Monday, November 28, 2011

Cutting-edge car safety technological innovations - reducing human error

Over the last several decades, the automotive industry has made significant progress in passive safety technologies, including seat belts, safety glass, padded dashboards and energy-absorbing steering columns, head restraints, and front and side airbags.  Many were implemented as a result of the unanimous passage in the U.S. Congress of the 1966 National Highway Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.  These in turn were spurred by public concern over escalating traffic fatalities, Ralph Nader's advocacy of automobile safety, and the publicity generated by the publication of Nader's 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed.  The 1966 Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, established the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and marked a historic shift in responsibility for automobile safety from the consumer to the manufacturer. 

Though the car companies' lobbyists managed to water down the safety standards in the final bill considerably, the NHTMVSA did result in safer cars: it required "the padding and softening of interior surfaces and protrusions" (take a look at the interior knobs on a car from the 1950s sometime), seat belts for every passenger, impact-absorbing steering wheels, rupture-resistant fuel tanks (although Ford managed to side-step this with the Pinto), door latches that stayed latched in crashes, side-view mirrors, shatter-resistant windshields and windshield defrosters, and lights on the sides of cars as well as the front and back.  For its part, the Highway Safety Act required road builders to install guardrails, better streetlights and signs, and stronger barriers between opposing lanes of traffic.

While all of these passive technologies have saved many lives over the years (and active airbag technologies have been commercially available since the early 1990's), much remains to be improved and traffic accidents still represent a major safety issue world-wide.    The bottom line is that the vehicles have become much safer, but the drivers have not.  Research has shown that the majority of collisions are caused by driver error or inattention.  In this article, I will discuss new technologies that may enhance the safety of cars by mitigating human error - keeping in mind that human mis-use of other new technologies (particularly the use of cell phones and texting while driving) constitute a major source of driver distraction which are rapidly adding to the tragic statistics of motor vehicle fatalities. 

Driven by the dropping prices, miniaturization, and speed/power of computer technology within the last 3 decades (compare and contrast an IBM computer from 1983 to an Apple iPhone 4G from late 2011), a new generation of active safety technologies could help to bridge the gap between man and machine in terms of vehicle safety.   The earliest progenitors of these new-generation systems were anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC), the latter of which prevents skids by cutting back power and, when necessary, braking individual wheels.  ABS is the more mature of these two technologies, whereas ESC has been implemented in production cars more recently. 

The next phase of the new-generation systems have been designed by automotive engineers with the concept of avoiding crashes in the first place.  These systems are intelligent active safety systems based on state-of-the-art radar, night vision, camera and sensor technologies, lane departure warning, collision avoidance systems, and autonomous emergency-brake functions, all of which can provide drivers with critical help in accident avoidance. 

According to an article in the American Automobile Association (AAA) Motorist November/December 2011 issue by Richard Hamilton, Chairman of AAA East Central, over 1/3 of all collisions are caused by unsafe lane changes or unintentional lane departure (likely that the latter are largely due to distracted or fatigued drivers).   Lane departure warnings help safeguard against the tendency to lose concentration when distracted or fatigued.  Hamilton states that another 1/3 of collisions in the U.S. are caused by front-end or rear-end collisions, which are almost always the result of inattention and/or tailgating (following too closely).   Volvo currently offers a unique City Safety feature, which is standard equipment on the Volvo XC60 and helps drivers to avoid low-speed (less than 20 mph) rear-end collisions by letting the car brake itself if the driver does not react in time. The system works by scanning the space ahead of the car with an invisible infrared radar called lidar. It will be interesting to see how this technology emerges and whether Volvo can implement it safely for higher road speeds as opposed to just low-speed rear-end collision avoidance.  However, Volvos equipped with the automaker’s City Safety collision avoidance system have been shown by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) to have 27% fewer accidents than comparable vehicles. That’s a huge reduction, says the HLDI.

A major advance that should surface in the next few years is vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology, which was first introduced by General Motors.  This technology allows vehicles to communicate with one another to avoid collisions.  The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that V2V systems could alleviate up to 80% of car and motorcycle crashes involving unimpaired drivers.   To me, this is exciting, and rampant consumer demand for much smaller, cheaper, and more powerful cell phones and computers (notebooks and tablets) should provide the framework for automakers to translate these technologies into hopefully affordable and standard equipment collision-avoidance devices in most cars.

New technologies could help to protect pedestrians as well, particularly cooperative sensor technologies.  BMW is developing a pedestrian protection system that communicates wireless data with an active module, similar to an advanced radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that could be integrated into a child's school backpack.

More futuristic concepts are also being explored today by many automakers, particularly GPS and transponder-based technologies that allow vehicles to be operated without any input whatsoever from the driver.  While these technologies make me a bit nervous, once perfected, it would be nice to just sit in the car and read or work on the laptop while commuting or especially while making a 5- or 6-hour road trip.  During such autonomous driving, the vehicle is able to assume control over braking, steering, and acceleration, and can be grouped into a "road train" of similarly controlled vehicles.  If ever this is actually successfully and safely implemented, the impact not only on safety but also on traffic jams would be phenomenally beneficial, as most traffic jams result from the cumulative serial delay (in a line of cars) of one car after another waiting for the driver ahead to lift his or her foot off the brake and begin acceleration.  If this acceleration from a complete stop could be synchronized rather than occurring in a "wave motion", many minutes would be freed up from every commute.   Audi has been working with autonomous vehicles for some time, and last year an Audi TTS gained global recognition when it scaled the entire 12.42 miles (~20 km) and 156 S-turns of Pike's Peak (a 4300 m elevation mountain in Colorado) in a very respectable 27 minutes.   A professional driver in the same car could complete the course in about 17 minutes, so it's just a matter of time until the computer catches up. 

While these systems are all exciting and clearly have the potential to save many lives, some worry that a false sense of security from these devices may encourage more reckless driving.  Additionally, many people are going to be reluctant to give up their autonomy to a computer given all of the "what ifs" regarding computer viruses, sabotage of critical infrastructure networks or sensors, mechanical or computer breakdown, effects of inclement weather, etc.  I think all of these systems can be integrated to some extent, but without diminishing the driver's sense of control over the vehicle or the enjoyment of driving.  Additionally, a very important factor will be systems that can deny the privilege of driving from those who cannot safely drive - the impaired, due to either drunk driving or substance abuse or simply due to fatigue.   In particular, safety systems with sensors that can test blood alcohol level of the driver are being developed, and when implemented will have a profound effect on highway safety. 

Beauty and the Beast - our daughter vs. lechon in Cebu

Here are a couple of photos from our July-August trip to the Philippines, showing our daughter clowning around in Cebu with a fresh lechon graciously provided by her Lolo and Lola (grandma and grandpa) shortly before her 8th birthday.   While all the Pinoys and Pinays reading this will of course know all about lechon, many others, barring people from Spain and its former colonial possessions, will probably not be familiar with the other fellow in these photos.  

My friend, Mr. Lechon

I'm not scared of lechon baboy!

Lechon, also known in the Philippines as lechon baboy, is a roasted young pig (although in Latin America I think for their lechón they use larger/medium size pigs) traditionally cooked on a turnspit over charcoal; coconut charcoal in the Philippines. Although the term "lechón" in Spanish literally means suckling pig, the ones used in the Philippines are a bit bigger and are typically around 10 kg.   I would assume that different countries formerly colonized by the Spanish have different spices and cooking styles, but I am only familiar with Filipino style lechon.  Lechon is prepared throughout the year for any special occasion or party, during festivals, and for the holidays.  After removing the entrails and seasoning the body cavity with a variety of spices (usually lemongrass, anise, onions, and garlic), the young pig is cooked by skewering the entire animal on a rotisserie turnspit and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal.  It is roasted on all sides for at least several hours  until done.  The process of roasting and basting results in making the pork skin very crisp, and it is considered by many the most desirable part of the lechon.  In my experience, the skin is the first part of the lechon to "go" at parties, so better get in line before it disappears!   It's masarap (delicious!), it's healthy (yeah, right!), and an experience no foreigner or tourist to the Philippines should miss. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A few photos from Plantation Bay Resort, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines

These are a few shots from our day trip to Plantation Bay Resort, on Mactan Island, Cebu, which was in mid-August 2011 (we did not stay overnight since our family lives locally).   My wife and I personally found Plantation Bay to be more  pleasant, relaxing and enjoyable than Imperial Palace Resort.  This was mainly because we found Imperial Palace (while very pleasant) to be more "Westernized" and artificially landscaped with lots of concrete sidewalks and a big concrete hotel, whereas Plantation Bay was more attuned with the natural surroundings, landscaped with a good bit less concrete and fiberglass and much more sand, trees (nicely shaded), bamboo architecture and vegetation.  Rather than a hulking concrete hotel complex, Plantation Bay has charming smaller cottage complexes spread out over its grounds, offering in many cases water's-edge access directly to the various pools and lagoons.   One feature we liked in particular was the saltwater lagoon.  While this lagoon was still artificially engineered and was not connected directly to the sea (probably to keep algae out of it), it was really quite nice because it allowed for all of us as a family to experiment with salt water buoyancy without the waves of the ocean, and do some nice back-floating on perfectly warm and calm waters.  The other thing that was really enjoyable is that they keep the pool open after sundown, so we could float on our backs and watch the stars.
Looking across the saltwater lagoon at water's-edge rooms

Another nice feature was the kayaks, which guests can use to paddle around the saltwater lagoon.   
Kayaks at saltwater lagoon, Plantation Bay

Saltwater lagoon, Plantation Bay
I unfortunately do not have photos of the freshwater swimming pool, but Plantation Bay claims that it is the largest in the entire country.  It incorporates numerous different water features for kids and adults, including slides, fountains, and whirlpool jaccuzi-type spas, all of which are very tastefully subdued or disguised into and around synthetic boulders and grottoes which blend well into the architecural and natural landscaping scheme. The freshwater pool also has a central restaurant which has buffet-style dining pool side in a tasteful building that looks like a 3-tiered octagonal band pavilion, which offered excellent food and friendly service.  

For a unique experience for the family, Plantation Bay offers free calesa (horse-drawn 2-wheeled carriage) trips around the property, which is charming and quite extensive. Plantation Bay is breathtakingly beautiful at night with beautiful lights accenting the landscaping and the wooden and bamboo catwalks, bridges, and piers that cross the pools and interconnect the properties, as can be seen on their website:

We greatly enjoyed our time at Plantation Bay, and hope to make it back again sometime in the future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A visit to Imperial Palace Beach Resort and Water Park, Mactan, Cebu

These are a just a few photos showing some scenes from the Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa, on Mactan Island, Cebu, the Philippines, which we visited in August, 2011.  Although we didn't stay in the hotel (since my parents-in-law have a place in Cebu), we visited the beach resort and water park for the day, enjoying a nice full day having fun, swimming, riding the slides and "lazy river", going to the beach, and just relaxing and bonding as a family.  

Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort, Cebu, Philippines
Part of Mactan, Cebu's Imperial Palace Hotel

"Sunken" bar on lazy river
"Sunken" bar on lazy river

Imperial Palace approaching the beach from the waterpark

Cabanas and lounge chairs at the Imperial Palace beach

Children's pool at Imperial Palace waterpark

Children's pool at Imperial Palace waterpark

Some of the water slides at Imperial Palace, Mactan, Cebu

Pier at Imperial Palace beach, Mactan, Cebu

Swimming beach at Imperial Palace, Mactan

View of red & white "swirly bowl" water slide with drop-out opening in its bottom

End of the road on the Wedgie Express

The water slides were great fun for kids and adults alike, including a red and white one with the bowl at the bottom, which literally allows you to whirlpool in a fashion much like a toilet bowl, until you reach the hole in the bottom and you suddenly drop out into a perhaps 6-foot depth of water (there is a lifeguard at the bottom to assist everyone; this particular slide was off limits to smaller children).   It's a lot of fun, but like most of the good water slides at water parks, the price one has to pay for that fun is the rather disconcerting "wedgie" at the end.  

The staff monitoring all the slides pay good attention to safety rules and regulations, and lifeguards are around most all the areas of the water park.  Staff were pleasant and accommodating.  The facilities were all very clean, safe, and well-maintained, and the beach itself was very pleasant.  Since we live inland in the USA, the beach itself and swimming in the ocean salt water was one of the best features for my wife and me, whereas for our 8-year-old daughter the slides and pool features were the highlights.  Another favorite of the whole family was the "lazy river", where one or two people can just grab hold of a raft and just float along the stream effortlessly.  There is also a "kiddie water park" for small children.  Shower and changing facilities were nice and clean.   Imperial Palace also had an outstanding dinner buffet, (but I am doubtful that we got any photographs of it), which we enjoyed after swimming and playing all day in the water park and beach. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My family ties to our "home away from home": the Philippines

In an earlier post I mentioned that within this blog I would discuss traveling in the Philippines.  Just to take a little break from posting about early U.S. coins and American/Ohio history for a bit, and as a prelude to actually writing about my experiences and travels within the Philippines, I'd like to give a bit of background about how I came to visit the Philippines in the first place.

At the age of 24, I met my lovely Filipina wife-to-be back in early 1993, while she was traveling with her parents visiting family in the United States.  It just so happened that her cousin grew up in the U.S. and is married to my older brother, so of course my brother and sister-in-law introduced us.  The rest, as they say, is history.  We hit it off right away, and have been married nearly 18 years, with one child.

After two years of marriage, we took our first trip to the Philippines in 1996. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, but had much to learn about the culture, traditions, infrastructure, and daily rhythms of life in the Philippines.  As an American of primarily German and small amount of Irish ancestry, I admittedly experienced some culture shock, one could say, but also a very profound respect and affection for the hospitality, warmth, and traditions of the people of the Philippines.   The latter was not entirely a new concept to me, as I had quite some experience since childhood interacting with Filipino families mainly from Northern Mindanao and Cebu, who had immigrated to my home town in the early 1970's during the Marcos administration.  Having Filipino friends and classmates introduced me to many of the concepts of the Filipino nuclear family and respect for elders, various Philippine foods such as cassava cake, bud-bud, lumpia Shanghai, and gave me some opportunities to learn a few vocabulary words in the Cebuano or Visayan dialect.   My brother's ties to his future wife's family, starting in 1982, gave me further opportunity to visit and interact frequently, so that by the time I asked my wife's father for her hand in marriage (according to Filipino tradition), I had the full endorsement of my wife's uncle, who knew me since I was 13 years old back 1982.   That being said, observing a microcosm of Filipino culture here in the United States amongst a small number of relatively Americanized Filipino families only gave me a slight clue of what life might possibly be like in the Philippines.

In upcoming posts, I'll detail many of the adventures we've had as a family staying and traveling in the Philippines. I will attempt to provide some general information, tips and reviews about traveling in the Philippines, particularly in northern Mindanao and in and around Cebu, but also including Boracay, Baguio, and the Manila environs.  My family and I have a penchant for spectacular natural features (waterfalls, beaches, mountain vistas, etc.), historical sites, and even shopping malls, and I will try to highlight and discuss objectively many of these destinations.   During our visits, we also try to balance visits of luxury beach resorts and hotels with visits to dramatically more modest settings, particularly in the rural provinces.  There, in the provinces, lie arguably the most beautiful features of the Philippines and its people - verdant rice fields backdropped by hazy emerald volcanic mountains beneath billowing cumulus clouds with farmers using carabao (water buffalo); bamboo-thatched nipa huts as a primary  means of housing for many subsistence farmers, "multicab" trucks of amazingly narrow width carrying full loads of people or agricultural products, gorgeous coconut plantations with sweeping seaside vistas, mahogany groves interspersed with camote (root crop) in the foothills and mountains, and along almost every road every few hundred meters, the ubiquitous nipa or corrugated steel-fronted sari-sari roadside store with its ubiquitous Coca-Cola sign stating the family name of the shop owner.  Additionally, I will discuss aspects of Philippine culture and the Filipino people, as well as the joys and challenges of traveling as a family in the Philippines.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Human and wolf skeletons reveal a life and death struggle at the edge of the Great Black Swamp

Given my passion for history, archaeology, artifacts, coins, etc.,  I sometimes wonder what occurred in history or even pre-history on the site of what is now my house and backyard.  I've always been a little envious of people who have found artifacts on or near their own property.  When I was a kid, I would go to my aunt and uncle's farmhouse in northwest Ohio and join my cousins in looking for arrowheads and other "Woodlands Indians" artifacts in their soybean fields abutting the Sandusky River.   In addition to arrowheads, they would frequently find discoid artifacts, hockey-puck shaped smooth black stones about 2 or 3 inches in diameter which were definitely not derived from the local rocks, flint drill "bits", and some presumably atlatl counterweights made of some kind of polished banded stone.   Of course, during all of our excursions down into those fields, I would find nothing...

The following is an interesting story, for which unfortunately I cannot return to interview the eyewitnesses to gather further details.  My father's uncles, long deceased, farmed on the ancestral land in rural Seneca County, Ohio, in Liberty Township, just a few miles east of Fostoria, Ohio.  I will attempt to get this pinpointed on Google Maps and post the file on this blog at some point in the future.  Back in I believe the 1920's when they were young men, they were walking the fields probably while plowing with a horse, and found in the soil at their feet a human skeleton, with the corroded remains of a flintlock rifle or musket in immediate proximity.  Directly adjacent to the human skeleton, and only a few feet away, they found the skeletons of several (I believe three) wolves, and I think there was evidence of a bullet in at least one of these wolves.   Clearly a life-and-death struggle had occurred, and unfortunately this person lost the battle, only after taking out several of the wolves.   According to my father, the county sheriff was contacted and arrived to assess the scene, which was obviously not a contemporary scene of foul play.  I do not know what became of the skeleton or whether records exist in the courthouse or sheriff's office logs about this incident, but it would certainly be interesting to know.   

At the time when this person (presumably a man) succumbed to the wolves, this particular location (very close to Wolf Creek, a tributary of the Sandusky River) would have been either on the southern-most border of the Great Black Swamp, or would have been in the primeval forest just south of that border.   I have read accounts of my own ancestors who also settled in Huron County (just to the east) in 1836, who noted how huge bonfires had to be lit at night to keep packs of marauding wolves away while their first log cabins were in progress; this seems to be a common theme from other accounts that I have read from the region prior to the 1840's. It is my understanding from reading various accounts that after 1840 concerted efforts were made to eradicate wolves from the Northern Ohio counties by mass amounts of hunters turning out to hunt and trap inward from a perimeter, thereby "tightening the noose" on the wolves in any given acreage of woods.  

I am intrigued by the identity of this person, the date of his death, and the circumstances surrounding his death.   Did this occur in the winter, when he was perhaps already weakened from frostbite, exposure, and wet/icy buckskin leggings and moccasins?  Was he wounded already?   Was he an American from the 1830's or 1820's, a French trader from a much earlier period, a British agent from the 1700's traversing from the Sandusky valley to Detroit and trying to avoid crossing the Great Black Swamp, or a Native American perhaps armed by the British?  Did he get lost in the dark, unable to build a fire before sundown to safely camp due to a cold and rainy November afternoon?  Was he sick from cholera or typhoid or yellow fever, and therefore an easy target for the wolves (I doubt he was too incapacitated given the evidence of the valiant fight he gave)?  Could he have been a separated survivor or wounded straggler from the ill-fated Crawford (1782) or St. Clair (1791) expeditions, a deserter from the Legion of America, led by the harsh disciplinarian General "Mad Anthony" Wayne (1794), or was he simply an immigrant farmer hoping to settle with his family and make a decent living?   I am sure we will never know.

Friday, November 11, 2011

1814 O-105a "single leaf" capped bust half dollar and the Second Treaty of Greenville

The photos below are of an 1814 capped bust half dollar, which is an O-105a variety, an R4 in rarity, and quite scarce... an elusive coin.  It also happens to be a variety that is listed in what is referred to as the "Red Book", but what is actually titled "A Guide Book of United States Coins", by R.S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett.  There's an link to this book on the right-hand side of this page if you're interested - it's been published annually for about the last 64 years, and is an incredibly informative and well-illustrated (photos) reference for a very economical price.  

The reason that this half dollar is a Red Book variety is because on the reverse, directly under the eagle's left wing (from the observer's perspective, not the eagle's), there is what appears to be a single leaf at the topmost part of the olive branch, where normally there are two leaves paired together.  This is because at the Philadelphia Mint in 1814, over time the reverse die probably became clashed and someone at the mint aggressively "lapped" or polished the die in this position to remove the surface defect, and in the process the upper pair of leaves were reduced to a thin remnant resembling a single leaf.  This particular variety, among other early capped bust halves, is known to have a bit of a "raccoon eye" effect on Miss Liberty, which is fairly notable on this half.   

My wife, who did not know this capped bust half dollar was an R4 variety, chose this for me at a flea market in Tampa, and picked it up for only I think about $63 or $70.  It has been cleaned in the past but only just mildly. I think that for $70 for a nice, early date, historic, R4 rarity bust half that is also a Redbook variety, she (accompanied by my daughter) did really well, and I was very pleasantly surprised/thrilled, and also very proud of her "cherrypicking" a great bust half at a cheap price without having knowledge of the variety.   

1814 O-105a capped bust half dollar obverse

1814 O-105a capped bust half dollar reverse

In contemporaneous U.S. history, the year 1814 was extremely important in the ongoing but waning War of 1812.  Military actions included but were not limited to the battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, at which Francis Scott Key composed the United States' national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.  In the vicinity just a short distance southwest of the Great Black Swamp, in Greenville, Ohio, on July 22, 1814, General William Henry Harrison and Governor Lewis Cass (of Michigan territory) negotiated on behalf of the United States government a second treaty with the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Seneca, Miami and Potawatomi at the same place where the original treaty had been negotiated in 1795.  This Second Treaty of Greenville was referred to as "A TREATY OF PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP Between the United States of America and the tribes of Indians called the WyandotsDelawaresShawanoeseSenacas and Miamies."  It provided peace among the tribes, and alliance of these Tribes with the U.S. against Great Britain during the War of 1812.   Shown below is a photo of a "peace pipe" given to the tribes by the U.S. government.

Peace pipe from Second Treaty of Greenville, 1814

This agreement illustrated the continued struggle between the British and the white Americans to establish allies with Ohio's Native American people, and the struggle of the Native Americans to maintain their land and preserve their way of life. This struggle had existed since the American Revolution, but with the United States' victory in the War of 1812, Ohio natives no longer had the British as an ally to assist them in inhibiting the westward migration of white Americans.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My little collection of American and Philippine "antique" petroliana signs

This is just a short post that might be of interest to some of the folks who happen to like old service station, gas and oil, and advertising signs and memorabilia.  It's a new hobby of mine - I'm not really too serious or passionate about it, just for fun and to decorate the garage a bit.  So I thought I'd upload to the blog a picture of some of the signs I collected, all within the last year and a half, some of which I picked up in Pennsylvania, and some of which were obtained by my mother-in-law after I scouted the signs out during our trip to my wife's hometown in the Philippines. 

American gasoline/oil signs (antique): 

The Tiolene sign is "porcelain" (meaning steel core coated with beautiful colored porcelain glazing, which was probably phased out for stamped tin or steel signs by the mid-50's),  I think about 26" in diameter, and was made by the Pure Oil Company in Pennsylvania in 1937.  It's not in the greatest of shape, but its cobalt blue (which unfortunately came out too dark in the photo) and white color pattern and neat type font and graphics are pretty stunning to me.  The small "Ethyl" sign is also porcelain and has gorgeous glazed colors too, but shows some significant rust and corrosion.  I would say it dates from the 20's or perhaps 30's, although I am not sure (please post a comment if you read this and have more information).  It is curved to fit the curved contour surface of a gas pump from that era.  I like the contrasting black and yellow, the Art Deco "sunburst" of yellow behind the black triangle, and the phrasing of the logo "Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, New York, USA".  Finally, the Armstrong Rhino-Flex Tires sign has some really interesting graphics, and is stamped tin or steel coated with somewhat reflective paint.  It's in not too bad of shape but has a slight crease.   From my research on the internet including advertisements in magazines with the exact same logo of the rhinoceros, I estimate that this sign is pre-1956 and post-1951.   The artist who illustrated the Rhino, Keith Ward, was a famous and prolific illustrator who had some iconic assignments including the original "Dick and Jane" reading primer illustrations, superb illustrations in "The Scandalous Adventures of Reynard the Fox" in 1945, designing "Elsie the Cow" for Borden condensed milk, the Texaco Fire Chief Dalmatians, and "Elmer the Bull" for the Elmer's glue.   Here is a link to a blog which has a page about Keith Ward's work:

For the 3 of these signs together I paid $100 at a flea market, so in comparison to the prices I see on Ebay and the prices that the guys on 'American Pickers' turn their signs around for, I feel that I got a pretty good deal.   These things are collectible in any condition, so I thought they made a nice addition to my otherwise very bland garage wall.  

Philippine propane and epoxy signs (age unknown):

The remaining 4 various Philippine signs are either propane vendors (three of them) or an advertisement for epoxy adhesive (one of them), and all are made of very thin steel (which made bringing them back home from the Philippines quite easy after I popped them out of their wooden frames).   I thought that the artwork and color on them was quite nice, and to have them as a souvenir/memorabilia of our trip and of our "second home" was pretty neat.  I was very grateful that my mother-in-law simply asked for these signs, and was given them - "ask and you shall receive", I suppose.  Just my own personal preference, but I actually prefer signs with some rust and character to them as opposed to a mint-looking sign, which tends to look like a reproduction to me.    I don't think these are terribly old, perhaps early 70's at the oldest, but I think they look pretty neat.   I think it would be neat to stimulate some interest in collecting these amongst citizens of the Philippines - not necessarily to create a market for them, but just to hopefully preserve some from the scrap heap/recycling, which is unfortunately where a vast majority of such things end up.   If anyone from the Philippines reads this and has any information about these signs or the companies, I would love to have you comment about them.   

Our little bookworm - an 8-year-old and after-bedtime reading by flashlight under the covers

Secret contraband stored under the pillow.   An 8-year-old bookworm with an unquenchable passion for reading and storytelling.  A compact and sturdy source of illumination fit for wilderness survival.  What do these all have in common?    Well, if it's true what they say that "a picture's worth a thousand words",  then let's examine the evidence:

Exhibit A:  Our 8-year-old daughter's secret stash

This collection (not including the American Girl doll and the teddy bear) was recently discovered by my wife under our daughter's pillow.   Take note of the blue object in the middle - an LED flashlight, which our daughter has been using to get in some secret after-lights-out reading time.   Since we of course encourage a love for reading, (even though sometimes too much of any good thing becomes a bit of a problem, we'd already set up a nice fluorescent reading lamp next to her bed. We could therefore monitor the lamp through the crack under her bedroom door to see if she closed her books and went to sleep at the agreed upon time (we usually give her an extra 10 or 15 minutes past her mandated bed time)... or so we thought.   Her top blanket/comforter is unfortunately pretty much opaque to the LED flashlight, so the crack beneath the door is no longer informative to us.  

As her father, I will give our daughter an A+ for ingenuity and passion for reading, but in terms of originality, I think I just might have seen this "Under Cover of the Night" reading trick before -- a chip off the old block!  And those LED bulbs are so much more battery-conserving in comparison to the incandescents we had...



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