Monday, January 03, 2005

First Edition

As this is a sort of 'daily journal' I decided to post some observations here and not annoy friends and relatives with my constant barrage of what are known in our circle as "random neural firings". If you don't know what that means, just recall riding in an airliner, subway or bus seated next to someone whose every thought comes spewing out of their mouth for your enlightenment regardless of your level of interest! Caveat emptor complete...

I was surprised yesterday evening to see the History channel run a two hour special, "The True Story of Hannibal". I was even more shocked when I learned it was more accurate and even handed than any other such special I had seen before on this historical character. I do find fault with that choice of the story of Hannibal as a boy, making the famous oath swearing "eternal hatred of Rome" - well there are two versions of this boyhood oath; one from a Roman, the other from a Roman-loving Greek, both enemies of all things Carthaginian but to different degrees. Livy has the "hatred" version, but Polybius gives us a more believable story, in his version Hannibal swears "never to be a friend to the Romans" which makes more sense. At least this TV special did have an actor with an eye patch and did not dress him up like some Persian king, like the last History channel "special" on Hannibal. More on this fellow later though.

Tonight, we had a couple of interesting programs. The first was the UFO files - well now, do you believe those are all phony, or occurring only in the heads of the witnesses? The UFO phenomenon and its various bizarre facets are one of my favorite mysteries, and you will find more from me on this subject in future.

The other program I found interesting was the Unsolved History episode on the Science channel - this was on the great Chicago fire of 1871 and the story of Mrs. O'Leary's cow. They made an excellent case to show that Mrs. O'Leary is not the most likely suspect here, but Daniel "Pegleg" Sullivan. Mrs' O'Leary admitted having gone out to her barn late that evening for a late customer wanting milk, but swore that she did not leave her kerosene lantern in the barn where (according to investigators at the time) her cow accidently kicked the lantern over and set fire to the barn. Sullivan had visited the O'Learys that evening and stopped in the barn, then went across the street where he said he sat down and smoked his pipe. He then claimed he saw the fire and ran back to try to save the animals, and did succeed in saving one cow and a calf. Well the U.H. did find that Sullivan could not have seen the fire unless it had broken through the wall of the barn, by which time there was no way he could have "run" (on his peg leg) back and gotten any livestock out alive. It is unlikely he deliberately set the fire, but a probable scenario is that he dropped a match or live coal from his pipe, and the fire caught - so he frantically tried to save the animals and later came up with the story to avoid being blamed for a fire which consumed more than 3000 acres of buildings and killed over 100 people.

A really crummy day here today, rain and fog with absolutely no sun at all. I should not complain about it, since at least we are not hip deep in snow with below zero temperatures, but what a thin slice of luck.
Even the horses seemed unhappy about the day, hanging around and loafing in the barn.
"We must find a way, or we will make one." --Hannibal Barca


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