Making the World a Better Place – WIF Spotlight

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People That Made

the World

a Better Place

Nowadays, giving to charity has become an almost social experience. With challenges and campaigns like “PuberMe,” the idea of giving has transformed into more of a public domain movement. As a result, the anonymity and personal nature of donating to a cause has lost most of its meaning. There are, however, many people who donate without the public spectacle. Men and women who have made the world a better place without the fanfare. Here are 10 people who made the world a better place, while their actions remained largely hidden from the spotlight…

10. Chuck Feeney

The decision to give away his fortune was easy for Chuck Feeney. When asked about his generous actions, he said, “a man can only wear one pair of pants at a time.” Which, while not technically true, is a lovely sentiment nonetheless. In the 1960s, Feeney made his fortune by setting up duty free shops at airports which soon turned into a booming business. That, coupled with many shrewd investments in technology start-ups, left him with a net worth north of $7 billion. At the age of 85, that number had dwindled down to only $2 million.

Transferring his massive wealth to Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of several different charities that he had funded, Feeney began giving away his wealth to causes and issues he felt strongly about. In the 1990s, he promised financial support for paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland if they abandoned armed conflict and accepted electoral politics. Feeney also donated to create a public health system in Vietnam as well as to provide anti-retroviral treatment for AIDS victims in South Africa. What makes Feeney’s work so commendable is that it was a business dispute that forced disclosure of his payments to Atlantic Philanthropies.

9. Richard Leroy Walters

There’s very little chance our readers know the name Richard Leroy Walters, and that’s okay. Few even knew him when he was alive. Rita Belle, one of the few who came to know Walters, learned that “he gave up all material things that we think we have to have.” Never married and estranged from his brother, Walters and Belle became friends.

She later discovered that Walters was homeless and sleeping on the grounds of the senior center. Walters would reveal to Belle that he ate at the hospital and used a telephone there or at the center. Despite being homeless, Walters was not poor. He was in fact a millionaire who would, in his will, donate millions to charities including  National Public Radio and the Catholic Church Mission. With his final act, Walters honored his friend. It was clear to Belle that he was an atheist, and she, as you probably guessed, was a Catholic.

8. Ronald Read

Like Richard Walters, Read did not show off his wealth or even give any indication that he was rich at all. The Vermont man was known for wearing a particularly tattered hat around town. A woman knitted him a replacement, fearing that it would not hold up in winter. On another occasion, his meal was paid for by another customer because it was feared he’d be unable to pay.

The truth would only be revealed after his death, when Read left Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Brooks Library $4.8 million and $1.2 million, respectively. The donations might seem random, but it was soon revealed that Read would visit the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital frequently for coffee and breakfast. It’s safe to say he paid them back for it.

7. Prince

The iconic artist of hits like “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” and “When Doves Cry” changed the world in more ways than one. Prince’s death revealed another side of him that he was careful not to publicize: his philanthropy. Van Jones, an environmentalist, was working on George W. Bush’s clean jobs act when he received an anonymous donation check for $50,000. He remembers returning it, but then weeks later getting the same check again. Unwilling to accept a check, at that price, without knowing the sender, he returned it again, only to get a call from a Prince representative.

Jones asked who the sender was, and the representative refused to say, but revealed his favorite color is purple. That’s just one example of Prince’s generosity and the manner in which he displayed it. There are countless others, like his unprompted donation to a senior center in Minnesota, his donations to the victims of the bridge collapse in his home state, and to his support for public schools purchasing musical equipment and a studio to help foster the next great musician. Prince will be missed not only for music, but for his big heart.

6. George Michael

Another musician who doubled as a philanthropist was British singer, songwriter, and record producer George Michael. Although his public life was a matter of national headlines in the UK, he kept his philanthropy under wraps and out of the newspapers. It wasn’t until his death that people came to realize how generous of a man he really was. An employee at a homeless shelter revealed that Michael worked their repeatedly but told employees not to tell anyone of his presence.

His charity also was random and spontaneous. A woman on Deal or No Deal said she needed thousands for IVK treatment. The next day she received a phone call from Michael, who offered to pay for treatment. When a waitress told him of her debt incurred trying to become a nurse, Michael tipped her £5,000. Again, she was sworn to secrecy, only revealing her mystery benefactor after his death. Probably his most generous act was his decision to give royalties from his 1996 number one single Jesus to a Child to the charity to Childline, a free counseling service for young people. Childline’s founder estimates the donation gave millions and saved thousands of lives.

5. Jack MacDonald

Jack MacDonald lived in a small, one bedroom apartment. His clothing had holes in them. In short, he didn’t live the life of a multi-millionaire. MacDonald cared about much much more important things: people. Inheriting his parent’s meat packing business, MacDonald turned his inheritance into more than 180 million dollars through prudent investments.

Throughout his life, he made anonymous donations to hundreds of organization. That continued even in death. A widower without children, MacDonald left his entire fortune to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington Law school, and the Salvation Army.

4. Roberto Clemente

Although Roberto Clemente is well known for what he did on the baseball field, his impact extends far beyond the diamond. Clemente was one of the first Latin American ball players to become a baseball star, and the native of Puerto Rico believed that he had to be a shining example to his country and people. Clemente would host baseball clinics for underprivileged children free of charge, and most notably helped deliver food to communities in need.

Unfortunately, like many of our other cases, his death is a big part of how we’d come to see Clemente’s tremendous character. After a massive earthquake caused devastation in Nicaragua, Clemente organized shipments of aid, but soon realized that corrupt officials were keeping them from reaching the victims. Under the belief that his presence would make a difference, he boarded the next plane to Nicaragua only for it to crash, killing everyone aboard. Clemente lives on in his work, with a community service award named after him in the MLB.

3. Eldon Foote

Sometimes you think you know someone, and they surprise you. There’s no better case of this than the life of Eldon Foote. The lawyer used his background to avoid paying taxes, he abandoned his family for a new romance, and even switched careers to become a marketing executive. Everything about Eldon Foote screamed that he was self-centered and egotistical.

Foote didn’t exactly have an easy life, growing up during the Depression and enlisting in the army during World War II. He returned home and got married, eventually raising five children. However, he became unhappy and not only divorced his wife, but switched careers entirely. He’d grow unhappy again, and after a contentious divorce from his second wife, Foote sold the business and married for the last time. His philanthropy began on a whim. As his hometown prepared to host a massive, international athletics event in 2001, the sports field at the University of Alberta was in dire need of refurbishment. Needing a donation of $2 million, the athletics department approached Foote, a former track athlete. Foote obliged, sending them the full amount. Soon after Foote was diagnosed with cancer, and died only a month later.

His will would reveal that he was leaving the vast majority of his net worth to charitable organizations. Foote would leave 160 million to the Edmonton Community Foundation, the largest donation the organization ever received. Foote’s family was not at all pleased by his decision. They sued, and eventually lost. The impact of Foote’s donation is still being felt in the low income neighborhoods of Edmonton.

2. George Steinbrenner

Brash and bombastic, who knew that Steinbrenner was quietly a philanthropic person? In 1992, when a hurricane laid waste to South Florida, Steinbrenner appeared at the Salvation Army central distribution center in Tampa and simply said, “Put me to work.” Steinbrenner didn’t just sit in the lobby and show his face; he helped load 500 gallons of water into the back of a 20-foot truck. Afterward, he drove six and a half hours to Homestead, and delivered the water to the victims of the hurricane. He did this all without fanfare. No cameras, no press, just Steinbrenner.

Although Steinbrenner was viewed as rash and quick to lose his temper; he was just as quick to help someone in need. He paid the funeral expenses for a family mourning their murdered son, he paid for damaged instruments of a local school band whose band room was vandalized, and when he witnessed a deaf child struggling to get an autograph he purchased the child hearing aids.

1. Julius Rosenwald

It’s a mystery as to why Julius Rosenwald has not become a household name. He didn’t even finish high school, yet he managed to become the chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Company and a life-changing philanthropist. In the early 1900s, Rosenwald gave away $62 million, which would be valued at a billion dollars today.And while the amount donated is important, what makes Rosenwald so special is who he gave the money to.

Nearly all of Rosenwald’s donations went to helping African Americans get a better education by building schools and community centers. As a Jewish man who had been the victim of discrimination, Rosenwald identified with African Americans. He did not help from afar, but was an active voice in these communities. He rallied African American communities to match the funds he had committed to build a school or community center. Their work wasn’t easy, as several schools were burned down, but that didn’t deter Rosenwald or the community. The schools were just built up again.

Rosenwald changed the lives of thousands of black children, and the example he set for his own children would save more lives still. Years later, his children and cousins saved the lives of 300 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. A Rosenwald yet again making the world just a little bit better.


Making the World

a Better Place

The NULL Solution = Episode 183

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The NULL Solution = Episode 183

…The Null are judged to be ‘not so terrible’… high praise from the high & mighty…

Immortality is a little discussed subject. It is taken for granted by Eridanians. Image result for watching the grass grow gifImmortality is like having a lawn that you never have to mow. The grass will start growing again, slowly for Cerella at first, but inevitably. It took ten years for the aging process to decline for the earthlings. Just how quickly it resumes is TBA.

There are a number of firsts involved in this cross-cultural segment of this family saga. Living forever is almost too much of a good thing, as odd as that may seem.

The lone polling place on the entire planet is Eupepsia. This means that a pilgrimage of varying degrees is in order. A 100% turnout is expected, from here to the opposite radius, such is the attraction of having a say about even the smallest of issues. ‘If you do not vote, you cannot complain about the outcome’ is a credo, not just lip service. Nonparticipants will forfeit their right to vote on the next topic, whatever that may be.

Eridanians, who have not seen one another in ages, do now. Eridanians, who have never seen a Null, thinking them a myth, meet them face-to-face during this revolutionary cycle. They are judged to be ‘not so terrible’… high praise from the high & mighty.

The only vote that really counts will be Cerella’s. It may be only one of many millions, but it will be the only one that matters. She owns her issue responsibly. She has looked at herself in a mirror with two sides. Her die is cast. Where Deke goes, she has want to follow.


The NULL Solution =

Image result for vote tally gif

Episode 183


page 177 (end Ch. 18)

 

Disneyland Days Gone By – WIF Almanac

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Disney Theme Park

Attractions That

No Longer Exist

Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, and since then, the corporation has only grown its park locations all over the world. Over 20 million people visit each of these locations every single year. So, it only makes sense that in order to keep these Disney fans coming back, improvements need to be made to the park rides and attractions. Here are 10 attractions that simply did not make the cut.

10. Videopolis

When you think of Disneyland, you probably don’t think about nightclubs. During the 1980s, Michael Eisner, the CEO of Disneyland decided that he wanted attractions that would appeal to local teenagers. At the time, season passes were only $40 all year, or $35 during summer break, with a student ID. This meant that local teens could visit Disneyland every night of the year to dance to music videos and live bands. There was even a TV show on The Disney Channel showcasing Videopolis. They also hosted a televised event called Disneyland’s Summer Vacation Party, where Disney mascots danced in the audience with the teens while listening to the very ’80s bands, Oingo Boingo, ELO.

This teen dream came crashing down, when a 15-year-old died from getting shot in the parking lot of Disneyland in 1987. For years, Studio K at Knott’s Berry Farms in Anaheim, California hosted dances every night, and it was a go-to place for high school kids, since admission was free. Disneyland quickly became designated as the place for “rich kids” to go clubbing, since it cost $40 to get in. With inflation, that is closer to $92 today, which most parents could not afford.  Local gangs decided to wait out in these parking lots, because it’s safe to guess that they were selling them something to help enhance their Disney experience, if you know what I mean. Disneyland quickly realized that this nightclub didn’t exactly align with their family values, and decided to end Videopolis in 1989. Today, the theater is used for family-friendly performances.

9. The Great Movie Ride

This ride was a collaboration between Disney and Turney Classic Movies at Disney World in Orlando, Florida that began in 2015, and expired in 2017. Guests sat in a car that was guided through sets that were made to look like classic movies like Singin’ in the RainThe Wizard of OzThe Public Enemy, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. They were all complete with their own animatronic “actors” that play out famous scenes. Audience members sat in a moving car for 18 minutes.

While the ride was iconic, the movies that were included may have been unknown to young children who were visiting Disney World. Surely, Turner Classic Movies was hoping to entice people to tune in to watch these classics, but maybe they didn’t get the views they were hoping for. The attraction is being replaced with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which combines an animated film and real-life changing sets. It truly does look like it will be stunning, and it is officially scheduled to premiere in 2018.

8. The Peoplemover and the Rocket Rods

In the 1960s, Tomorrowland was a showcase of how Disney Imagineers saw the future. One ride that guests absolutely loved was called The Peoplemover. Slow-moving cars go along tracks that are built throughout all of Tomorrowland. The ride never stopped, and people got on and off so efficiently, that there were never a very long line.

When they revamped the look of the Tomorrowland park, they decided that the Peoplemover just wasn’t “cool” enough for their new style in Disney World Orlando. They kept the old tracks, and added a new ride called The Rocket Rods. Each rocket-shaped vehicle could only take a few people at a time. The ride sped up, and then slowed down at every turn. Wait times in line were nearly two hours long, and guests were very underwhelmed by the entire experience.

Not only was the concept a bust, but only a few weeks after opening the ride, it had to be shut down for three months of repairs.  Even when it reopened again, the ride needed to be shut down for repairs at least once a day, and the concrete tracks supporting the ride were beginning to crumble. In the year 2000, the ride closed down completely, but the tracks are still there, gathering dust.

7. America Sings

In order to celebrate the upcoming Bicentennial 200-year anniversary of The United States, Disneyland opened the attraction America Sings in 1974. It was a musical show set on a rotating stage. Animatronic animals moved along with a recording of songs from American history. Once the song was done, the stage would move, and new animatronics would appear.

After only a few months of the attraction’s existence, a young woman named Deborah Gail Stone was working at Disneyland part-time as a hostess. She leaned back in her chair while the rotating stage was changing, and it crushed her head. Deborah’s family tried to sue Disneyland for their daughter’s death, but they lost the lawsuit, because leaning back in her chair was against safety procedure. The attraction continued for over 10 years, but since it was really meant to celebrate the Bicentennial, there was no need to keep the creepy robot party going for so long. It eventually shut down in 1988, and it was never reopened.

6. Superstar Limo

The ride Superstar Limo put park guests in the position of being the hottest new Hollywood star. A moving car begins at the Los Angeles Airport, and makes its way through famous locations, past some caricatures of famous movie stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, and Tim Allen, and ends at The Chinese Theater.  The artistic style looked more like scene out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? than a Disney park ride.

It opened at Disney’s California Adventure in 2001, and while some people enjoyed it, the majority of guests were confused. Some people were downright offended, specifically because the ride actually recommends getting tattoos, which is understandable troubling for some parents. In fact, Superstar Limo got such a negative reaction from local newspapers and park guests, that it was closed down after less than a year.

5. Maelstrom

The Maelstrom ride took guests on a viking ship, floating past characters from Norwegian folk tales and legends, including a three-headed troll, a sea dragon, and…polar bears? It ends with guests walking around an indoor replica of a Norwegian fishing village. There is a 5-minute long movie at the end called The Spirit of Norway, which gave an overview of what life in Norway was like.

It opened in 1988, and lasted until 2013, when Disney released the plans to rehabilitate it into Frozen Ever After. Considering that the locations in the movie Frozen were inspired by Norway, the boat and the surrounding theme did not need to be changed very much. The Fishing village became the town square of Arendelle. Guests still board a boat, only this time, they see animatronic characters from the Frozen movies. The technology used in both rides is relatively the same, but the guests are far happier with Frozen Ever After than they were with Maelstrom.

4. Body Wars

There was a section of Disney World’s Epcot called Wonders of Life pavilion that was built to educate people on the human body, and encourage health and fitness. It was completely sponsored by MetLife Insurance, who paid to have their company’s name plastered everywhere.The most popular attraction in The Wonder of Life was Body Wars.

Guests were “shrunk down” inside of a ship, which moved as they watched a film about a group of scientists exploring the inner workings of the human body. The film was directed by Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock in the original Star Trek series. So, it’s no wonder why it was successful.  While there were plenty of other things to do at the Wonders of Life pavilion, Body Wars was by far one of the go-to attractions in Epcot in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

When Disney lost their partnership with MetLife, the attraction slowly began to lose more and more of its sections, due to the major budget cuts. Eventually, the Pavilion was converter for the annual Food and Wine Festival.

3. Submarine Voyage

In the 1950s, submarines were still a very new technology, and the public was fascinated by them. So, it only made sense when Walt Disney wanted to include Submarine Voyage in Tomorrowland. During the 1960s, they even hired local teenage girls to swim around as live mermaids. The mermaids were obviously the most popular part of the attraction. According to former park employees, people would throw money out to the mermaids as tips, and one time, a young man from the Navy jumped into the water so he could swim out to their tanning rock to hang out with the mermaid girls. Security eventually had to fish him out, of course.

The park eventually realized there were multiple safety issues with the mermaids, including the fact that many girls say they could feel themselves getting sucked into the propellers. They were no longer part of the experience in 1967. The ride lasted until 1998, when it was eventually shut down. In 2007, it was reimagined as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

2. Alien Encounter

The “ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter” – or Alien Encounter for short – was an attraction in Walt Disney World park in Orlando, Florida. The storyline of the attraction surrounded an alien corporation called X-S Tech. The ride used air, lights, and surround sound in the seats to scare guests into believing that an alien monster had escaped inside of the room.

Adults and teenagers loved this ride, and it gained a true cult following of fans who revisited the ride every year. However, it made many parents angry, because they believed it was far too scary for kids. The ride ran from 1995 to 2003, until it was shut down, and reimagined as Stitch’s Great Escape.

1. Big Thunder Ranch

At Big Thunder Ranch, the most exciting thing you would find was… a cow. Yes, a cow. Its name was “Micky Moo”, because of the Micky-mouse shaped patches on its fur. The attraction was built in 1986 as a Western-style petting zoo and Barbecue restaurant. There was an old fashioned blacksmith demonstration, but beyond that, there wasn’t much to do at Big Thunder Ranch.

In 1998, the space was renovated into The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Festival of Fools. Strangely enough, they brought Big Thunder Ranch back in 2004, only this time, characters from the not-so-popular Disney movie Home on the Range was incorporated, so at least the second time around, it made a little more sense. However, it was closed down a second time in 2016 to make way for Star Wars Land. Which, we can all agree, is probably going to be a slightly more popular attraction.


Disneyland Days Gone By –

WIF Almanac

The NULL Solution = Episode 109

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The NULL Solution = Episode 109

…A modicum of equality will have to do for now…

CHAPTER TEN

Snail’s Pace

Promises are meant to be kept.

Some are deferred.

Skaldic the Null willingly added his Null-ness to the Gifted, with the promise of parity for his people. Ekcello had done his level best to bridge the gap between the Gifted and the Null. However he has not the final word in the matter.

For cycles immemorial, never the tween did meet. The Null had their tower and that was that. Their needs were met more than adequately. And life was good – just happens to be better for the Gifted majority. As in most societies, the majority rules and the majority of Eridanian Gifted believe elevating Skaldic to Gifted status is quite enough. An extra portion of special grog is appropriated for everyone else. Certainly that will do.

Skaldic does not partake in grog, just as he has resisted the temptation of hookah. His judgement is sound and his commitment to his people is as clear as his new robes are white. You can lavish the emperor with new clothes, but you cannot water down what is underneath.

As a small concession, the Null are allowed to roam the planet at certain times in a cycle, not that there is anything fantastic to do outside their tower, but they are allowed to mingle and observe the Gifted way; an unwritten code of conduct unenforced at Null Tower. Little things, like bowing out of common courtesy, not worship and not speaking in the Olde Language, especially not out of tune, are expected behaviors.

In exchange, the Gifted have been instructed to respect the Null and aid them in the indoctrination. Most family units actually have ancestors among the Null population. The difference between the two cultures is esoteric.

A modicum of equality will have to do for now. The Towers were not built in a day.

Just as some riddles are meant to be solved. Some are not.

 


The NULL Solution =

Episode 109


page 108

The NULL Solution = Episode 107

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The NULL Solution = Episode 107

…Either we bring down the veil of the Gifted or the Null are lifted to Gifted status…

A segment of Eridanian society had seized the opportunity to lift & separate from the rest of the population; to be Gifted, with all the privileges that they built into it.

The Null had been intentionally stunted, the details of which may never be admitted.

“Holy donkey dung!” back to Sam’s brass tacks. “”I bet you need the “Null inside you” to make TSF work, am I correct?”

“The Null possess the spirit of ingenuity. In order to repress the urge for exploration, the Gifted have lost their way. “

“But you guys can do that transmigration thing.”

“Hyperphysical transmigration is all in the mind. It is not rooted in the tangible physics required to be anything other than an apparition.”

“But you went to Earth and fixed the Stellar Explorer. That molecular stabilizer took hands-on doing…”

“That work was done outside the timestem. We cannot exist in real-time while utilizing our minds.” The nuts & bolts of space-time are complicated. “There are two possible solutions to TSF problem. It is apparent that I cannot be the final judge of which will come to pass. Either we bring down the veil of the Gifted or the Null are lifted to Gifted status.”

“I have a perfect solution, a lucky silver coin that my granddad gave me, an 1873 Liberty dollar,” he produces it from the pocket where it is always kept. “I can flip it; Heads the Null win. Tails you lose.”

“Intriguing concept, but this is an Eridanus issue. It will be settled between respective leaders. What say you Skaldic?”

Skaldic is a practical individual. Deep down, he has regretted spurning his Giftedness, not for any good reason other than a longing for fairness. Now that he has been around Gifted-land and is witness to its failings, he is not sure who is truly better off. Just as, in the case of his stance on Null access to hookah, he must make the proper decision for the people he represents. They trust him.

Likened to the transcendent state that is derived from the hookah, he comes to the best conclusion.

“I will join the ranks of the Gifted on one condition; that the status of the Null will not be set aside, as it has been conveniently ignored for too long.”

“It seems we lack the life-force that only you can provide. Should you agree, the NULL will become part of us. The path of Eridanus will be made whole once again.”

“Geez, Skaldy, bite the bullet and join the party. If you can breathe life into Defender then do it!”

“Time is a wasting, right Sammy Mac?” Skaldic picks up on the spirit of this moment.

“Now we’re cooking with gas Ekcello!” Sam’s idioms have that old-fashioned feel to them. For those not of Earth, well…..

The compromising Eridanian eldest of all elders will never fully understand Sampson-speak/lingo; yet another skill only Skaldic has mastered. —


The NULL Solution =

Episode 107


page 107

The NULL Solution = Episode 106

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The NULL Solution = Episode 106

…Have you been holding back Ekcello; is there something you’re not telling us…

“All the mechanicals, the circuits, the guts are intact,” the Epsilon Eridani chapter of The Space Family McKinney has combed through Defender’s TSF issue, leaving no stone unturned. Deke, Sam and Celeste have attacked the retrieved schematics with the greatest urgency.

Skaldic has his own theories about the whole situation, including the riddle, but he has been conditioned to keep things to himself.

Not a single soul looks forward to a “real time” rescue mission.

Try as they might, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put TSF together again.

Frustration and impatience is bleeding into the faithful. “Are you sure this is all of it? There has to be something missing Ekcello.” One simulation after another has failed to attain that time-space-compression magic.

The shine is wearing off the Eridanian mystique. Ekcello himself has been reduced to regretting the decision to mothball the tangible wings of a long-gone generation. Panic is setting into a previously panic-free zone.

The Keeper may have been paying closer attention. “Did not XAT tell us there is an unquantified essence to TSF?”

Have you been holding back Ekcello? Is there something you’re not telling us? My God, you may never see Cerella back here on Eridanus, is that what you want?” Sampson McKinney will present you with the brass tacks.

In order to completely reinstate TSF, Ekcello must hearken back to the time when there was no difference between the Gifted and the Null.

And so it is retold by the most Gifted of all: The complete and sordid story of how one class of citizen represses another. In the days when spaceflight was abandoned, a segment of Eridanian society seized the opportunity to lift & separate from the rest; to be Gifted, with all the privileges that they built into it.

The Null had been intentionally stunted, the details of which may never have been admitted.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 106


page 107

Grim Archaeology – WIF Almanac

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Grim Archaeological

Discoveries

With archaeology, we are able to take a peek into the past. Ancient texts, though revealing, often times are subjective, written by conquerors and victors, skewing the facts to make themselves appear in a more positive light. But ancient relics, buried deep in the ground by time or people, tell a more complete story of what happened hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.

 With the help of archaeology, scientists and historians can slowly piece together the story of humanity and the planet itself. And as these things often are, long forgotten secrets can sometimes be scary, if not downright gruesome. Here are 10 such grim archaeological discoveries.

10. The First Recorded Boomerang Victim – Australia

Even though we tend to think of boomerangs as toys to be thrown around, they are in fact deadly weapons with which the Aboriginals have been hunting and killing for thousands of years. In 2014, in Australia’s Toorale National Park, on the banks of the Darling River, a skeleton belonging to an Aboriginal was discovered by a local man. Knowing it to belong to one of his ancestors, William Bates, an Aboriginal himself, named him Kaakutja – “older brother” in the Baakantji language. Taking a closer look, Mr. Bates noticed a gash over Kaakutja’s right eye, extending all the way to his jaw. It first appeared as if the skull was struck by an iron blade, with the skeleton belonging to one of the many victims of frontier violence from the time of British colonization of Australia.

However, on closer inspection by Michael Westaway, a paleoanthropologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, it was discovered that this was not the case. In fact, Kaakutja lived some 500 years before the British ever set foot on the continent, and that the man was in his 20s or 30s when he died. Moreover, several other signs of trauma were discovered all over the skeleton, marks which were made by a wooden object, rather than a metal sword. Scientists were puzzled at first since no one had ever seen trauma such as this in Australia’s entire archaeological history. While several of the other wounds came from a Lil-lil, a wooden club made to look and perform like an ordinary axe, the gash on his face was clearly from a battle boomerang. When found, Kaakutja was lying on his right side in a tightly curled up position and with his mouth wide open. These all indicate a gruesome and violent death sometime between 1260 and 1280 AD.

9. The First Victims of War – Kenya

War was always believed to have appeared onto the world stage alongside agriculture and animal husbandry, when mankind renounced its hunter-gatherer lifestyle and opted for a more sedentary way of life. This is also the time when wealth and belongings beyond one’s immediate needs came into existence, and also when it became profitable for a person to own another. These, of course, don’t rule out the occasional individual murders among various families. They refer to actual wars between groups of hunter-gatherers without a strict social hierarchy system, which were believed to be virtually nonexistent. This notion, however, may have been turned on its head when a group of 27 skeletons were found on the edge of Lake Turkana, Kenya, in 2012.

Dating back to between 9,500 and 10,500 years ago, these 27 bodies of men, women, and children, all showed signs of blunt force trauma and projectile wounds. One of the women had both her knees broken, was lying on her side, and with her wrists in front as if they were once bound together. This large number of skeletons found together rule out the notion of any small-scale feud between prehistoric families, suggesting that these people belonged to a sizable hunter-gatherer group, some of which may have escaped death in this particular conflict.

These gruesome findings have lead archaeologists to believe that these people were members of a somewhat large, semi-nomadic tribe of hunter-gatherers who settled the banks of Lake Turkana. This was not so uncommon since lakes acted as both a stable water source, as well as ensuring a constant influx of wild game suitable for hunting. “Violence is a pretty ubiquitous part of the human behavioral repertoire,” said Robert Foley, anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. “Having said that, so too is altruism, cooperation, and caring.”

8. The Pit of Death – France

Close to the border with Germany, in a French village known as Bergheim, a circular pit dating to around 6,000 years ago was discovered back in 2012. It contained the remains of eight people, and seven severed left arms, among other hand fragments. Circular pits like this one were common all throughout Central and Western Europe during Neolithic times, but none contained such grisly examples of human savagery. These cylindrical pits may have been used as storage silos or as graves for high-ranking individuals, though scholars aren’t entirely sure and still debate the issue. It is also a possibility that slaves or relatives were killed in order to accompany the buried noble into the afterlife. But this seems to not have been the case here.

This particular 6.5 foot deep pit became the final resting place for two men, one woman and four children, which may have been the victims of a raid, or some sort of violent encounter. Their bodies were already piled over several left arms, hand fragments and severed fingers, which appeared to have been hacked off with axes. Their origin or purpose is unknown, but some speculate that these were some sort of trophies. One of the severed limbs belonged to a child no older than 16, while one of the bodies was of an infant. The deepest skeleton belonged to a middle-aged man who also had his left arm cut off, as well as several other wounds which most likely proved fatal. One later addition to the pile, a woman, was added some almost 700 years later, but she showed no signs of a violent death or trauma.

7. Mass Graves from the Great Rebellion – England

Wanting to build a café next to its library back in 2013, Durham University began construction with some preliminary excavations. But soon after work began, it came to an abrupt halt when they came across something believed to be forever lost. Two mass graves were uncovered, holding the bodies of over 1,700 Scottish soldiers who had been taken as prisoners of war after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell in his Civil Wars for the British Crown. The battle, which took less than an hour, was fought between Cromwell’s parliamentarian army and the untrained Scottish Covenanters, who supported Charles II’s claims to the Scottish throne.

Over an area of less than 11 square feet, up to 28 bodies were uncovered, belonging to boys of ages between 13 and 25. The lack of any healed signs of trauma on the skeletons indicate that these soldiers didn’t have much experience in waging war, and most of them probably died of starvation, dysentery or exhaustion. In the aftermath of the battle only about 100 Englishmen perished while some 3,000 Scotsmen were killed and another 6,000 were taken prisoner. Those who were too sick or wounded, some 1,000 soldiers in total, were set free, while the others were taken on a 100-mile-long march from Dunbar to Durham. Another 1,000 boys died along the way. Others escaped, while some were executed for trying to do so. The remaining 3,000 were imprisoned in the then-disused Durham cathedral and castle.

During their time in captivity, some 1,700 died and were then tipped into these two pits, which were located at the far end of the castle’s grounds. Other mass graves may also exist, but they’re most likelyunder the University. DNA analysis has revealed that most of the soldiers were from Scotland, while a few were Dutchmen, also part of the Scottish army at the time.

6. Incan Child Sacrifice to the Gods – Argentina

Back in 1985, a group of mountaineers, while on a hike high up in the Andes near Cerro Aconcagua, at an altitude of about 17,400 feet, came across a partially unearthed mummy. As it turns out, the remains belonged to a 6 or 7-year old Incan boy who lived some 500 years ago. Moreover, later research revealed that the boy was sacrificed as part of a ritual known as capacocha. The ritual involved children of great physical beauty who would act as messengers to the gods in times of important events. Events like a volcanic eruption, the death of an Emperor, an epidemic, a great military victory, or defeat. These children were gathered from all across the Incan Empire, drugged and then left to die of exposure to the elements, high in the mountains. Whether these children were taken by force, or offered willingly by their parents, is unknown and still debated today.

Whatever the case may be, the Aconcagua boy, as he came to be known, proved to be even more important to scientists than previously believed. His DNA analysis placed him as a direct descendant of the people who crossed into the Americas over the Bering Land Bridge more than 18,000 years ago. This initial group of peoples was called C1b. However, the boy didn’t belong to any previously identified, genetically distinct subgroups of peoples from C1b, and was dubbed as C1bi. His subgroup most likely emerged in the Andes some 14,000 years ago, proving that people moved south relatively fast over North America, once they crossed into the New World. To date, only four other individuals have been identified as belonging to this group. Three are currently living in Peru and Bolivia, while another lived during the ancient Wari Empire, which flourished from 600 to 1000 AD.

5. The Shackled Skeletons – Greece

Back in the 7th century BC, the ancient city state of Athens was shaken to its very core after an aristocrat and Olympic Games victor, Cylon, attempted to occupy the Acropolis and establish a dictatorial government. Fortunately, his coup d’état failed, forcing some of Cylon’s followers to take refuge in the Temple of Athena; a place considered sacred and a safe haven for all those inside. In order to break the stalemate, Megacles, archon of Athens, promised them safe passage under truce. The insurgents then came out, but holding on to a rope tied to the altar. Once outside, the rope was cut and Megacles quickly shouted that the goddess had forsaken the rebels and ordered his men to attack. In the aftermath of his treachery, Megacles was convicted for wrongfully killing Cylon’s supporters and was then exiled from the city, along the entire Alcmaeonid family of which he was part.

Now archeologists think they might have discovered some of the bodies of these slaughtered rebels, four miles away from Athens, in the port city of Phalaeron. The 80 skeletons, 36 of which had their hands bound in iron shackles, were discovered by accident while working on the new National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. Some vases found among the bodies have pinpointed the massacre between 650 to 625 BC, in accordance with Cylon’s Coup of 635 BC. However, Athens was experiencing a tumultuous period at the time with several riots, crop failures and struggles for power. These make it difficult to certainly identify these men as Cylon’s rebels. Nevertheless, their position at the moment of death indicates that they were buried with respect. Even though their deaths were violent, and many had their hands shackled above their heads, they weren’t thrown inside without consideration, as one might expect to find slaves or common criminals from that period.

4. A Man Rose from the Grave – Ireland

A fierce storm hit northwest Ireland, close to the Atlantic coast in May, 2015. The storm uprooted a two-century-old beech tree, which held a gruesome secret tangled in its roots. A thousand year-old skeleton was literally raised from the grave when the tree collapsed on one side, exposing its bones for the world to see. As it turns out, the skeleton belonged to a 17 to 20 year-old Gaelic man who lived in Ireland sometime between 1030 and 1200 AD. More disturbing is the fact that the body presented signs of trauma on his ribs and hands, which may have been inflicted by a knife or blade of some sort.

Though ripped in half when the tree fell, the initial east-west position of the body would indicate that the man received a proper Christian burial. At 5.8 feet, the boy probably belonged to a relatively wealthy family, able to afford a more nutritious diet for his above average height at the time. Now, there is no way of knowing if he died in battle or during a personal dispute, but archaeologists are fairly certain that he was of true Irish descent since thy believe the burial took place before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

3. A Debt Collection Gone Terribly Wrong – Romania

Throughout much of their medieval history, the three Eastern European principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania of present-day Romania were either under complete control, or vassals to their neighboring empires such as the Ottoman Turks or Austrians. And always, rulership of these principalities under foreign government influence came at a price. In 1593, Prince Michael bought his place on the throne of Wallachia from the Turks. Two years later he would start a rebellion against the Ottomans, the outcome of which would ensure him the title as one of Romania’s most famous historical heroes and the byname of Michael the Brave.

But while he was waging a military campaign across the banks of the Danube River to the south, conquering fortresses and consolidating his borders, three Turkish janissaries, either military commanders or elite Ottoman infantry, were being brutally murdered in the Wallachian capital city of Bucharest. These three are believed to have been the men who provided Prince Michael with the necessary money to secure his place as ruler of Wallachia, and now were looking to collect on that debt. What happened to them next was in a story of savagery worthy of Vlad the Impaler’s countrymen.

While under renovations in 2010 and 2011, Bucharest’s University Square finally unveiled its gruesome secret. The area also contained a cemetery with 688 bodies dating back to between the 16th and 19thcenturies, but the three mangled skeletons were found some distance away, thrown in a pit and covered with all sorts of animal remains, bricks and pottery shards. This debris, however, helped archaeologists date the unmarked grave to around the end of the 16th century, the same time when the previously mentioned events were taking place.

But the most gruesome part about this discovery was the multiple physical signs of trauma these men endured just before their deaths. One man suffered a fractured collarbone, ribs, wrist, kneecap, hips, spine, and skull. Another suffered a total 18 wounds, while the third also had a musket ball in his neck, an arrowhead in one of his ribs, along with a viciously cracked skull. Many of their wounds were around the face area, and most blows came from the front, with both swords and projectile weapons. Two of the men were even partially beheaded. Archaeologists can’t, of course, be absolutely sure if these skeletons belonged to those three moneylenders or not. But they are, however, certain that the men were Turkish. Otherwise, the locals would have given them a Christian burial.

2. Exploratory Voyage Turned Desperate Fight for Survival – Canada

As part of the ongoing European expeditions to find a western shortcut to Asia, John Franklin, an English Royal Navy officer and explorer, embarked on his fourth and final exploratory voyage of the Arctic, trying to find a way around the Canadian Archipelago and onto the Pacific Ocean. On the morning of May 19, 1845, two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, with a total crew of 24 officers and 110 men, set sail from Greenhithe, England, never to be seen again. The first two years of the expedition went on without a hitch and made it all the way to King William Island in northern Canada. But as the 1846 winter began to set it, the water froze and the ships got entrenched in the ice. As an experienced Arctic explorer, Franklin was aware of this possibility and provisioned his ships accordingly. But the following summer came and went, and the ice didn’t melt, keeping the ships stranded.

Franklin and two dozen other men died during this period, forcing the remaining explorers to abandon their ships and attempt a 1,000-mile-long trek through the frozen Canadian wilderness to the nearest Hudson Bay trading post. But as the men would soon realize, their journey would have a bitter ending, none of them making it even a fifth of the way there. Between 1847 and 1859, Lady Franklin, with the aid of the British Admiralty, personally funded over 30 expeditions in search of her husband and his crew, but to no avail. Search missions continued well into the 19th and early 20th centuries, gradually finding evidence that would piece together the gruesome events that happened.

Over the years, scientists found more and more skeletal remains belonging to the crew, with clear signs of cut marks on many of the bones. These are indicative of acts of cannibalism, showing a glimpse at the extremely dire situation those men were in. Some bones had signs of breakage, revealing that even the marrow was extracted, in an attempt to get the last bits of calories and nutrition possible. Both wrecked ships have been discovered in recent years, once and for all solving the mystery of the Arctic’s most tragic expedition.

1. Demons and Sickles – Poland

Our mythology has no shortage of monsters, demons, or evil spirits lurking in the shadows and out to get those still living. Medieval Europe is no exception, and this can clearly be seen in a 17th century cemetery in northwestern Poland. Since 2008, archaeologists have been digging up the 400-year-old cemetery near the village of Drawsko, exposing more than 250 skeletons. And to their surprise, five of them were buried with iron sickles across their necks or hips. Two women in their 30s, a man in his early 40s, and a teenage girl were all sporting an iron sickle tightly across their necks. Another, older woman, probably in her 50s or 60s, had a sickle across her pelvis. These discoveries initially led some to believe it to be a case of “vampires rising from the grave” and the sickles were there to prevent that from happening. However, other scientists have concluded that this was not precisely the case, though “demons” were still involved.

Poland in the 1600s was going through a tumultuous period, riddled with wars, famine, pestilence and poverty. Death was commonplace throughout the country, and even though devoutly Christian, the population often times turned to pagan beliefs, witchcraft and superstitions in an attempt to make sense of the horrific events taking place all around them. Those who died swiftly of a disease, without receiving the proper rituals for entering the afterlife, or those who suffered a violent death, were viewed at “great risk of demonization.” But unlike true “vampire” burials, these people received a proper Christian funeral, were not mutilated, and were mingled with the other deceased members of the community, with their heads pointing westward. Radiocarbon dating has also shown them to be of local origin, since dead foreigners were often seen as potential vampires. These sickles, then, acted as possible wards against evil spirits for both the living and the dead.


Grim Archaeology

WIF Almanac