If you visit the NASA site or do a search for “solar flares” then you will see the beauty of this phenomena. They are amazing to witness. NASA has The Solar Dynamics Observatory which keeps its lens on the sun and they have video of these emissions. Perhaps your perception of the sun is just this warming yellow ball in the sky, but a closer examination shows how powerful and ever-changing the sun is!

You may have heard of solar flares in the past few years. I’ve always found them fascinating, but do you know how they can affect you? Do you even know what they are?

Without getting too in-depth with research and cosmic talk, solar flares are bursts of radiation from the sun. According to NASA, the harmful radiation from the sun will not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere to harm us BUT it can affect the level of atmosphere where GPS and communications satellites hover.

NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has a Space Weather Prediction Center, which can be found at spaceweather.gov, which includes space weather forecasts and alerts.

There are levels of intensity for solar flares: A-class (low), B, C, M, and X being the most powerful. As I understand it – they increase at ten times the power. So, to quote NASA: “an X is ten times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.”

Solar flares are usually associated with solar magnetic storms, better known as CMEs (or Coronal Mass Ejections). Let’s review that: coronal means ‘of the crown or front face’ – mass is ‘of one body with no definite shape’ and ejection — do I really need to give you a definition? Put it together and you’ve essentially got the sun spitting at space.

SOLAR MAXIMUM. Sounds scary right?
Well… They are geomagnetic storms with a side of radiation that increases in strength. Before you freak out and think the end is near, I’m telling you right now you’ve probably lived through a few already. They are cyclical and happen about every 11 years, and then wane in strength to what is called a Solar Minimum, and generally marked by the increase or decrease of sun spots.

How does it affect you then?
As mentioned earlier, our satellites orbit in the Upper Atmosphere. Magnetic waves and radiation will affect them, and possibly put our astronauts in further danger. But here on the ground, if our internet or satellite connections go out, if our cell phones stop working, and our networking, banking, and communications go black, then the majority of us are totally screwed.

Did you know that NASA and NOAA give electric companies and airline pilots space weather warnings? Consider that the next time you fly (sorry, frequent flyers).

And just so you are assured that you have survived, I’m glad to tell you that in May of 2013, there were three X-class solar flares within a 24-hour period: and X1.7, X 2.8, and an X 3.2.

You seem to be doing fine though – right?


On December 6, 1896, Israel Gershowitz was born on the lower east side of Manhattan, the eldest of four children to Russian Jewish immigrants, Morris Gershovitz and Rosa Bruskin. The boy would later have world music acclaim under the name Ira Gershwin.

Ira was, by all account, bookish, and he meandered from job to job, from steam roll attendant to a theater reviewer. He seemed to be leaning more toward bookkeeping when his younger brother, George, prompted him to write lyrics for one of his compositions. The first appeared in 1918 in Ladies First.

Ira wrote several songs under the pen name Arthur Frances, but didn’t have stage success until 1921, when he provided lyrics for the critically acclaimed show To Little Girls in Blue.

George and Ira finally collaborated on another major work, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, followed two years later with Lady, Be Good! They spent the next decade writing Broadway musicals, operettas and vaudeville. In 1927, they wrote Funny Face.

In 1928, the Gershwins stopped in Vienna, London, and Paris thus becoming the inspiration to An American in Paris. In 1932, Ira was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the score “Of Thee I Sing” with George Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. This was the first Pulitzer awarded for music.

If the Gershwin brothers thought they were at the top of their game, they launched into the stratosphere with the 1935 release of Porgy and Bess. Almost exclusively African-American, George and Ira insisted on hiring solely black singers for the parts. Considering the time when white actors donned “blackface” this was progressive, to say the least.

Once Porgy and Bess took off, it became a motion picture and the Gershwin Brothers were now spending a good portion of time in Hollywood working on They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Long Ago and Far Away, and The Man That Got Away.

Upon George’s death in 1937, Ira dedicated his time to preserving his brother’s legacy. His dream was to preserve the music for future generations. Consider that musical stage productions of Porgy and Bess still pack audiences!

From 1940 through 1946, Ira wrote and collaborated with celebrated musicians and artists but his farewell to stage was Park Avenue. Rather than retire, he spent the rest of his days working on the family archive with historian, Michael Feinstein.

In the Library of Congress is the Gershwin Room where George’s piano and Ira’s typewriter are displayed. To list the songs would be ridiculously long, but I am going to list a few of my favorites:

  • My One and Only
  • S’Wonderful
  • I Got Rhythm
  • Embraceable You
  • I Got Plenty O’ Nuthin’
  • I’ve Got A Crush On
  • You Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
  • And my ultimate favorite: Summertime

Oh, there are so many more! Basically, all you have to do is look up American Songbook and you’ll see their greats performed by some of the greatest performers.

Ira Gershwin died on this day, August 17th in Beverley Hills, California. He was 86 years old. The year was 1983.

All of us, at some point in our life, has either been the recipient or the presenter of THE SILENT TREATMENT. No one really likes it but we have to admit, it can be used as a powerful tool to close a deal or get one’s way. But it can be a symptom of a communication/relationship breakdown.


ONE:  As a parent I admit I am a yeller. I yell, and Yell, and YELL! My kids are used to the yelling. Most of the time I’m just being vocal because I’m frustrated, and they don’t listen to the yelling. It’s just white noise to them.

But when I’m angry! Really, really angry… I get quiet… and then they’re scared because that silence is LOUD. Generally, their behavior snaps to good, they clean up, and they’re trying to make mom happy again because mom’s silence is SCARY. They’ll say anything to get you to talk “You still love me, don’t you, mommy?”

TWO:  Closing the deal. Whether you’re a salesperson or selling an idea to your spouse, the silent treatment is an absolute must-have skill because the first one to speak generally caves in.

Example 1:
salesperson: So what do you think?

customer: [silently thinking “how will I explain the motorcycle purchase to my wife?]

salesperson gets nervous: “We can take an extra 10% off for being a loyal customer

customer: [silence. 10% off, I can justify that to my wife] salesperson nervous about losing the sale gives other incentives…and his commission isn’t nearly as good.

The salesman caved because he spoke first.

Example 2:
salesperson: So what do you think?

customer: [silently thinking]

salesperson: [silently waiting tick tock, tick tock]

customer: I’ll take it.


Example 1:
child: Mommy, can I have that shiny new Tonka truck, please?

mom: No. I don’t want to spend the money.

child: [Throws a tantrum, makes a lot of noise. Mother is TICKED!]


Example 2:

child: Mommy, can I have that shiny new Tonka truck, please?

mom: No. I don’t want to spend the money

child: [forlorn but quietly accepts the decision. He’s sad but he smiles with hope in his eyes every time you look his way.]

mom: SIGH you’ve been so good. Go ahead and get your truck.


Tell me I’m wrong?

In these cases, the silent treatment gives the other party time to think about the decision. Too many people are uncomfortable with the silence. They need an immediate answer or instant gratification so they talk first to plead the case. Little do they realize they are sabotaging themselves.

Now in the case of sample B: with the little boy. Even if mom sincerely couldn’t afford the toy right then and there, you can bet she was probably thinking how much he deserved it for being so good so the next trip out she might surprise him with it. Am I wrong?


As I mentioned in Part 1, we’ve all used the Silent Treatment to close a sale or get our way, but there are times when this powerful tool is used for evil.

Q: How can being silent be bad?
A: When there is a lack of communication or relationship breakdown.

When people are in a relationship one would hope they’ve learned how to meaningfully communicate with each other. Sometimes this is not the case.

A case of the empty nest: An example might be two very busy people with jobs, kids, house duties…and they haven’t REALLY spoken to each other in years except to pass off messages: Pick the kids up from school; Please pick up milk on your way home, etc. Then once the kids are gone you have nothing to talk about. Sometimes that silence is unbearable.

A case of emotional abuse: A: When in the midst of a discussion and it gets heated, especially when there is a disagreement, and one person turns away and gives the silent treatment/cold shoulder – it is a break in communication. It is a physical manifestation of denying the existence or opinions of the other person. Said that way, it’s hurtful when that happens, isn’t it?

If you feel like you’re being nagged and you ignore them because you KNOW it drives them crazy. You have stopped communicating and now you are being passive-aggressive.

But how is being quiet wrong?
1. Perhaps because you are not dealing with the reason WHY they might be nagging at you. Perhaps you don’t want to be blamed, acknowledge that you have faults, or feel guilty about not following through on something you promised.

2. Now there is the other scenario where the silent treatment is implemented because you feel like you don’t have a voice in the relationship so you shut up just to get away from “the discussion” as soon as possible.

If you don’t have a voice in a partnership then it is not a healthy one! There is no healthy dialogue and you don’t feel like your opinion counts. If that happens, then your self-esteem plummets.

3. Using the silent treatment as a form of manipulation. For example, at a party: “Well, since my boyfriend isn’t talking to me then I’m just going to ignore him the ENTIRE night. Maybe I’ll just go talk to that cute boy over there.” – or – “If she really cares about me then she’s going to ask what’s wrong.”

The one who plays the silent treatment card is assuming the other person can read their mind.

Guess what?
We can’t read your mind!


To heal the communication gap it’s always best to acknowledge it. “I am too angry to talk about this right now. Let’s try to discuss this when we’re both calm. I need time to think.”

“I don’t feel like you’re listening to what I have to say so I’m going to walk away right now.”

Even a “Please let me know when it’s my turn to talk” is better than shutting up in these cases.

If you are using it for manipulation then acknowledge that! Speak up. “Hey, I don’t feel comfortable standing at the party by myself. Can you introduce me to some of your friends?”

“We should talk” works and be willing to be quiet and actively listen!  It’s much healthier than closing your mouth and your ears!

August 16: Bela Lugosi

What can I say about Bela Lugosi? He…Is…Dracula!

I grew up watching his movies and in some strange way was thrilled, annoyed and sometimes embarrassed for watching.

With so many notable deaths today it was kind of hard picking one but I can’t say I settled on Bela Lugosi. He’s got quite a history.

Born October 20, 1882, his birth name is Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó, to Istvan Blaskó and Paula de Vojnich in Lugos, Hungary. He was the youngest of four children.

At the age of 11, he left school and ran away from home. You read it right – he was only eleven years old. He relied on travelers and charity with an occasional odd job for food and shelter, eventually traveling about 300 miles away from home to a town named Resita. Now, a traveling show stopped in Resita and young Bela was enthralled with the stage and acting from that point.

He was eventually accepted into Hungary’s Academy of Performing Arts specializing in Shakespearean acting. He toured as the male leading role for classics like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, and Faust, to name a few.

Now, World War I was nigh and though he was exempt from serving, Lugosi joined the Hungarian army against Russia in June of 1914, but was discharged in 1916 because of health issues.

He returned to the stage but soon found work in Hungarian silent films. He was very vocal about his political opinions and took part in the Hungarian Revolution, He soon found himself to be an enemy of the state and in 1919 fled to Vienna. He then traveled to Berlin where he found work in German cinema. He didn’t stay long and immigrated to the U.S. where he plunged into New York’s thriving Hungarian theatrical community.

His first English stage debut was in 1922 where he learned all of his lines phonetically because he had no idea how to speak English – but when it came to films, his lack of language skills were moot because they were silent. His film debut was The Silent Command, released in 1923, and two years later made an appearance in The Midnight Girl.

It was in 1927, however, when Lugosi accepted the title role of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Being tall, dark, quite handsome (I think), and with a Hungarian accent, he THRILLED audiences and made women swoon. Once the Broadway run was over he toured the U.S. as Dracula until 1929 – but it was in 1931 when he was tapped to play the role of Dracula in a Universal Films “talkie” The Strangest Passion the World Has Ever Known. The film was a huge success but typecast him as the villain in dozens of B-rated films.

Bela desperately wanted to break from his typecasting. I suppose it must have been very difficult for him to be the Bogeyman, reviled and scary, instead of the nice, gentle man that he was!

Apparently, he loved being married too, as he went down the aisle five times. His shortest marriage only lasted three DAYS, his longest, to Lillian Arch, lasted 20 years.

At the age of 73, Bela Lugosi had a significant role in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Movie critics have panned it and claimed it to be one of the WORST films of all time. It continues to have a strange cult following to this day because of its … uh… uniqueness.

It was his final film as he died at home in Los Angeles from a massive heart attack on this day, August 16. The year was 1956 and he was buried in his Dracula cape.

I am certain that many of you are familiar with the fictional work of Sir William Shakespeare, but there was indeed a real King Macbeth who ruled Scotland. Though possibly for religious or political differences, Shakespeare’s work does not stay true to the historical figure.

Known as Rí Deircc (the “Red King”), Mac Bethad mac Findláich, was born in the year 1005, the son of Findlaech, a high steward, or Scottish earl, and Doada, the daughter of Malcolm II, the High King of Scotland.

Children of important chieftans were required to gain an education from Christian monks, so as law required, Macbeth went. But at the age of 15, his father was murdered by his cousins, Gillecomgain and Malcolm.

Upon Gillecomgain’s death, Macbeth married his cousin’s widow, Gruoch, and adopted her son, Lulach. He was elected as Mormaer (Earl) about the year 1032.

Malcolm II died at the age of 80 but named Duncan MacCrinan his successor – a big mistake, as Duncan was power-hungry but incompetent on the battlefield. He challenged Macbeth’s army and was felled in battle.

At the age of 35, MacBeth was selected to be a candidate and was then crowned High King of Scotland, replacing the unpopular King Duncan. Contrary to Shakespeare’s rendering of Macbeth, the real king, with wife at his side, established many forward thinking policies: enforcing a Celtic oath for his officers to defend women and orphans of the kingdom and allowing daughters the same rights of inheritance as sons. They were also very generous to the church – and it was state policy to host any stranger to the country (eventually his undoing).

Now, while Macbeth made a pilgrimage to Rome, the former king’s son, Malcolm MacDuncan remained at court in England and began to make claims that he was the rightful king of Scotland.

From 1054 to 1057, Malcolm III continued attacks on Macbeth’s territories. Sadly, the other Scottish clans who swore allegiance couldn’t seem to get their act together. Macbeth also lost any support in England when two of his supporters, Pope Leo IX and the Primate & Bishop of St. Andrew, Maelduin MacGille-Odrain forsake him.

Malcolm MacDuncan’s campaign against King Macbeth succeeded and he was killed on his way back to his province of Moray. Macbeth was given a ceremonial burial on the holy isle of Iona – worthy of a highly regarded statesman. He is considered the last Gaelic King (though I could not find references as to why he was called “the Red King”)

His death was on this day in history, August 15. The year was 1057.

August 14: Enzo Ferrari dies

Enzo Anselmo Ferrari was born on February 18, 1898 in Modena, Italy, the son of a metal-fabricating business owner, who built bridges and roofs for state railways.

At the age of ten, Enzo witnessed his first automobile race where Vincenzo Lancia took the fastest lap and Felice Nazaro won the 1908 Circuit di Bologna. His love of fast automobiles grew from there.

In 1916 the death of his father and brother forced Enzo to quit school and begin work, but only a year later he joined the Italian Army with the Third Alpine Artillery Division. He received an honorable discharge after becoming seriously ill, which required two surgeries. Once recovered though, he tried to gain employment with Fiat, but was rejected. He became a test-driver for another small company, but in 1919, he made his racing debut.

The 1920s to 30s were busy decades for Enzo; he went from test-driver, to race car driver, to head of the Alfa Corse racing division, but it was in 1923 when he received the Prancing Horse emblem, which symbolizes the Ferrari brand – a gift of use from the Countess Baracca.

In 1939, he leaves Alfa Romeo with a goal to beat their car in one of his own. He went back home and opened his headquarters in Modena.

I could go on about all the racing achievements, developments in motor sports, all the wins…but that would take forever and a day. Let’s face it, the man lived to be 90!

I would like to note that in 1956, Enzo’s son, Alfredo, better known as Dino was deeply involved in the development of their new V6 motor. He died of muscular dystrophy in 1956, but all Ferrari V6 engines carry Dino’s name.

With many accolades, awards and business developments, Enzo kept busy through the years and in 1987, unveiled the last car built under his management: the F40. (What a sweet, sweet piece of machinery!)

A year later, the man who had to drop out of school over seven decades ago was awarded an Honorary Degree in Physics by the University of Modena.

A gentleman, a racer, a developer, a dreamer, an entrepreneur, and I can only surmise, a dignified and humble man who achieved great success; he is quoted as saying: “It’s true that I have never met any man whom I thought altogether resembled me – but only because my faults are so enormous.”

He died on this day, August 14th. The year was 1988.

Known as “the lady with the lamp,” Florence Nightingale was born May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy, where her parents were traveling at the time. Coming from a wealthy English family, there were certain expectations for marrying well and keeping up social engagements, but Florence was special.

She excelled in academics and followed her calling. In 1851, she excused herself from an engagement and left to train as a nurse in Germany. Two years later she went to France for continuing education.

Now, the Crimean War lasted two years (1854-1856). She had heard about the deplorable conditions which the wounded soldiers were under and retained permission to bring a group of nurses with her to Constantinople.

Under her charge, sanitation, nutrition, well-being, and cleanliness were provided. Within six months, the death rate at the hospital dropped from 40 percent to two percent!

She was given the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp” because she would visit the sick and wounded throughout the night. Ms. Nightingale would often sit with them and write letters to their family. The idea that someone cared about them greatly improved a soldier’s psychological outlook as well.

In 1860, the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas’ Hospital opened so she could train future nurses. Her book: “Notes on Nursing: What it is, and What it is Not” created healthcare reform throughout the world and is still used as an introduction to nursing today.

In her lifetime, Florence Nightingale wrote 200 books, pamphlets and reports but she is also noted to be an exemplary statistician. She died on this day in London, England at the age of 90. The year was 1910.

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