History Monday #94

Russians being involved with the United States? No it’s not the usual news about the 2 nations

As we all deal with social distancing and what may be coming, maybe we should look North to the Future. I mention that phrase as it’s the motto of the state being discussed in today’s #HistoryMonday topic.


Flag of Alaska
State Flag of Alaska

On this day in 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia agreeing to purchase Alaska for $7 million. The price of roughly two cents an acre should have been seen as a bargain but was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s Folly,” “Seward’s icebox,” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.” Much of the derision stemmed from wondering why the country would purchase a massive amount of land with little that could be used in it.

Russia had established a presence in Alaska in 1732 to pursue fur-trapping interests. After over-hunting the otters in Alaska and needing cash after an unsuccessful effort in the Crimean War, Russia sought to sell their North American colony. Authorities for both nations had discussed transferring ownership of the territory during the administration of President James Buchanan, but the Civil War interrupted the discussions. At the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, Seward, re-started the discussions so that the United States could expand their influence along the Pacific and West to benefit the country.

fast forward

Congress and the Senate approved the purchase after much debate and discussion on April 9. Six months later on October 18, in a ceremony between the two nations the territory was formally handed over from Russia to the United States.

Settlement in the territory by Americans was slow the first three decades, but with the discovery of gold in 1898 settlers rushed into the territory and began the process to Americanize the territory. Discoveries of natural resources such as oil and the forests would also convince settlers to move into the massive territory and by January 3, 1959 the Last Frontier would become the 49th State.

Current Event Friday #97

All I wanna do is Zoom

This last week has zoomed by and as social distancing continues to impact people from being out and about the days get lost. In the midst of physical distancing, many find creative ways to still be social and productive. One of the more popular means and awareness for how best to use it is today’s #CurrentEventFriday topic.

Zoom Meetings Pro Video Conferencing Annual Licenses

Zoom Video Meetings have become much more popular over the last several weeks as businesses, schools, and other organizations still want input and interaction from their constituencies but admit that conference calls can still betray facial expression and body language when communicating. Zoom also allows many more participants than a traditional conference call.

How Zoom Employees use Zoom

As Zoom has surged in popularity, a new trend for hackers is ‘zoombombing’ which involves the hacker posting inappropriate images or video in a Zoom meeting or appearing as a participant while speaking hateful or inappropriate words. A professor noticed during one of his lectures this week that a participant had posted pornography while another came in shouting racial epithets. Due to the confusion this created, the professor hastily ended the meeting and suspended any further meetings until the problem could be solved. Some have suggested that Zoom should require all meeting to be set to private by default and additionally to require passwords in order to join a meeting.

On a lighter side of concerns with Zoom, newer users should be aware of how to participate while being aware of your other co-participants. First, when not speaking use the mute function on your end. As anyone who’s ever called into a radio station knows, you turn down the radio to stop the feedback loop it can create. You can also help yourself if you have a set of earbuds plugged into your device so you’re clear on what is being said in the meeting. Secondly, be sure that your setting is fairly well lit. Broadcasting from a dark cave only works for Al-Qaida and terrorists in third-world nations. We have light and hi-resolution for a reason. Third, be sure to properly align the camera. Nobody needs to see your nostrils or your neck. Experiment with raising, lowering, and tilting your device to properly align your face. Last, be engaged as you would be in person. If you have to get up to use the restroom or grab a drink that’s fine but avoid checking your e-mail or browsing the internet while in the meeting.

I’ll admit I’ve used Zoom a handful of times for a discussion group with other pastors as we’ve studied the Sermons of John Wesley so I’m not quite a novice, but I’m still learning. I’m not used to the muting when not talking, but I also tend to have one earbud in, so it limits the feedback and the other participants seem to have quality setups that limit issues as well. I’m hoping many others will put this to use and become better Zoomers even after social distancing relaxes and we can meet in person again.

Have you used Zoom Video Meetings before?

Poetry Wednesday 95

Today’s original poem is brought to you in a “Little Red Wagon”

“Little Red Wagon”

Never was going to be loaded down and proven as a beast of burden

My back can’t be loaded down, of this I’m certain

Needed to find a way to carry all my baggage I’m holding

Onto a better carrier, my poor aching bones were scolding


Wasn’t meant for the glamour, the glitz, or rock ‘n’ roll

Made my way through life, skipping along over every knoll

Finally got someone to be a Jill to my Jack, or maybe she’s a Diane

Life is always rolling along, we’re helping each other do what we can


Life is easier with someone by my side, when I’ve been away too long and draggin’

Saying good-bye to a hard life, now I’m just along for the ride

Rolling along with the one I love the best, happy for us even if we’re stuck inside

Now she’s pulling me along like a little red wagon

Lost in the look in her eyes, I’d follow her like my old Radio Flyer

She means every word she speaks, she’s no liar

© Ryan Stroud 2020

History Monday #93

Going up…

A new week begins, and I could give you an elevator pitch of the event, but I’ll keep it to the usual length of a #HistoryMonday post. Now that I’m back to writing for my own personal edification instead of for academics, I don’t have to worry about too little length or citations. Anyways, let’s get to the event of focus.

Elisha Otis demonstrating the safety of his elevator

On this day in 1857, Elisha Otis installs his first safety elevator in a commercial application. Even after having demonstrated its safety four years earlier at the Worlds Fair, he was only able to achieve minimal success. Thanks to his sons’ efforts in the ensuing years, the Otis Elevator Company they founded with their father success would come shortly after.

The key to the success of Otis’s elevator was the safe descent after having lifted cargo or passengers. Hoists already existed that could move objects to higher locations, but fears of stress on safety ropes plagued many elevator users. Otis showed his elevator was safe despite the rope being cut thanks to Otis’s safety brake for elevators.

fast forward

Otis Elevator Company would change the composition of buildings. With safer means of transporting goods and people in buildings, these structures could be built more than a few stories while avoiding the arduous flights of stairs. Eventually, the structure that defines city skylines—the skyscraper owes its success to the elevator.

Beyond the original elevator being installed in the building on Broadway in New York, many more elevators were included in buildings constructed after 1857 and by 1860 the Otis Elevator Company was achieving more success than Elisha Otis could have predicted. Sadly, the greatest success was experienced by his sons, as Elisha passed away in 1860.

Elevators also created the new job of elevator operator, who were required to operate the levers guiding the ascent or descent of the car. Many of these operators were African-Americans who needed jobs post-slavery. As this profession grew, a union of the workers was organized in 1917. Eventually as elevators employed an automated system, the elevator operators were no longer needed.

Otis Elevator Company has become one of the most recognized elevator manufacturers thanks to the success of the elevator Elisha Otis invented. As the company continued to grow and install elevators in numerous buildings worldwide, the company also popularized the escalator and until 1950 had a near-exclusive claim on the term for the moving staircase. But as escalator became the default name for the moving staircase, Otis Elevator Company was unable to retain the trademark. So, escalators can be made by not just Otis but other elevator companies.

Where’s your favorite elevator you’ve ridden in?

Current Event Friday #96

And then there were two…

Another week is coming to an end, and it’s been a wild and fast-moving one to be sure. That means it’s time for #CurrentEventFriday once more. I know I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog lately, and it has nothing to do with the Coronavirus I assure you. I’ve been focused on essay assignments for my Course of Study (Continuing Education) classes and my brain is shot and so was my motivation to write for pleasure. Without further ado, let’s get into today’s entry which is all about the Democratic election.

Image result for joe biden

The primary season is winding down, and after yesterday there are only two candidates left—former Vice President Joe Biden & Sen. Bernie Sanders. For the most part it has been these two for the last couple weeks, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard finally conceded yesterday and endorsed Joe Biden. That leaves the two senior statesmen left to battle it out.

If these two were closer in the delegate count it would be worth paying attention to, but Biden has almost 300 delegates more than Bernie Sanders. According to RealClear Politics, Biden has 1181 pledged delegates to Sanders’s 885. To win the nomination, a candidate needs 1,991 delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Biden has won most of his delegates in the last month and handily. While many thought Sanders’s early lead in the polls and easy wins in the first few primaries would easily give him the nomination, Biden was able to depend on Southern states with several black voters and traditional Democrats to bring him back into contention.

What seems surprising is with this surge in momentum and the other former candidates now endorsing Biden, is that Sanders hasn’t given up the fight. For his part, Pres. Trump has pointed out that the DNC is trying to ‘steal’ the election from Bernie like they did in 2016. Many progressives in the party and Sanders surrogates have also intimated the same thoughts alleging that Biden is hardly any different from Pres. Trump and doesn’t share their progressive values. Biden hasn’t necessarily dismissed those arguments completely but has responded that his policies and efforts are more in line with being electable not only in the primaries but in the general election as well. For what it’s worth, Biden is probably accurate that he is seemingly more electable than Sanders.

Many who feel that Sanders is having the election stolen from him a second time conveniently forget that he is an Independent and not officially a Democrat. He only runs as a Democrat when running for the presidency. So, there’s no reason for the DNC to show loyalty to a person who isn’t a member of that organization. If Bernie is indeed popular among so many people, why not run as President for the Democratic Socialist Party of America?

At this point, Bernie’s continued presence in the Democratic primaries is likely to result in a Pyrrhic victory for Biden. With only two New England states and New York left as possible wins for Sanders, Biden should wrap up the nomination, but Sanders will inflict damage on Biden that Pres. Trump will use again in the general election cycle. It will also likely depress voter turnout for those who wanted to see Sanders as the nominee. Some will support the Democratic candidate no matter who it is because they are determined to beat Pres. Trump but likely not enough. Pres. Trump is smart enough to use the tactic of playing on the allegations that Sanders had the election stolen again to keep more Progressive voters from voting for the Democratic nominee.

Regardless of Biden likely winning the nomination, I feel like Pres. Trump will likely win re-election because Biden has been seen as a doddering old fool much of this campaign and Pres. Trump will capitalize on attacking Biden’s gaffes and will get Biden to become defensive and argumentative rather than sticking to substance. If Pres. Obama doesn’t endorse Biden even after he wins the nomination, Pres. Trump will also call attention to that as well. Expect questions about Hunter Biden and Ukraine to also be asked of Biden by Pres. Trump to knock Biden off his game. If by some miracle, Sanders wins Pres. Trump will say the word “communism” every 10 minutes of the campaign to attack Bernie and his affinity for socialism and its evil stepbrother communism. All of this to say, it will be entertaining during the general election and especially during the debates because Pres. Trump never fails to be an entertainer even if sometimes his political instincts take a day or two for him to catch up on given his recent foray into being a politician.

Should Bernie drop out and let Biden be nominated?