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Detroit Historical Museum October 8, 2018

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I recently visited the Detroit Historical Museum in Detroit. The museum showcases the history of Detroit.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac founded the city of Detroit in 1701 (“detroit” is actually the French word for “strait”). Cadillac founded Fort Ponchartrain at the present-day location of Detroit; its namesake was the French Marine Minister. Fort Pontchartrain was replaced by Fort Lernoult after the Seven Years’ War. American forces took control of Fort Lernoult in 1796 and renamed it Fort Detroit.

2. The city of Detroit was devastated by a fire in 1805. Augustus Woodward played a critical role in the rebuilding efforts, creating a street plan modeled after the diagonal streets in Washington, D.C. The development of Detroit was spurred by several factors, including:

  • the construction of the Erie Canal, which reduced the travel time between Detroit and the East Coast
  • Lewis Cass, who extolled the virtues of Michigan to prospective pioneers; he served as the governor of Michigan Territory from 1813 to 1831
  • the construction of the Soo Locks, which connected Lakes Superior and Huron; the Lower and Upper Peninsulas furnished the timber, iron, and copper that was used to build railroads, ships and stoves.

3. African-American inventors with Detroit ties included:

  • Elijah McCoy, who invented an automatic lubricator, enabling the oiling of moving trains; his sundry innovations inspired the phrase, “real McCoy”
  • William Davis, who invented the refrigerator car; George Hammond bought the associated patent from him and used a refrigerator car to ship a load of beef to Boston.

4. August Fruehauf hitched a modified wagon to his neighbor’s Model T; that wagon served as the first “semi-trailer,” as it carried his neighbor’s pleasure boat. Some of Fruehauf’s other innovations included:

  • using hydraulics to develop dump trailers
  • developing the first refrigerated trailer, which featured a trap door above its ice and salt
  • the first container trailer that could carry liquids.

5. The discography for Motown includes several protest songs, such as:

6. Abolitionism in the United States extended to Michigan. For example, on the Underground Railroad, “midnight” and “Canaan land” were cryptonyms for Detroit and Canada, respectively. One of the conductors on the Underground Railroad, William Lambert, founded the “Colored Vigilant Committee” which was Detroit’s first civil rights organization. Finney’s Barn was one of the Detroit-area stops on the Underground Railroad; ironically, it was near a hotel that was frequented by slave catchers. In 1855, a personal liberty law was enacted in Michigan in response to the Fugitive Slave Act; it gave slaves the right to an attorney.

7. The Algiers Motel incident was sparked by police reports of sniper fire from the vicinity of the motel. One unarmed black youth was slain while lying in bed, while a second black youth was slain while obeying an order to assemble. A third black youth was slain while several policemen intimidated a group of seven blacks and two whites. Two all-white juries would later acquit one officer of murder and two other officers of conspiracy, respectively; both trials occurred outside Detroit.

The museum had a neat exhibit featuring toy trains at its basement level; I marveled at the skill that was required to assemble it. I also enjoyed an exhibit that highlighted machinery from an actual Cadillac plant, where a robotic arm repeatedly lowered a car body onto a chassis. In addition, I was enlightened by the exhibit on the fiftieth anniversary of the Detroit riots.

I don’t have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to tourists in Detroit.

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The Henry Ford August 6, 2018

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I recently visited The Henry Ford in Dearborn. This “cultural destination” consists of four venues that present a slice of Americana.

Here are fifteen nuggets that I gleaned from my time at these venues.

1. Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac may have been inspired by the color of the sediment in the Rouge River when he christened it. In 1915, Henry Ford built his Rouge Plant on wood pilings in its watershed. The Rouge Plant was the site of the watershed Battle of the Overpass in 1937. Today, the Rouge Plant has been ISO 14001 certified and has a “living roof” that consists of sedum.

2. The engine of the Model A had twice the capacity of that of the Model T. The Model A was the first car to be completely assembled at the Ford Rouge Plant and debuted in 1927. In contrast, the Great Depression impacted the design of the engine of the V-8; in particular, each V-8 engine was made from a single block of metal – reducing its weight and cost. Noted criminals John Dillinger and Clyde Barrow both wrote letters to Ford, praising the V-8 as a getaway car.

3. Ford’s observations of workers at meatpacking and textile plants spurred him to develop the concept of the assembly line. Initially, Ford’s employees labored for about twelve hours to produce a single Model T; the introduction of the assembly line reduced that time to roughly ninety minutes. Currently, about 1200-1300 F-150 trucks are manufactured on a daily basis at the Ford Rouge Plant.

4. Several innovators in Massachusetts contributed to the Industrial Revolution, including:

5. While the first colonists brought ladderback chairs to Colonial America, the Windsor chair only appeared in colonial homes starting in the mid-1700s; George Washington actually ordered a set of Windsor chairs for his estate at Mount Vernon. Innovations in chair design did not cease at that point, though. For example, the 19th-century inventor Lambert Hitchcock based his eponymous chair on the design of clocks in Connecticut. Also, the 20th-century designers Charles and Ray Eames were inspired by their work for the U.S. Navy during World War II when crafting their unique line of chairs; they used plywood and fiberglass to that end.

6. The farming industry has seen its share of successful – and failed – innovations, including:

  • the Fordson tractor that was designed by Ford in 1918; his intention was that it would serve as the “Model T” of tractors
  • the mechanical reaper that was patented by Obed Hussey; his fifteen minutes of fame were ended by the marketing campaign of Cyrus McCormick
  • the mechanical cotton picker with an innovative spindle that was designed by Daniel Rust
  • the grain drill, which allows planting before corn is ready to be harvested
  • the no-till harvester, which was developed in 1978.

7. In 1983, Atari buried about 750000 video game cartridges in the desert outside Alamogordo. Some of the buried cartridges were unsold copies of E.T. which was designed by Howard Warshaw in five weeks. E.T. is considered to be among the worst video games ever produced. Although Atari denied any knowledge of buried cartridges outside Alamogordo, they were eventually unearthed in 2014.

8. George Corliss invented his eponymous steam engine and fought a legal battle with Noble Tuckerman Greene over patents for a valve mechanism for speed control. William Seward served as Corliss’ counsel. When Corliss emerged victorious, Greene was obliged to wait until 1870 to market his steam engines, as Corliss’ patents expired that year.

9. Raymond Orteig offered a prize to the first person to complete a trans-Atlantic flight. Charles Lindbergh responded to this announcement by working with the Ryan Airline Company to modify its M-2 three-seater; for example, five fuel tanks were placed on the Spirit of St. Louis. Since Lindbergh wanted to travel light, he only packed five meat sandwiches, one flashlight, one rubber raft and one wicker chair for his landmark achievement; in fact, he did not bring a parachute or a radio.

10. Roy Allen operated a root beer stand in California before founding A&W Restaurants with his business partner, Frank Wright. “Tray boys” and “tray girls” provided curbside service at A&W drive-ins. Walt Anderson, who worked as an A&W fry cook, developed a novel approach for cooking hamburgers. He would later found White Castle with his business partner, Billy Ingram.

11. U.S. presidents have adopted diverse modes of transport, including:

  • Theodore Roosevelt’s brougham
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Sunshine Special, which was modified to accommodate his disability
  • Dwight Eisenhower’s Bubbletop, which enabled crowds to view him even in inclement weather.

Also, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an armored top was added to presidential limousines. Yet Ronald Reagan successfully requested that his limousine include a modified sunroof, which enabled him to stand and wave at crowds.

12. Orville and Wilbur Wright lived about three blocks from the first bicycle shop that they opened in Dayton, Ohio; they would eventually rent five different shops. They constructed their first prototype plane – in sections – in one of these shops; it was 40 feet long, 21 feet wide and 9 feet high. They then wrote to the National Weather Service (NWS) for advice regarding a suitable location for testing their prototype; the NWS recommended Kill Devil Hills, a windy locale with an abundance of sand that would prove useful in mitigating the effects of crash landings. They accepted that recommendation and then spent three years learning how to glide. On a side note, Orville Wright was invited to the dedication of Greenwich Village in 1929.

13. Thomas Edison held nearly 1100 patents during his lifetime. His first patented invention was an electronic vote recorder that was intended for use in state legislatures. He was supported in his endeavors by a capable staff, including his foreman, John Kruesi, and a talented chemist, Alfred Haid. Their innovations included:

  • a filament for an incandescent light bulb that was made from carbonized cotton fiber
  • a dynamo that could convert mechanical energy to electricity.

14. Henry Carroll was the head of one of the wealthiest families in antebellum Maryland. He owned about 200 acres of land, and he adhered to the standard practice of planting tobacco for three to five years – before allowing that parcel of land to lie fallow for about twenty years. His slaves were ingenious, using crushed oyster shells to repel vermin and creating whitewash from a mixture of salt, water and milk. Some of them subsequently escaped, declaring themselves as “contraband of war” to avoid re-enslavement; this was permitted by the Confiscation Acts.

15. Noah Webster included about 70000 words in his eponymous dictionary. He only invented one of those words, though: “demoralize.” A strict Calvinist, he viewed slavery as an economically inefficient endeavor – yet he was opposed to abolitionists’ acts of civil disobedience. He remodeled his home to include a first-floor bedroom for his wife; contemporary homes lacked first-floor bedrooms. As he disapproved of his son-in-law, he raised his grand-daughter, Mary.

This “cultural destination” is expansive, and I actually toured it over two days. I especially enjoyed my tour of the Ford Rouge Plant; the sight of workers playing their roles in assembling a Ford F-150 truck was humbling and awe-inspiring. I also enjoyed my stroll through the Greenwich Village, as the staff members were pleased to share various nuggets.

One point worth noting is that at the main venue, a 6-dollar parking fee is automatically added to the cost of admission; guests should request that this fee be removed if they do not park at that venue.

Overall I enjoyed my time at this “cultural destination,” and I would recommend it to those who happen to visit Michigan.

Motown Museum May 7, 2018

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I recently visited the Motown Museum in Detroit. The museum showcases the history of Motown.

Here are five nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Berry Gordy Jr.’s father worked as a contractor, while his mother sold real estate. Gordy initially struggled to find a regular source of income; he worked on a Ford assembly line, received plaudits as a pugilist and even owned a jazz record store. Eventually he tried his hand at songwriting; when Smokey Robinson laughed at his meager remuneration of three dollars and nineteen cents, he was spurred to form his own company. He took out a loan of eight hundred dollars from his parents with the stipulation that he repay it within one year at six percent interest. He coined the term “Motown” for his new company in honor of his hometown.

2. Gordy spared no expense in developing his stable of talent, including:

  • purchasing an upright piano and labeling the keys to assist those who lacked formal musical training
  • hiring Maurice King to teach music theory and serve as a voice coach
  • hiring Cholly Atkins to teach choreography
  • hiring Maxine Powell to teach comportment.

3. The Miracles were one of the earliest Motown acts to achieve commercial success. Their lineup included Robinson and Claudette Rogers, who would later marry. Their hits included Bad Girl, which was their only release on the Motown Records label, and You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me. They also wrote the hit song My Girl for The Temptations. Last but not least, they broke a color barrier by performing on American Bandstand.

4. Gordy eventually moved to Los Angeles in 1972, as he wanted to use the silver screen to promote Motown. He co-produced the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross, Richard Pryor and James Earl Jones. He also directed Mahogany, starring Ross and Billy Dee Williams. He would later write the book for Motown the Musical.

5. Gordy purchased seven homes on one side of West Grand Avenue in Detroit (and one home on the other side of that street) and repurposed them for his company. Recording sessions occurred in the renowned Studio A. Vocals and instrumental tracks were mixed in a control room, while another room was designated for billing and collection. One room contained a vault of master tapes. This set of buildings was later designated as a historical landmark in 1987. Gordy’s sister, Esther, founded the museum itself in 1985.

The exhibits in the museum can only be viewed in the context of a guided tour. That being said, our tour guide was friendly and well-informed. She related several anecdotes and even led us in several renditions of Motown hits, including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

I don’t have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to tourists in Detroit (supporting the theory that I advanced in the final paragraph of this post).

College Football Hall of Fame April 2, 2018

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I recently visited the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The museum showcases the history and traditions of college football.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Tailgating was inspired by the feasts that were held during sporting events in ancient Greece and Rome. During the first college football game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, famished fans allegedly dined on victuals from the gate of a wagon pulled by a tail-wagging horse. Modern-day tailgating traditions include:

2. The idiosyncrasies of cheerleading squads include:

  • the Rice Marching Owl Band dressing up as mobsters and toting fake tommy guns
  • the RUF/NEK squad at Oklahoma refusing to shave after Sooner defeats
  • the origin of the Yell Leaders at Texas A&M (an effort to prevent freshman coeds from leaving athletic events before their conclusion).

3. Jackie Jensen starred at Cal, making an impact as a passer, runner, receiver and even as a kicker. Yet he achieved greater success on the baseball diamond, lifting the Golden Bears to the 1947 College World Series title by defeating a Yale squad that included George H.W. Bush. He would later win the 1958 American League MVP award as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

4. The first game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869 featured a round rubber ball. This round ball was eventually replaced by an oblong leather ball, which featured laces that were designed to secure the constituent pieces of the ball itself. Coaches later realized that players could use these laces to improve their grip on the ball.

5. The protective equipment in college football has evolved significantly since the formative years of that sport. Approaches along these lines include:

  • a nose protector, worn by Edgar Allan Poe III during his career at Princeton
  • the first helmet, designed for a player at Navy whose doctor warned him that if he refused to wear it, he would either die or become mentally ill
  • leather strips on the chest and arms of uniforms, allegedly designed to increase friction and limit fumbles.

6. The idiosyncrasies of college football teams include:

  • the stipulation preventing players for Army from wearing the number 12, as it represents the cadets who support the team in the stands
  • the number 16 at Kansas State, as it is the number of rules that form the foundation of Bill Snyder’s program
  • a lunch pail at Virginia Tech, as it represents the blue-collar attitude of the Hokies’ defense; after a road victory, the Hokies will fill a pail with sod from that stadium.

7. The practice of sports psychology was influenced by the work of Coleman Griffith in the early part of the 20th century. College football teams often rely on the advice of sports psychologists; for example, Florida quarterback Chris Leak apparently wore a replica of a 1996 national championship ring during the Gators’ run to the 2006 BCS championship. Also, Trevor Moawad ran the following drill for Alabama players to improve their mental focus: read a sequence of numbers while ignoring the shouts of teammates.

The museum provides visitors with a badge that contains a microchip, enabling them to interact with various exhibits and earn “badges” that are saved to an account that they have created. I logged into the museum’s website after my visit and saw the “badges” that I had earned, which was neat. The museum staff was also friendly and helpful; many of them were passionate college football fans.

My only quibble with the museum is that some of the exhibits appeared to be non-functional.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to sports buffs who happen to visit Atlanta.

Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta March 30, 2018

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I recently visited the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta. The museum showcases the American civil rights movement and raises several difficult questions concerning modern-day injustices.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Claudette Colvin was arrested on March 2, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to yield her seat on a city bus to a white person. Yet she did not become the public face of the protest against segregation on Montgomery city buses, as she had a child out of wedlock and was relatively dark-skinned (compared to Rosa Parks). Her mother also pressured her to cede the spotlight to Parks.

2. During the preparations for the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr., Hosea Williams spied a cart outside an antique store in Atlanta. He appropriated it, promising Ralph Abernathy that he would compensate the owner. He also found two mules about twenty miles outside Atlanta to pull this cart during the funeral. King’s body was placed on it during the funeral procession – highlighting his involvement in the Poor People’s Campaign in his latter years.

3. Some Jim Crow laws were particularly absurd, including the following regulations:

  • a white woman carrying a mixed-race child could be imprisoned for up to five years
  • books intended for white school districts should be physically separate from books intended for colored school districts
  • ticket booths at circuses that catered to white and colored patrons, respectively, should be separated by at least twenty-five feet.

4. Bayard Rustin played a crucial role in organizing the March on Washington in 1963; he – and A. Philip Randolph – appeared on the cover of Time in recognition of that landmark event. During the run-up to the March on Washington, he ceded the spotlight to Randolph; this may have stemmed from the following facts:

  • he was gay
  • he had a brief association with leftist labor groups.

5. Ruby Bridges was the first student to integrate the New Orleans public school system. She compared the events surrounding her first day of school to a Mardi Gras celebration. John Steinbeck captured her experience that day in Travels with Charley, inspiring Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting The Problem We All Live With.

6. Many whites in positions of authority opposed the American civil rights movement, including:

  • Lester Maddox, who refused to serve black patrons at his family-run restaurant
  • Jim Clark, who marched a crowd of demonstrators to jail with the aid of cattle prods
  • James Eastland, who doubted the accounts of the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

7. In contrast, many whites in positions of authority supported the American civil rights movement in the South, including:

  • William Hartsfield, who helped integrate the Atlanta police force
  • Robert Woodruff, who threatened to move the Coca-Cola headquarters from Atlanta if local white business leaders boycotted a dinner in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
  • Ivan Allen, Jr., who helped cover the expenses for King’s funeral in 1968.

The museum included a special exhibit of some of Dr. King’s papers, including a formal invitation to the celebration of Ghana’s independence from Great Britain. Another exhibit included Dr. King’s death certificate, which contained several nuggets of information. Several exhibits highlighted ongoing struggles around the world concerning the rights of women, LGBT individuals, and migrant workers.

My main quibble with the museum concerns its layout. In particular, the exhibit that allows visitors to experience the harassment that protesters endured at Southern lunch counters attracted a plethora of patrons, hampering my ability to navigate the surrounding exhibits.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to those who happen to visit Atlanta.

American Museum of Natural History March 5, 2018

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I recently visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The museum features

the scientific study of animals or plants, especially as concerned with observation rather than experiment, and presented in popular form.

Here are twelve nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The group of dinosaurs known as the ornithomimids derive their name from a phrase meaning “bird mimics.” This group includes the:

These long-limbed dinosaurs had three-fingered hands, a relatively large brain cavity and a flexible neck; some of them attained lengths of at least twenty feet. Interestingly, while they had beaked heads, they were less closely related to birds than the maniraptors. They lived in the Cretaceous period.

2. The group of dinosaurs known as the ornithopods includes the:

These dinosaurs had a powerful bite due to the placement of their jaw joint; they also benefited from a network of bony tendons that stiffened their backbone and tail. They lived from the late Triassic period to the late Cretaceous period.

3. The hind limbs and front limbs of Moschops capensis were splayed under its body and to its sides, respectively. This creature with a cow-like face (Moschops is Greek for “calf”) had an enlarged synapsid opening and its skull was about four inches thick. It lived in the Permian period in modern-day South Africa.

4. The shells of leatherback sea turtles are about six feet long; it weighs up to 1400 pounds. This consumer of jellyfish has tough, rubbery skin that stretches over cartilaginous material; its skin is also strengthened by a layer of tiny, thin bones. Its predators include sharks and killer whales. Females typically lay 80-100 eggs on land above a tidemark; moreover, they can lay eggs on multiple occasions during a single season between late spring and early summer. After incubating for 7-10 weeks, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles crawl toward the sea.

5. The whooping crane is on the verge of extinction, as it has been extensively hunted; moreover, its native marshes in the north-central United States have been drained. At one point, about thirty individuals resided in Canada while wintering in Texas. In contrast, the sand hill crane is the most abundant crane species in the world. It gives a distinctive bugle call; in Florida, it tends to nest in freshwater ponds and marshes.

6. Wayang (Javanese for “shadow”) is a drama form that is based on shadow puppets. Influenced by orthodox religions and ancestor cults, performances are typically accompanied by a gamelan that is comprised of gongs, rebabs and flutes. One example of this art form is the Chalonarang, where a Barang dragon, who represents “life”, battles a witch, Rangda, who represents “death.” In this story, masked followers of Barang threaten Rangda with their knives until they fall into a trance.

7. Denizens of the High Andes (marked by low shrubs) include:

These birds originated in Patagonia at sea level before gradually migrating to higher altitudes over thousands of years. In contrast, denizens of the Pampas (marked by marshlands) include:

These marsh birds are often joined by migratory sandpipers and plovers from North America.

8. The Indian rhino has a single horn that is comprised of a mass of compact hairs; interestingly, its horn is not attached to its skull. It dwells in tall, reedy grasses and wallows in marshes. It is found mainly in reserves in Nepal and the Assam state of India. In contrast, its relative, the Sumatran rhino, has two horns; this endangered species is the smallest of the five extant species of rhinoceros. It dwells in tropical forests at altitudes of up to 3000 feet; it can also employ its two dagger-like lower incisors as weapons.

9. Denizens of the Libyan desert include:

These large, pale ungulates obtain moisture from their food. In this arid region that is characterized by iron-rich sand, rainfall triggers rapid growth of dormant seeds.

10. Belmore Browne advocated the establishment of a national park at Denali; his efforts were rewarded in 1917. One of the most prominent species in Denali (Athabaskan for “High One”) Park is the Dall sheep; males can weigh up to 240 pounds while females can weigh up to 110 pounds. These “thinhorn” sheep live above the tree line to avoid wolves and bears; they feed on grasses, lichens, mosses and shrubs.

11. Pegmatites are formed via a process where mineral elements are highly concentrated in the residual liquid in cooled magma; coarse-grained minerals are then obtained during crystallization of the cooled magma. Some pegmatites consist of large crystals that can weigh up to fifty tons with lengths up to forty feet. Elements that are found in pegmatites include:

12. The denizens of the ancient oceans were intriguing. For example, the Ordovician oceans included the:

The Permian oceans included:

The Cretaceous oceans included ammonites, which were either spiral or straight-shelled; their closest living relative is the chambered nautilus.

The museum is expansive, and one can spend an entire day browsing through its numerous exhibits. I especially enjoyed the exhibits that relied on taxidermists, as they provided realistic depictions of habitats and proportions.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to those who happen to be in the Big Apple.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 29, 2017

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I recently visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The museum presents the history of various societies through the lens of their art.

Here are twelve nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Many natives of Kwangtung migrated to present-day Thailand. They founded several kingdoms, including the:

They also practiced a conservative strain of Buddhism that was influenced by religious practices in Sri Lanka, as Muslim conquests of India marred its reputation as a stronghold of Buddhist orthodoxy.

2. Present-day Burma has been shaped by several kingdoms, including the:

The first king of Burma, Anawrahta, was a devout adherent of Theravada Buddhism. He also subdued the Mon people, enabling the Pagan to control Burma until it was toppled by repeated Mongol invasions.

3. The Srivijaya kingdom was a maritime and commercial power that originated in Palembang. It controlled the strategically vital Strait of Malacca. The early years of its influence overlapped with that of the Shailendra dynasty that controlled Java. The notable Buddhist monument of Borobudur was constructed during the reign of a Shailendra king.

4. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II rebuilt the city of Calah. His citadel was surrounded by a wall that was five miles long; it covered an area of 900 acres. It was guarded by two large statues; each statue included the features of a human, a bird and a bull. The extant reliefs from the citadel include a depiction of a sacred tree and Akkadian inscriptions; Akkadian was written in cuneiform script (“cuneiform” is derived from a Latin root that means “wedge-shaped”).

5. The Licchavi dynasty in Nepal actually originated in India. It was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty; later, the Malla dynasty would rule over the Kathmandu Valley. Eventually the Kathmandu Valley was dominated by three city-states: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The Shah dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of Nepal, ruling until 2008.

6. The Chenla kingdom controlled much of present-day Cambodia. Later, Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire at Phnom Kulen. One of his successors, Yasovarman I, moved the Khmer capital to a location near Angkor. There, another Khmer ruler, Suryavarman II, constructed Angkor Wat. The Khmer Empire reached its greatest territorial extent under Jayavarman VII, who is often depicted with a protective naga, or snake spirit.

7. The Diadochi warred over Cyprus after the death of Alexander the Great. Eventually, Ptolemy I gained control over that island; he established his capital at Nea Paphos. The Cypriots would later devote themselves to the worship of various deities, including:

After Cyprus became a Roman province, Cicero briefly served as its governor.

8. The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula and The Denial of Saint Peter were the last two paintings of Caravaggio. The former work depicts the Hun siege of Cologne; the titular saint allegedly led eleven thousand virgins in an attempt to lift the siege, yet she was slain by an arrow fired by Attila the Hun. The latter work depicts a woman pointing two accusing fingers at the titular saint; a soldier is also shown pointing a third accusing finger at him.

9. The development of Norwegian art was facilitated by Norway’s declaration of independence from Denmark in 1814. Notable artists in this movement included Johan Christian Dahl and Peder Balke. Dahl’s status as the founder of this movement, though, overshadowed the contributions of Balke for many years. Balke successfully avoided military conscription by leaving his boyhood home for Stockholm. He would later travel to Dresden and study with Dahl. Some of his best paintings were influenced by his visit to the North Cape in Finnmark.

10. Kraters were large vases that often depicted prothesis – the laying out of the body of a deceased person while surrounded by mourners and soldiers in boats and chariots. Kraters exemplify the Geometric style and were often made from terra cotta.

11. The mao, the pi and the jian featured prominently on the battlefields of ancient China. In particular, the jian was optimized for close-range striking and stabbing. The rise of iron production during the Han Dynasty impacted the design and development of these Bronze Age weapons.

12. Inlaid celadon was developed during the Koryo dynasty, where slip was poured into carved clay and fired. During the Choson dynasty, buncheong ware was eventually replaced by porcelain, as it reflected the Confucian virtue of simplicity. The demands of the nobility for porcelain were met by the bunwon kilns near Hanyang.

The museum is expansive, and one can spend an entire day browsing through its numerous exhibits. I especially enjoyed the special exhibit that included a section on warfare during the Qin and Han dynasties; I was impressed by its detailed animal figurines and plethora of ancient weapons.

My only quibble with the museum is that the staff gradually closed the exhibits as the afternoon progressed. It would have been better to allow unrestricted access to the entire museum during its operating hours.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to those who happen to be in the Big Apple.

49ers Museum July 6, 2017

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I recently visited the 49ers Museum in Santa Clara. The museum showcases the history of the San Francisco 49ers.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The 49ers competed in the All-America Football Conference for four seasons from 1946 to 1949. After the 1949 season, the AAFC disbanded; the 49ers’ owner, Tony Morabito, then successfully petitioned the NFL to accept his team. The Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns also made successful bids to join the NFL at that time.

2. The 49ers played their home games in Kezar Stadium until 1971. Interestingly, several high school and college teams also claimed that venue as their home stadium. A dirt path led from the locker rooms to the field; 49er Bob St. Clair instructed his teammates to kick up dust as they walked to the field before a home game, creating a nuisance for their opponents who had to take the field after them. A cage was also constructed to shield the 49ers from the abuse of their fans after home losses.

3. The 49ers featured the Million Dollar Backfield from 1954 to 1956. This four-man unit included:

Tittle notably modified his helmet for safety reasons. Also, Perry happened to be a classmate of Pete Rozelle at Compton Community College. All four of these men are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

4. John Brodie led the 49ers to three consecutive division titles between 1970 and 1972. During the 1970 season, he was – arguably – the top quarterback in the NFL, throwing 24 touchdown passes, including 12 to his top receiver, Gene Washington. He delivered an epic performance in the 1971 division-clinching win over the Lions, throwing three touchdown passes and running for another score.

5. Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss, Jr. captured the iconic photo of The Catch. Iooss had been assigned to follow the Dallas Cowboys during the 1981 NFL season on their presumed march to another Lombardi Trophy. During the 49ers’ game-winning drive in the 1981 NFC title game, he had two cameras slung around his neck. On the game-winning play, he prepared to take an end-zone photo with one camera; at the last moment, he switched cameras and snapped three end-zone photos in rapid succession, including the now-famous image of Dwight Clark and Everson Walls.

6. Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. was a successful businessman in Youngstown, Ohio. He made his fortune in real estate; his empire included shopping malls, race tracks and the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL franchise. The DeBartolos would later purchase the 49ers from the Morabito family.

The museum is relatively small, and it took me slightly under two hours to browse all of the exhibits; since I usually attempt to absorb as much information as possible during my museum visits, more casual visitors would probably need about an hour to complete that task. The staff members at the museum were also friendly and helpful; one of them took the time to explain how various life-sized statues of members of the 49ers Hall of Fame were created. He also shared various nuggets regarding The Catch.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to sports buffs who happen to visit the Bay Area.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum April 14, 2017

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I recently visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch, Iowa. The library and museum commemorate the life of our nation’s 31st President, Herbert Hoover.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Hoover was raised in a Quaker household and regularly attended lengthy Quaker meetings. He was orphaned at the age of 10, and so he moved to Oregon to live with his strict Quaker uncle and aunt.

2. As a newly minted graduate of Stanford, Hoover wore a tweed suit – and grew a mustache – for his first job interview; the minimum age for that position was 35. One of the highlights of his career in the mining industry occurred when he hit a gold mine jackpot in Australia; he eventually earned a yearly income of $30000.

3. As a public servant, Hoover played a critical role in several humanitarian endeavors. For example, he facilitated the evacuation of American tourists in Europe at the outset of World War I. He also organized a major wartime relief effort for Belgium; the rations of extra bread and soup that were prepared for those Belgian refugees were nicknamed “Hoover lunches.”

4. Hoover also served as the Commerce Secretary under Warren Harding. As Commerce Secretary, he strongly advocated the ratification of the Colorado River Compact. He also drafted a uniform highway safety code after his friend in Washington D.C. accumulated 24 driving violations while driving to New York.

5. Hoover warned Calvin Coolidge about rampant speculation in the financial sector. He was a strong advocate for price controls in the real estate market. Interestingly, he also supported various infrastructure projects – including several in the Tennessee Valley.

6. After his presidency, Hoover assisted with various European relief efforts in the aftermath of World War II. He also led two commissions that drafted proposals for reforming the executive branch of the federal government. In addition, he proposed the office of “administrative vice president” who would be tasked with managing the federal budget.

The museum is relatively small, and it took me slightly under two hours to browse all of the exhibits; since I usually attempt to absorb as much information as possible during my museum visits, more casual visitors would probably need about an hour to complete that task. I also appreciated the efforts of the exhibit designers in presenting a balanced view of the financial crisis that plagued Hoover’s time in the White House.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to history buffs who happen to be in Iowa.

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum January 10, 2017

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I recently visited The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. This museum showcases the life and work of Hannibal’s most famous resident, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Clemens chose the pen name “Mark Twain” based on his experience as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. Steamboat pilots often checked the depth of an unfamiliar stretch of water. To that end, they would lower a knotted rope into the water; one “mark” on that rope represented a depth of six feet, while a “twain” on that rope represented a depth of twelve feet. A river depth of twelve feet was sufficient for a steamboat.

2. One of Twain’s characters, Injun Joe, was probably based on Joe Douglas, an Osage Indian boy who was brought to Hannibal after his family was attacked by Pawnee warriors. Douglas never adjusted to life in Hannibal, though.

3. The tentacles of antebellum slavery extended to Hannibal. Slaves in Hannibal typically slept on pallets on kitchen floors and rose early on the following day to begin preparing food for their owners. During his upbringing, Clemens was aware of slavery – though he only had a limited understanding of it.

4. Another of Twain’s characters, Becky Thatcher, was probably based on Laura Hawkins, who lived in an upper middle class home right across from the home where he grew up. Hawkins was the first girl who Clemens liked.

5. Clemens’ younger brother, Henry, sailed on the steamboat Pennsylvania. In 1858, a boiler exploded on the Pennsylvania, scalding Henry. He would later succumb to his injuries, and his death greatly affected his older brother.

6. Clemens’ father, John, was unable to make a living as a farmer. He then moved his family to Hannibal and managed a store; he also served as a judge. Unfortunately, he passed away when Clemens was only twelve years old; Clemens then became a printer’s apprentice to support his family.

I appreciated the fact that the museum consisted of several distinct buildings, as that allowed me to get some much-needed exercise while touring it. The museum staff was also quite friendly and helpful.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would certainly recommend it to tourists who happen to visit Hannibal.