The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



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Today in History: A Missing Nuke

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 5, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 5) in 1958 the U.S. lost a Mark 15 Nuclear Bomb off the coast of Georgia. The bomb was jettisoned from a B-47 Bomber as a safety precaution after it collided with a F-16 Fighter during a practice exercise. Extensive searching for the bomb failed to find it. It sounds like the great starting point for a thriller.

Today in History: The 47 Ronin

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 4, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 4) in 1703, 46 of The 47 Ronin committed ritual suicide on the orders of the shogun. The Ronin’s daimyo, Asano Naganori had been forced to commit suicide for attacking a court official named Kira Yoshinaka after Kira insulted him. As penalty, the shogun required Asano to kill himself. Now leaderless, Asano’s 47 samurai became Ronin and spent two years plotting the assassination of Kira, eventually attacking him at his home but being careful not to kill women and children. When they dragged Kira out of hiding, they offered him the chance to kill himself with the knife Asano had used to commit suicide, but Kira was too frightened to take advantage of what the Ronin saw as an honorable opportunity. So they held him down and cut his head off with the knife, then carried the head ten kilometers to the tomb of their dead lord.

Having avenged the honor of Asano Naganori, the Ronin sent a young member of their company to carry news of their vengeance and the other 46 turned themselves into the authorities. This presented the Shogun with a political problem. He needed to punish the Ronin for having killed one of his officials, but their actions were scrupulously proper under the code of bushido. To make matters worse, Kira had been unpopular and the Ronin were being heaped with praise by his populace. So the Shogun gave the Ronin the honorable option that they had offered to Kira and permitted the 46 to commit seppuku—which they did. Today, the 46 are regarded as folk heroes for their intense loyalty and sense of honor.

Today in History: Tulip Mania

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 3, 2019 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 3) in 1637, Tulip Mania came to an end in the United Provinces (the modern day Netherlands). Tulip Mania is often described as the first stock bubble as the United Provinces began to speculate on tulip bulbs. Outrageous prices began to be paid. Single bulbs sold for 10 times the annual wages of a skilled craftsman. A 12 acre farm was traded for a rare bulb. The people of the United Provinces got caught up in the madness. Everyone was growing and trying to breed a rare bulb that would be worth an instant fortune. When sanity returned, the prices collapsed over night and investors were left with suddenly worthless flowers.

Today in History: Ground Hog's Day

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 2, 2019 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 2) in 1840, the first documented celebration of Groundhog’s Day was celebrated. Groundhog’s Day marks a piece of weather lore which predicts that if a groundhog comes out of its hole on February 2 on a clear day and sees its own shadow the region will endure another six weeks of winter. However, if it is a cloudy day and no nasty shadow is spied, that is a sign that winter is almost over. Some scholars believe that the custom developed as a result of changing from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar and the common person trying to figure out when Spring would start. The following old Scottish poem describes the process of determining the length of winter.

If Candle-mas Day is bright and clear,

There'll be two winters in the year.

If Candle mas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.

The custom appears to have come to the U.S. from German-speaking regions of Europe where the badger—not the groundhog—was the prophetic animal. The first recorded celebration of Groundhogs Day in North America was in 1840 when it was mentioned in the diary of James Morris.

Weather forecasts in my part of the U.S. say it will only be partly cloudy today so that suggests that there is a good chance winter is far from over.

Try Winterhaven--the Perfect Antidote to the Cold Weather Blues

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Just six days left to order Winterhaven at 25% off the cover price. 

In the far off Duchy of Winterhaven at the edge of human civilization, a young knight investigates a most unusual murder while the Great Lords of the land scheme to expand their borders and take control of the duchy. A decade of relative peace is about to collapse and only young Dhrugal of Edgefield and his brothers and sister stand between Winterhaven and dark-spun chaos.

Today in History: The Thirteenth Amendment

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 1) in 1865 Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude. His signature wasn’t technically necessary and is the only constitutional amendment bearing a president’s signature. It took ten months to gain the approval of the requisite number of state legislatures and finally banning slavery throughout the country. Lincoln, unfortunately, did not live to see that day.

The full text reads:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

Today in History: Ham the Chimp Reaches Space

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 31, 2019 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 31) in 1961, Ham the Chimp rode Mercury—Redstone 2 into space. The short flight was riddled with problems that forced an automatic abort. The whole flight lasted 16 minutes and 39 seconds and the capsule came down out of sight of the recovery vehicles. More problems caused the capsule to flood with seawater but Ham was successfully recovered. The flight proved to NASA that they were not yet ready to send humans into space. Ham retired to the National Zoo where he lived for 17 years before being transferred to a zoo in North Carolina where he could live with other chimps. He died in 1983 at the age of 26.

Today in History: Charles I Executed

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 30, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 30) in 1649 King Charles I of England was beheaded by his own people. Charles is a difficult historical figure to feel sympathy toward. He created all of his own problems by refusing to believe that there were any practical limits on his authority. Many men in England’s Parliament and within the New Model Army were willing to work with him to achieve a political comprise that left Charles as king, but time and time again he acted in bad faith until even his supporters threw up their hands in despair. And even as he picked fights with his English subjects, he picked them with his Scottish and Irish subjects as well creating a situation that a like-minded genius could not have handled—and Charles never struck me as being particularly bright.

But if you’re looking for a silver lining in Charles’s political ineptness (aside from the push it gave to those advocating for limits on the executive power in the kingdom) you can always look to literature. Charles’ demise inspired Alexandre Dumas to make the attempt to stop the execution of Charles I the focal point of the action toward the end of Twenty Years After with Athos literally having made it to a point beneath the stage upon which the execution took place but still unable to prevent the fatal blow.

Today in History: Henry VIII Died

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 28, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January Twenty-Eight) in 1547, Henry VIII died. He was one of the most influential kings England ever had changing the course of its government and history as decisively as did William the Conqueror in the eleventh century. Over the course of his reign, Henry came to the opinion that the pope was usurping authority over the church in England that Henry believed rightly belonged the king. He was influenced in this opinion by his desire to rid himself of his wife, Catharine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn, who was probably the great love of his life at least until he grew irritated with her and executed her on trumped up charges. Henry’s decision to take control of the English church put England into the Protestant camp in Europe but Henry was a rather Catholic Protestant and successfully resisted efforts to make his church one of the more radical ones. Henry would be succeeded by his nine-yea- old son, Edward VI. Edward was less bloodthirsty than either his father or his two half sisters but didn’t live long enough for us to see what sort of king he would have been.

How Did Alexander the Great Die?

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 27, 2019 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

There is a new theory of how Alexander the Great died that is really quite creepy. It suggests that his symptoms--especially the claim that his body waited six days to start decomposing--was the result of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). This rare disorder causes paralysis which (if true) suggests that Alexander might well have been conscious but unable to communicate while his generals fought over the succession and the embalmers got to work...

Here is an article discussing the new theory: