Natural disasters happen all the time…every day for that matter. Many of these disasters cannot be predicted, or can only be predicted a few minutes to hours before the disaster arrives. That was not the case with the Limnic eruption that happened at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, on August 21, 1986…or was it. A Limnic eruption is a eruption of gas rather than lava or ash, and the gasses can be deadly.

The eruption of lethal gas came from Lake Nyos at 9:30pm on that August day in 1986, took the lives of 2,000 people in the nearby villages, including Lower Nyos. The eruption wiped out four villages too. Carbon Dioxide, while natural to the earth, and even a part of the life process, becomes deadly if there is too much of it. Because Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun are crater lakes, the possibility exists for gasses to escape from the volcanos below them. The lakes are both about a mile square, and are located in the remote mountains of northwestern Cameroon. The area is beautiful with great rock cliffs and lush green vegetation.

Prior to the eruption, there were signs of impending disaster. In August 1984, 37 people near Lake Monoun died suddenly, but the incident was largely covered up by the government. The remoteness and lack of services made the incidents easier to cover up. Since there is no electricity or telephone service in the area, it was not difficult to keep the incident under wraps, and the 5,000 people who lived in villages near Lake Nyos simply had no idea that there was a very real danger of their own lake producing the same dangerous gas. I’m not certain why they would want to keep the matter a secret, other that to avoid causing a panic, but the plan was fraught with disaster. Had the people known, maybe they could have left the area and survived.

When scientists first began to be able to predict natural disasters, they were afraid the tell people that there was a problem. Then, after many people lost their lives from what could have been an avoidable disaster, most governments began to see the value of early warnings. The 37 people who lost their lives had no chance of a warning. There were no signs of that eruption, but if the government hadn’t hidden the facts, the 2,000 people who died when lake Nyos had its eruption, might have had a chance. At the very least, they could have made an educated decision about whether to stay or to go. Of course, with two years between the eruptions, they might have ignored the warnings too.

When the rumbling noise from the lake began at 9:30pm, and continued for 15 to 20 seconds, followed by a cloud of carbon-dioxide, and a blast of smelly air, it was too late for those people. The cloud quickly moved north toward the village of Lower Nyos. Some people tried to run away from the cloud, but they were later found dead on the paths leading away from town. The only two survivors of Lower Nyos were a woman and a child. The deadly cloud of gas continued on to Cha Subum and Fang, where another 500 people lost their lives. The carbon dioxide killed every type of animal, including small insects, in its path, but left buildings and plants unaffected, because plants use carbon dioxide as part of the growth cycle.

Reportedly, even survivors experienced coughing fits and vomited blood. Outsiders only learned of the disaster as they approached the villages and found animal and human bodies on the ground. The best estimate is that 1,700 people and thousands of cattle died. A subsequent investigation of the lake showed the water level to be four feet lower than what it had previously been. Apparently, carbon dioxide had been accumulating from underground springs and was being held down by the water in the lake. When the billion cubic yards of gas finally burst out, it traveled low to the ground–it is heavier than air–until it dispersed. Lake Nyos must now be constantly monitored for carbon-dioxide accumulation. Hopefully that will prevent further disasters like these from happening again.

War machines…the weapons of war…everything from tanks to airplanes to ships. A war cannot be fought without the equipment that transports, shoots, bombs, floats, and flies over the war. What happens to the shattered remains of the equipment that didn’t make it back to base? Obviously, if a ship is hit, it ends up at the bottom of the ocean, as does a submarine, but what of the planes, tanks, jeeps, and even the bases that have been bombed out, shot up, or otherwise rendered useless? The world is littered with the wreckage of the many wars that have taken place over the years of human existence, because humans have a propensity for fighting. We don’t like when things don’t go our way, and if we don’t understand that we can’t always have it our way, we tend to go to war.

On an island in the North Pacific, lies a remote island called Shikotan, at the southern end of the Kuril archipelago. The island seems like a simple place, green and lush in the summertime, but the island hides a secret. It has one particularly astonishing characteristic. The island is dotted with the decaying hulks of Russian military tanks from the 1950s. And these rusting relics hint at the troubled past…and present of Shikotan. Shikotan is a part of an ongoing battle for ownership between Russia and Japan.

Shikotan is part of the Kuril archipelago, a chain of islands stretching from the southeastern tip of Russia to the north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The Pacific lies on one side of the Kuril Islands, with the Sea of Okhotsk found on the other. Its location makes it an important island to both countries, hence the battle. After World War II, the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which was signed between the Allies and Japan in 1951, stated that Japan must give up “all right, title and claim to the Kuril Islands.” Unfortunately, it didn’t specifically recognize the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over them. That allowed the dispute that has ensued. Japan claims that at least some of the disputed islands are not a part of the Kuril Islands, and thus are not covered by the treaty. Russia maintains that the Soviet Union’s sovereignty over the islands was recognized in post-war agreements.

Since that time, Japan and the Soviet Union had been fighting over the island. They finally ended their formal state of war with the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, but did not resolve the territorial dispute. During talks leading to the joint declaration, the Soviet Union offered Japan the two smaller islands of Shikotan and the Habomai Islands in exchange for Japan renouncing all claims to the two bigger islands of Iturup and Kunashir, but Japan refused the offer after pressure from the US. Japan did not really intend to give up the island, and no one really knows how strong their army there was, but what is left on the island are the remnants of that army…a few masterpieces of Soviet engineering, IS-2 and IS-3 tanks.

My grand-niece, Aleesia Spethman is a bubbly little girl, who loves life. She is going to be in 2nd grade this coming school year. She is the youngest child of her parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, and the youngest grandchild of her grandma, Cheryl Masterson. She is a girl who is full of personality and energy. She is always on the move, doing something…from playing with her big brothers, Xander, Zack, and Isaac, to showing them who the boss is in this family. The boys humor her for the most part, but she gets a lot less “princess treatment” from the youngest of the boys, Isaac, who thinks maybe he is the boss. Aleesia would disagree.

Aleesia and her mom love to do girly things together. Shopping is a big favorite, because they are both fashionistas. Jenny has great fashion sense, and she has passed that to Aleesia, along with how to be in style, and still be yourself. Being the youngest does afford Aleesia some special treatment. She was the last one home all day with her mom, and being the only girl, eliminates the whole “hand-me-down” thing too.

Last week, Aleesia, Jenny, and Aleesia’s Aunt Liz took girl trip to Denver for Aleesia’s birthday. They got to go to the Denver Zoo and Aquarium. They had a great time watching all the animals. Aleesia loves to go to the Science Zone in Casper. The zoo and aquarium are along the same lines too, so it’s right up her alley. She really isn’t afraid of any animals…even bugs, which make me cringe, so she had a great time checking it all out. She takes after her mom in that respect. Jenny has had just about every kind of animal, including an Iguana…which really creeped me out, because it would appear next to you, when you least expected it…usually scaring the daylights out of you.

Most evenings find Aleesia visiting her grandma, and Cheryl is quite happy about that, because this is her last granddaughter, so she wants to make the most of the time she had left before Aleesia decides that she has other things to do. It is inevitable with all kids. Grandparents have them for a time, and then they are pushed out of the way for friends, sports, and after school activities. Aleesia does enjoy her girl nights, and I have had the opportunity to be a part of her girl gang, which has been great. On Thursday nights, Cheryl, Liz, Aleesia, and I go out to dinner, and then to Cheryl’s for a movie. Aleesia and Liz don’t always go for the movie. Liz has papers to grade, or photos to edit, and Aleesia either has homework, or she just missed her family, and wants to go home. She is a bit of a homebody too. Today is Aleesia’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Aleesia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It seems like these days, the more unique a motorcycle is, the more attention it gets. I don’t think anyone who as seen an unusual motorcycle, can say that they weren’t impressed, amused, or just shocked. You can’t really believe what you are seeing, but it’s hard to look away too. I sometimes wonder how these people came up with such an idea. I guess it takes a great deal of imagination. Some of these designs, are hilarious, and there is seriously no other word for it. People just think of something that is important in their lives, and turn their motorcycle into so version of that thing.

While strange bicycles, and even motorcycles, seem like a hilariously funny idea, that might land you on the ground sometimes, some strange looking motorcycles would seem to me like something a little riskier…especially if you get some speed behind it. Such is the case with the monocycle. I’m not a big fan of motorcycles anyway, so to modify one just to make it a novelty seems an odd idea, indeed. Still, as long as the safety of the motorcycle doesn’t enter into the picture, I guess it’s ok, but some people really got carried away. There were a few monocycles that people rode, and for me, that seems like a dangerous thing to ride. Motorcycles are hard enough upright with two wheels, but to remove one wheel and ride that contraption on the remaining wheel…just crazy!!

Nevertheless, that is what Messrs Cislaghi and Goventosa of Italy did, when they built the Motoruota in the 1920s. While it looked so unusual that is was sure to attract attention, it really was a dangerous motorcycle. Apparently the design was popular in Europe, especially France and Italy. They were interesting, to say the least, and I’m sure everyone would want to see it, but you would never get me on one of these contraptions. I value my life much more than that.

Every family struggles to find ways to do things together…not to mention the time to do so. Kids have their own activities, such as sports, dance, and other club and school activities. Parents work, kids have school, and then there are things that need to be done around the house. By the time dinner is cooked and eaten, and the table cleared, who feels like doing more activities. Plus, there is homework to be done. It seems like there isn’t time for anything more than a television show before bed.

Most of us think this is just something that has come with modern day families, where they barely have time to eat dinner together…if that. In reality, it is a problem that has been around for a lot longer. Kids just naturally grow up and become more independent, and parents get busier too. Something had to be done, so in 1939, so Charles Steinlauf stepped up. He didn’t build his bicycle for a record, because there wasn’t such a thing then. The Guinness book of records didn’t begin until the early 1950’s. Nevertheless, he was some “inventor” to use the word lightly. His was an interesting bicycle, and apparently it held something for everyone…I guess. As odd as it was, the bicycle really did work. The top rider, namely Charles steered the bicycle with an automobile steering wheel. His wife sat below operating a sewing machine. Their son was in back and their daughter sat on handle bars in front. When they stopped, the legs of the sewing machine kept the two story Goofybike, as it was called, from falling over. I don’t know any other way to safely stop it.

It might have been one of the strangest inventions in history, but, it did get his family out and about in Chicago, Illinois, and I’m certain it also brought them quite a bit of notoriety. I’m sure that there were lots of people who that of Steinlauf as that “weird inventor,” and to be honest, it looks like he just hooked a bunch of odds and ends together. It was, however, a little more technical than that, after all, just hooking a bunch of things together, does not a bicycle make. It has to be able to be ridden in order to really qualify as a bicycle, weird or not. And the Goofybike could be and was ridden by the whole Steinlauf family.

Mistakes happen, but when they are on an airplane, the result is often disastrous. Unless they are terrorists, no pilot wants to make that fatal mistake, because after all, they are on that plane too. Not to mention that they have families of their own that they want to go home to. Still, mistakes do happen, and sometimes they are pilot error, while other times are mechanical failure or even weather.

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 255 was preparing for takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The crew began the day, by operating the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 as Northwest Flight 750 from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. They flew to MBS International Airport in Saginaw, Michigan. They then departed Saginaw, in the same aircraft as Flight 255, flying to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California, with intermediate stops at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus, Michigan…near Detroit. Their next stop was to be at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona, but they never made it to Phoenix, crashing instead.

The plane’s rate of climb was greatly reduced as a result of the flaps not being extended, and approximately 2,760 feet past the end of runway 3C. The plane’s left wing struck a light pole in a car rental car lot. The impact caused the left wing to start disintegrating and catch fire. The plane rolled 90 degrees to the left, striking the roof of an Avis Car Rental building. The plane was now completely out of control, and crashed inverted onto Middlebelt Road striking vehicles just north of its intersection with Wick Road, killing two people on the ground in a car. It then broke apart…the wreckage skidding across the road, disintegrating and bursting into flames as it hit a railroad overpass and the overpass of eastbound Interstate 94. Of the 149 people onboard, there was one survivor, a four year old girl, who lost her parents and six year old brother in the crash.

In the end pilot error was blamed for the crash, because the pilots did not run through the pre-flight checklist. There also seemed to be a “problem with electrical power to the takeoff warning system. It was caused by the loss of input 28V dc. electric power between the airplane’s left dc. bus and the CAWS unit. The interruption of the input power to the CAWS occurred at the P-40 circuit breaker. The mode of interruption could not be determined.” The flight number Northwest Airlines 255 was retired, and when Delta purchased Northwest, they continued to honor the retired number. I wondered about retiring a flight number. It seems that in fatal crashes it is customary to retire the number in honor of those lost.

Until recently, it had never occurred to me just how much my grand-niece, Jala Satterwhite is like her great grandmother, Joann Schulenberg. She doesn’t really resemble her, since Jala takes more after her mother, Susan Griffith, but there is a notable similarity nevertheless. Jala loves horses, and in many ways, would live on a horse if she could. That thought brought me back to a time when my mother-in-law’s own mother, Nettie Knox made that very statement about her own daughter, Joann. Whether we realize it or not, our parents really do know us well.

Jala didn’t have much opportunity to ride horses until her mom married her step-dad, Josh Griffith, whose family had horses. Jala was introduced to the horses, and her love of horses was sealed. Later, her parents moved out into the country, and got horses of their own, giving Jala the ability to ride much more. Because her mom had never really been around horses, and only learned to ride with a great degree of apprehension, this natural riding ability that her daughter had, left Susan somewhat in awe, but also very proud. Of course, Susan’s own abilities have greatly improved, but that does not change how she feels about her older daughter’s riding prowess. Still, I don’t think Susan realized just how much Jala was like her great grandmother. I don’t think any of us did, really. I just looked at a picture of Jala on a horse yesterday, and it was like looking at my mother-in-law on her own horse. It was crystal clear to me then.

I think that for young horse-lovers, the horse provides them with an ability to go and do things without asking a parent to take them…at least within certain limits. When my mother-in-law was a kid, they could ride to school, as well as to other towns and ranches of friends nearby, those aren’t really options for Jala, except for nearby ranches. Still, there are lots of trails available these day, and Jala loves riding on them. I’m sure her great grandmother would love them too, and maybe she is there, watching proudly as her great granddaughter, Jala continues the great tradition of horseback riding just for the love of horses. Today is Jala’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

World War II had dragged on for almost six years, when the United States took things to the next, and as it turns out, final level. For quite some time, Japan had been one of the forces to be reckoned with. Now, with so much new technology, a plan has begun to form to put an end to this war, once and for all. The Japanese had no idea what was coming…how the 6th of August, 1945 would change things forever.

That August 6th in 1945 dawned like any other day, but at it’s end, the world would find that everything had changed. The power to destroy whole cities in an instant was in our hands. At 8:16am, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The ensuing explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people. Tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. With these two events, it was very clear that the nations had the ability to bring mass destruction. Hopefully, they would also have the compassion, not to do it.

With such a show of power, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender to the Japanese people in World War II in a radio address on August 14th, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb” as the reason Japan could no longer stand against the Allies. I’m sure the war-ravaged people of Japan were almost relieved. Of course, that meant that they did not know what their future would bring, but the recent past hadn’t been so great either, so they didn’t have too much to lose really.

Japan’s War Council, urged by Emperor Hirohito, submitted a formal declaration of surrender to the Allies, on August 10, but the fighting continued between the Japanese and the Soviets in Manchuria and between the Japanese and the United States in the South Pacific. During that time, a Japanese submarine attacked the Oak Hill, an American landing ship, and the Thomas F. Nickel, an American destroyer, both east of Okinawa. On August 14, when Japanese radio announced that an Imperial Proclamation was coming soon, in which Japan would accept the terms of unconditional surrender drawn up at the Potsdam Conference. The news did not go over well. More than 1,000 Japanese soldiers stormed the Imperial Palace in an attempt to find the proclamation and prevent its being transmitted to the Allies. Soldiers still loyal to Emperor Hirohito held off the attackers. That evening, General Anami, the member of the War Council most adamant against surrender, committed suicide. His reason was to atone for the Japanese army’s defeat, and he refused to hear his emperor speak the words of surrender. I guess the surrender was not a relief to everyone.

My grand-nephew, Matt Masterson has grown from being a multi-faceted little boy, who loved to pick on his sisters, Raelynn and Anna, but would also fiercely defend them, if anyone else picked on them. He loves his family and is very loyal to them. When his parents are working and the children are home alone, he is their protector, whether protection is needed or not. It just a part of the man in him. Raelynn is the older child, still at home. She is 16, while their half-sister, Christina is 23, and living on her own in Colorado, and younger sister, Anna is 12. In reality, they probably don’t need his protection, but they are grateful for Matt’s protective ways. He is also very protective of his mom, and takes on the “man of the house” role whenever his dad has to be out of town, or at work.

Matt is going into 8th grade this year, meaning he is in the last year of middle school. High school awaits him in just one year, but already I can see the high school student coming out in him already. It always seems to me that the last year of school levels, like elementary, middle, and high school, have the student oddly out of place among the younger students, but they would be out of place in the upper level too, I suppose. It’s all just a part of the transition from child to young adult, but I think Matt will make the transition with his usual ease.

Matt is an easy going sort of a guy, and there isn’t too much that bothers him. He like online gaming, like most kids his age. He likes hanging out with his cousins, and is good friends with his cousin Zack Spethman. Matt and Zack have been friends for their entire lives. The only thing that has changed is their size. Like most kids, they are not looking forward to summer’s end, even if school isn’t a bad thing. The boys like walking places like Cold Stone for get an ice cream treat. I can’t say as I blame them. That’s what summer’s all about, hot days and cold treats. Nevertheless, all too soon, summer will give way to Matt’s last year of middle school. I know it’s going to be a great year. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My great grand-niece, Alice Green is the bonus baby of my grand-nephew, Jake Harman. She is her mother, Melanie Harman’s daughter from a prior relationship, but for Jake, Alice completes his family. She was his first child, coming into his life before the younger two kids, Izabella and Jaxx. They became best friends right away. Alice was never one to be angry about Jake’s entrance into her family. I think she viewed him as the best bonus dad she could have ever asked for. I love to see their smiling faces as the play together, and with the other kids. They seem to have a similar sense of humor.

Alice is an amazing big sister, and her little sister and brother really look up to her. When she was in school, I think the house felt a little bit lonely, especially for Izabella, who thinks her sister is awesome. Jaxx wasn’t really as aware, but he will be this year, because both Alice and Izabella will be in school this year. Alice is going into 2nd grade, and Izabella will be in pre-school. Jaxx is an easy going guy, especially with two older sisters, but I know he will really miss them this year. It’s hard for me to believe that Alice is going into 2nd grade this year. Though I have not know her all her life, she was a shy little girl when I first met her, so seeing the confident 2nd grader she has become is amazing to me. She has really become friends with the whole family now.

Alice has a great smile, and uses it often. She has a great sense of humor, and loves to entertain her siblings, which is a huge help to her parents. She loves school, and is a good student. It seems like it was just yesterday that she was graduating from Kindergarten, but in reality, that has been over a year ago already. How can that possibly be? Our Alice is growing up so very fast, and I can’t imagine our family without her in it. She is a sweet little girl, who has brightened out lives at every turn. Today is Alice’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Alice!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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