Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 44, 2015

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“BLACK TUESDAY” on October 29, 1929

“BLACK TUESDAY” on October 29, 1929

“Black Tuesday”: hits Wall Street as investors trade 16,410,030 shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. Billions of dollars were lost, wiping out thousands of investors, and stock tickers ran hours behind because the machinery could not handle the tremendous volume of trading. In the aftermath of Black Tuesday, America and the rest of the industrialized world spiraled downward into the Great Depression.

During the 1920s, the U.S. stock market underwent rapid expansion, reaching its peak in August 1929, a period of wild speculation. By then, production had already declined and unemployment had risen, leaving stocks in great excess of their real value. Among the other causes of the eventual market collapse were low wages, the proliferation of debt, a weak agriculture, and an excess of large bank loans that could not be liquidated.

Stock prices began to decline in September and early October 1929, and on October 18 the fall began. Panic set in, and on October 24—Black Thursday—a record 12,894,650 shares were traded. Investment companies and leading bankers attempted to stabilize the market by buying up great blocks of stock, producing a moderate rally on Friday. On Monday, however, the storm broke anew, and the market went into free fall. Black Monday was followed by Black Tuesday, in which stock prices collapsed completely.

After October 29, 1929, stock prices had nowhere to go but up, so there was considerable recovery during succeeding weeks. Overall, however, prices continued to drop as the United States slumped into the Great Depression, and by 1932 stocks were worth only about 20 percent of their value in the summer of 1929.

The stock market crash of 1929 was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, but it did act to accelerate the global economic collapse of which it was also a symptom. By 1933, nearly half of America’s banks had failed, and unemployment was approaching 15 million people, or 30 percent of the workforce. It would take World War II, and the massive level of armaments production taken on by the United States, to finally bring the country out of the Depression after a decade of suffering. History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / FDIC.gov / PBS / New York Times / Boston Globe

Wikipedia  Photo: Black Monday - Black Tuesday: Wall Street Crash of 1929, ending the Great Bull Market of the 1920s and beginning the Great Depression.

John Masefield Sea Fever Poem (Poetry Foundation.org)

The Old Salt’s Corner

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking, And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin’”

What happens if you go on a survival course - and you don't pass?

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.”

~ Mark Twain

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“Sometimes you’ll have to hold your nose, close your eyes, and jump off the high board.”

~ Anonymous

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Two Minnesota elementary schools hire recess consultant

Two Minnesota elementary schools hire recess consultant

Two suburban-Minneapolis elementary schools this fall hired a consulting firm to advise officials on kids’ recess, and the leading recommendations (promoting “safety” and “inclusiveness”) were elimination of “contact” games in favor of, for example, hopscotch.

Some parents objected; “recess”, they said, should be more freestyle, unstructured. (More consultants’ advice: de-emphasize refereed “rules” games in favor of monitors who simply praise effort.) One Minnesota principal noted improvement - fewer fights and nurse visits now--but as one parent said, her child feels that recess is no longer really “playing”.

Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/05/2015) / Mercer Island Reporter (09/24/2015)

Are Snakes Immune to Their Own Venom?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: Are Snakes Immune to Their Own Venom?

Despite a sketchy reputation, venomous snakes in the United States aren’t prone to going on biting sprees. Only about 8,000 people are attacked every year, with an average of five victims fatally succumbing to the toxins deployed via puncture wounds.

But what happens when two snakes face off against one another? Can their venom induce the same hemorrhaging and necrosis it does in their prey, or do they have a built-in immunity to their own flesh-tenderizing enzymes and paralyzing neurotoxins?

“The conventional wisdom is that they have circulating antibodies in their blood,” says Stephen Mackessy, Ph.D., a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado and an expert in venomous snakes. “This would protect them from their own venom, as well of venom from another snake in their own species.”

Hypothetically, if a speckled rattlesnake bit another speckled rattlesnake, the immunity they’ve built from being exposed to low levels of their own venom—kept in glands behind their eyes and secreted when they bite—would protect them from a fatal wound. (Even though the glands are closed, they still contain blood vessels that allow the venom to circulate in their system, causing mild exposure, Mackessy says.) But a speckled rattlesnake that meets up with a cobra might have a different day entirely.

“The more distantly related the species, the more probability it would be toxic,” Mackessy says. “If a rattlesnake and cobra bit one another, without prior exposure to their venoms to build immunity, they would probably kill each other.”

Because organized snake fights to the death are frowned upon in scientific circles, there isn’t likely to be a definitive answer on just how much immunity they have—just that there’s likely enough to ward off attacks from close relatives or self-contamination. “It makes sense,” Mackessy says. “If you have something dangerous you’re injecting, you want to be protected from injecting yourself.”

Encyclopedia BritannicaNaked ScientistsMental FlossRedditReptiles MagazineWikipedia

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy America's Navy - A Global Force For Good

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Great Mistakes: Common epithet used when complaining about RTC/NTC Great Lakes Illinois.

Green Scrubby: Mildly abrasive scouring pad. Also called a "Greeny Weeny". It's green, of course.

Green Table Tea Party: Captain's Mast, Non Judicial Punishment (see “Mast”).

Green Table Tea Party: A place at boot camp, normally a parking lot, where the company commander makes you do pushups, other forms of exercise, etc when you screw up.

Gripe: Slang for a MAF (Maintenance Action Form), which is written when something is wrong with an aircraft.

Just for MARINES - U.S. Marines Marines - The Few. The Proud.

Just for you MARINE

Grease: (Vietnam) To kill.

Green Belt: A Marine with the mid-level of martial arts training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

Green Eye: Starlight Scope. The first generation of night vision equipment. First used in Vietnam, it was very large and very heavy.

Green Machine: A derogatory term used by Marines to mean the Marine Corps. Also used regularly by the Army to proudly describe the Army.

Green Side Out: The steel pot helmets before Kevlar came with a cover that had green camouflage on one side and brown on the other. The decision of which color was to be worn to a formation was often left to a second lieutenant who couldn't make up his or her mind resulting in frequent changes and confusion. The term came to mean the leadership was confused as usual.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VT-28 - Training Squadron 28: “Rangers”
NAS Corpus Christi, Texas

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

What: Over three hundred spheres of varying size (ranging from a few centimeters to 2 meters in diameter) scattered throughout the island. The largest weigh 30,000 pounds. Most are made of basalt (volcanic rock), but some are made of limestone or sandstone. They date back to approximately between 200 BC and 1500 AD, and the locals call them Las Bolas.

They were discovered in modern times in the early 1930s, by employees of the United Fruit Company, while preparing new banana plantations. Some were blown up, probably in search of the gold that had been rumored in the Americas since it was discovered by Europeans in the sixteenth century.

The “ancient” locals said that the stone spheres were “Tara’s cannon balls”. Tara (Tlatchque) was the god of thunder and used a giant blowpipe to shoot the balls at the Serkes, gods of winds and hurricanes, in order to drive them out of that land. Many of the stones have been moved from their original locations.

The Mystery: Who made the spheres is still unknown, as is the purpose they serve. The exact age of the stones is unclear, and they have undergone centuries of wear and tear, so it is remarkable that they are still very circular. They are most likely man-made, but some claim that they could be natural formations.

Some of the stones have been blasted apart by people hoping to find something hidden inside, but so far, nothing has been found. Some theories suggest that the stones may have served as some sort of marker, celestial or religious. POM / Crysta Links / Wikipedia

© CEASAR CHOPPY by cartoonist Marty Gavin - archives Ceasar Choppy's Navy! “© CEASAR CHOPPY” by Marty Gavin


“Sweet Caroline” - Neil Diamond 1969

“Sweet Caroline” - Neil Diamond
Album: Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
Released 1969 video

Diamond wrote this song about his second wife, Marcia Murphey, who he married in 1969 (they divorced in 1995). He needed a three-syllable name to fit the melody, however, so “Sweet Marcia” didn't work. The name Caroline is one he had written down, and it fit the song perfectly, so that's what he used.

Neil Diamond is a great manipulator of the media, and has shifted his story about this song to fit the occasion. There was longtime speculation that the song is about Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the American president John F. Kennedy. Diamond has since revealed that this Caroline gave him the idea for the name, but had nothing to do with the song's inspiration.

In 2007, however, Diamond performed the song via satellite at Caroline Kennedy's 50th birthday party, and said that the song was about her. He told the Associated Press: “I've never discussed it with anybody before - intentionally. I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday. I'm happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy.”

Diamond added that he was a young, broke songwriter in the '60s when he saw a cute photo of Caroline Kennedy in a magazine. Said Diamond: “It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony. It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there.” A few years later, Diamond wrote the song in a Memphis hotel in less than an hour. Caroline was 11 years old when the song was released.

David Wild wrote in his book He Is...I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond, “Diamond says that 'Sweet Caroline' just seemed to come out of 'the excitement of the moment.' More specifically, Diamond's excitement seemed to focus on a chord in the song's 'touching hands' section, a relatively unusual A6 chord that he had never played before.”

Even though the song has nothing to do with Boston, the Red Sox played it at Red Sox home games in Fenway Park before the Red Sox bat in the the 8th inning. Amy Tobey, who worked the music at Fenway, first started playing the song in 1997 - it's often reported that she played it in honor of a Red Sox employee who named her newborn daughter “Caroline”, but Tobey told NPR that she simply liked the song. It caught on with the fans, becoming a popular selection between innings. When Charles Steinberg took over as Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs in 2002, he championed the song, and instituted it as an 8th inning ritual (strategically placed before the Sox come up to bat late in the game), where it has been played ever since. Caroline Kennedy even attended a game that year, which was before Neil Diamond revealed her as the inspiration.

The song is an audience participation number in that the crowd sings “dum-dum-dum” after the words “Sweet Caroline” in the chorus and “so good, so good, so good” after “good times never seemed so good”, assisted by the music director who ducks the song down at this point so the crowd sounds louder. This Fenway ritual is portrayed in the Drew Barrymore/Jimmy Fallon movie Fever Pitch.

Neil Diamond told AOL Music Canada that Frank Sinatra's version of this with a big band is his favorite of all the covers of his material. He explained: “He did it his way. He didn't cop my record at all. I've heard that song by a lot of people and there are a lot of good versions. But Sinatra's swinging, big band version tops them all by far.” Other artists to record the song include Waylon Jennings, The Drifters, Julio Iglesias and Elvis Presley.

According to Diamond, this song was divinely inspired. “I think there's a little bit of God in that song. I always have felt that”, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. “There's no accounting for what can happen to a song.”

Diamond recorded this song during his very first recording session, which was in Memphis with producers Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman. He had a standard three-hour session booked, but only two songs written at a time when at least three was the norm. The night before, he quickly wrote “Sweet Caroline” in his motel room so he would have his third song. Diamond says it was one of the fastest songs he ever wrote.

This song is fun, familiar, and easy to sing, which has made it one of the most popular Karaoke songs of all time. It goes over especially well where alcohol is served, since passable renditions are possible even after a few drinks.

Diamond performed this song on July 16, 2013 at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which was held in the home stadium of the New York Mets. The performance took place in the 8th inning, as it was a tribute to the city of Boston and that's when the Red Sox play the song. Diamond's performance was rather incongruently followed by sounds of Metallica's “Enter Sandman”, which signaled the entrance of Mariano Rivera, the New York Yankees relief pitcher who was coming in to pitch his last All-Star game.

Neil Diamond official site / Rock & Roll Hall of Fame / Biography / Song Facts / Wikipedia

Image: “Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show‎ (album)” by Neil Diamond



● Oddly enough, the word “mafia” is never mentioned in the film version of The Godfather.

● Unable to prevent the use of the word “spam” to represent unwanted email messages, the Hormel company now uses all-capital letters in referencing its canned pork product.

● Light from the sun takes approximately 8 minutes to reach the Earth.

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

A blonde went to an appliance store sale and found a bargain.

I would like to buy this TV“, she told the salesman.

“Sorry, we don’t sell to blondes”, he replied.

She hurried home and dyed her hair, then came back and again told the salesman, “I would like to buy this TV.”

“Sorry, we don’t sell to blondes”, he replied.

“Darn, he recognized me”, she thought.

She went for a complete disguise this time: a brown curly wig, big baggy clothes, and big sunglasses. Then she waited a few days before she approached the salesman again and said, “I would like to buy this TV.;”

“Sorry, we don’t sell to blondes”, he replied.

Frustrated, she exclaimed, “How do you know I’m a blonde?”

“Because that’s a microwave”, he replied.