Sunday, October 28, 2012

Centralia, Pennsylvania Is Burning!


In 1854, Mr. Alexander W. Rea, a mining engineer for the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, moved to the site that had been known as Roaring Creek Township since 1841, and laid out streets and lots for development. The town was initially known as Centreville but there was another Centreville in neighboring Schuylkill County just to the south east, and the US Post Office would not allow a another P O with the same name, so in 1865 Rea renamed his village Centralia; it was incorporated as a borough the very next year (1866).

The borough or town operated its own school district with elementary schools and one high school within its boundaries; further it once had seven churches, five hotels, twenty-seven saloons, two theatres, a bank, 14 general and grocery stores, and a post office. The borough’s population peaked at 2,761 as is evidenced by the 1890 federal census, and then fell into a steady decline. According to 1980’s census, there were only 1,012 residents; by 2010 the number had dropped to 10. Today (October 2012) a family of five (5) visiting the little that’s left of the town will double the population.

All properties in the borough were claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth (State) of Pennsylvania in 1992 and all buildings located in Centralia were condemned with a stroke of the government’s pen. You might say all hope for the town was lost when in 2002 Centralia’s ZIP code (17921) was revoked by the US Postal Service. A few residents however continue to reside there even though a lawsuit to reverse the eminent domain claim failed.

Like many Pennsylvania towns in the region, the anthracite coal industry was the principal employer in the community.  As you probably already know, anthracite coal was formed some time ago (between 250,000,000 BC and 400,000,000 BC); it holds the highest rank among coal and is noted for its bright luster. . . . Sadly, the mismanagement of this superior coal seam would play a key role in the community’s ultimate demise.

Coal mining was king in Centralia until the 1960s, when most of the companies went out of business but “Bootleg” mining or mining without a government permit, continued until 1982. Strip and open-pit mining is still active in the general area, and there is now (2012) an underground mine that employs about 40 people three miles to the west.

OK so here’s what most people think happened . . . In 1962, a couple of workers set some “accumulated” trash on fire in close proximity to an abandoned mine; turns out the fire was too close to an exposed vein of anthracite coal, guess what, it also caught fire. Early attempts to put the smoldering coal fire out failed miserably and the fire spread throughout mines beneath the town.
For the next 20 years, numerous attempts were made to extinguish the fire, but they failed too. In 1981, the ground crumbled beneath the feet of a12-year-old native son which resulted in lots of media coverage and in turn the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in short condemned the town and spent $42 million to relocate residents.

The fire continues to burn today (2012) and experts say there’s enough coal to fuel the fire for 250 years.

Although a handful of people remain in Centralia, all properties in the town were reclaimed by the state by virtue of eminent domain so no-one was really surprised when the borough’s ZIP code was revoked in 2002. Residents have filed lawsuits to reverse the eminent domain claim because they believe the state simply wants to get the mineral rights to the coal, which is estimated to be worth $1 billion , but as stated above all such attempts have failed.

So you might ask, is this the ultimate ghost town?  Well during the early days of the community Centralia was believed to be a hotbed for the unsavory actions of the “Molly Maguires” (a 19th century secret society of mainly Irish-American coal miners).  In fact the borough’s founder, Alexander Rea, is said to be one of the victims of the secret order when he was murdered just outside of town on October 17, 1868. Three individuals were convicted of the crime and hanged in the county seat on March 25, 1878. Several other murders and arsons occurred during the same era which some folks insist enhances the likely-hood of Centralia being a ghost’s paradise.

Sources:                                                     ,_Pennsylvania                                                                           

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Which is Best, LP’s or CD’s?

For the past 30+ years “digital” has become an unparalleled buzzword in the music industry. Many children think that LP’s are just some kind of an oversized CD.  All of us who back in the day had even marginally decent turntables complimented with a good set of speakers can share stories about our first exposure to CD's; we all thought they would be better than LP’s and with the purchase of our first rather expensive CD player, most of us ran right out to buy a CD.  

With excitement building, the big moment finally arrived ...we pressed play and about 30 seconds later, with this odd new sound coming from the speakers, we instantly concluded that we must have done something wrong during the installation process and in turn carefully checked all the connections and such to the new CD player. Following a failed attempt to improve the sound output, we then concluded the player was surely defective so we called a friend who also had a new CD player and borrowed it, the same damn results followed!

This thin dry and super clean sound just wasn’t doing anything right for many of us; but this experience was, as it turned out, our very first encounter with what is now called “ear fatigue”.

In the years to follow there was a great deal of pressure placed on manufacturers to improve the performance level or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say “make good on their claims”. Yes, many aspects of the CD player’s design have improved, but some parts have actually gotten worse.  During the 30 years that have passed, many “older” listeners have simply forgotten the genuine difference in sound between the LP and the CD and have adjusted our hearing and expectations to a lower level. Admittedly the CD does have good points, but most are related to engineering and industrial design rather than fidelity.

To remotely understand how an LP or CD actually works from a very simplistic point of view, it’s necessary to recognize that a vinyl record is an analog recording, and CD's are digital recordings.  Original sound is analog by definition. A digital recording takes “snapshots” of the analog signal at a certain rate (for CD's it's 44,100 times per second) and measures each snapshot with a high degree of accuracy.

The fact is that no matter how you put it, this means that a digital recording is not capturing the complete sound wave; instead it’s approximating the sound wave with a series of steps. Some sounds that have very quick transitions, such as a drum beat or that of a trumpet’s tone for example; this will be distorted when converted to digital because they change too quickly.

In the typical home stereo system, the CD player takes this digital recording and converts it back to an analog signal, which is fed to the amplifier. The amplifier then raises the voltage of the signal to a level powerful enough to make the speakers work.

On the other hand a vinyl record has a groove “carved” or “cut” into it that mirrors the original sound’s waveform; this means that absolutely no information / signal is lost, so in short, since the output of a LP or record player is analog, it can be fed directly to your amplifier with no conversion, thus no signal is lost and because of this, a better sound results.

However it should be noted that to have a direct analog (LP) playback system that is noticeably superior to a modern digital (CD) playback system requires a large monetary investment in the analog system or let’s say a delicate balance of “gear”  with a proper setup is essential. . .

This might include: Speakers, single ended triode amplifiers with no feedback, a single ended triode preamplifier, a good MC cartridge (the “needle”) with a step-up transformer, a good tone arm, and a good turntable with good wire. If anything in the above list is weak, the illusion will simply collapse.

In the long and short of all things being considered here, unless you can create the LP playback system quite similar to the one described in the above paragraph, then what’s the point in piddling with LP’s in the first place, especially these days. Truth is if you’re going to do vinyl, there are no short cuts. While it’s possible to create the ideal audio illusion with a not so modest $2,000.00, you must be practical and careful in choosing the components.  However that $2,000.00 is likely to surpass the price of a good digital-to-analog converter (DAC) or to put it more plainly, a good CD player.

For the difference in sound it’s often argued that the rewards of the LP are obvious beyond cost.  But keep in mind that there are downsides to LP’s such as tiny specks of dust that often collect on the disc or minor damage to the disc can be “heard” or “amplified”  as noise or static, thus sabotaging the concept of a better, wholesome sound. During quiet spots in songs this may be “heard” or “amplified” as a “crackling” noise; if the digital recording contains silence, then there’s only silence heard on the CD.   Further, digital recordings don’t degrade over time, and finally CD’s can hold 74 minutes of music; LP’s don’t even come close, with about 20 minutes per side.

To take the sound / fidelity issue one step further, there is the response from the masses who never owned a high quality turntable set-up that can justifiably argue  that when compared to the cassette tape player, that was once the rage, CD’s  actually do sound lots better.

Regardless, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, sales of vinyl albums continue to grow, setting a new record in 2010, in fact as early as April of 2008 C/Net reported that LP sales surpassed CD sales, but does vinyl really reproduce sound that much better, or is this just an extended trend? 

The Compact Disc was introduced in 1983, and three years later CD sales outsold LP’s, but since CD’s sold for $15.00 to $17.00, twice the price of an LP at the time, a lot of buyers resisted the changeover from analog to digital. Today, as you might guess, the opposite is true. 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Catastrophic Theory Regarding History

First, there is strong evidence that one or more times prior to our present recorded history, mankind achieved a high level of civilization, only to have nearly all traces of it annihilated by widespread destruction; caused either by natural or man made events or perhaps both.  Second and yet conversely, the origin of human beings is currently accepted by the majority of scientists, to have appeared as a species no more than 2 or 3 million years ago. Additionally, the history of mankind such as he is known today does not extend beyond 10,000 years.

Bold statements indeed, but there is a good deal of physical evidence that will support the first hypothesis or theory and will not support the second.  For example in 1944, a ten year old boy, by the name of Newton Anderson dropped a lump of coal in his basement which broke it in half; to his surprise he found that it contained the bell displayed above. The bituminous coal that contained the bell had been mined near his house in Upshur County West Virginia and is supposed to be about 300 million years old! So what, you might ask, is a brass bell with an iron clapper doing in a block of coal?  Most any geologist will tell us that this particular type of coal was formed during the Carboniferous Period 259 to 359 million years ago but they won’t venture a guess as to how the bell got there.   

Some experts like Norm Sharbaugh reported in his 1997 book titled “Ammunition”, that the bell referenced above is an ancient artifact made sometime before Noah’s Flood as told in the Book of Genesis of the Christian Bible. The Institute for Creation Research had the bell submitted to the lab at the University of Oklahoma, once there a nuclear activation analysis revealed that the bell contains an unusual mix of metals that’s different from any known modern alloy produced today.

The bell was featured prominently in a 1992 CBS docudrama titled “Ancient Secrets of the Bible” and is now part of the Genesis Park collection.

And yes, years later, Mr. Anderson was examined by an expert polygraph specialist to validate the assertion of his youth. The official report can be seen HERE.  Bottom line: He told the truth.

A woman, in Illinois, was reported to have found a gold chain in a chunk of coal which she broke open in 1891; this story was first reported in the June 11, 1891 edition of the Morrisonville, Ill. Times. The chain was made of eight carat gold and weighed eight penny-weights (192 grains or 1 ⁄ 5 of a troy ounce).

A small iron cuboid (cube like) mass was found in a block of coal in Wolfsegg am Hausruck, a municipality in the district of Vöcklabruck in Upper Austria,  back in 1885.

In 1912 an electric company employee in Arkansas broke open a large lump of coal, revealing a man-made iron pot. The original coal bed was reportedly from the mid Pennsylvanian Age and according to conventional geology is nearly 300 million years old.

Near Lawn Ridge, 20 miles north of Peoria, Illinois, in August of 1870, three men were drilling an artesian well, at a depth of over a hundred feet; the pump brought a small metal medallion to the surface.

One of the workmen, Mr. Jacob W. Moffit, from Chillicothe, IL (located in central Illinois just north of Peoria) was the first to discover it in the drill residue. A noted scholar of the time, Professor Alexander Winchell, reported in his book “Sparks From a Geologist’s Hammer”, that he received from yet another eye-witness, W.H. Wilmot, a detailed statement, dated December 4, 1871, regarding the deposits and depths of materials recovered during the drilling operation, including the position where the metal “coin” was discovered.

The extraordinary “coin / medallion” consisted of an unidentified copper alloy; it was about the size and thickness of a U.S. quarter of that era (24.3 mm in diameter and weighing in at 6.25 grams as compared to a modern quarter that’s 24.26 mm in diameter and weighs in at 5.67 grams).  It was reported to be extraordinarily uniform in thickness and roundness; the edges appeared to have been machine cut and according to researcher William E. Dubois, who presented his findings of the medallion to the American Philosophical Society, believed that the object showed “evidence of the machine shop.”

Despite the coin’s “modern characteristics”, Mr. Dubois plainly saw that, upon the object, “the tooth of time is plainly visible” as he put it. To make this accidental discovery even more unbelievable or perhaps just confounding; a date of 1572 was displayed on one side of the coin.  Both sides of the medallion were marked with artwork and hieroglyphs, but according to Mr. Dubois it had not been engraved or stamped. Rather, the figures displayed upon the coin in his opinion had somehow been etched in acid, with a remarkable degree of sophistication. One side showed the figure of a woman wearing a crown or headdress; her left arm is raised, and her right arm holds a small child, also crowned. 

On the opposite side of the medallion is another central figure that looks somewhat like a crouching animal: it has long, pointed ears, large eyes, and a large mouth with arms that can be described as claw-like, and finally there is the long tail that appears to be tattered at its end.  Below and to the left of this “beast” is another animal which bares a strong resemblance to a horse. Around the outer edges of both sides of the coin are indecipherable glyphs; they are of a very definite character, and show all the signs of some form of alphabetic writing.

Professor Alexander Winchell (1824-1891), State Geologist for the US state of Michigan presented the medallion / coin to a meeting of the Geological Section of the American Association at its 1876 meeting in Buffalo, New York.   At least one participant, a J R Lesley, suggested that the “artifact” was nothing more than a practical joke and that the coin must have been dropped into a hole by a passing French or Spanish explorer centuries earlier. Needless to say, Professor Winchell was adamant that the symbols on the coin were indecipherable in terms of any known script and that the practical joke premise failed on the grounds that no one could or would have dropped an object into a hole with the expectation that someone several hundred years later somehow just happen to drill in that exact spot.

Ok, we learned in our previous post “Let There be Miracles” that every now and then such oddities do really happen, but for every miracle that happens in this category, there’s dozens of instances that simply defy explanation. 

A few examples include:  A large ceramic spoon or ladle was found in the ashes of a coal stove by a woman in Pennsylvania in 1937. The item was sent to The Smithsonian Institute for examination, and remained buried there in the volumes of stored artifacts until its existence was made public in 1976. 

A story found in the Epoch Times told of an 1800’s Colorado rancher who broke open a lump of coal someone had recovered from a coal vein some 300 feet within the earth, and found a “strange-looking iron thimble.” The artifact was soon dubbed the “Thimble of Eve” by the media. Since its discovery, however, due to mishandling by its owners, the iron corroded and has since disintegrated.

Workers in stone quarries also have found impossible objects: It’s said that in 1844, quarry workers at Rutherford Mills, England, found a piece of gold thread embedded in rock about eight (80) feet below the earth’s surface. 

And finally this example: a British publication of 1845-51, contained a report by Sir David Brewster that reported a nail found in a block of stone that came from Kingoodie Quarry of North Britain. The head of the nail was exposed but about an inch of it was embedded within the stone.