One of my favorite anecdotes, hopefully true, involves a couple from Iowa who were visiting San Francisco. They had never had Chinese so they ate every meal in a Chinese restaurant. Over the course of ten days they had sampled everything on the menu. And they had come to know the Chinese waitress very well. When it came time to order a meal on the last day, they asked the waitress to order her favorite food.  She agreed and brought them her favorite meal: tacos, burritos and nachos. “American” is just a label of the people who live here. We do not have a culture because it keeps changing. You can get sushi at a baseball game. There are standup Muslim comedians. Yin and Yang are newscasters in Cleveland and Tallahassee. We have had a President named Hussein, black mayors in Deep South cities and openly gay governors. Only in America. This reality strikes home to me. My father, an Italian Jew, was on the last train out of Italy before the start of World War II.  He was on one of the last trains out of Paris before it fell to the Germans and probably the last boat out of free France. In today’s dollars, his family was worth about $200 million. They arrived in New York with $15,000. He married a WASP from Montana. Today his four children are hardworking, income taxpaying credits to their community. (You can read his story on Kindle: MEMORS OF AN ITALIAN JEWISH HOLOCAUST REFUGEE.) [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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When Elsa Einstein, Albert’s wife, was being shown around the Mount Wilson Observatory, she was told the telescope could reveal how powerful the universe was.  She laughed and said, “My husband does that on the back of an old envelope.” True. But the quote from Albert I like best is “A person who has never made a mistake never tried anything new.”  The world moves forward, and upward, on great ideas.  Every one of the companies on the New York Stock Exchange started with an idea on the back of an envelope – or a napkin – and progressed from that slip of paper to desk blotter to a workbench in a garage and then into the mega marketplace. There were a lot of failures along the way. But, at the end of the day, what matter is the one success, not the hundreds of failures.  Anyone can fail; success comes from building on those failures.  So next time you fall flat on you face with an idea that didn’t quite make it, get back up and try again. At the very least, you know one thing that will not work.   [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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One of the most iconic images of the Arctic for tourists is the blanket toss.  Originally done with walrus hide, today the blanket is of firm but manufactured fabric. Depending the size of the blanket, as many as 30 people could grab a handle and, in unison, toss someone was high as 20 feet. The blanket toss was originally a tool for the Inupiat. There are no trees along the Arctic Ocean and during the winter, massive ice cakes pile up along the shoreline.  These ice mountains, known as ivu, (pronounced EEEvooo), can be as high as a skyscraper. The blanket toss was a mechanism to allow a Native to rise above level of the ice cake for a clear view of the horizon – particularly to warn of any incoming polar bears. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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During the Alaska Gold Rush, this was a ‘fake news’ photo.  Technically there was no liquor in Alaska because it was all stopped in Seattle. The Revenue Cutter Service could only confiscate liquor on ships – which it only did when forced – and once liquor was ashore, well, you know . . .”  It was hard not to find a ‘blind pig,’ in Alaska, the term for illegal saloons that everyone knew about. Occasionally the United States Marshal would bust a still, like this one. But this raid was clearly what Alaskans call “to show.”  In Alaskanese, you do things “to show” or “to go.”  This still bust was “to show” the press you were on the job. Notice the lack of actual bottles of booze in the shot. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Next time you complain about the postal service, look at what it WAS. This photograph is from 1905 and heralds the ‘modern’ mail delivery between Unalahlik – now Unalakleet – and Nome.  Interestingly, the man on the right is John Clum.  Clum was an honest Indian Agent – surprising in an agency known for corruption – on the San Carlos Reservation in the Arizona Territory. He established the first Indian Tribal Police and Tribal Court and a form a self-rule for the Apache. He and his tribal police capture Geronimo in 1877 – and Geronimo was released by corrupt Indian Agents within a few years. Clum moved to Tombstone where he started the Tombstone Epitaph, a newspaper still in circulation today, and was good friends with the Earps. In 1898 he was appointed United States Postal Inspector for Alaska and at the start of his tenure, over a five-month period, he traveled more than 8,000 miles to set and equip post offices across the territory. He was later named Postmaster for Fairbanks, a post he held until 1909. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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This was the solution to the energy crisis in Nome during the Alaska Gold Rush.  It is the photograph of 10,000 tons of chunks of coal in burlap sacks.  Nome had/has no forests therefore no trees for building or warmth. To stay warm during the winter, thousand of tons of coal had to be imported every year to keep the city warm. There was no Plan B. A century later, in 2004, it wasn’t coal that was being imported to keep Americans warm. It was oil. There was no Plan B. Now there is a Plan B: renewables. About 16% of America’s power needs are now being satisfied by solar, wind and hydro power. There is Plan B. Then the news gets better! As renewables are taking larger and larger bites out of the petroleum-based power grid, homes, machines and automobiles are becoming more energy efficient. Our tools are being come efficient and need less energy. A decade from now, the photograph of a filling station will be looked upon as an historical snapshot of a bygone era left behind by technological advance. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Here’s a glimpse of the past and the future together.  Can you identify the man on the left in the “cockpit?”  It’s Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a president who focused on the future. Not only was his vision forward-looking, so were his actions. In 1907, he ‘saw’ the future of aviation and linked his name to its improvement. He changed the United States Navy from one of wood and wind to one of steel and steam. He created the National Park system. He busted the giant industries of the day. He attached his name to the Progressive Party platform and most of those planks are mainstream with both political parties today. We need a President and Congress that will drag us kicking and screaming into the future. Not to mention governors, mayors, state legislatures and city councils. Roosevelt was the embodiment of the adage “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Here we go again!  This is an editorial cartoon from a century ago when the ‘immigrants’ were Orientals.  The era was known as the Yellow Scare and as you can see, everything that was said of THEM then is now being said about immigrants today. America is a land of immigrants, yes, but what many anti-immigrant people fail to appreciate is the immigrants who arrive/arrived on our shores or border crossings were/are the ones who were/are willing to take a chance for a better life ‘somewhere else.’  They may have been the “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” from some other “teeming shore,” but they had the guts to get on a boat. America is great because we are a land of innovators, willing to take a chance on a new product, a new business, a new idea or a new life. We lead the world in new concepts because we are the descendants of those who said, “there is nothing for me here; let’s try someplace else.” We are the “talented tenth’ of the world because we do not sit on our trouser pockets and say, ‘Woe is me.’  We do something about it. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Next time you hear someone say, “I want my job back!” think of this picture. These are firemen on the TITANIC. Every day they shoveled 600 tons of coal into furnaces.  That was a century ago. Today, coal is a dying industry. Close behind are oil and hydroelectric. That’s because all are a product of the sun and solar panels are going up across the country INCLUDING my state, Alaska! What many people do not know is that the bulk of electric power is for home heating and cooling and with solar power that power can come from your roof on a three-foot wire. The key to using history as a guide is to see the problems coming down the highway.  The two BIG problems which are going to generate giant industries over the next century are water and garbage. You cannot get water ANYWHERE and garbage is killing the oceans and causing global weather changes. If we don’t’ lean to recycle both, we will go the way of the dodo.  Except in our case, we will have killed ourselves.  History is the not the story of the past; it is the study of the future. Learn from it or keep repeating the errors of the past. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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Los Angeles Times, October, 1910

I hear a lot of lamenting about how this decade is so turbulent and violent. Really? Those people do not know history.  Violent eras in American history predictably come about every 50 years.  50 years ago, was the 1960s, the anti-Vietnam War, weathermen, Symbionese Liberation Army and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Half a century earlier it was the most violent era for terrorism in our history. The Los Angeles Times was destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1910 and Wall Street suffered a massive explosion in 1920. In between was the Preparedness Day Bombing and on July 30, 1916 the Black Tom Explosion. The Black Tom explosion was a one megaton event which took place on an island off the coast of New York City.  It was so powerful it was felt in Philadelphia. 50 years before that was the Reconstruction South with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and, in the north, Social Darwinism and the ongoing abuse of the working class and the increasingly violent labor strikes. 50 years before that was the War of 1812 and the violence of Indian uprisings because the men with guns were fighting the British away from the frontier – and 50 years before that was the American Revolution.

Those who know their history will add that the eras after the decade of violence are incredibly good economically – with seeds for the next era of violence. After the American Revolution the cotton empire was born which lead to the Civil War. After the War of 1812, the steam engine revolutionized travel on land and water and lead to America’s industrial revolution. After the Civil War the North entered an era of massive industrial growth and the expansion of the Far West with the building of the Transcontinental Railway – and the South was left behind. The 1910 to 1920 decade of violence was followed by the Roaring Twenties and the inevitable stock market crash. The 1960s was followed by the growth of nonprofits which employed/employs millions and the beginning of the computer age followed by heart-stopping increases in the federal deficit.  This decade of violence will probably be followed by an era of economic opportunity because of artificial intelligence.

THIS is what history classes SHOULD be teaching. History is not the story of the past; it is a study of the future. [See my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.]

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