Saturday, December 7, 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

Female Code Breakers of World War II

Feldpost, World War I, LettersAnyone who has read about World War II knows that women stepped in to take over certain jobs so men could head off and fight overseas.We know of Rosie the Riveter, the poster girl for women but how much do we know about the women who made a huge difference by cracking both German and Japanese codes to help the Americans win the war.

At the end of 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, the government sent out mysterious invitations to women attending the top women's colleges of the time.

Specifically, it was the Navy who wanted women to work as cryptoanalysts or code breakers in their intelligence division.  Prior to this, the Navy had been recruiting males from elite colleges and after finding success, they decided to see how women would work out. By the spring of 1942, about half of the first group of women recruited finished the training and reported to a cramped basement in downtown Washington, D.C. for work.

 At about the same time, the Army met with representatives of these same prestigious universities to recruit women to work in their code-breaking facilities because there was a shortage of qualified people for this type of work.  In fact, with all the men fighting overseas, women who met the criteria to be code breakers were also in short supply.  This is the first time, women were in such demand.

All the women who joined the intelligence community knew they'd never receive credit for their work and that they'd face the full effects of the wartime secrets act should they talk about their code breaking work.  Many of these women had plans to escape should someone pay way too much attention to them.  Some said they sharpened pencils and emptied trashcans should they be asked what they did.

In the end, over 10,000 women were recruited to codebreak and it turned out these women formed one of the most successful intelligence efforts in history.  During the war these women ran machines that had been converted to code breaking machines, kept track of public speeches, shipping manifests, ship names, enemy commanders all used to break messages.  In addition, women worked as translators, managed small systems, broke some major codes.

In fact these women broke exploited, and rebroke codes while testing all new codes designed by the Americans to make sure they were solid.  Although the Navy refused to let women go overseas to participate in the war, the Army sent women to the Pacific to work as radio intercept operators.  Some women created fake radio messages misdirecting the Germans so they didn't know about the Normandy invasion

Neither Germany nor Japan believed in using their women for anything other than for making babies so they didn't even think of recruiting women to break codes or using them to listen in on radio transmission to obtain information for troop movements, pending attacks,  and all sorts of other information.  In addition, the women who worked for the United States advanced the signals transmission or reading the enemies coded transmissions, laid the foundation for cyber security,  and the modern computer industry.

The work these women did shortened the war and helped America win it.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Please remember that Pearl Harbor was bombed 78 years ago tomorrow.  I have a relative who is 95 and was a high school senior in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. There are a few veterans still alive who were there but they are passing with each year.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

How Important Is Balance to Aging?

Design, Son, Older Woman, Mother, SeniorFor the longest time, I tried to get my mother to go out and walk.  Walk to the store, to the library, anywhere as long as she'd move.  She kept telling me she didn't need to walk everyday because she was in good shape.  Along the way, she and dad had to move into a care facility because they could no longer live on their own.

The place offered exercise classes several times a week.  I tried to get my mother to go but again she refused.  She'd tell me she was in good shape, or those classes were for people in wheelchairs.

Then she fell and did something to her knee and found herself in a walker.  Again, I tried to get her to go to the exercise classes but she wouldn't because she wasn't in a wheelchair yet.

Unfortunately, as we age, we have to keep exercising and working on retaining our balance so we are less likely to fall.  In addition, bone density decreases, people loose strength, and when people do fall and hurt themselves so it takes longer to recover.  Surprisingly, the process begins around the age of 25 rather than when people are older.

Our brains are important to our sense of balance and as we age, we often become less active, causing our brains to loose some cognitive ability.  Furthermore, we can no longer carry out as many tasks as before and it shows when people stop moving to talk.  Furthermore, the amount and type of information provided by our brains also decreases.  In other words, as our eye sight declines, we often misinterpret what we see and we misjudge things so we fall more often.

Another way information is not longer transmitted correctly is when our joints and feet are no longer accurately providing information due to swollen joints, poor flexibility, or poorly fitted shoes.  In addition, certain medications can cause us to be less stable than before.

The good news is that we can do things to help delay the natural deterioration.  One thing we can do is to moderately exercise at least 150 minutes every day or average 30 minutes each day.  At the end of one exercise session, you should feel a bit warm and be slightly out of breath.  You should include balancing exercises via yoga as part of your regular workout.  In addition, you should also do weights to help keep and build strength.

Here are some suggestions to help you age gracefully and counter the effects of aging.

1.  Keep moving.  Get up and move around so you are not sitting all day.  You might want to practice standing up from a sitting position without using your hands, or stand on one foot while standing by the counter.

2.  Take a walk every single day.  Start with what you can do and then over time increase the time and  the distance so you are walking longer and further.  Vary the route you take so it is not the same one each day.  I am unable to walk every single day here in Alaska but I have several DVD's which allow me to walk at least a mile and often more inside the house.  It is hard to walk outside in a blinding blizzard.

3.  Practice some specific exercises designed to improve your balance such as standing on one foot for 30 seconds or more, then change to the other foot, or raise your weight up until you are standing on your toes, then lower your feet so they are flat on the floor.  Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times and to increase it's difficulty, do this with hand weights.  Walk forward placing heel to toe as if you are walking on a tightrope.  This is a great exercise for improving your balance, or practice squating into a chair and then stand up again.

4. Take up Tai Chi because this Chinese exercise form is great for developing balance in both healthy and ill people.  Tai Chi is great because it is designed to focus on slow movements which in turn help balance.

If you just do a few things every day, you can delay the natural decline our bodies go through as we age.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Where To Go In December.

Freezing, Landscape, Frozen, ColdDecember is the month when people plan to travel home for the holidays. I already have my tickets for that and I've squeezed in a trip to Iceland because I want to see it in the Winter.  There are some wonderful places for people to check out during the month of December.

Of course, many people travel to enjoy the holiday spirt, go to warmer places, or just to travel.  Due to my job, I only have a couple times a year I can do this so I choose places on my bucket list.

Cologne, Rhine, Dom, Germany, LandmarkCologne, Germany comes highly recommended due to its Christmas spirt.  There are seven, count them, seven holiday markets spread throughout the city.  There are two you do not want to miss.  First is the Cathedral Market known for having the biggest Christmas tree in the area and next is the Angel's Market where you can enjoy eggnog and watch all the people dressed as angles.  In addition, Santa comes through once a week on horseback.

St Thomas, Virgin Islands, BuildingsIf you prefer a warmer location, check out St. Thomas in the American Virgin Islands.  Since it is associated with the United States, you don't need a passport and at this time of year, most visitors arrive by ship so you can find cheap fares and great deals on hotel rooms. In addition, December is not in the Hurricane season and it's still warm enough to enjoy swimming or scuba diving. Try to plan your trip around December 15th because that is the day of the St. Thomas Lighted Boat Parade where boats are judged on holiday decorations, lights, and originality.

Kinkaku Ji, Snow, Backlight
Although Kyoto, Japan is not normally associated with Christmas, the town has some wonderful celebrations leading up to the New Year.  December is filled with small markets where you can buy ceramics and handicrafts, enjoy seasonal food, and you can visit an enchanted bamboo forest filled with lanterns.  If you can stay over into January, you can experience the bell ringing event on New Years.

Rockefeller Center, New York CityOn the other hand, you can plan a trip to New York City so you don't have to leave the United States. New York City offers holiday window displays people can enjoy as they stroll down Fifth Avenue or head over to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center to enjoy a lap around the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  If you wander down to the subways, you can listen to live performances by the musicians who provide their music.

If you'd rather leave the United States but do not want to go very far, head for Quebec City in Canada because in December the city is covered in snow and resembles the iconic Christmas Village.  With its cobble stone streets and small, densely packed store fronts, you feel as if you'd traveled back win time.  This is the month, the old part of the city is filled with wreaths, carolers, and a real German Christmas Market.  Enjoy all the activities while enjoying hot food and drink from the stores lining the streets.

Of course, one can enjoy Albuquerque, New Mexico with its warmer weather.  On December 7, one can enjoy the Twinkle Light Parade or wait till December 24 to experience the Old Town Luminaria Tour and stop by the Biopark Botanical Garden for its River of Lights which is the states longest walk through a holiday production with tons of sparkly lights.

Antarctic, Animal Life, Wildlife, PolarDecember is the perfect month to visit Antartica.  No it is not cold, or at least winter cold.  Since it's in the Southern Hemisphere, it is summer down there and the perfect time to watch Penguin chicks hatch, enjoy whales swimming by and enough ice melts so cruise ships can pass through and people can enjoy trips in the area.  You might also want to enjoy a quick trip in the sea by kayak or even a polar plunge.  Imagine being able to add this destination to your list of where you've been.

Iceland, Reykjavik, HallgrimskirkjaLast but not least is Reykjavik, Iceland with its wonderful shows of the northern lights, a huge Christmas tree, a public skating rink, and 13 Santa's who roam around town.  I'll be going after Christmas and I'll be there for New Year's.  I'll be taking lots of pictures and sharing them with you at the end of the month.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these places.  I hope your December goes well.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.