Most of us realize that there are earthquakes going on all the time. Most of them are very small, and often not even felt by anyone. Some are so far out in the ocean that they have little effect of anything. Others are far out in the wilderness or unpopulated areas, and so no one feels them. There are, however, some that are so large and so devastating, that they can never be forgotten. The January 23, 1556 earthquake in Shaanxi, China is just such an earthquake.
The earthquake struck Shaanxi late in the evening, and the aftershocks continuing through the following morning. I’m not sure how the scientists can calculate the magnitude years later, but their investigation revealed that the magnitude of the quake was approximately 8.0 to 8.3. That is, by no means, the strongest quake on record, but it struck right in the middle of a densely populated area with poorly constructed buildings and homes, resulting in a horrific death toll. Making buildings earthquake proof in the 1500s was not even a possibility…at least not to the level of the current building codes. Because of that, the death toll was estimated at a staggering 830,000 people. Of course, counting casualties is often imprecise after large-scale disasters, especially prior to the 20th century. Nevertheless, this disaster is still considered the deadliest of all time.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the Wei River Valley in the Shaanxi Province, near the cities of Huaxian, Weinan and Huayin. In Huaxian alone, every single building and home collapsed, killing more than half the residents of the city. The death toll there was estimated in the tens of thousands. Similarly, the death toll and economic impact in Weinan and Huayin was also very high. There were places where 60-foot-deep crevices opened in the earth. Serious destruction and death occurred as much as 300 miles away from the epicenter. The earthquake triggered landslides, which also contributed to the massive death toll. Of course, the estimates could be off, but even if the number of deaths caused by the Shaanxi earthquake has been overestimated slightly, it would still rank as the worst disaster in history by a considerable margin.
Living in Wyoming, the one thing we can be sure of is that traffic jams are extremely uncommon here. About the only way we are going to have a traffic jam is if there is an accident at what we call rush hour…for lack of a better word. A few hours south of us, you mike find a traffic jam as you travel through Denver, Colorado during a real rush hour. Nevertheless, even traffic jams in Denver almost don’t qualify compared to other places on Earth. I have tried to think of what it might be like to be in a really bad traffic jam. I have been in some that kept me sitting for over an hour, but even that was nothing compared to the longest traffic jam in history.
China is one of the biggest automotive markets in the world. That booming market has a downside to it too, however. It is estimated, that in 2015, there were no less than 7 million cars on the road in Beijing. Of course there are many more now. What’s more, nearly 14 million cars are purchased each year, while 650,000 vehicles meet the road every month. It’s like saying: “Hey, everybody in Beijing must have a car. No, make that two!.” The government has tried to stop residents from buying so many cars, but they haven’t had much luck with that. With all the cars on the road, traffic jams were inevitable. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how bad those traffic jams would become. In August 2010, China was crowned the unofficial “host” of the mother of all traffic jams, with a huge car panorama that stretched for more than 62 miles and lasted for 12 days. I’m quite certain that no one could have expected this, now could the motorists be prepared with food and water.
It all happened on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway near Beijing. The highway was initially designed to be used exclusively by trucks, but due to the growing number of vehicles, passenger cars started using it too. Ironically, the cause of the huge traffic jam was the road work on the highway. Trucks carrying construction supplies to Beijing, most of them supposed to be used on the expressway in order to ease traffic, were blocked at the exit, thus causing a traffic jam that lasted over 12 days. No clear statistics concerning the number of stranded drivers were given, but instead reports published on the web at that time claim that some of the cars advanced with a speed of 2 miles per day! That is shockingly slow!!
People who could started to take advantage of the situation by selling food and water to drivers. The prices were extremely high and some of the drivers even refused to buy the supplies. That was not a good idea, because in those cases they were robbed or even stabbed. Twelve days in a traffic jam is a lot, that’s pretty clear, and even if some drivers already had bread and cigarettes as a method of precaution, everybody had to buy at least a cup of water. The prices were astronomical, and the whole situation was insane. Strangely, authorities actually expected the traffic jam to last about a month. I guess 12 days wasn’t too bad after all. Surprisingly, according to the Guinness World of Records this isn’t the longest traffic jam in history. A previous episode that took place in France, spanning from Lyon to Paris, is regarded as the biggest jam ever. It stretched for 109 miles and happened on February 16, 1980. The reason, poor weather and the huge number of cars on the French Autoroute.
When we think of wartime atrocities, most of us think of the Holocaust, and that was indeed a horrible atrocity. Nevertheless, there have been a number of horrible dictators in history, and most of them committed some kind of atrocity. One of the worst atrocities in history, is one that very few people even know about. Most people have heard about the horrible experiments the Nazis performed on humans. The Nazi doctor, Joseph Mengele headed up that torture practice. But the Nazis weren’t alone in conducting cruel experiments on humans. The Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731. Some of the details of this unit’s activities are still uncovered. I don’t understand how anyone could have such little regard for human life, as to conduct some of the horrible experiments n them that some of these dictators and their cohorts did.
For 40 years, the horrific activities of “Unit 731” remained one the most closely guarded secrets of World War II. It was not until 1984 that Japan acknowledged what it had done and long denied. The vile experiments on humans conducted by the unit in preparation for germ warfare were atrocious. The Japanese doctors deliberately infected people with plague, anthrax, cholera and other pathogens. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 enemy soldiers and civilians were used as guinea pigs. Some of the more horrific experiments included surgery without anesthesia to see how the human body handled pain, and pressure chambers to see how much pressure a human could take before his eyes popped out.
The compound for Unit 731 was set up in 1938 in Japanese-occupied China with the aim of developing biological weapons. It also operated a secret research and experimental school in Shinjuku, central Tokyo. Its head was Lieutenant Shiro Ishii. Japanese universities and medical schools also supported the unit, by supplying doctors and research staff. I can’t imagine being assigned to such a facility. The picture now emerging about Unit 731’s activities is horrifying. According to reports, which were never officially admitted by the Japanese authorities, the unit used thousands of Chinese and other Asian civilians and wartime prisoners as human guinea pigs to breed and develop killer diseases. Many of the prisoners, who were murdered in the name of research, were used in hideous vivisection and other medical experiments, including barbaric trials to determine the effect of frostbite on the human body. To ease the conscience of those involved, if that is even possible, the prisoners were referred to not as people or patients, but as “Maruta”, which means wooden logs. I suppose they thought it would help, but I doubt if it did.
Before Japan’s surrender, the site of the experiments was completely destroyed, so that no evidence is left. I don’t suppose we would have known anything had it not been for the pictures that have surfaced, and people who have told the story later. After the site was destroyed, the remaining 400 prisoners were shot and the employees of the unit had to swear secrecy, or risk their own death. The mice kept in the laboratory were then released, which most likely cost the lives of as many as 30,000 people, because the mice were infected with the Bubonic Plague, and they spread the disease. Few of those involved with Unit 731 have admitted their guilt. Some were caught in China at the end of the war, were arrested and detained, but only a handful of them were prosecuted for war crimes. In Japan, not one was brought to justice. In a secret deal, the post-war American administration gave them immunity for prosecution in return for details of their experiments. Some of the worst criminals, including Hisato Yoshimura, who was in charge of the frostbite experiments, went on to occupy key medical and other posts in public and private sectors…their guilty feelings, if they had any, existed only in their own minds.
My second cousin, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa are two amazing people. Over the years of their marriage, they have been blessed with a beautiful group of children…but not in exactly the way you might expect. Brian’s first marriage, when he was 19 years old, gave him his first child…a daughter named Angie Marie was born January 8th, 1976, but that marriage ended in divorce. Brian married Lisa Basley on August 4, 1979. Their marriage was first blessed with a son, Brian Leslie born on February 8, 1980. Then, on May 20th, 1981 Lisa gave birth to another son, Nicholas Lee, and on June 29th, 1982, a daughter, Elizabeth Ann. Hemorrhaging during baby Elizabeth’s delivery brought with it the need for a hysterectomy for Lisa at age 29. She and Brian thought their days of having babies were over. They were quite sad about that because they had wanted more children, but God had a different plan for them.
Brian got saved in 1981, while working as a track layer on the railroad. A friend started telling him about Jesus and Brian became a “Jesus Freak” according to Lisa. At first Lisa was pretty uncomfortable with all that. She told him that if he didn’t stop telling everyone about Jesus, she was going to leave him. Once again, God had a different plan. One night in their bedroom Lisa awoke to a “bright light and a voice that sounded like Niagara Falls.” Jesus appeared to her and she kept saying take me with you. She knew that she wanted this Jesus in her life. Brian slept through the entire event, but Lisa was changed forever. She was no longer nervous about Brian talking to people about Jesus. She knew it was their calling. Still, in the back of their minds, the desire for more children continued to grow, and they would find out that God had a different plan for them again.
They checked into the possibility of adopting a baby in the 1990s, when their three children were under 10, and Angie was a teenager, but that was not God’s plan either, so they waited. Then, in God’s perfect timing, they got a call. It was 1992, and a friend said that she knew a girl that was pregnant and wanted to know if they were interested in adopting the baby. Brian and Lisa prayed about it and felt like God was telling them to do it. Their daughter, Grace Beverly was born August 11, 1993. Then, two years later, they got a call, saying that the same girl was pregnant again. She offered Brian and Lisa that baby too. Their daughter, Angel Danell was born June 12, 1995. God’s plans never have mistakes in them. He wanted these two girls to have each other…and a great family. In 1996, God changed their lives again when their children’s cousin became pregnant, and couldn’t keep the baby at the time, and since she was enrolled in the tribe, family had the option to adopt first because the Native Americans prefer to keep a child close, but God made a way for Brian and Lisa, and their son Noah Richard was born August 4, 1997. At this point, Brian and Lisa thought their family was probably complete, but as they were learning, God had a different plan. A woman they met at their church had just come back from working in an orphanage in China. While there, she fell in love with a little girl called Precious. Brian and Lisa quickly fell in love too, and they felt that God was calling them to adopt Precious. Again, they would learn that God’s plans are sometimes different than ours. The adoption of Precious did not work out, but there was another child…a baby girl who needed a family. Brian and Lisa raised the $30,000 plus dollars to go to China and pick up that 6 month old baby. Their daughter Hope Elizabeth was born on September 23rd, 2001.
It was at this point that Brian and Lisa knew that their family was complete…at least until the grandchildren began to arrive. They marveled at the blessings God had given them. Their story doesn’t end here though. There were reasons that each of these precious adopted daughters were given their names. Grace received her name because they felt like, in a time just after Lisa’s dad’s passing God gave them Grace. Angel was just so sweet, they all kept calling her a little angel, and the name just stuck. Hope arrived at a time when Lisa felt like she had none and God gave her Hope to fill them all with Joy. As I was visiting with Brian and Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, in preparation for this story, she summed her parents up like this, “Pretty amazing…when I look back at what sacrifices that were made and the money, time, and love they have given all of us…well, God has been faithful to our family. If it weren’t for the color of our skin or eyes no one would know that were weren’t blood relatives. It’s like the adoption creed says that my parents have in their house ‘Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own. Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow from my heart, but in it.’ I like to brag on my parents because you won’t find a couple that has struggled more, had so many sleepless nights with their children trying to find their own and loving unconditionally and always keeping Jesus in the center.” That is such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful couple, from a loving daughter.
From the end of World War II, until the mid 1990s, the world was in the middle of the Cold War. The Soviet Union had developed atomic weapons, and they were threatening to use them. Tensions were high, because they were flexing all the military muscle they could. A common part of the administration was make sure that the people of the United States were ready for the very real possibility of an attack. The Eisenhower administration formed the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), later called the Office of Civil Defense, to instruct the people on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.
On this day, October 6, 1961, President Kennedy urged the people of the United States to build bomb shelters, so they could live through the nuclear fallout in the event of an attack. I was a girl of just five years, in 1961, but I vividly remember seeing those fallout shelters and knowing that it was possible that the day could come when we might have to take shelter there. That is pretty scary stuff for a five year old girl, but it was simply the world we lived in.
When I fast forward to this day and age, I have to wonder why some of the same precautions aren’t being put in place by this administration. We all know that Iran has nuclear weapons, and Russia, along with China, are beefing up their forces too. In many ways, the Cold War is in full force again, and no one seems to be reacting to the dangers. Maybe it is because we are getting used to the threat of nuclear war, but it still seems odd to me that there is not more preparation. Even I must admit that as a child, the fallout shelters were a source of unease for me, but now…even with the threat of nuclear war constantly in the news, I just don’t feel the same kind of concern…though maybe I should.
A fallout shelter was intended to reduce casualties in a nuclear war. It is designed to allow those inside it to avoid exposure to harmful fallout from a nuclear blast and its likely aftermath of radiation until radioactivity has dropped to a safer level. A basic fallout shelter consists of shielding that reduces gamma ray exposure. The most dangerous fallout has the consistency of sand or finely ground pumice, so a fallout shelter would not need to filter fine dust from air. The fine dust emits relatively little radiation. Concrete, bricks, earth, and sand are some of the materials that are dense or heavy enough to provide fallout protection. Basically this shelter could be much like a tornado shelter, except that it would need to have a door that seals completely.
Concrete was the most often used building material of fallout shelters, with walls at least 12 inches thick. The required shielding could be accomplished with 10 times the amount of any quantity of material capable of cutting gamma ray effects in half. Shields that reduce gamma ray intensity by 50 percent include 0.4 inches of lead, 2.4 inches of concrete, 3.6 inches of packed dirt or 500 feet of air. I suppose the main concern for most of us the difficulty building one of these shelters, Nevertheless, that is exactly what President Kennedy urged the people to do, and what many of them did do. It was terrifying stuff, and it makes you wonder what is wrong with people who would even consider detonating one of these nuclear bombs.
I saw a picture today of an antique treadle sewing machine, and it took me back to the visits to Bob’s grandmother’s place in Montana. Grandma’s house was filled with antiques. Of course, at the time she bought those things, they were probably fairly new when she bought them. Of course it was not the antiques in Grandma’s house that really came to mind, but the living room they were in, and all the wonderful times we had in that living room. It was the talks and laughter we had there, and looking at her old pictures, and watching my girls playing while their grandmother just enjoyed the time she got to spend with them and us, and the time we got to spend with her. Precious time.
I remember watching my girls trying to play the piano. They played happily…until we could no longer stand it. Even the songs they played fairly well…like Chop Sticks…got old after a while. Still, like my in-laws the memories of moments at and in front of that old piano will always stay in the memory files of my mind. They aren’t there just because of watching my girls playing there, but because of the reminders they bring of Grandma and Grandpa, and the wonderful visits we always had when we went for our yearly visits.
I remember the times that Grandma would show us the beautiful china she kept in the antique hutch. The hutch was so beautiful. Of course the hutch also contained various little knick knacks and other little mementos from grandmas life. You can tell a lot about a person by the things they collect, and Grandma loved beauty. From the things she sewed to the things she collected. Her beauty, both inside and out, was revealed. Still, it was not the hutch that brought the warmth to the room, but the memories the room contained. Grandma’s house was always such a pleasant place to be. It was a house filled with the beauty that was Grandma, and I can tell you from my own experience, that Grandma was a beautiful lady…inside and out.
I was watching a commercial the other day showing some of the new styles for elementary school kids, and older kids too I guess. The big news is that the kids will be wearing leggings with lacy skirts that look like the slips we used to have as a kid. Wild to say the least, but still, they are practical, especially for little girls who don’t care if they bend over and allow the whole world to see clear to China. The leggings under the dress become stylish and practical, especially in the area of modesty.
They also take me back to my own elementary school days, when the girls had to wear dressed. No pants allowed, except for certain special days, like track day or special PE days. Snow days did not fall into this category, however. When it was cold out, we could wear pants under our dresses, but they had to be removed in the hallway and hung up like a coat…now that was modest, right. Pulling up your skirt and pulling down your pants without allowing everyone to see clear to China, was not very easy, and the younger the girls didn’t bother to even try. I’m sure in today’s world, and maybe if our mothers saw how that went, they would have been appalled, but it was just how it was back then.
Many people hate the new styles as they come in, but then as they think about it, they like it or see the advantages at least. Looking at the latest look, I have to say that while it is a bit unorthodox, the little slip over the leggings is cute, and ultra feminine. The girls look quite girly, and he slip has gone from being a slip to being more like a Tutu. Maybe that is why they all want to twirl like ballerinas, and what could be more cool for a little girl than feeling like a ballerina!!