Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Ever "Selfie"? Grand Duchess Anastasia Photographed Herself in Mirror in 1914

Could  the 21st century trend of "selfies" (self-photographs taken with a smart phone and a mirror) have been invented almost a hundred years ago by a young member of Russian royalty?

A century before Instagram and Snap Chat became the normal way of sharing photographs to the world at large, the young, enigmatic Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, took a lovely "selfie" of herself using a Kodak Brownie camera, manufactured in 1900, to send to a friend of the family.

Seeing that the teen lived in the magnificently opulent Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe, Russia, (pictured below) at the time,  it is easy to see how she could have been bored! In a letter that accompanied the photograph that was dated October 28, 1914, the young Anastasia wrote, "I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling."

Unfortunately, life did not turn out so well for Anastasia: She was murdered along with her entire family by the Bolshevik secret police during the Russian revolution on July 17, 1918, at the young age of 18. Rumors that she had escaped the assassination persisted throughout Europe for years, until the actual location of where her body had been buried was discovered in 2007.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Queen of Denial: Freak Cyclone Cleopatra Pounds Sardinia

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, as the old adage goes...

The residents of Sardinia are busy cleaning up after a freak cyclone by the name of Cleopatra delivered a powerful blow to the Mediterranean island, long a getaway retreat for Europeans looking for a bit of sun, sand and surf.

At least 18 people were killed and thousands left homeless after Cyclone Cleopatra deluged the island with an astonishing 450 millimeters (17 inches) of rain in only an hour and a half overnight.  The torrential rain flooded the streets of cities and villages across Sardinia, off the coast of Italy, sweeping away cars, animals and people and flooding countless thousands of homes. More rain fell on the island in 90 minutes than usually falls in more than half a year, local weather officials announced. The Red Cross has stepped in, providing temporary shelter for the thousands of residents displaced by the unusual weather event.

The disaster in Sardinia comes only days after an unusual November tornado outbreak swept across the US Midwest, with hundreds of tornadoes touching down and causing deaths and destruction across several states. The cyclone also follows the most powerful storm ever recorded, Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines as a post-Category 5 storm, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and destroying entire cities. A freak cyclone struck the coast of Somalia only two days after Haiyan's deadly voyage, killing almost five hundred people and destroying entire villages along the coast of the east African nation. A freak rain storm also struck Saudi Arabia earlier this week, dumping copious amounts of rain on a usually arid region of the world, creating havoc and destruction.

Expect more stories of a similar nature to come in the future as the runaway effects of climate change continues with a vice-like grip on the world's population:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Death Toll in Philippines Expected to Exceed 10,000: "We Don't Have Enough Body Bags"

Typhoon Haiyan's Fury

Update: Alerts have been issued for the Philippines as Tropical Depression Zoraida threatens to form into a tropical storm/typhoon and follow virtually the same track as Haiyan. This will bring more high winds and heavy rains to areas completely devastated by Haiyan, making an already desperate situation even more desperate:

Update II: There are fears that the initial estimate of 10,000 people killed by the horrific Typhoon Haiyan is far too low in the face of this monumental cataclysm. Rescue workers have described the once vibrant Tacloban City as a "corpse-choked wasteland", with rescuers scrambling for body bags and places to bury the dead. Survivors continue to patrol the streets in shell-shocked dismay and silence, searching for surviving family members, mementos as well as food, shelter and fresh water. No city or town in Haiyan's devilish path remain standing. Many communities up the coast have been left virtually inaccessible by the overwhelming debris field, where thousands more people are certainly dead or dying. Conservative damage estimates from the storm are from between $8-15 Billion US, making this one of the most expensive disasters...this year.  The human cost of this disaster is beyond measure.

There are terrifying stories coming out of the Philippines this weekend after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), smashed into the Southeast Asia island nation as a post-Category Five super typhoon on Friday.

Packing sustained winds in excess of 200mph, the storm lay to waste entire cities in the Eastern Samar region of the country. While official estimates on a death toll are not clear at this time, the situation in the Philippines is clearly very grim. Local officials and law enforcement in the region are calling out for global support in the rescue and clean-up efforts, begging for emergency supplies from the international community as well as body bags to contain dead bodies being recovered. In some more remote areas, officials are resorting to burying dead bodies, many unidentified,  in mass graves out of fear of creating a disease epidemic.

Early estimates fear that at least 10,000 people are dead and that many others will perish due to a lack of clean, potable water, fresh food and medicine, especially in more remote regions where towns are completely inaccessible due to debris-clogged roadways. Early reports indicate that a large portion of the country's infrastructure is completely destroyed and could take years if not decades to repair.

The city of Tacloban, which has a population of over 200,000, appears to be completely devastated by the incredible force of the storm, which created a deadly tidal storm surge that swept into the city and damaged or destroyed nearly every building in the entire city. The death toll in Tacloban alone is feared to be in the thousands. A correspondent for the BBC says that thousands of people have sought temporary shelter at the local airport in Tacloban City, which sustained massive damage from Haiyan, many desperate to get flights out of the city, although only emergency aid flights are being allowed to land and leave at this time. Aerial views from the region show miles and miles of city left in complete devastation as far as the eye can see. Thousands of survivors are now roaming the debris-ridden streets in shock, in search of shelter and food. ""People are walking like zombies looking for food," said Jenny Chu, a medical student in Leyte. "It's like a [horror] movie."

The ferocious storm of the century comes only weeks after a series of less powerful storms swept across the nation as well as an intense earthquake which rattled parts of the Philippines and toppled buildings and frayed nerves, leaving more than 300 people dead. 

The storm is expected to make landfall again in Vietnam early on Monday as a far less powerful storm. Over 600,000 people in Vietnam have been evacuated as a precaution from the still dangerous typhoon. New satellite imagery shows a storm currently developing over the same region that spawned Haiyan, with fears a second storm could follow close on its deadly heels.

Update: According to Weather Underground, Typhoon Haiyan is now officially the strongest storm on record, besting the old record set by Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Gulf Coast of the US in 1969:

Graph courtesy of Weather Underground

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Oh, Fuuudddgggeee! New Book Celebrates A Christmas Story Film

If you are like me, it simply is not Christmas at my house without at least one viewing of the classic holiday comedy, A Christmas Story! The film about one boy's never-ending quest for the ultimate Christmas present, a Red Ryder BB Gun, has become one of the most beloved holiday movie's of all time.

Watching as Ralphie plots and schemes to get the only Christmas present that matter to him, all of us can remember and relate to that wonderful sense of innocence we possessed as children, eagerly anticipating what Santa would bring for us on Christmas morning. The film is the perfect slice of Americana, representing a time of innocence and wonder long-since gone from our world.

You can celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the cherished film with a new book, You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid: A Christmas Story Trivia Book, which takes a loving look back at an incredibly special movie that millions of people the world over love. You can test your knowledge of the film with family and friends...what better way to bring the whole family together on Christmas morning?

The book is now available in both a paperback and Kindle edition, exclusively from Amazon. Simply click on the links below:

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid: A Christmas Story Trivia Book (Paperback)
Kindle Edition

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Suns Appear in Sky Over Mongolia

Chinese residents grabbed their cameras and rushed outside to marvel at an extremely rare astronomical illusion of "triple suns" in the sky over Chifeng, in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region over the weekend

The sun appeared to be accompanied by two smaller twins that suddenly emerged in the sky at around nine AM local time, and the third “sun” appeared to be surrounded by several arched rainbow-like halos.

The astronomical illusion remained in the skies over Chifeng for approximately two hours, and many residents took pictures or videos to record the incredible moment out on the streets.

Some witnesses claim to have seen five suns shining in certain areas of the city. The illusion is actually classified as a legitimate astronomical phenomenon known as phantom sun or ice halo, according to the Chifeng Meteorological Bureau.

The rare phenomena only appears when ice crystals create high clouds in the air around 6,000 meters above ground, and produce reflected sunlight, which causes the appearance of additional “suns”. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fire Down Below: Troubling List of Erupting Volcanoes

Update: December 07, 2013: It is official. The record of volcanic eruptions during a calendar year has been broken in 2013! The average number of volcanic eruptions in a year has been 50-60, but this year we have had a record-breaking 83 eruptions, which bests the previous record of 82 set in 2010. Without a doubt, the earth is experiencing a dangerously serious uptick in both volcanic and seismic activity. The ash, ejecta and carbon dioxide from all of these eruptions is being propelled high into the atmosphere and circling the globe, which will definitely have an influence on the global climate.

When Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991 with a VEI (Volcanic Explosive Index) of 6 on a scale to 8,  the average global temperature dropped by an astonishing two degrees for over two years, due to the ash partially blocking out the light from the sun. The eruptions of Krakatoa and Tambora in Indonesia in the 19th century also created climate chaos, with record cold temperatures and snows experienced globally.

 What could be causing the dramatic increase in volcanic activity? See my recent blog regarding anomalies detected within our solar system here: Is Something Out There?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

With today’s eruption of Mount Sinabung on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, a very troubling list of volcanoes that are at present experiencing eruptions and/or major upticks in unrest and activity should be brought to life. At present, there are 36 volcanoes erupting, with at least triple that amount experiencing unrest or minor activity within the past year.

Particularly troubling are the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia where five volcanoes are currently in eruption phase with ten other volcanoes experiencing minor or increased activity.

Eruptions in Indonesia and the Philippines in the Ring of Fire are also disturbing, as so many of the volcanoes are very near to large population centers and any major eruptions would entail mass evacuations of large groups of people.

The most disturbing intel I have read is that the lava dome located beneath the Yellowstone Park super-volcano in Montana has nearly tripled in size and expanded over the past decade, with an increase in harmonic tremors and seismic activity. The Yellowstone volcano is perhaps the world’s most dangerous, and a significant eruption would place literally billions of lives at risk, due to massive amounts of ash and debris that would be released high into the atmosphere, blotting out all life for perhaps hundreds of miles and creating havoc with the global climate.  

For a complete list of volcanoes erupting or experiencing activity, please visit here:

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