1/2 Century of Progress – 1964 to 2014




10 Things That Are Better Than They Were Fifty Years Ago

We live in an age in which bad news and negativity reigns, making it easy to overlook the positive things that have taken place in our world over the last half century.

Further, one doesn’t need to view the world through rose-colored glasses to see the many things that have transpired over the last few decades all designed to make all our lives easier, safer, and overall less challenging than they were for our forbearers. All one needs to do is compare the present to the fairly recent past to recognize that while there are still things to be depressed about, there are a number of things that have improved dramatically. So what are these “positives” of which I speak? Below are my top ten “things” that have dramatically improved since 1964—and many of which show signs of getting even better in the future—so eat your hearts out, all you purveyors of doom and gloom out there.

10. Automobiles


When one considers the automobiles of yesterday, one can’t help but be astonished at the dramatic improvements we see in the vehicles of today. Consider that the average car in 1964 had no seat belts, air bags, crumple zones, or crash bars, got maybe 12 miles to the gallon, and belched prodigious amounts of toxins in the air, it’s not difficult to see how much safer, fuel efficient, and cleaner cars are today. While one can argue that styling may have been more interesting back then, and no one can deny the mystique the classic muscle cars of the late 60s and early 70s held—and continue to hold for many today—it’s obvious that today’s cars are technological wonders compared to their ancestors. In fact, with GPS navigation, Bluetooth, Sirius radio and a host of other gadgets that come standard with many models, today’s vehicles are veritable spaceships when compared to a 60’s car. Plus, the selection is almost unlimited, with everything from subcompacts to monster trucks being available to the consumer, whereas back then selection was mostly limited to a basic sedan, a station wagon, or a small truck. Further, consumers had only a dozen or so models to choose between back then  whereas today there are literally scores of makes and models to select from (not to mention the emerging hybrid and all electric markets to consider). Yes, today’s cars cost more than cars did fifty years ago, but most vehicles are actually cheaper than their predecessors when one factors in inflation and the cost of a new car as a percentage of average annual income. Finally, with new and even more astonishing technologies on the drawing boards, the future looks even brighter for the venerable automobile—which I believe will continue to play a big part in the 21st century and beyond.

9. Air Travel


I know that in the post 9/11 world, air travel is more of a hassle than it was fifty years ago (when one could walk through security with barely a whimper), but it can’t be denied that travel by air has improved dramatically. First of all, it is cheaper to fly today than at any other time in history. Fifty years ago, airfares were set by the Civil Aeronautics Board, and could often be expensive. For example, a round-trip airline ticket from Miami to New Orleans cost around $130 in 1964—which is about $900 in today’s dollars. By comparison, today you can fly that same route for about $330 (or even cheaper if you’re one to look around for good deals). Second, airliners today are faster, more fuel efficient, and more environmentally friendly than at any time in the past, drastically reducing the amount of particulates they spew into the air, reducing flight duration, and generally making for more comfortable flying. Third, airlines fly to more places than ever before, making practically any point on the planet accessible by air. And, finally, air safety has improved dramatically in the last five decades. How much has it improved? According to statisticians at M.I.T., the death risk for passengers in the United States today is one in 45 million flights. In other words, flying has become so reliable that a traveler could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash. (Compare that to fifty years ago, when there were ten fatal airliner accidents worldwide that left a total of 466 people dead. In 2013, only 195 people perished and this despite the fact that there are ten times as many aircraft flying than there were fifty years ago.) All things considered, travel by air is still your best value and the safest means of travel known to mankind.

8. Electronics


Imagine if you were to go back to 1964. You would probably be watching a black and white television that gets maybe four channels, listening to AM radio, playing vinyl records on your Hi-Fi, and generally making do with a minimum of electronic gadgets. In contrast, today you have iPods, iPhones, personal computers, game stations, massive HD flat screen TVs with 300 cable channels to choose from, GPS tracking, satellite radio, microwaves, and a whole host of other innovations and devices undreamed of fifty years ago. When you consider that your little beat-up, ten year old piece-of-junk PC you can’t even give away has a thousand times more computing power than the largest and most expensive computer in 1964 possessed, you can’t help but be impressed with the strides electronics have taken in just the last thirty years alone. Plus, it’s extraordinarily cheap, especially if you wait a little while after a new device is introduced for the price to tumble (as it invariably will). It’s almost scary to imagine where this revolution will take us in the next fifty years, but if the last fifty has been any indication, get ready to be dazzled!

7. Human Rights


I know there are still despots and tyrants out there who treat their own populace like cattle, and starvation, disease, and poverty are still concerns in many spots around the world, but when compared to what things were like fifty years ago, only the most hard-core pessimist can fail to see the tremendous improvements that have taken place since then. When one considers that homosexuality was considered a treatable mental illness fifty years ago (at best), women in positions of power were practically unheard of, and three quarters of the world’s population lived at or below poverty level, one can’t help but see improvement. Yes, there is still income inequality in some countries, the rights of women and minorities are still suppressed in some regions of the world, and poverty remains the norm in some of the poorest counties, but the fact is that for most people, things have improved dramatically. Disease and starvation are far less common, more democracies exist than ever before, and—thanks in part to the internet—human rights abuses and atrocities are far less tolerated than in the past. We’re far from achieving anything approaching a utopian world—nor are we likely to anytime in the near future—but it’s hard to deny that there is at least progress being made.

6. Frozen Dinners


Before the advent of the microwave some fifty years ago, frozen dinners were dismal affairs whose taste was often indistinguishable from the containers they were packaged in. Plus, it took a good twenty to thirty minutes to heat up most of them, and the selection was very limited and largely unimaginative. Today, in contrast, one can find a veritable smorgasbord of international culinary delights in their freezer that can be prepared in a few minutes, many of which rival the food served in many of the finest restaurants in terms of quality and taste (and, I might add, they are cheaper. Restaurant food can be pricey.) In fact, so good and easy have frozen dinners become that today they comprise many people’s main diet, with most families preparing a meal from prepackaged frozen dinners as often as four times a week. While this has had the unfortunate consequence of making traditional cooking a dying art, it has the benefit in that frozen dinners save the gastrointestinal system of those whose partner or parents are horrible cooks. Further, frozen dinners have also almost single-handedly banished that scourge of the refrigerator and freezer: the dreaded leftover. If that isn’t something to rejoice about, I don’t know is.

5. Movie Special Effects


Growing up in the sixties, I was often subjected to special effects that could only be described as primordial at best, from a guy in a rubber suit stomping on a model of Tokyo to stop motion animation and rubber spiders on strings. Of course, as a kid, at the time I thought these effects were pretty cool, but when I see these same movies on late night TV today, I can only cringe—or laugh—at how hokey Godzilla looked and how cheesy the first Star Trek episodes were. Today, thanks to CGI (Computer Generated Imagining), we can make astonishingly convincing dinosaurs, dragons, spaceships—even entire ancient cities—that early special effect wizards could only dream of. Some of the best of this stuff is so real, in fact, that one can often have trouble determining reality from good CGI. Unfortunately, as is often the case with all such improvements, there is a down side. Many movies have become so enamored with dazzling effects that they have forgotten how to tell a good story, or they so overdo it that eventually one becomes indifferent and even bored after seeing the same effects a dozen times. Still, when great special effects, good acting, and a compelling story are brought together—as is occasionally the case—the results can be remarkable.

4. Space Travel


In 1964, America was still taking its first, unsteady steps into outer space in the little two-man Gemini spacecraft, unsure if its astronauts would survive the next mission. The spacecraft were small, expensive, and dangerous, but they were necessary steps in man’s quest for the stars. Today, in contrast, space travel is almost routine, far more cost effective in terms of cost per pound of payload, and so simple that even civilian companies are getting into the act by offering to fly rich tourists into orbit for the chance to gaze upon the planet from fifty miles up. Of course, none of this would be possible without the dramatic advances made in electronics and rocketry, and space travel is still a risky business, but compared to where it was fifty years ago, it’s no longer that amazing an accomplishment to put a man—or woman, for that matter—into space. Further, this trend will only continue as rocket engines get smaller and more powerful, construction materials become more rugged and cost effective, and the private sector takes over space in much the same way it took over the airline industry almost a century ago. As a result, one day our grandchildren will see spaceflight as no more remarkable a feat than an airline flight from New York to Paris is considered today, and will wonder what all the fuss was about.

3. Fashion


Fashions come and go, but consider that back in 1964 things were far more ordinary and less flashy than they are today. Back then the average Joe—and Jill—didn’t have a huge selection of styles or materials from which to choose. As a result, men commonly wore suits and leather shoes and women generally wore dresses adorned with bizarre hats of all shapes and sizes. There were not nearly a thousand different brands and kinds of tennis shoes to choose from (there were only KEDS canvas sneakers), patterns were generally limited to stripes, solids, or polka dots, and most clothing was made from cotton, wool, or something in between. In contrast, today the sky’s the limit in terms of fashion choices available to both men and woman, with all the benefits (and consequences) that portends. All the colors of the rainbow in any material you can imagine are readily available, and styles are as varied as each person’s personality type. The only downside is today it can be difficult to pick out the women from the men as clothing styles are largely unisexual, and then there’s that nasty epidemic of ugly tattoos and bizarre body piercings out there to deal with. On second thought, maybe fashion is in a downward spiral after all…

2. Pollution


I know that concerns over global warming, climate change, the ozone layer and such are all the rage, but it is difficult to maintain that things have not improved dramatically over the last fifty years—especially in the west. During the sixties, smog was bad in most major American and European cities and only promised to get worst as populations continued to grow and more automobiles hit the roads. Further, streams were often dumping grounds for all manner of toxic chemicals, and piles of trash were ubiquitous alongside of roadways, in alleys, and even in nature, which was often looked upon as one great garbage dump. Contrast that with today, with our much more stringent emission standards on both automobiles and industrial plants, the shift towards renewable energy, and strict dumping and waste management standards and smog has become rare in most cities, rivers and lakes are far cleaner, and even littering is becoming less common. Clearly, changing public attitudes, a vigorous recycling infrastructure, and greater environmental awareness have also done much to improve matters. Of course, pollution is still a big problem in some developing countries—in particular China and India—and it is growing worse (at least in some developing nations) but it is only a matter of time before even they are forced to raise air and water quality standards for the good of public safety, portending a cleaner environment in the future.

1. World Peace


I know many people imagine the world to be one big tinderbox just waiting for a match to be thrown, but the fact is the world is a far more peaceful place than it was just fifty years ago. Some may laugh at such apparent naiveté on my part, but consider the facts: between the end of the Second World War in 1945 and thirty years later in 1975, there were no fewer than four Arab-Israeli wars, three wars between India and Pakistan, devastating wars in Korea and Vietnam, major insurgencies in French Indochina, Algeria, and the Belgian Congo, and costly civil wars in Nigeria, Greece, Indonesia, Hungary and Cuba. Further, dictatorships ruled most of South and Latin America, Africa, and Asia, while the shadow of the cold war hovered over the entire world, just waiting for someone to make a mistake, ushering in a nuclear Armageddon. What a difference a few decades have made. With the collapse of communism in Russia and the fall of the Soviet Union, Germany became reunited, the counties of eastern Europe became free, and the danger of nuclear holocaust became greatly diminished. Further, normalization of relations with a once implacable Red China has turned that country from a fierce adversary into a major trading partner, while one by one authoritarian regimes have been supplanted by democracies all around the world. Of course, there are still wars—though they tend to be smaller, shorter in duration, and less destructive affairs than those of the past—and terrorism remains a threat, but it’s hard to deny that the world is not nearly as dangerous a place as it was when I was growing up. Of course, all of that is subject to change without notice, but the threats to peace we see today from countries likeNorth Korea and Iran are mere fleabites compared to the twin dangers Stalinist Russia and Mao’s China posed just a few decades ago. Not peace in our time, perhaps, but steps in the right direction.


1/2 Century of Progress – 1964 to 2014

A Necessary Deterrent – WABAC to Alamogordo

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Sherman My Boy, we are going to witness a scientific experiment that would change the course of history.”

July 16, 1945: US Explodes First Atomic Bomb (Trinity Test, Alamogordo)


Chilling History…

On July 16, 1945, Manhattan Project scientists held their breath as the clock ticked down to the first man-made nuclear blast in history.

Over a period of almost 6 years from its feeble first steps (3 years as a project in earnest), through 130,000 people working on the project and $2 billion taxpayer dollars the finest scientists in the world had developed methods of enriching uranium to a state where its nucleus could be split and creating plutonium, the 2 materials needed for the 2 different types of atomic weapons being considered.

The Crater of World Peace…

The uranium device would be a tube in which 2 chunks of enriched uranium would be launched at each other at  high speed by conventional explosives, causing a critical mass to form in the blink of an eye, triggering a nuclear blast.

The plutonium device would be a hollow ball of plutonium with precision explosives around the outside meticulously timed to blow up all at the same time causing the hollow sphere to implode, creating a critical mass in the blink of an eye and subsequently the desired nuclear blast.

(Note:  Obviously, the descriptions of how nuclear bombs work are greatly simplified and the above paragraph is paraphrased.)

President Roosevelt had been warned by Albert Einstein that Germany (and maybe Japan) would be working on developing nuclear weapons and that if the US and Allies did not want to get blown off the map, we better develop such weapons first.

At 5:30 am on July 16, 1945, the entire point of the Manhattan Project was on the line as a plutonium implosion device suspended 100 feet above the desert was exploded.  Although the nuclear physicists on the project were reasonable confident of their calculations, no one knew for sure how big the blast would be and whether or not the atmosphere would become part of the chain reaction, ending mankind.  When the brilliant fireball and mighty blast went off, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, it left a 250 feet wide crater in the desert (with sand fused to glass), a mushroom cloud 7 ½ miles high, and the blast could be felt 100 miles away.  People as far away as El Paso could hear the explosion.

The scientists and budget planners were right;  a practical bomb could be made, and it would be a city destroyer.  Now the question was, how and if to use it.  Despite some opposition, and some sentiment toward giving the world a demonstration over an unoccupied target, President Truman and his advisers decided Japan must have a city destroyed by an atom bomb to convince them to surrender.  The debate over whether or not this was necessary still rages today, with critics claiming the Japanese were on the brink of surrender anyway, and proponents saying that the terrible price paid to conquer Okinawa showed that an invasion of Japan would cost tens of thousands of American lives, probably hundreds of thousands.  Besides, the Soviets were poised to make a land grab of as much Japanese territory as possible, and US planners may well have intended to impress and intimidate the Soviets as much as the Japanese.

Less than a month after Trinity, 2 Japanese cities lay in smoking ruins, and over 100,000 Japanese were dead, and more were dying.


Unthinkable, Yet Necessary Deterrent

QWERTY Revolutionizes Writing – WABAC to 1st Typewriter

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s hunt ‘n peck our way to 1874 and find the very first typewriter, Sherman My Boy.”

July 1, 1874: 1st Successful Typewriter Goes on Sale!


Secretaries of the World Rejoice!

On July 1, 1874, E. Remington and Sons placed the first successful typewriter on the market, a model also known as the Remington No. 1 and invented by Christopher Sholes, Samuel Soule, and Carlos Glidden.

Hunting & pecking….

Not particularly easy to manufacture, the inventors had sold out to Remington after failing to easily produce the machine.  Remington did not find an immediate market, as the machines were costly to make and still had some shortcomings such as the inability to type lower case letters.  It did however, introduce the familiar QWERTY 4 row keyboard, which despite appearances made typing much faster than an ABCtype layout.

The Remington No. 2 model incorporated the ability to type lower case letters, but incredibly the typist could not see his or her work as it was typed.  When businesses caught on to the idea of producing legible correspondence at a faster rate, the typewriter also caught on.  As it did, many women proved adept at mastering the skill of typing and a new job market for women was created, the office typist.  As more women moved into the office and clerical field via typing,  other office and clerical jobs opened up as well.

Although Remington had the only commercial typewriter available those first few years, sales lagged with the $125 price and poor reliability.  Only 400 were sold the first 6 months, although by 1887 4000 had been sold.  Even Mark Twain bought one.

In 1881 another manufacturer (American Writing Machine Company) put a typewriter on the market so Remington dropped the price to $80.  Remington had come out with the No. 2 in 1878 and sales began to pick up.  Other manufacturers started to pop up, and the typewriter became an everyday office necessity.

Another typewriting milestone came in 1881 when the YWCA opened the first typing school.  Prior to that typists were trained by the manufacturer.  As women made less pay then men regardless of occupation, it was more fiscally responsible for businesses to hire women to type.  In spite of the pay inequality, the pay for typing greatly exceeded the pay women made working in factories and such, causing women to flock to typist jobs.

Christopher Sholes, the main inventor of the typewriter, said late in life that he thought he had made it easier for women to make a decent living.  Cracked fact:  In 1874 a mere 4% of clerical jobs were held by women, and by 1900 the percentage had increased to 75% (in the US).


QWERTY Revolutionizes Writing – WABAC to 1st Typewriter

WABAC to Ancient Architectural Achievements

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“How about we look at ancient builders who were “WABAC” before their time.”

Ancient Architectural Achievements

10 Ancient Architectural Achievements

They did that? Back when?

On June 24, 109 CE, Roman Emperor Trajan opens the aqueduct known as Aqua Traiana, bringing water to Rome from Lake Bracciano 25 miles away.  The ancient Romans are known for their architectural achievements, but other societies also built some pretty impressive projects as well.  Here we list 10 impressive examples of ancient architecture, not necessarily the most famous, but ones we hope you will like.  Which ones would you add to the list

Digging Foundations…..

10.  The Mound Builders, 3400 BCE to 1500 CE.

Along the Mississippi Valley to the Ohio Valley, Native American civilizations built a series of earthen mounds of large proportions for apparently religious purposes.  Built from a height of only a few feet to as much as 100 feet tall, moving that much dirt to construct these mounds surprised researches that had previously believed the older civilizations (perhaps as far back a 6000 BCE) did not have the organizational structure to cooperate in such ventures.  The shapes of the mounds range from round, pyramid type with a flat top, or snake like.

9.  Roman Aqueducts, 312 BCE to 1600.

The Romans were an enterprising lot, and building was certainly one of their strong suits.  They built at least 11 such structures to serve the city of Rome by around 200 CE, and took their technology throughout their empire, especially in Europe where many more aqueducts were constructed.  Some of these graceful structures are still in partial use today, and some have been modified as bridges at times.  To complement the aqueducts that brought clean water to Romans, the Romans also constructed elaborate sewers to carry away rainwater and waste.

8.  Canals in the Americas, 5000 BCE-400 CE.

Evidence exists that Native Americans were building canals in North, Central and South America as long as 7000 years ago in Florida and Louisiana, and 5400 years ago in Peru.  The Earth was still warming after the ice age, and sea levels have risen at least 5 feet since then, covering much of the evidence from the European settlers that came to the Americas after 1500.  Some of these canals (and harbors) were a mile to a dozen or more miles in length.  Ancient Arizona had a canal and irrigation network of over 1000 miles of waterways from as far back as 1300 BCE.

7.  Chinese Anji Bridge, 602 CE.

The earliest stone arch open spandrel bridge in the world, it is the oldest bridge in China.  At 167 feet long and 31 feet wide, this remarkable and beautiful bridge has lasted through major floods and earthquakes that modern bridges might not survive.  Modern engineers have tested the capacity of this bridge and found it to be about 8 tons, far more than it would have had to carry when built.

6.  Mesoamerican Pyramids, 300 BCE to 1500 CE.

Made by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations (and a couple of others), these Native Americans built some of the biggest pyramids in the world without the benefit of metal tools.  Spread throughout Mexico and Central America, the dozens of examples include the Great Pyramid of Cholula located in Mexico, the largest pyramid in the world by volume.  (Cholula= 4.45 million cubic meters, Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt= 2.5 million cubic meters.)   The base of Cholula is 450 meters on each side with a height of 66 meters.  The Great Pyramid at Cholula was built starting about 300 BCE and added on until about 900 CE.

5.  Colosseum, 70-80 CE.

The original taxpayer funded municipal stadium, the Colessum could hold somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, a size that seems to still be relevant today.  Whether gladiators in combat, dramatic plays, or any of a number of public spectacles, the Colesseum was the place to see what was happening in Rome. By the time the Roman empire started crumbling (5th Century CE) so did the Colesseum.  Still used for shops and workshops, it fell into disrepair and many of the finer stone blocks were taken for other projects.  The massive structure is still imposing to this day, and remains perhaps the number one tourist attraction in Rome.  Built without electric, gas, or steam power, the building covers 6 acres with an outer wall 157 feet tall.  That outer wall took an estimated 100,000 cubic meters of stone, cut and laid without mortar to build.  (Due to space considerations, we strongly encourage our readers to read more about this fantastic stadium in other sources.)

4.  Chinese Louchuan, 220-206 BCE.

Also known as “castle ships” or “tower ships” the Louchuan were gigantic for their day, 200 feet long and 100 feet tall (not counting masts).  Used as floating fortresses, these ships were not maneuverable, but were used as headquarters or flagship type vessels.  Often luxurious, they had several deck levels above the main deck, sometimes containing over 100 luxurious palace like rooms per deck.  The top deck was spacious enough for horses and vehicles to move about.  Spears and arrows would defend the ship from close attack, and catapult or trebuchet type weapons would provide long range firepower.  Although continued to be built after the Han Dynasty, it was then that the Louchuan came into their own.

3.  The Lion Gate, 13th Century BCE.

A fortress made of giant stones on the Northwest side of the Acropolis, the citadel is so old and consists of such big stones the Ancient Greeks did not know who built it and therefore believed a race of giants had made the place.  The actual fortress was built by the  Mycenaean civilization, and the Lion Gate is the entrance to the fortress.  The lintel (stone above the entrance) is 15 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 3 feet high.  How people in the 13th Century BCE managed to lift something that huge on top of 2 giant stone monoliths (pillars) 10 feet high is staggering to think about.  Standing at the site and looking at the giant stone walls commanding the hill is an awesome experience.

2.  Appian Way, 312 BCE.

Also known as Via Appia, this road connects Rome to Brindisi, and was built originally for the purpose of moving large numbers of troops.  Stretching over 360 miles by 244 BCE, the original span was 132 miles, rather long for a paved road in those days.  Built meticulously of graded dirt and gravel covered by stones and mortar, the road was crowned for water to run off and had drainage ditches on each side supported by retaining walls.  A 19 mile stretch across the Pontine Marshes was constructed as a causeway.  The straight, flat, smooth and durable road was a marvel in its day, earning it the name “The Queen of the Long Roads.”  Some original (or at least quite old) parts of the road remain today for you to marvel at.

1.  Great Wall of China, 7th Century BCE to Present.

The main part of the Wall was built 220-206 BCE, but much of that has been built over through the years.  Stretching almost 3900 miles, the wall is supported by natural obstacles and trenches adding up to a total barrier of 13,100 miles!  The Wall underwent massive reconstruction during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th and 16th Centuries CE, and little remains of the ancient structure.  Built to keep out the Mongols, ancient men built nothing like this anywhere else in the world (Hadrian’s Wall at 80 miles long not in the same league).  (Note:The story about it being visible from the moon or outer space is a myth.)

WABAC to Ancient Architectural Achievements

Jamaica – “I want to be there” Facts

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WIF Logo 001



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Jamaica (disambiguation).
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: “Out of Many, One People”

and largest city
17°59′N 76°48′W
Official languages
National language Jamaican Patois (de facto)
Demonym Jamaican
Government Unitary parliamentaryconstitutional monarchy
 - Monarch Elizabeth II
 - Governor-General Patrick Allen
 - Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller
Legislature Parliament
 - Upper house Senate
 - Lower house House of Representatives
Independence from the United Kingdom
 - Declared 6 August 1962
 - Total 10,991 km2 (166th)
4,244 sq mi
 - Water (%) 1.5
 - July 2012 estimate 2,889,187[1] (139th)
 - Density 252/km2 (49th)
656/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 - Total $25.317 billion[2] (2012)
 - Per capita $9,199[2]
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 - Total $15.569 billion[2]
 - Per capita $5,657[2]
Gini (2004) 45.5[3]
HDI (2012) Increase 0.730[4]
high · 80th
Currency Jamaican dollar (JMD)
Time zone (UTC-5)
Drives on the left
Calling code +1-876
ISO 3166 code JM
Internet TLD .jm

Jamaica (Listeni/əˈmkə/) is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, comprising the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles. The island, 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south ofCuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola, the island containing the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean.[5] The indigenous people, the Taíno, called itXaymaca in Arawakan,[6] meaning the “Land of Wood and Water” or the “Land of Springs”.[7]

Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 it came under the rule of England (later Great Britain), and was called Jamaica. It achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962.[8] With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. Kingston is the country’s largest city and its capital, with a population of 937,700.[9][10] Jamaica has a large diaspora around the world, due to emigration from the country.[11]

Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch andhead of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, currently Patrick Allen. The head of government and Prime Minister of Jamaica is Portia Simpson-Miller. Jamaica is a parliamentaryconstitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.[12][13][14][15]

Jamaica – “I want to be there” Facts

4th of July in History

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Events That Occurred On The 4th Of July

Top 10 Events That Occurred On The 4th Of July

For Americans, the 4th of July is one of the most significant dates in history. Yet, what many may not know is that a host of other historically significant events also occurred on this particular day. Here are ten of the most important for world history, arranged chronologically.

10. The Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)

Battle-of-Mantinea In a battle of Greek city-states, the Thebans, led by Epaminondas, actually managed to defeat the famed Spartans. Epaminondas won the battle while fighting in the front line, resulting in him sustaining a fatal wound. To make matters worse for the “victors,” the two Theban leaders whom he intended to succeed him perished. A dying Epaminondas thus instructed the Thebans to make peace, despite having won the battle. As a consequence, Theban hopes for hegemony faded, while the Spartans were unable to replace their losses. Because both sides had lost their most capable leaders at Mantinea and its aftermath, the battle paved the way for the Macedonian rise as the leading force in Greece. An ascendant Macedon went on to unite most of Greece, in a campaign under Alexander the Great that conquered most of the Persian Empire, including Egypt.

9. A Major Turning Point In The Crusades (1187)

Saladin During the Crusades at the Battle of Hattin, Saladin defeated and captured Guy of Lusignan, King of Jerusalem. French knight Raynald of Châtillon died in the aftermath, personally beheaded by Saladin. The Muslim victory set the stage for their march on Jerusalem, which they besieged successfully a few months later in the Autumn of 1187. These two victories destroyed the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and thereby directly resulted in the coming Third Crusade, a major event in world history in which the Holy Roman Emperor joined with the kings of England and France to attempt to retake Jerusalem. They failed and as such, Saladin’s destruction of the Crusader army at Hattin, capture of Jerusalem’s king, and conquest of Jerusalem itself had long-lasting consequences for Middle Eastern history. If somehow Guy would have triumphed instead and prevented Saladin from moving on Jerusalem, the history of the Crusades and, therefore, of Christian and Muslim relations could have been quite different.

8. THE 4th of July (1776)

declaration-of-independence During the American Revolution, The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. Yet, American independence was not immediately recognized by the British. So, in 1778, American forces under George Clark captured Kaskaskia during the Illinois campaign, one of many victories that would eventually encourage the British to acknowledge America’s independence. The result meant that the United States Declaration of Independence would go down as one of the most important documents of American times. At least two dozen countries around the world drew upon this document when drafting their own declarations of independence, in the nineteenth through twentieth centuries. Moreover, that it inspired Americans to successful liberate themselves from British rule was not only a hallmark in notions of human rights, but also in ideas of democracy. Consider the number of absolutist governments in the centuries before 1776 versus the increasing number of constitutional governments in the years afterwards. America’s success inspired many other countries’ elder statesmen, whose words regarding freedom bear obvious resemblance to that established by Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe.

7. The Deaths of America’s Founders (1826 and 1831)

july-4-dead-presidents Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, died the same day in 1826 as John Adams, second president of the United States, on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Just a few years later, fellow founding father, and fifth President of the United States, James Monroe passed away on July 4th, 1831. That three of the first five American presidents died on the 4th of July is not only obviously symbolic, it also reflects something of the end of an era for the first leaders of one of history’s most powerful countries. Their passing was not just the deaths of well-known American politicians, but giants of Western civilization whose legacy still appears visually in numerous monuments, films, and even on currency.

6. Alice First Entered Wonderland (1862)

alice-in-wonderland On July 4th, 1862, Lewis Carroll told Alice Liddell a story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequels. Wonderland was subsequently published on July 4th, 1865. The number of adaptations of the book and its sequel, in films, television, and video games is enormous. Allusions to Carroll’s stories in popular culture are incredibly pervasive, especially throughout the Anglophone world, but also in non-English speaking cultures as well. Stories about Alice rival the Oz books and the writings of Jules Verne as far as being regularly adapted in various media over the years is concerned.

5. The Turning Points Of the American Civil War Concluded (1863)

ulysses-s-grant During the American Civil War, Vicksburg, Mississippi was surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant after 47 days of siege, while 150 miles up the Mississippi River, a Confederate Army was repulsed at the Battle of Helena in Arkansas. On the same day, The Army of Northern Virginia withdrew from the battlefield after its loss at the Battle of Gettysburg, signaling an end to the Southern invasion of the North. These three defeats represented the turning point of the American Civil War. They prevented any remaining chance that a European power might intervene militarily on the South’s behalf. They also demonstrated decisively that the South could not successfully invade the North. For the remainder of the war, the South was now entirely on the defensive and, although she held out for two more years, they were two disastrous years that resulted in the deaths of numerous Southerners.

4. The New Colossus Enlightened the World (1884)

Statue-of-Liberty-1800s The people of France offered the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World to the people of the United States on July 4th, 1884. The two allies participated in this symbolic act nearly a hundred years after both of their revolutions began in (1776 for America, and 1789  for France.) The erection of the sculpture symbolized the triumph of Enlightenment ideas of liberty, ideas that continue to enrapture large chunks of humanity. Moreover, the magnificence and endurance of the sculpture has led many to refer to it as a “wonder of the modern world,” and “The New Colossus.”

3. The End Of A Dynasty (1918)

tsar-nicholas-II When Bolsheviks killed future Orthodox saints Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, they effectively ended the Romanov dynasty that ruled the Russian Empires, one of the largest countries in human history after centuries of rule. The event also foreshadowed the end of other European dynasties amidst the cataclysmic First World War. Following the Russian examples, the Habsburgs of Austria, the Hohenzollerns of Germany, and the Ottomans of Turkey were also toppled by their people in rapid succession.

2. Modern Warfare Was At Its Most Massive Scale (1943)

battle-of-kursk During World War II, the Battle of Kursk (the largest full-scale battle in history and the world’s largest tank battle) began at Prokhorovka Village on July 4th, 1943. The battle resulted in over a million casualties on both sides (Germans versus Soviets) and the loss of over 10,000 tanks, guns, and aircraft. This decisive Soviet victory crippled Germany’s offensive power in the East, in what was Germany’s final strategic offensive on that front, and thus the final realistic chance for them to turn the tide on the Eastern Front.

1. Filipino Independence Achieved (1946)

Philippines-Independence-Day After 381 years of near-continuous colonial rule by various powers, the Philippines attained full independence from the United States. The independence of the Philippines coincided with a global trend in the years following World War II in which many African and Asian countries, previously colonized by Western powers, achieved their independence after centuries of Western domination. The end of Western Empires in the post-war era, beginning with the independence of the Philippines in 1946, was one of the Read more: http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-events-that-occurred-on-the-4th-of-july.php#ixzz2Y6nyNrtv

WABAC to the Waltons of Arkansas

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Let’s go back and do some shopping at ol’ Sam Walton”s little Five & dime, Sherman My Boy.”


July 2, 1962: First Walmart Store Opens

July 2, 1962: First Walmart Store Opens; Disaster or Godsend?

Humble beginnings

On July 2, 1962, the American way of life started to change with the first drop of rain in what was to become a downpour, as the first Walmart store opened in Rogers, Arkansas. Whether that change was for the better or for the worse is a controversy debated fiercely by both sides.  (Note: In 2008 the name was changed fro Wal-Mart to Walmart.)

Be careful what you wish for…..

Former JC Penney employee Sam Walton decided to go into business for himself in 1945 when he bought a Ben Franklin Five and Dime store.  Sam operated on the premise of high volume through lower prices and it worked.  Walton bargained hard for lower prices when buying his merchandise wholesale and then sold the goods for lower prices which increased his volume and profit.

After opening his first Walmart in 1962, his success allowed him to expand to 24 stores in Arkansas by 1967.  By 1968 he was able to stretch his horizons by opening his first stores not in Arkansas in Oklahoma and Missouri.  In 1975 Sam opened his first Texas Walmartand he now had 125 stores.  It was time for incorporation.  By 1987 there were 1198 stores, and by 1990 Walmart had become the largest retailer in the US, and now had stores overseas.  Vermont finally got a Walmart in 1996, the 50th state in Walmart’s constellation of stores.

Walmart now has over 11,000 stores in 27 countries, and well over 2 million employees, making it the largest private employer on the planet.  Sales volume is approaching a half trillion dollars per year, with a net profit of over $16 billion.  With all this success and providing all those jobs, what is the problem?

The problems, as some people see them, are that the jobs are mostly minimum wage (or close to it) part time jobs without health care or other benefits, and are non-union as well.  By opening so many stores and buying in such volume that they can squeeze other retailers out of available wholesale merchandise, and then undercut them in price, competitors cry foul.  Experts have estimated a Walmart can push 50% of smaller retailers out of business in a town within 10 years, often replacing unionized decent jobs (especially at grocery stores) with lower wage, lower benefit jobs.

Another criticism is that Walmart’s cut-throat business practices forces manufacturers to move their factories overseas, mostly to China where Walmart buys the bulk of their non-food items.  Able to buy up the entire output of some foreign factories, Walmart has entire ships loaded with goods just for Walmart stores. 

Sam Walton’s philosophy that Walmart is beneficial to society and therefore should not contribute to charities also angers and disappoints critics.

Accused of discrimination against women, homosexuals, employing illegal aliens and slave labor overseas, Walmart is also a target of environmentalists, labor unions, and trade protectionists.

In response, Walmart claims to save American consumers billions of dollars, thus raising the standard of living wherever they open a store.  Walmart also points out that since Sam Walton died (1992) charitable donations are now about $1 billion annually.

WABAC to the Waltons of Arkansas

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

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Top Ten4

Bizarre Flying Machines in Aviation History

The invention of elaborately constructed flying machines to travel through the Earth’s atmosphere ranks among mankind’s greatest innovations. The field of aviation is defined by challenging the limits and coming up with bold new ideas, but these aircraft simply defy all concepts of normalcy.

10. Convair V2 Sea Dart


To supplement standard aircraft, a variety of interesting combination machines are available to pilots. However, a jet fighter designed to land right in the ocean adds an entirely new definition to the job description, turning pilots into jet ski operators. The Convair Sea Dartwas an experimental American Jet Fighter built in 1951 as a prototype supersonic seaplane, complete with a waterproof hull and two hydrofoils. The Sea Dart concept was retired after a fatal crash, but not before it became the first — and so far only — seaplane to break the sound barrier, with E.D. “Sam” Shannon at the controls.

9. Goodyear Inflatoplane

When a tire company attempts to enter the aircraft market, you can expect bizarre results. In 1959, Goodyear Tire responded to market demands for a convenient airplane in a spectacular manner. The open cockpit Inflatoplane was built entirely out of rubber except for the engine and control cables. The plane fit into a meter long box, and could be fully inflated with a bicycle pump in just 15 minutes.  The machine was an aerodynamic success,  as it took to the skies with ease. However, Goodyear encountered some challenges in convincing the military to buy the aircraft when they pointed out that the plane could be downed with by a single bullet, or even a well-aimed slingshot.

8. NASA A1 Pivot-Wing

NASA’s AD-1 brought the standard for strange aircraft to an entirely new level. Designed in the early 1980s to test the concept of a pivoting wing, the jet’s long, thin wing rotated on an angle, up to the point where the right wing tip could be brought parallel with the cockpit. The idea behind this unorthodox and completely new arrangement was to offset airflow disturbance patterns and increase streamlining. The strange aircraft flew a number of missions, and performed surprisingly well, but the results were not convincing enough to justify service production. However, modern drones based on this aircraft design are now under development.

7. Vought V-173

Vought V-173

The Vought V-173 was developed in 1942 as a prototype vertical takeoff and landing aircraft capable of intercepting enemy fighters from an aircraft carrier. The bizarre design of the aircraft nicknamed “the flying pancake” by its test pilots consisted of an almost perfectly circular fuselage that also doubled as the machine’s wing. The two engines supported immense propellers which could only clear the ground through the use of exaggerated landing gear struts, while the power system was located in the wingtips, unlike any other aircraft ever made. Limited demand and a crash helped seal the fate of the project, but it began the lineage that led to the famous Harrier Jump Jet.

6. Bell P -39 Aircobra


Sometimes it’s best for experts to stick to what they’re good at. During the Second World War, Bell Helicopters produced a powerful, highly maneuverable fighter craft with superior strike and air to air combat skills. Most airplanes have their engines at the front, but Bell, being a helicopter company, created an airframe with the engine centered behind the cockpit. A long shaft spun the propeller at the front, but while the design offered amazing power, building an airframe around a helicopter style power source resulted in an unusual center of gravity. More enemy planes were shot down by this “sky serpent” than any other U.S. dog-fighter design used by the Soviet Air Force, but some Aircobras plummeted to their demise without so much as a shot from the enemy.

5. SR 71 Blackbird


Before the age of universal satellite technology, design specifications for a first class spy plane with unprecedented speed, endurance and the ability to reach the edge of space birthed the SR 71 Blackbird. A fearsome, almost alien ship, the SR 71 had devilish performance capabilities. But in a bizarre twist, the SR 71’s special permeable tanks would leak explosive jet fuel until the 900 plus degree Fahrenheit frictional heat caused them to seal. As it soared to altitudes of over six miles it exceeded speeds of 3,000 miles per hour,causing the surface of the aircraft to glow bright red. The hellish scene outside was no comfort to the pilot cocooned in the asbestos insulated cockpit, who would have to wait up to half an hour upon landing to avoid melted feet upon exit. Even the canopy would reach572 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Convair Pogo

The Grumman X23, or “Pogo,” represents a radical departure from the norm of aviation design, taking it past eccentricity and into full blown absurdity.  The body of the Pogo was shaped somewhat like a regular airplane, except for the rotor attached to the nose cone that lifted it vertically into the air. Unlike most “VTOL” aircraft, the Pogo took off nose first like a rocket with the wheels attached to its tailfins. The canopy pointed 90 degrees outward, causing the pilot to lie at right angles with the ground as the machine rose. The “Pogo” was supposed to then fly forward though the air once it had stabilized. Several successful test flights were made, but like many aerial misfits, the project never got far off the ground.

3. McDonnell Douglas X-15


The X-15 is an older design, but it was such a significant and anomalous leap forward it remains unsurpassed in the arena of aircraft performance.  First tested in 1959, the X-15 Rocket Plane measured 51 feet in length, with two tiny, 9 foot wing stubs on each side. A series of tests saw the plane reach altitudes of 100,000 feet, with two missions qualifying as space flights. During the aircraft’s passage through the atmosphere, the small, rocket like jet reached speeds of over six times the speed of sound. The X-15 was coated with a special nickel alloy similar to that found in natural meteorites, which prevented Planet Earth’s fastest ever machine from burning up in the atmosphere.  The X-15 defined the niche of extreme specifications with its high weight, high power and low lift.

2. Blohm und Voss BV 141

In the natural world, symmetry is the rule in everything from eyes to wings. In the reverse engineering principles nature inspires, that rule holds true for engines, fins and tails. But during World War II, in a marked departure from the norm, German aircraft engineers atDornier conceived a reconnaissance plane and light bomber with a single wing, a tail boom with an engine on one side, and right beside it, a pod to carry the pilot. Although such an arrangement would appear unbalanced, placing the pod on the right hand side of the propeller boom counteracts the torque and helps the aircraft fly straight.  Thus, this freakish flying machine not only made it off the ground, but inspired a modern sport aircraft with a similar design.

1. Caproni Ca.60 Noviplano

Consider a house boat crossed with an airplane. That was the idea behind Count Caproni’s Ca.60. This 1920 machine set the standard for bizarre multi-wing aircraft so high that even Richtofen’s Red Fokker would look definitively mundane in comparison. Measuring 70 feet in length and weighing a whopping 55 tons, Caproni’s enormous floating flying machine was built to be the first transatlantic airliner in aviation history. Borrowing from the theory that enough wings will make anything fly, the ship-like fuselage bore a stack of three wings at the front, three in the middle, and instead of a tail, a third set of three wings at the back. The unearthly machine could only be described as a triple triplane and nothing similar was ever built. Lifting off was not a problem, but the plane crash landed on its first flight after reaching a height of about 60 feet. Caproni announced that he would repair it, but the wreckage was later burned overnight.


Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 105

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 105

…“Hey look, this is the ending to Shubert’s Unfinished Symphony!” Only Cel would know that. It was underneath a brochure of the 1893 Columbian Exposition…

“The pristine state of this stuff leads me to believe that they are the originals, not poached from a crypt. Whether Egypt or Mesopotamia, these have not seen the harsh exposure of the centuries since.”

“I guess that this explains which direction they were heading?”

“Perhaps, but it seems that they have been going forth and back for a minimum of 5000 years.”

“Would you call these artifacts stolen goods?”

“They did not steal this stuff. If they had pilfering in mind, this hold would be filled with more and much of it would be gold.”


“What if gold is as common as sand is on Earth,” Sampson McKinney is skeptical as to the motives employed by such an advanced race.

“”You’ve got me there, but if you really put this into the proper perspective, why would a superior civilization bother with plunder. They may be in the midst of determining if Earth is worth the bother.” She points out some other non-Earth items. “Look at this kaleidoscope thing; have you ever seen anything like it? Or this clay creature doesn’t look like any specie I know of.”

“Alright, I’ll cut them some slack, but they have some things that may have changed the course of history, or if our archaeologists had seen this stash, pieces of unrecorded history would be easier to decipher. “

Panning the circular room in review Celeste relents, “Yes these things would set some theories on their ear, but you have to view space travelers as benevolent, until they prove otherwise. The way they have cared for it, they had intended on putting them back where they found them.”

“Your compassionate side is why we make a good team. Me and say Rick Stanley would be treating these guys like petty thieves and they are lucky to be dead. You, on the other hand, always give people the benefit of the doubt and I have to make sure you don’t take any wooden nickels. How many nickels is that Khufu equal to?’

“Nothing if their beaches are made of gold dust.”

“The Golden Strand. Kill Devil Hills North Carolina would look mighty fine right now.”

“Hey look, this is the ending to Shubert’s Unfinished Symphony!” Only Cel would know that. It was underneath a brochure of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

“The Newfoundlian equivalent to B minor probably starts up these rusty engines up……….on the count of 3………”

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 105

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 104

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 104

…“There are references to this bust, but no one has ever seen it……4500 year old solid gold.”…

Statue of Khufu in the Cairo Museum


“I just wonder, work with me here, that these Newfoundlians communicated through what we think as music?”

“TAPS is the only tune these guys were singing.”

“That is cruel Sam, after all we may be found someday, decomposed in each other’s’ arms, and I’VE GOT THE HOMESICK BLUES will be playing in the background.”

“So sorry my diminutive friends,” he backs down from his frivolous speak. “I don’t think they know what hit ‘em.”

The single most important thing that the McKinneys and the crew of the NEWFOUNDLANDER do not share, despite sharing presumably an identical environment, is Sam, Cel & bun-in-the-oven is alive and thankfully well. No killer virus present; the tried and true maxim of cause & effect has eluded the spaceship’s new tenants.

After gaining admittance to the mystery room, soft indirect lighting reveals the stowage function of the space, as Celeste had predicted. It possesses all the peculiarities of a storeroom, only without the dust that normally collects on legacy items, on a ship of this size, on a planet where dust is a staple.

Equally unique is its relative emptiness. Why is such a space on an interstellar vehicle so underutilized? The answer to that question may have to do with the muted lighting and filtered environment.

“Does this remind you of museum storage room, where incomplete dinosaur skeletons wait for missing pieces?”

At the precise moment they near some items, mostly likely activated by a motion sensor, pre-focused shafts of light appear.

“Fourth Dynasty Egyptian.”


“Are you serious,” Sam asks?

His versatile wife numbers Egyptology as an educational pursuit during her college career. “Khufu,” she single out a solid gold bust!

“God bless you.”

“Cheops to you Sam.” He was not making fun, merely his lack of similar expertise. “There are references to this bust, but no one has ever seen it……4500 year old solid gold.”

Another shaft of light is cast upon, “And what is this?”

“Another piece of the Palermo Stone, I don’t think this one has been catalogued. Do you see the similarities between Egyptian writing and the newfoundlian scrpit?”

“English grammar is confusing enough.”

“That is the Code of Hammurabi,” she points to the writing on a Diorite stone tablet, nearby, “Cuneiform writing for damn sure!!!!!!”

And though he is not as versed in Egyptian antiquity, in the manner and scope of his encyclopedic partner, he is not completely devoid of ancient historical knowledge. “The Code of Hammurabi is from 21st Century B.C. Babylon, kind of a wage scale and social ranking for old-time Near East lawmakers.”

“Very good Sammy Mac and here I thought that space had vacated your unrelated memories; there is more that g-force and time travel up in that brain of yours.”

He is used to her deriding his seeming lack of culture, not that she is entirely wrong.

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 104

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Space Family McKinney



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