Franz Ferdinand assassination relic displayed

franz ferdinand austria hungary

The shirt Archduke Franz Ferdinand was wearing when he and his wife were shot in the streets of Sarajevo in June 1914, sparking the fuse that  led to World War I, is on display in Vienna.

The blood-splattered garment, once white but now stained a dark brown, is being exhibited in a glass display case at the Austrian Military Museum.

The museum contains more artifacts related to the assassination of the man who was heir to the crown of Austria-Hungary than any other location, according to the Guardian.

The shirt was in the possession of the Jesuit religious order until 2004 when it was found in their archives and passed to the Austrian Military Museum on permanent loan.

Because of its delicate condition it is only rarely put on public display, according to the publication.

This time it will be viewable through the middle of next week in a dimly lit room.

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And I’ll have the ‘chicken’ sandwich …

Wash Hands

In my neck of the woods, putting quotation marks around words in the above fashion is often used to indicate a meaning atypical from that commonly associated with the term in question.

Given that, one wonders what meaning is intended by the recommendation that employees “wash hands”?

Is the entire staff in on a big joke in which no one actually washes their hands after using the bathroom, but, should health inspectors stop by, it’s been agreed that everyone will say they wash their hands?

Or is it more complex, in which employees go through some sort of ritual that falls short of effective hand-washing but enables them to assert they’ve made an effort?

Perhaps they use soap but no warm water?

Maybe they just run their hands under cold water?

Could it be that they simply lick their fingers on their way out the bathroom door?

Or, given that the sign says “Employee Must ‘Wash Hands'” perhaps there’s but a single designated employee who has to wash up after being in the bathroom; everyone else is exempt from this onerous regulation.

That’s both the joy and agony of bad grammar: It’s hilariously confusing. Until the dysentery epidemic breaks out, that is.

Given how this photo almost certainly came from a fast-food restaurant bathroom, I don’t know what would be more upsetting: To see this placard before one has eaten, when it can still ruin one’s appetite, or after one has dined, when it’s too late to head for another restaurant.

You know, an establishment that takes hygiene, or at least grammar, more seriously.

(HT: Kids Prefer Cheese)

How I outfoxed a 6-ounce bird and four eggs

Killdeer 008 a

My 2013 Mess with Nature Tour found me in a small churchyard in a neighboring South Carolina county this past weekend, where I came across a clutch of killdeer eggs and one very aggravated mama killdeer.

Prior adventures this summer in the never-ending quest to snare (and release) God’s creations include catching a baby turkey, catching and being bitten by two separate black snakes, catching but not being bitten by any of half a dozen Eastern box turtles, being outsmarted by several baby moorhens, along with numerous run-ins with lizards, skinks and anoles.

The latest occurred while I was in a quiet graveyard off a two-lane state highway. The cemetery, enclosed by a beautiful old stone wall, was without trees and had little vegetation except grass.

As I wandered about, an adult killdeer about 15 feet in front of me suddenly began plying its “broken-wing” routine, squawking and struggling to keep its balance.

Thinking there were babies about, I quickly scanned the area, but saw none. With nothing but headstones in the graveyard I knew there was nowhere to hide, so I determined there must be a clutch of eggs somewhere close.

I scoured the ground along a 20-square-foot patch of ground, but found nothing, so I then tried a bit of triangulation, seeing which movement caused the killdeer to come back toward me most rapidly.

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Nicaragua’s canal-sized pipe dream


The Panama Canal took a decade to complete, cost the lives of thousands of workers and proved one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.

So why not a repeat performance?

Earlier this month, the Nicaraguan legislature approved construction of a canal to compete with the Panama Canal, an endeavor that would double the number of shortcuts between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The project would apparently be built by a Chinese telecommunications equipment firm, with financing largely coming from China, according to the magazine The American.

The project envisions building a canal as long as 178 miles (the Panama Canal is 48 miles, by comparison), as well as two deep-water ports, two free-trade zones, an oil pipeline, a railroad and an international airport, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The cost is estimated at a staggering $40 billion, about four times the country’s annual gross domestic product.

Supporters of the latest iteration of the project, approved last week, hope that it will propel Nicaragua out of its economic doldrums by bolstering employment and economic growth, added the Journal.

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German bomber raised from sea after 70+ years

dornier do 17 raised

After more than 70 years on the floor of the English Channel, a German bomber shot down during World War II has been raised.

The Dornier Do 17 aircraft was downed in August 1940 off the coast of Kent during the Battle of Britain.

It is believed to be the only intact example of its kind in the world, according to the BBC.

The aircraft, brought up last week, was found to be badly corroded, with the fuselage twisted and held in place only by a strut inserted by the salvage team. The plane’s engines were found to have come apart from the plane and had to be brought up separately.

The existence of the Dornier Do 17 – nicknamed the Luftwaffe’s “flying pencils” because of its narrow fuselage – became known when it was spotted by divers in 2008 lying in 50 feet of water on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.

The Dornier will be restored at a site in Shropshire before eventually going on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon, north London.

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No career prepares you for Career Day

thank you

In my neck of the woods, one of the highlights of being a dad is being asked to make an appearance at “Career Day” when your child is in 4th grade. I was fortunate enough to be invited by my youngest to speak to her class recently, and, as always, it was a treat.

The favorite part of this year’s appearance, however, were the Thank Yous I received afterward.

The notes were decorated elaborately; many in a variety of colors and inks, and all with the unguarded sweet words of appreciation that seemingly only a child can muster.

It’s important to note that I work for a state banking association – a job I thoroughly enjoy, but not exactly what most 9- or 10-year olds would consider a glamorous position, or even one many at that age can comprehend.

As a result I opted to skip planned discussions on the Federal Reserve System and Quantitative Easing, and a proposed Q&A breakout session on the merits of returning to a bimetallic monetary standard.

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Technology helps preserve Fort Moultrie guns

fort moultrie guns

Federal forces spent four years trying to silence Confederate guns on Fort Moultrie, but the massive iron weapons face just as formidable a foe today: the environment.

To protect the 10 historic siege and garrison guns still located at the Sullivans Island fortification, preservationists have turned to technology, including computer sensors, in a bid to defend them from the salt and humidity omnipresent along the South Carolina coast.

The guns of Fort Moultrie are of particular historical significance because they were among the weapons that were used to fire on Fort Sumter April 12-13, 1861, officially beginning the War Between the States.

“The last of the guns, a 7-ton Union rifled Parrott gun suspended in a yellow sling held by a crane, was slowly jockeyed into place onto a new concrete base last week,” according to The Associated Press. “It completes what the fort refers to as Cannon Row, where seven of the heavy guns are lined up next to each other.”

The conservation work, which included coating nearly all the guns in rust-retarding epoxy, is being done through a collaborative effort between the National Park Service and Clemson University’s Restoration Institute.

The price tag for the multi-year conservation effort is $900,000.

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Nazi commander found residing in Minnesota

 Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division

Inserted in the opening paragraph of Slate magazine’s story about a Nazi collaborator who was discovered last week to have been living in the US for the past 60-plus years were these two sentences, which would be slightly amusing if not representative of a grave injustice:

“Michael Karkoc now lives in Minnesota and when he entered the United States in 1949 told authorities he had not performed military service during World War II. That wasn’t really accurate.”

No, indeed it wasn’t. Karkoc was a founding member and an officer of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion and later was an officer in the SS Galician Division.

There appears to be plenty of evidence that the company Karkoc commanded massacred civilians, including burning villages filled with women and children, and that he was at the scene of the atrocities, even if there’s no proof Karkoc himself didn’t actually participate.

The Associated Press broke the story about Karkoc on Friday and provided an exhaustive report on not just the fact he’s been living in the United States for decades, but included background between groups allied with the Nazis and how many individuals avoided being brought to justice under the guise of fighting communism.

It will be hard for Karkoc to plead mistaken identity; in 1995 he published a Ukrainian-language memoir that stated he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion in 1943 to fight on the side of Germany – and wrote that he served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, through the end of the war.

The memoir is available at the US Library of Congress, according to The Associated Press.

(Above: A 1944 photo shows head of the SS Heinrich Himmler, center, reviewing troops  of the Galician SS-Volunteer Infantry Division, of which Michael Karkoc was a  member.)

La Salle vessel may be on verge of discovery


The remains of the first European ship to sink in the upper Great Lakes – built by famed French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier de la Salle – may be uncovered shortly.

Beginning this weekend, Steve Libert will head a diving expedition to an underwater site in northern Lake Michigan, where archaeologists and technicians will attempt to determine whether timber jutting from the seabed and other items beneath layers of sediment are the wreckage of La Salle’s legendary vessel, the Griffin.

“I’m numb from the excitement,” Libert told The Associated Press. “It’s the Holy Grail for the Great Lakes; it’s No. 1 on the list.”

Libert, 59, recently retired from a position as an intelligence analyst with the US Department of Defense. He’s long had a passion for maritime mysteries and has journeyed from Okinawa to the Florida Keys for diving expeditions.

He’s long been intrigued by stories of 17th Century French explorer La Salle, who journeyed across the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi in a quest for a trade route to the Far East that he hoped would bring riches and renown, according to The Associated Press.

“Particularly intriguing was the tale of the Griffin, a vessel that La Salle built and sailed from Niagara Falls to the shores of present-day Wisconsin before sending it back for more supplies,” the wire service added.

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Nun dies after 86 years of cloistered life

The Papal Conclave Day Two

One can’t help but be awe-struck at some of the facts surrounding the life of Sister Teresita Barajuen, a Spanish nun who died this week.

For one, she was 105 years old and had spent almost all of the past 86 years as a cloistered nun in the Buenafuente del Sistal Monastery northeast of Madrid.

Cloistered nuns live contemplative lives in which they spend much of their time praying.

They usually have little or no contact with the outside world and live in structures that prevent them looking outside their enclosures, and also keep neighbors from seeing into the court-yards or gardens used by the nuns.

Sister Teresa, as she was known, entered the Cistercian monastery when she was 19, many years before the onset of the Spanish Civil War which devastated the nation.

Except for the period of 1936-39 conflict which caused the nuns to flee from the fighting, Sister Teresa lived her entire life as a nun in the Buenafuente del Sistal Monastery, according to the website

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