Friday, May 23, 2008

Another Video: Saint-Saens & Seahorses

Some time ago I watched an episode of The Simpsons. There was some incidental music playing during the show and I watched the closing credits closely to see what it was. All I could catch was the composer - Camille Saint-Saens. I recognized the name. But danged if I could figure out the title of the piece.

About two months ago I watched a PBS Nature show about the Seahorse. And, guess what? Yep, the same music was playing, only this time the music wasn't credited at all, Crap!

Oops! Sorry.

Then, a few weeks ago, I caught the same Simpsons episode and this time I saw the title of the piece. It came from a longer work called, "Carnival of the Animals", and the piece I was enraptured by was called, "Aquarium".

I knew I had to use it on a video. So I spent some time hunting down the 2-and-a-half minute piece of music, then went looking for images to use. The music would work with so many images: rainfall, waterfalls, streams, spooky scenes, and so on. But I finally decided to go with Underwater images, and ... Seahorses. Why not, right?

So using Photo Story 3 for Windows I put this little video together. And I like it! Oh, I'm sure I could have done better with it, but, we're not really editing here, are we? Hah!

Now I've had problems with Blogger and video uploads, so this may not work. But if it does, enjoy. 2:30 of images and haunting, bitter-sweet music.

Sit back and relax, Folks. Here is benning's version of "Seahorses".

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Obama Thursday: Is He Serious?

Barack Obama, linked to quite a few unsavory characters, including a racist, conspiracy-theorist Pastor, and an unrepentant terrorist from the 60s Weather Underground, continues to mis-step, mis-speak, and wander into corners from which he cannot escape. Now there's a suspicion that his church, the one headed, until recently, by the racist, conspiracy-theorist Pastor aforementioned, as a part of the United Church of Christ, has been using its tax-exempt monies to support Obama's candidacy. Something that is illegal, not to mention unethical. It's also something that would call for swift punishment were this a Republican candidate being so supported.

From "Obama's Sword of Damocles", at the Velvet Hammer blog:
[...] The Democratic Party then had to persuade the New Jersey Supreme Court to bypass the deadline for ballot changes to replace Toricelli with Frank Lautenberg. It is more than likely that the Democrats will find themselves in the same situation this year if Obama becomes the nominee, because of Obama's questionable use of the United Church of Christ's tax exempt resources to support his campaign. The Internal Revenue Service is currently investigating Obama's church and, depending on when it announces its findings, it will render Obama unelectable or (should he be elected before the IRS announces its findings), leave him with a crippled and scandal-ridden Presidency.

Obama does find interesting ways to get his hands on money, doesn't he? His dealings with Tony Rezko, in Chicago, are still being investigated, though the MSM seems uninterested. As usual, they are not doing their jobs, but continuing to act as cheerleaders and shields for Barack Obama. No wonder Hillary Clinton seems shocked at the protection Obama's been getting from the MSM. It used to be focused around the Clintons. Now she's been utterly abandoned.

Huckabee Christmas MessageObama's use of a religious image, just before the Kentucky Primaries, is a little unsettling. Mike Huckabee caught the wrath of the MSM/Democrats when his Christmas message had what appeared to be a cross in the background (it was a bookshelf, artfully filmed to show it as a cross.). It may have been a tad tasteless in the middle of a primary campaign to pull that sort of 'subliminal' nonsense. But after all a cross in a Christmas message fits. A Christian symbol in a Christian Festival message.

Behold! Obamessiah! Click to enlarge!But Obama's add was nothing subliminal at all. It was 'in-your-face', bold, obvious. And the message could not have been clearer. Obama was telling those White, gun-holding, Bible-thumping hicks that he is a Christian! A proud Christian. Nothing to be scared of; nothing to worry about!

Unethical, immoral, and tasteless is what the ad was. But I am not surprised. Not by anything the Obama campaign does. Listening, when I can stomach it, to a speech by Obama, his error-laden message makes me cringe. His outright lies are ignored by the media. And his supporters don't care. He's the Second Coming and you are a racist if you don't support him, too.

Obama may be the first viable 'black' candidate to run for President of the USA, but he's not a viable candidate to a lot of people. And it has nothing to do with his color. It has everything to do with his lack of judgment, his poor understanding of economics, his paucity of knowledge of the history of the USA. Even his comments using Biblical Scripture show a bizarre grasp of Christianity, much less Theology.

Obama's led a fairly sheltered life. He spent much of his formative years away from the United States of America, in Indonesia, or far from the mainland in Hawaii. He was placed in expensive prep schools, which further moved him away from his peers. Then off to Law school. His schooling gave him nothing in the way of a firm grasp on American life. Instead it taught him how to act like the privileged lad he was.

So, Obama may be a very educated man, but he isn't the smartest. For all the crap thrown on George W. Bush in his political life - from friends and foes alike - he managed to graduate from Yale and Harvard, build a very successful life, and win the Governorship of Texas and the Presidency of the United States of America. He did that with hard work, determination, and even quite a bit of intelligence, despite what his detractors wish. GWB is not the best President we've ever had. But he's been honest. Unlike WJClinton, JECarter - a very prolific liar. (Read the Hawkins interview with Robert Novak) - RMNixon, LBJohnson, and many more. Obama can't come close to GWB's level of honesty or principles.

And guess what? Obama is running against GWBush - who isn't running. That is when Obama can tear himself away from lying about John McCain. Maybe Obama believes what he's saying. Maybe he's being told things that aren't true and passing them off as fact. But he needs to find someone who will speak truth to him rather than stroke his immense ego. As the Roman Conqueror would be told as he rode through the streets of Rome in triumph: "All Fame is fleeting."

Obama needs to find the Truth. And stop being the puppet fo the insidious, power-hungry Left. Until then I will never vote for him. His color notwithstanding.

Enough of that. Here are some more amusing items about the Obamessiah.

Unhappy Brack: Barack OgrumpyBarack Obama: gaffe Machine, at Michelle Malkin’s blog, is a scary list of some of the errors of thought that continue to plague BO. I suggest you reacquaint yourself with BO's problems with the real world, if you still have any questions about him. While there, read the comments, too. I did. And I found some funnies, including these:

Comment by heroyalwhyness at Michelle Malkin, following a Obama's 'gaffe' post:
"email funny"

A teacher in Elmira , New York , who is an Obama supporter, asked her 4th grade class,'How many of you are Obama fans?' Not really knowing what an Obama fan is, but wanting to be liked by the teacher, all the kids raised their hands, except for Little Johnny.

The teacher asked Little Johnny why he has decided to be different?

Little Johnny said, 'Because I'm not an Obama fan.'

The teacher asked, 'Why aren't you an Obama fan?'

Johnny said, 'Because I'm a Republican.' The teacher asked him why he's a Republican.

Little Johnny answered, 'Well, my Mom's a Republican and my Dad's a Republican, so I'm a Republican.'

Annoyed by this answer, the teacher asked, 'If your mom was a moron and your dad was an idiot, what would that make you?'

With a big smile, Little Johnny replied, 'That would make me an Obama fan.'

Politicalguano also commented there:
BOs favorite show as a kid - the 4 Stooges.

BO reports that his parents actually inspired the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which was actually written about his uncle Tom - who actually really wasn't his real uncle but they were close.

BOs favorite part of the US Constitution, "Black Americans shall not be accused of racism, and BOs ears shall never be mentioned."

BO remembers that while growing up, he personally handed Joseph Smith several plates of gold, but denies being a moron.

BO denies any mob connections although he is a Chicago politician with ties to indicted Tony R. "He is a supporter and a good friend and if you doubt it go ask him and he'll break your legs. Now get outta my face."

BO is half white, abandoned as usual by his black father (who is Muslim) and was raised by whites, denies all knowledge of white people except that they are bitter racists.

Bo is very afraid of his wife who can easily beat his *ss, or worse, tease him about his ears.

No matter how you slice it, BO stinks.

Perhaps the funniest was a link "Obama Bruvver" from nyc123me which brought you to this:
I'm a bruvva!
Click for a larger image!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tomorrow Is National Maritime Day


Tomorrow, May 22nd, is National Maritime Day in the United States. Frankly, most Americans ignore this observance if they know about it at all. But the United States was founded by people who did not walk to the North American continent but sailed here. The Maritime legacy and traditions of this country are older than the nation itself.

Holiday Smart says, about National Maritime Day:
National Maritime Day is a day for the U.S. to observe its proud maritime heritage and honor the men and women who serve and have served as merchant mariners.

From the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University:
TITLE 36 > Subtitle I > Part A > CHAPTER 1 > § 128

§ 128. National Maritime Day

(a) Designation.— May 22 is National Maritime Day.

(b) Proclamation.— The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation calling on—

(1) the people of the United States to observe National Maritime Day by displaying the flag of the United States at their homes or other suitable places; and

(2) United States Government officials to display the flag on all Government buildings on National Maritime Day.

President Ronald Reagan, in 1986, gave us this history lesson as a part of his official Proclamation:
A Proclamation

From the very beginning, America has been a seafaring Nation. In fact, the discovery of our continent was the result of one of the most daring seafaring adventures in human history. Even before the founding of the Republic, our people looked to the sea -- for peaceful trade and to ensure prosperity.

The sea-lanes were the pathways to new beginnings in a new world for millions who came to our shores and helped to build a country already rich in trading and seafaring traditions.

American maritime leadership was also reflected in ship design. The fabled "Yankee Clippers" of the early 19th century represented the first major innovation in wind-powered craft since the 15th century. They dashed across the seas at unprecedented speeds, making them the ultimate in merchant sail. And when steam-powered vessels began to eclipse sailing ships in the latter part of the 19th century, it was largely the result of pioneering work by two Americans, John Fitch and Robert Fulton.

Since America fronted on the world's two largest oceans, it was fitting that an American naval officer, Alfred Thayer Mahan, should have been the author of the first major historical study of the influence of sea power in geopolitics. Theodore Roosevelt, who as a young man was the first to review Mahan's book, later, as President, took the lead in providing the United States with its first world-class navy. From this rich heritage, America emerged as the greatest trading Nation on earth.

All of us today owe a debt of gratitude to the civilian merchant mariners who have braved the perils of the sea and the assaults of enemies who threatened our way of life. Through the centuries, untold numbers sacrificed their lives to preserve American freedom. In World War II alone, nearly 6,000 U.S. merchant seamen aboard 733 American ships were lost in enemy attacks. But our sea-lane lifelines remained open.

It is appropriate that we pause to pay tribute to those civilian sailors, past and present, in our commercial fleet and to all other Americans who support them and guard the lifelines of the sea that sustain us all.

In recognition of the importance of the American merchant marine, the Congress, by joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, designated May 22 of each year as National Maritime Day" and authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance. This date was chosen to commemorate the day in 1819 when the SS SAVANNAH departed Savannah, Georgia, on the first transatlantic steamship voyage.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 1986, as National Maritime Day, and I urge the people of the United States to observe this day by displaying the flag of the United States at their homes and other suitable places, and I re-quest that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and tenth.

Ronald Reagan

Maritime Day poster - WWII

I've never celebrated National Maritime Day. It certainly passes below the radar for most Americans. But it's important to understand why it is a 'holiday' and what we owe to the many Americans who keep our nation moving, commercially and militarily, on the high seas, and have done so since the very inception of the United States of America.

As mentioned in the proclamation, the day of the observance commemorates the sailing of the S.S.Savannah on May 22, 1819. This ship was the first steamship in the world to sail across an ocean, traveling from Savannah, South Carolina, to Liverpool, England. She made the trip in 29 days, 4 hours. She used the steam engines part of the time, and was under sail the rest of the time. So new was the ship and its technology, that many aboard wondered what the reaction would be when she reached Europe. As this page about the S.S.Savannah describes:
Finally on May 22, 1819, the Savannah "put to sea with steam and sails" on the historic trip that would take her to England, Sweden and Russia with stops in Norway and Denmark before returning home.

[Captain] Moses Rogers well understood the reaction of uninformed persons seeing for the first time the Savannah sailing with bare poles under steam. He eagerly awaited for the first European to react, which happened off the coast of Ireland. An attendant at a signal station spotted the Savannah and immediately assumed she was on fire.

The speedy British revenue cutter Kite was dispatched to the rescue. However, the Kite found herself chasing the Savannah for four or five hours before she caught up to her, enabling the "rescuing" Lt. Bowie to board her and discover the incredible truth. As can be imagined, the newspapers told and retold the story to delight their readers - ever expanding on the length of the chase and the prowess of the American vessel and her captain. A Russian newspaper not only changed the locale of the chase to Scotland, but also claimed that the Kite never caught up. Actually, the most amusing part of the incident was not revealed until years later in separate accounts by Stevens, Rogers, and A. Thomas, a fireman on board. The only way the Kite could stop the Savannah was by firing several warning shots across her stern!

S.S.Savannah stamp - 1944The Savannah was ahead of her time. Too far ahead, it seems:
In October 1819, the Savannah started the long trip home, making brief stops at Copenhagen and at Arendall, Norway. On November 30, she anchored once more in Savannah, a noble marine experiment completed. Yet for all the effort and talented thinking lavished on her, she was a financial failure. Steamboats on a river were one thing: ocean-going steamships another. Not until 1838, when the British Sirius and Great Western crossed the Atlantic under continuous steam would the public trust themselves or their cargo to this new type of ship. No other American steamship succeeded until the Massachusetts in 1845.
A postage stamp was issued to commemorate her voyage, and mark National Maritime Day, in 1944.

For more information about Maritime Day, or the Merchant Marine, try the DOT's Maritime Administration page: "A Short History on National Maritime Day"

Note: I apologize most abjectly for not posting for Armed Forces Day. I fully intended to do so, but ... Dang! Anyway, here's an earlier post on the subject, if you're interested. Again, sorry. I should've been Johnny-on-the-spot!

Don't forget: Memorial Day is this weekend - May 26. Observed on Monday, it was originally celebrated on May 30th. To give all of us that 'three-day-weekend' we craved, Congress - always wise in its ways - added Memorial Day to the Uniform Holidays Bill. Thus it is celebrated on the last Monday in May. Nothing like moving a solemn remembrance of fallen American servicemen and women to a more convenient three-day-weekend to make us all remember, eh?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Two Jewels Set In The Crown


Big Brown, with jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard,

crosses the finish line to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

Coming around the final turn, in the 133rd running of the Preakness Stakes, at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Big Brown ran the same race he ran two weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby. Once again the big horse ran away from the rest of the field. No other horse was close at the finish.

Breaking easily out of the starting gate, Big Brown took the initial lead, the jockey - Kent Desormeaux - reined him back, and Big Brown was passed and turned in toward the rail. He gained the third spot for most of the race until heading into the final turn. Then the jockey steered him out from the rail and outside he went. Just behind the second place horse Big Brown began to surge, and the two horses passed the leader. Then Big Brown moved ahead and began the dash to the finish line.

Big Brown running to the frontOnce ahead, and aimed at the finish-line, Big Brown pulled away. The jockey didn’t use his whip - he didn’t need one. As the horse moved along after the race, cooling down, he was still eager to run, his ears flicking back seeking a contender. After all, there hadn’t been a contender during the actual race. Macho Again finished second, and Ichabod Crane was third.

Kent Desormeaux rode a perfect race for Big Brown. He constantly looked over his shoulder, under his arm, wherever he could, to see if any horse was gaining. He held Big Brown back until the end, making sure that his colt used just enough energy to win.

This looked almost like a repeat of the Derby, sans the tragedy following the end.

Big Brown after the Florida DerbySo, Two Jewels are in the Crown. Can Big Brown win the Belmont Stakes in three weeks? If so Big Brown will be the first colt to take the Triple Crown in 30 years. The year was 1978. The horse was Affirmed, whose exciting matches against Alydar in all three races were some of the most exciting races ever run. 6 horses since 1978 have won the first two races of the Triple Crown. None has succeeded. June 17 will see whether this horse can do what no other has done since Affirmed. Win the Triple Crown.

Big Brown has now run 5 races in his career. Not a startling number unless you consider it’s a small number to have run. And he’s undefeated. Will he make it 6 wins without a loss?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Silk Pony Endorses The Obamessiah

The Silk Pony
Who's the Silk Pony? Who's the Silk Pony? Yeah, I'm the Silk Pony!

According to numerous Media outlets, John Edwards (D-Wimpy Silk Pony) has flown to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic Presidential nomination. One rich, Leftist loon endorses another rich, Leftist loon.


Does anything John Edwards (D-Embryo Channeler) have to say have meaning? He is a political loser, twice over. And now he's flown all the way to Michigan to endorse the front-runner. Truly evidence of Edwards' courage.


The Obamessiah
This picture, evidently with no sarcasm intended, accompanied an endorsement of B.O. by the Oregon newspaper Willamette Week

As posted at
Moonbattery with editorial insanity excerpts.

And so it goes in American Politics in the early 21st Century. Sheesh!

Sister Toldjah has "His Royal Phoniness endorses Barack Obama".

Patrick takes a look at a problem for Obama: "Obama’s Cultural Hurdle"

Of course Obama has some cheerleaders. From Moonbattery: "Palestinians Running Phone Banks for Obama"

Update: Patrick's post is based on this post of Right Wing Prof's.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Amazing Lightning Display In Chile

A second post for the day. Be amazed at that, if nothing else! Click on any image for a better view. All lightning images are courtesy of Terra.

The eruption of a volcano is terrifying. It is also awe-inspiring to watch - from the safety of your living room - magnificent in it's fury and immensity. Images of the recent Chilean eruption of the volcano Chaiten show once again how terrible the earth can be. How utterly insignificant humans are in the face of such natural ferocity.

One of the most awesome displays during an eruption are the electrical discharges that accompany it. The lightning show amazes the observer. Lightning not only crackles from cloud to cloud, and cloud to ground, but crawls around the billowing smoke and ash clouds. And though I have been aware that lightning often accompanies volcanic eruptions, I only just started wondering why? What causes lightning to appear during an eruption?

Ian O'Neill at Universe Today has an explanation I think I understand:
Lightning can happen as a result of a volcanic eruption. As the hot ash rises through the cooler atmosphere, transfer of charge occurs. This excess of electrons within the cloud makes it act like a capacitor, and should the conditions be correct, huge electrical discharges may be observed as bolts of lightning during volcanic eruptions. It seems that the Chaiten volcano's recent activity has created the perfect conditions for such a show, allowing photographers in the region to capture some stunning images.

Catching Patrick's post reminded me that I had wanted to look into this phenomenom. Thanks, Patrick! Regarding this eruption, Universe Today also remarked:
This region of South America has some very active plate tectonics and has been dubbed "Andean Arc" region of Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia containing around 200 to 300 volcanoes. Volcanologists are highly concerned as many of these volcanoes are located in densely populated areas, so they are studying the Chaiten eruption very carefully. The small town of Chaiten is being threatened by this particular eruption, but fortunately the surrounding area is otherwise unpopulated.

Although I've read some accounts saying this volcano has not eruptd in 450 years, some sites indicate that Chaiten has been slumbering for as many as 9,000 years. Earth Observatory - Natural Hazards reports:
Radiocarbon dating of the last lava flow from Chaitén Volcano suggests that the volcano last erupted in 7420 BC, plus or minus 75 years, says the Global Volcanism Program. The volcano has a history of explosive eruptions with pyroclastic flows associated with dome collapse. During an eruption, some volcanoes build a dome of lava. Eventually, hot blocks of lava break away from the dome, triggering a fast-moving avalanche of hot volcanic ash, gas, and lava, called a pyroclastic flow. As of May 5, ash continued to rise from the volcano, but no pyroclastic flows had been reported.
The image from that site is a satellite photograph taken on May 3rd. It shows the extent of the plume.

Chaiten plume from space


Thoughts For This Morning

I've been busy, writing and goofing off, since my last post. The writing is part of our yearly Private Novel Writing Month, which is a mid-year version of National Novel Writing Month. Some of us who are alumni of the F2K: Free Writing Course offered by Writers' Village University, got together following the NaNo event in 2005 and wondered if we could do something like it a few months later So I set up a blog and invited all the folks who's expressed interest, and off we went.

The goals are the same: 50,000 words in a month. Easy, you may think, but not really. Not when you are trying to write something new. One of our ensemble - a lady from Malaysia - managed 102,000 words that year! Some of us - me, included - made the 50K mark. Didn't matter. The idea was to spur the actual writing by laying down a deadline. It seems to work. And this is our third year doing PriNoWriMo. One week down, more to come!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eight BellesAnyway, following the sad events following the Kentucky Derby, I noticed the same Moonbats crawling out of the woodwork. They wanted the jockey arrested and charged with Cruelty to Animals; they wanted the trainer arrested for the same thing; they wanted the track veterinarian investigated. And what can you do except shake your head? How silly and ignorant can people get?

Anybody with a lick of sense knows that a horse that finishes in the money in a Triple Crown race is a valuable commodity, if nothing else. That horse is worth much more than the money she earns on the track itself. No owner would willy-nilly have a horse put down if she could be saved. Her survival would mean a lot of money flowing into the owner's coffers in the future.

The simple, sad fact is that Eight Belles suffered what is a catastrophic injury after the race. Both her front ankles broken. She had nothing left to stand on. Casts are out of the question. Hoisting her in a sling would not work. Huge animals like thoroughbreds are heavy and easily suffer respiratory ailments slung up like that. All that weight causes problems inside the horse's body. And without any way for that horse to put weight on her front legs ...

The track veterinarian made the right call. He put the filly out of her misery. It was quick and relatively painless. She received an injection and went to sleep. The old way of shooting the injured horse is not used at a modern race track.

The weeping Moonbats should be thankful that this horse was put down quickly and efficiently. Eight Belles, as I said before, ran a tremendous race. Her ending was sad. But it was, and will be, a part of horse racing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I got to wondering about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I see the commercials, and remember the commercials from years ago:
"You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"
"You got peanut butter on my chocolate!"
And I wanted to know a little more about this candy. So, naturally, I googled!

And information about the creator of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups isn't exactly overwhelming. But there's enough to give you an idea.

H.B.ReeseHarry Burnett (H.B.) Reese made candies in his basement. He didn't start with Peanut Butter Cups, for which he is known, but with a few simple candy bars. Reese's Raisin Clusters and Chocolate-Covered Dates were fairly well thought of. But H.B.Reese hit his stride when he developed the Peanut Butter Cup. That was introduced in the mid-1920s.

Reese, born in 1879, in Frosty Hill, Pennsylvania, was raised on a farm, and as an adult worked as a farmer, fish packaging worker, and did other factory work. He first played around with candy-making in Hummelstown, PA, and then in Palmyra, PA. He was hired by Milton Hershey to work at Hershey's dairy farm about 1916. Eventually he went to work in one of the Hershey chocolate factories. Reese was still working there when he started making his own candies in the basement of his house. I think he'd probably learned quite a bit from Milton Hershey about making candy.

Cups UnwrappedAfter 1928 his Peanut Butter Cups - originally called "penny cups" because they cost a penny each - were becoming very popular. So popular that he quit his Hershey's job and built his own candy-making factory. Right in Hershey, PA. The demand for his Reese's Peanut Butter Cups grew so large that he stopped production on his other candies and made Peanut Butter Cups only.

CupsMr. Hershey didn't seem to see Reese as a competitor. Reese was, in fact, a customer of the Hershey company, buying his chocolate exclusively from Hershey. Reese made his own peanut butter mixture for the filling. The chocolate for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups was supplied in 10-pound blocks and Reese eventually became Hershey's second largest chocolate customer after Mars. It is reported that Milton Hershey kept a stash of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in his desk. Not a bad recommendation, is it?

Eight days shy of his 77th birthday, on May 16th, 1956, H.B.Reese died of a heart attack. He was buried in the Hershey Cemetery, alongside his wife and just footsteps from Mr Hershey's grave. Seven years after Reese's death the H.B. Reese Candy Company was bought by Hershey's. His children received about 5% of the Hershey stock. The price for the company? $23.5 million. That's a lot of money for a candy company, but I suspect Hershey's never had any qualms about it. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups continue today, with new additions, some good, some not-so-good. The advertising remains funny, and refreshingly original. And the Cups themselves? I like 'em! They aren't M&Ms, but I do like 'em, and I like the Reese's Pieces, too.

Andrew ReeseMr. Reese's grandson, Andrew Reese, has written a biography of his famous grandfather that is due out sometime this year. If you're interested in Reese or his Peanut Butter Cups, this might be an interesting book to buy. But buy mine first, Dagnabbit!

Chocablog has a British take on the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So there you have my thoughts for this morning. I had grits for breakfast - something I only do on my days off - and a nice pot of coffee. I'm still surfing the Web a bit, and rereading what I wrote yesterday to spur more scenes in m head. I will be writing!

Have a great day, Friends!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The 134th Kentucky Derby: Where Legends Begin

Update at the bottom!

'The Gray Ghost' - Native Dancer on the cover of Time magazine (1954)Native Dancer is the big star of this 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. He isn't running, having died in 1967. In fact Native Dancer did not win the Kentucky Derby. In 1953, the gray colt would go on to win the Preakness and the Belmont, but lost by a head to Dark Star in the Kentucky Derby, having been fouled twice early, and making a furious late charge to take second place. His blood, however, flows through every colt running today. Not a bad legacy, is it?

With the nickname 'Gray Ghost' this big, gray horse won 21 races in his career and lost only one: that Kentucky Derby in 1953. He is probably one of the finest horses to ever grace the tracks in this country. And all of the 20 entries in today's Derby are descended from him in one way or another. According to the WSJ:
"...several generations of deliberate breeding have made Native Dancer's DNA the most valuable commodity in racing. The last 13 Kentucky Derby winners have been descendants, as was the last triple crown winner, Affirmed. The world's best current racehorse, Curlin, is a relative, as is Cigar, the sport's all-time money leader. Breeders say his bloodline can now be found in about 75% of all U.S. thoroughbreds. No other racing family comes close."

The 'Gray Ghost' in actionNot all of this is a 'bed of roses', though. Again, from the WSJ:
'Like hemophilia in the Russian royal family, Native Dancer's line has a tragic flaw. Thanks in part to heavily muscled legs and a violent, herky-jerky running style, Native Dancer and his descendants have had trouble with their feet. Injuries have cut short the careers of several of his most famous kin, most notably Barbaro, a great-great-great-grandson who was injured during the Preakness Stakes and was later put to death.'

'Overbreeding has exacerbated the problem. "There's a lack of durability right now," says Ric Waldman, the former head of operations for Windfields Farm in Canada, which has bred and raced Native Dancer's descendants. "How much can we keep breeding into these same bloodlines? We're dealing with the law of diminishing returns."'

But this is part of the sport. Much like the Motion Picture industry, or the Television industry, when people discover something that works they stick with it. Native Dancer was a winner, his offspring have been winners, so the breeders continue to try to reinforce the bloodline to create another winner, and perhaps another Triple Crown winner like Affirmed. Will they do it before the leg problems make further offspring unable to compete? Who knows? But until another big winner goes to stud and produces successful offspring, I'd bet the breeders will still try to use the bloodline of Native Dancer to make some fast horses.

Get my good side!I enjoy the Triple Crown races, but I rarely watch any other horse racing events. My experience with the Triple Crown began in 1973, the year of the great Secretariat. Big Red won me the princely sum of $12 in the Kentucky Derby and I cheered for him in every race after that. I managed to pull his number out of a hat at a barbecue party on Derby day. It cost me a dollar, which I consider well-spent. Secretariat remains my favorite Thoroughbred horse of all time. Watching him run was something incredible.

A big horse, like a big man, may have a long stride that chews up the yards, but without that extra something, he will not win a race. He also needs exceptional speed and endurance. And Secretariat had that. He also seemed to have a touch of whimsy, much like that of the legendary Sea Biscuit. It was said of Sea Biscuit that he liked to run alongside his leading competition. Liked to look them in the eye. And then he would simply pull away and leave that contender dis-heartened that he had nothing left while Sea Biscuit was still pulling away. According to those who knew Secretariat when he was still racing, the big, chestnut horse seemed to know which were the big races, and which weren't. And he would only give it his all for those big races. And, friend, it showed!

He was big enough to fend off other horses fouling him. And once in the lead he was not going to be caught. In the Derby of 1973, Secretariat was last out of the gate and finally caught up with the leader, Sham, in the back-stretch and pulled ahead. He set a still standing track record and won by 2 1/2 lengths. His times for each quarter of the race were successively faster, meaning he was still accelerating as he crossed the finish line! Incredible!

'Big Red' takes the PreaknessIn the following Preakness Stakes Secretariat again came out of the gates last, but had taken the lead by the first turn! His time, due to foul-ups with the official track clock, remains in some question, but he is considered to be among the record holders for the race time. Again, he won the race by 2 1/2 lengths. His jockey swore Secretariat had not broken a sweat in the race.

Far ahead at the BelmontBy the Belmont Stakes Secretariat was the overwhelming favorite. And he must have had an inkling that he was on the verge of immortality. Only four other horse were even entered. Sham, having taken second again at the Preakness, was there for the Belmont. Secretariat would go on to run the fastest mile-and-a-half on dirt ever. He won, going away, by 31 lengths. He may as well have run alone. Secretariat finished in 2:24 flat. And no other horse has ever gone faster than 2:25 for that distance. Secretariat was possibly the fastest horse to ever run the Triple Crown races. And he had become the first to win the Crown in 25 years. 5,617 winning mutuel tickets from this race were never redeemed. Some souvenirs, no doubt. That shows the excitement Secretariat engendered.

Secretariat raced after the Triple Crown win, and was impressive in some of them, winning the inaugural Marlboro Cup in a then-world record of 1:45 2/5 for 1 1/8 miles, setting a track record at the Woodward Stakes - on grass - then finishing his racing career in the Canadian International Stakes with a 6 1/2-length win . His record of 16 wins in 21 races is not the best record by a long stretch, but he finished in the money in 20 of those races.

Secretariat - 'Big Red'Secretariat, put out to stud, seemed to enjoy visitors, and he would pose when people pulled out their cameras. A smart, fast, beautiful horse, Secretariat was put down in 1989 after coming down with laminitis, an often-incurable and painful condition of the hooves. He has never been equaled. Any wonder I cheered for him? He is one of the reasons the Triple Crown races are so popular, so exciting, so successful. Could we be about to see the birth of another Secretariat or Native Dancer today? Only time will tell!

Update: Big Brown, with only 3 races under his saddle, won going away, in 2:01 4/5. He took the lead going around the final turn and just led the way from there. A very convincing win! Wow! Eight Belles, the filly, was injured following the race. She battled back to finish second. I can see her laying down on the track. I'll let you know what happened.

Eight Belles suffered two broken legs - the front legs - collapsed after the race, and never got up. Her jockey must have known what happened - he walked away after he got up. Eight Belles was euthanized at the spot where she fell. Very sad. A pretty filly who ran a wonderful race.

The Kentucky Derby Is Running Today

The Kentucky Derby - first race of the Triple Crown - is running today. I will post more when I get back from work. It's being broadcast on NBC. So get a nice seat up by the rail.

This takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, for those of you geographically interested.

Catch you all later!