once sat in straight rows and spoke only to answer a question, today's children work in groups which are designed not only for learning goals but also to promote social skills.

Corporations increasingly seek out prospective employees who possess the requisite "piece of paper" but also can demonstrate so-called people skills.

Cain writes to reassure the introverts among us (and who comprise at least 35% of our population). She reminds the reader that Carl Jung described how introverts gravitate to the world of thoughts and feelings while extroverts enjoy people and activity. While extroverts recharge their batteries by socializing, introverts renew their energy by spending quiet time alone. She argues that both personality types fulfill useful roles in society.

The recent PBS series on the Roosevelt family highlighted these differences. Franklin was outgoing and thrived on the life of a politician, capturing a crowd by the sheer force of his magnetic personality. Eleanor, his wife, was the polar opposite; a quiet, caring, deeply thoughtful woman who led by utilizing these relational skills and slowly built a consensus to achieve her goals of social change.

The author distinguishes shyness from introversion: the former is a "... fear of social disapproval or humiliation". The latter simply prefers a quiet environment. In fact, the trend toward open office spaces and collaborative problem-solving in the workplace can thwart the creativity impulse in that quieter employee who simply prefers to do his or her thinking alone.

Cain notes a variety of psychological research which determines that introverts are more sensitive, show greater empathy, make better listeners and possess stronger consciences.

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions -- sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments -- both physical and emotional -- unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss -- another person's shift in mood, say, or a light bulb burning a touch too brightly.”
― 
Susan Cain


Like a respected acquaintance who has also written on this subject, I clearly saw myself in Cain's book at the point where she describes how introverts have an aversion to "small talk", preferring the intimacy of one-to-one conversations. For that reason I don't seem to do well at large social gatherings. We prefer to relate rather than socialize. Ironically, some of us can do well in public speaking, simply because, unlike spontaneous small talk, our role in communicating through a speech (or sermon) is clearly defined. We deliver well-thought-out messages to captive audiences that do not talk back and there is a degree of safety in that knowledge.

Cain adds, however, that introverts can "pretend" to act like extroverts when required. We can manage in large social gatherings or work effectively in committees. The difference is that such activities, while stimulating and energizing the extrovert, will more quickly become exhausting (irritating) for people like my grandson and I. She also reminds us that few personalities are found at either extreme end of the continuum; most people demonstrate some combination of both introversion and extroversion.

Susan Cain is not only helping the rest of the world to better understand that the quiet minority of us are not simply anti-social or lacking in ideas, but she is also reassuring her fellow introverts that we do have a place in the world after all...And we do have a contribution to make when we have the courage of our convictions.

Personally, I am most comfortable when expressing my convictions by means of the written word, in solitude.  I am not all that spontaneous and glib when resorting to oral communications in public settings. I hesitate to methodically edit myself when speaking and sense that I frequently lose the attention of my listeners in the process.  Suffice to say, introverts are generally self-conscious.  Without  the ability to write as an outlet for creativity and self-expression, I would be extremely frustrated and depressed...Unfulfilled.

I pray that my grandson appreciates this and understands that there very definitely is a role for him in society, once he finds freedom in the restrictions of his solitude...And learns to pretend a little by selectively stepping outside of his insular comfort zone (a favourite technique of mine) when the occasion calls for it.  Sometimes we have to compromise ourselves just to get ahead in the world.  The key is to not completely abandon, or lose, our real selves in the process.

"To thine own self be true," I always say; with one very important qualification: "Do not allow your true introverted self to become an excuse for backwardness, or laziness, in personal growth.  Nurture that introvert within you...He/she is your best friend!

02 September, 2014

ON HEALING SELF WITH THE POWER VESTED WITHIN ALL OF US

We sometimes hear a person in weak health say to another, "I always feel better when you come to see me (or get in touch)."

There is a deep scientific reason underlying that statement.  The power of suggestion so far as the human mind is concerned is a most wonderful and interesting field of study.

One of the world's most noted scientists once proved through laboratory experiments that the entire human structure can be completely changed, made over, within a short period of time, suggesting that the accepted method involving the application of drugs, medicines and external agencies was an artificial cure.

The late Dr. Jack Ruttle of Dresden, who practiced in the days when doctors made house calls, used to say that many times he did not have to dispense "pills" because all that many of his patients really needed was a visit from him. "They just seemed to feel better even before I left their home," he explained.

I suggest that Dr. Ruttle carried with him the spirit of health.  He brought into the home a friendly, almost family-like disposition that implanted hope in the minds of the patients he visited. He cared and that in itself was sufficient medicine in many cases.

In reality, the only thing that any drug or medicine can do is to remove obstructions and in turn give life forces a better chance to do their work.  One person may do a very great deal in connection with the healing of another, but this almost invariably implies co-operation on the part of the one who is being treated. We need only take a look at the Bible and the healings that Jesus Christ performed.  He most always needed the co-operation of the one who appealed to him for help.  His question always was, "Dost thou believe?" thereby stimulating into activity the life-giving forces within the one cured.

We have countless accounts of remarkable non-medical cures in all times and in connection with all religions, so why should not the power of effecting such cures exist among us today?  The power most certainly does exist in all of us and it can be actualized in just the degree that we recognize the same great laws that were recognized in biblical times.  We would do well to remember that health is just as contagious as disease.

Full, rich and abounding health is the normal and the natural condition of life.  Anything else is an abnormal condition...God never created sickness, suffering and disease; they are of human creation.  So used are we to seeing them in our lives that we come gradually, if not to think of them as natural, to consider them as a matter of course.

I find it interesting that more that 100 years ago Ralph Waldo Trine wrote:  "The time will come when the work of the physician will not be to treat and to attempt to heal the body, but to heal the mind, which in turn will heal the body. In other words, the the physician will be a teacher whose work will be to keep people well, instead of attempting to make them well after sickness and disease comes on; and still beyond this there will come a time when each will be his own physician."

The health of our bodies, just as the health and strength of our minds, depends upon what we relate ourselves with and how we feed the soul within. It all has to do with a vital realization of the omnipotence of our own interior powers and how we nurture and use them.

Is it too much of a stretch to think that we have the unrealized potential to be our own physicians capable of attending to our full and ever-renewing bodily health and strength?

Something to think about on the Tuesday following the Labour Day weekend.

Here's to good health, my friend!  Make your own house call.  Do a checkup on the infinite power within you.

30 August, 2014

HAVE YOUR BANANA CREAM PIE FIRST IN LIFE

I was sitting in my favourite lunch diner the other day waiting for a Reuben sandwich takeout order for Rosanne (she loves Reuben sandwiches and I try get them for her two or three times a month since she is confined to the house due to health reasons).  I could not help but notice a chap at a table across from me as he ordered a piece of banana cream pie.

"I'd like to have my pie first and I will place the rest of the order later," the elderly man quietly explained to a somewhat puzzled waitress.

Sure enough, when he had lovingly devoured the pie he ordered a hot beef sandwich.

After I had paid for my takeout order, I could not help but inquire about the man's unusual eating sequence.

"Well, it's like this," he said..."Banana cream pie is my absolute favourite but sometimes I am too full after my main course and I do not enjoy it as much as I'd like to.  So I always have my pie first and govern myself accordingly after that.  Sometimes I enjoy my pie so much that I don't have anything else."

The explanation made sense to me and I completely understood.

There is a life lesson here.

In my working days when faced with a list of things to do in a given period of time, I would tackle the difficult, less savoury chores first and leave the thing(s) that I do best until last because I knew that I could do it faster as crunch time loomed.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.  There were times when I was too rushed at deadline to finish up with my best effort, hence I was stressed and robbed myself of the satisfaction of living up to expectations.

As I grew older in retirement, I learned to be more like the man and his banana cream pie...With qualifications, I have my enjoyment up front each day,  If I do not have room for the other mundane things, I know they will be there for me another day.  At least I have enjoyed myself when I can...That particular enjoyment may never present itself again another day.

In fact there may never be another day.

28 August, 2014

A STORY I WOULDN'T BELIEVE, IF IT HADN'T HAPPENED TO ME

Ohhhhhh!  I hate when that happens.  The nose knows.

Insult to injury...The "blistering" evidence. 
The culprit...Damn that thing gets hot!
Up to now I have been a lot of things in life, but a masochist has not been one of them...Not until the other day that is!

It's a long story, but here goes...

It was supper time and I had fired up the barbecue preparatory to cooking some hamburgers.  I generally set the BBQ for 400 degrees.  As I waited for it to preheat I proceeded to whip up a Caesar salad in the kitchen, leaving the door to the deck slightly open.  An open door is my dog Lucy's invitation to do some outside exploring, but no problem because the back yard is totally fenced in.

After about 10 minutes, the salad was finished and the hamburgers were ready for the grill.  It was also time for me to check on Lucy but there was one problem -- she was nowhere to be seen.  I called out for her, to no avail.

"Maybe she's sniffing out chipmunks at the side of the house," I thought; so craning my neck I stretched to look over the barbecue, absent mindedly leaning my right arm on the red hot lid   Reacting to instant and unbelievable searing pain, I spontaneously jerked my arm upward in a lightening fast swinging motion, planting my fist squarely on the bridge of my nose that was a mere two feet above the barbecue.

It was a blow of Mike Tyson proportions.  I was stunned for a minute and struggled to maintain consciousness. Miraculously, I did not break my glasses but the pain in my pulsating, bleeding nose was excruciating.  I literally saw stars and my eyes watered profusely.

As my head cleared, I felt something at my feet...It was Lucy.  Apparently she had been there all the time. She's a very quiet, little 15-pound sneak!

As I rushed to the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper to apply to my nose, I really could not believe what I had just done to myself.  Talk about a freak, stupid accident that could only happen to me.

It has been 48 hours since that nightmarish mishap and the swelling in my nose has subsided.  It is still sore, but luckily not broken.  The four-by-two-inch triangular burn on my arm is starting to blister and it itches like crazy. Other than that, I'm okay.

Oh yes, supper the other night was a little late.



04 August, 2014

TOURIST ATTRACTION: PLOVERS CAME A PIPING TO PORT ELGIN BEACH

Piping Plover: A small pale shorebird of open sandy beaches and alkali flats, the Piping Plover is found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as inland in the northern Great Plains. Because of disturbance by people, all populations are considered endangered or threatened. Piping plovers migrate north in the summer and winter to the south on the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and the Caribbean.

Since early June (2014), a rare occurrence has taken place at Port Elgin beach on Lake Huron.  A pair of endangered Piping Plovers decided to make their nest and raise their young.  Four eggs were laid in the warm sand and all four hatched.  The birds are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 2007, both provincially and nationally.  

There are three locations where piping plovers nest in North America: the shorelines of the Great Lakes, the shores of rivers and lakes in the Northern Great Plains, and along the Atlantic Coast. Their nesting range has become smaller over the years, especially in the Great Lakes area.  Almost immediately after the arrival of the feathered visitors in May, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Town of Saugeen Shores took steps to ensure the safety of the nest.  A large section of the public beach was cordoned off and a cage constructed over the nest to protect it from predators.
Most recent photos taken the last week of July ....
The parents only recently left the beach, having stayed with their brood far longer than expected and their young also stayed much longer than is normal.  All four siblings also stayed together at the beach site, which again is somewhat rare according to experts.  It would appear that the family chose Port Elgin and decided to stay given the safety that was provided.

According to Stuart Nutt, who has tracked the Piping Plovers for a number of years, a Merlin Hawk was recently seen in the area and, therefore, he said he expected that it would not be long before the Plovers left to head south for the winter.  Saugeen Shores CAO, Larry Allison, confirmed on Sunday (Aug. 3/14) that the Piping Plovers had in fact left the beach area.

It was amazing how the town, the region and visitors adopted the family of Piping Plovers.  Signs were posted and tape barriers erected and everyone respected them.  Photographers came from far and wide to take photos of the family and children watched enthralled with the young feathered family.

The Town of Saugeen Shores went above and beyond to protect and foster the young endangered hatchlings who also quickly became a major attraction for visitors. According to MNR experts, it is anticipated that should the family of Plovers reach their southern winter destination and return to Canada next spring, it is most likely they will return to their original nesting site on the Port Elgin beach.

Let`s hope so...Saugeen Shores Board of Trade is banking on hosting this new tourist attraction once again next year...And so are we bird lovers.

03 August, 2014

OKAY YOU CYBORGS, JUST WHAT IS A "COMPUTER" ANYWAY?

Computer: n. an electronic machine for making calculations, storing and analysing information fed into it, or controlling machinery automatically." -- The Oxford Dictionary  
Well, what the heck is a computer, you ask?  The word "computer" is so common in our speech today, we hardly give it a thought, but where did it originate?  Where is it going?

The word has a Latin origin "computare" meaning to count, sum up or reckon.  The Brits used to say about a human calculator:  "He/She is good at their sums."  I'm not too sure how the word got so pervasive, but there was a Harvard Professor of Astronomy, Edward Charles Pickering, who needed calculations done.  He first tried men, but they appeared to not have the stomach (or something higher) for it and he fired all of them.  He then got women to do the calculations.  They became his "computers" and the name seemed to stick relative to the idea of rapid and accurate calculations.  Incidentally, some of Pickering's computers made original contributions to astronomy.

The word calculator as applied to early mechanical or electrical devices just did not have the support to become the dominant word.
(L) Hardy & Ramanujan
The famous Cambridge Don, G. H. Hardy and his protégé', the mathematical savant, Srinivasa Ramanujan needed a computer for some of their 'deep' speculations into number theory.
Percy Alexander MacMahen
They consulted, according to a recent Scientific American article, a man named Colonel Percy Alexander MacMahen. He was an expert on artillery and also a mathematician of some renown. He was known for his ability to do rapid, accurate and deep calculations.

MacMahen became Hardy and Ramanujan's human "computer", for a time working on their investigations in number theory, especially in the partition of numbers. He was an expert in this area too, but not in the class of Hardy or Ramanujan.

There is no evidence that MacMahen ever had a rap on the head turning him into a rapid calculator.  This does happen to some people.  Some become musical or mathematical after an accident. Some just get erratic with a similar blow to the head.  It must be very rare to have a blow produce a talent, but it does happen. Usually a good knock takes away rather than gives.  I have not noticed any great computational or musical talents in retired football or hockey players, but then again, they just fade away to celebrity golf tournaments where somebody else keeps score.

Coincidentally, there is another recent Scientific American article about stimulation of the brain and/or disabling part of it to produce surprising results that do not seem to be latent, but just burst out.

Disabling part of the brain is interesting.  This is an area of research that seems to make sense when one looks at  Rain Man-like savants.  Could it also be true that some great musicians, scientists, mathematicians and engineers have  portions of their brains that are inherently more powerful than the rest of us? Can they turn off circuits in their brains thereby increasing the power of parts they are using?

We see developmentally challenged people born with great gifts in certain areas.  It would be grand to be able to turn parts of the brain off and others on and concentrate on areas of special interest.  Focus is one of the key ingredients in creativity.

Most of us have our own computer and beloved programs we use all the time.  Mathematicia is a very interesting program to do extensive calculations in areas of interest.  The program allows you to concentrate on areas that normally would be beyond comprehension.  If Hardy and Ramanujan were living today, they would make extensive use of Mathematca.  This would be especially true of Ramanjuan, because he was an experimentalist.  This word almost never is attached to a mathematician, but is common in physics where people are classified as experimentalists and theoreticians. 

Hardy was a theorist, who demanded proof.  Remanjuan was able to eliminate dead ends and follow fertile paths by some strange intuition.  Hardy moved slower and his success was rooted in his deep knowledge of what had been built up over centuries.  Rananjuan leaped ahead fueled by some sort of strange imagination or possibly a mysterious ability  to focus.

The more general question remains.  What is a computer?  It was clear to Pickering the Harvard astronomer. It's been pretty clear to all of us in the time in which we live.  But looking deeper, it's not just an electronic entity.  It's a combination where the human brain is working with the untapped power of processors and programs like Mathematica.  We are already Cyborgs.  

The fusion of man and machines as a single entity moves onward.  We have magic programs and search engines.  We can concentrate them on problems and use our human side to fuel investigations.  We can enlist not just our brain but hundreds of processors to do our bidding.  We see that being done with online search engines.  The wonderful word processing advantages of the computer as a communications vehicle almost get lost in all of this as if it were an afterthought. The Mathematica search engine, and several others like it, seem to be creating a new definition of the word "computer".

The computer is truly a great, yet-to-be-fully-tapped, 21st century tool, like no other.  If only we could get rid of the scam artists and hackers that prey on social media enthusiasts and ruin a good thing for all of us.

With thanks to historian and Cyborg extraordinaire, Mike Sterling.

22 July, 2014

INTERESTING SKIT ILLUSTRATES THE ROLE OF PARENTING

I have great respect for Rev. Bob Johnston, a retired United Church minister who is extremely active in the community of Saugeen Shores.  A marvelous speaker and writer with an ability to deliver down-to-earth messages, Rev. Bob has an interesting perspective on parenting that should be passed on to all young couples today.

When leading parenting seminars, Rev. Bob Johnston's favorite moments centre around the topic of  "discipline". To introduce the subject, the teaching tool he relies on is a skit which begins by imagining the delightful image of three newborn, woolly lambs wobbling on shaky legs as they take their first tentative steps. Three parents volunteer to become those little creatures and huddle together in the centre of the room. The group then chooses a "hungry old lion” from their midst to lurk near the lambs.
Bob then invites the remaining parents to discuss among themselves what their lambs will require to avoid being eaten by that prowling carnivore. The answer comes quickly and inevitably involves building a fence. At that point, he "volunteers" several parents to create that fence by surrounding the lambs with their arms outstretched, linking one fence post to another and closing the circle.

This skit represents, though allegory, his philosophy underlying child discipline. "The little lambs, our children and grandchildren, need to be kept safe from the dangers of that big world outside the crib," he explains. Electrical outlets, the hot stove, those speeding cars on the street, steep stairs, deep water or the rare but scary threat of some stranger, can each bring harm to an unsuspecting child and these are represented by that 'lurking lion'."

The "fences" are parental rules designed to protect the child who, at an early age, lacks his or her own sense of danger. Bob further explains: "I use the example of the toddler living next to a busy road. A loving Mom or Dad will build a wire mesh or wooden fence to keep their little one away from the enticing lure of the street. The youngster will likely cry and complain loudly about their lack of freedom. The wise parent never succumbs to those tears by dismantling the fence."

He continues: "Fast forward a decade or so. The parents are now setting a reasonable curfew, insisting on supervision of on-line digital activity, monitoring homework and choice of friends. The teen may loudly complain about a perceived 'lack of freedom'.  The parent holds firm!" 

Back to his skit for a moment. The little lambs will gradually require more room to graze and roam. The fence must be gradually expanded to allow that growth to take place. Similarly, a wise parent gradually increases a child's freedom as he or she demonstrates an ability to make self-chosen wise choices.


Unlike those lambs, the growing child should be gradually involved in defining and modifying those rules. As adult employees, we always feel better about company policy if we are consulted before decisions are made and implemented.

Remember those fence posts standing with arms raised? It gets tiring after a while. At that point in the skit, Bob asks the participants how each is feeling. When each complains about fatigue, he suggests they drop their arms. The reply is always ... "We can't because the lion will get the lambs!"

Being a parent, caregiver or grandparent is hard work. Making and maintaining rules can be the hardest part of the job. We don't give in to a child's premature and unwise demands for "more freedom".  The goal is not to be momentarily popular with that little one, but to be protective even when it results in unpopularity.

"That toddler stuck behind the fence will, 10 years down the road, thank Mom and Dad for their protection," Pastor Bob emphasizes. "When teens become adults with kids of their own, they will similarly thank those parents who cared enough to set reasonable limits during those turbulent adolescent years."

As always, a wonderfully creative illustration from a man who knows whereof he speaks.  I always enjoy him.