The Inheritance

Tags

,

InheritanceThe call came late in the day. According to the man on the phone, someone claiming to be the attorney for my Uncle Harold, I was to be left an inheritance.

“Sure, and how much money to I have to wire to Nigeria to claim this ‘inheritance,'” I replied.

We’ve all seen this scam before, right? It amazes me that people still fall for it. What kind of dummies are we raising these days…

“Sir,” the man interjected, “I’m not from Nigeria. This is not a scam. Your Uncle Harold did leave you an inheritance.”

Okay, here it comes. The pitch.

“But I don’t even have an Uncle Harold,” I informed the “attorney.”

“Actually, sir, you do. He was your father’s brother. Most of the time people called him ‘Scrap.”

Wait, Uncle Scrap is Uncle Harold. It never even struck me that Scrap wasn’t his given name. We always called him Scrap. Apparently he was a scapper as a young man, you know, a fighter. Uncle Scrap was an aggressive competitor in every thing he did. With two decades of service in the Army – a stereotypical Drill Sergeant, no less – the name fit him. But Harold? I never knew his real name.

“Oh, Uncle Scrap,” I said. “I remember Uncle Scrap. I haven’t seen him in all these years since I moved away. Wait, he was rich?”

That didn’t seem likely. No one in my family was rich. Well, there was that other uncle who fell into a comfortable inheritance when the man he had been a caregiver for died and left him a house and a stake in the stock market. But that wasn’t Scrap.

“Sir. Would it be possible for you to come by my office in the next few days. I know it’s a long way from where you live but I can assure you that it will be worth your while.”

“Um, well, sure. Of course. I mean, I guess so.” I was still trying to wrap my mind around why an uncle I hadn’t seen in years and whom I didn’t know was wealthy had left me with a ton of money.

Apparently I said that last part out loud.

“I’m sorry, sir. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I didn’t say he was leaving you ‘a ton of money.’ You really do need to come to my office at your earliest convenience. I’ll explain your inheritance at that time.”

Okay, so here I am two days later in the attorney’s office to claim my inheritance.

Her name is “Fancy.”

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

[Daily Post]

Advertisements

Relocating Abraham Lincoln

Tags

,

New Salem storeAbraham Lincoln turned 21 on February 12, 1830. For several years he had anxiously awaited this date, when he no longer had to turn over all his labored earnings to his father. Abraham worked hard when he had to, but despised the drudgery of subsistence farm life, even comparing himself to a slave. He took every opportunity to avoid farm work, seeking the quiet and shade of trees whenever possible to read any books he was able to obtain. He later admitted “his father taught him to work but never learned him to love it.” Abraham was eager to start life on his own.

Thomas, however, had other plans. He had never understood Abraham’s obsessive reading and learning; he expected his son to remain on the family farm and eventually take it over. But the routine of Indiana was fading into the promise of Illinois, a free state that was rumored to have more fertile land. Dennis Hanks had not fared as well as Thomas in Indiana. His cousin John Hanks had settled in Macon County, Illinois, and convinced Dennis to relocate. Dennis urged Thomas to follow suit, and after a new outbreak of milk sickness in Indiana, Thomas moved on short notice. Less than one month after his twenty-first birthday, Abraham found himself committed to yet another move to yet another farm in yet another state.

A brutal first year and a “Winter of Deep Snow” had Thomas thinking of relocating back to Indiana. This time, Abraham had had enough. Rather than follow the family, he instead hopped a flatboat to New Orleans, then upon his return relocated to New Salem, Illinois. Still young and for the first time all alone, Lincoln would relocate only twice more in his life – once to Springfield where he married and started his own family, and finally to Washington, D.C., where his life ended in a single-shot flash of gunpowder.

Lincoln had saved the Union, but the Union hadn’t saved Lincoln’s life.

[Adapted in part from Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America]

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

[Daily Post]

The Beijing Zoo

Tags

,

pandasTraffic was backed up the mile walk to the subway system that took us from southeastern Beijing to northwestern Beijing. The Zoo sits between the 2nd and 3rd Ring Roads, the series of beltways that signify status in the city. On the subway and streets my foreignness stood out from the crowd. The only other non-Chinese person I saw was a gangly white man who had a hard time getting out of the way of the subway door when the swarms pushed in. The zoo itself was similar; swarms of people but few westerners. Apparently the tourists stick to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square rather than venture into parts less openly hospitable. They are missing out. I’m used to getting stared at, but it’s worth it to see more of “real” Beijing and not just the westernized portions.

The 20 Yuan entrance fee (about $3) included the special panda exhibit, though the aquarium inside the zoo carried a separate fee of 120 Yuan (~$18). As an aquarium nut I was eager to see how this one compared. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was well done. It featured a huge tank with many sturgeon, the largest stretching up to 10 feet long. The coral reef area was on par with the best aquariums. The jellyfish area – two big rooms with many tanks of red and blue lighting – rivaled that of the Monterey Aquarium in California. Unfortunately, the dolphin and sea lion shows were boring; the worst I’ve ever seen. I was later told that most people in Beijing wouldn’t have seen any other for contrast (I’ve seen dozens), so wouldn’t be as critical as I.

The zoo itself was at best mediocre. While they had some interesting animals they mostly were in old school cages. The star attractions – the pandas – turned out to be rather depression; huddling near doors with bars waiting to get out of the limelight. After a while it was back to the subway station, again swamped with people, to head back for a rest. The next day was set for a long day trip to Xi’an, where the terra cotta warriors awaited our awe.

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

[Daily Post]

Dubious Smart

Tags

, ,

HDTVI was dubious.

The salesman said this was a Super Ultra HD-QLED Smart TV. My last TV was built in 1993 and I hadn’t had any TV for 10 years. Okay, there was a TV, but no TV service. The 50-inch diagonal made an interesting conversation starter and played Netflix DVDs, but until recently that’s all it did. Adding an old-style rabbit ears antenna brought in a couple of free network stations (you know, NBC and the like) plus an odd selection of a half dozen stations in Chinese, Spanish, German, and some language I still haven’t figured out.

The HD I figured out right away must be High Definition, though it seems there is no such thing as Low Definition these days (not to mention no more UHF and VHF). The LED I looked up; the Q remains a mystery. As does the “Smart” part. I’m not sure if this means it remembers my previous watching or will wash the dishes and park my car for me. Do I really need a TV that is smarter than me? Especially since my experience with “smart phones” suggests that the tech companies have rather low standards for what constitutes smart.

The salesman hadn’t stopped talking the whole time I was ruminating. Did he even know I was there? He seemed to be one of those drones just out of high school that had to rattle off the entire memorized speech in one breath. If I stopped him mid-monologue I’m sure he would have to start all over again. And I didn’t want that, no way.

All I want is a TV I can watch a DVD on a couple of times a month and sometimes watch a football game. Do they make those any more? Or do I have to buy a TV that will also control the temperature of my house, the on-and-off of my lights, and my bank account?

Wait, the salesman stopped talking. He’s looking at me. Darn, he must have asked a question.

“No,” I answered, and walked out.

This whole TV buying thing is much more involved than I remember. Then, only size mattered. Today, you have to be a tech guru just to figure out what to buy.

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

[Daily Post]

Edison Nearly Fainted

Tags

, ,

Thomas_Edison2Edison shrugged off the falling out with his early partners and continued to pursue his dealings with outside benefactors. Aside from providing much-needed capital, Marshall Lefferts, head of the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, hoped to use Edison to expand his company’s dominance of the printing telegraph technology, which was the mainstay of the stock reporting business. Edison willingly contributed his expertise, and in early 1870 received two lucrative contracts from Lefferts for improving stock printers, plus a significant stipend to cover rental of space for a laboratory and the required equipment. With this financial backing, Edison moved to Newark, New Jersey, and, along with machinist William Unger, opened up a laboratory under the name of Newark Telegraph Works.

During this time Edison had been diligently working on a “special ticker,” which would become the ubiquitous “Universal Stock Printer” used in New York, London, and other major financial centers. Lefferts, who was called General to honor his Civil War service, had been funding development and wanted Edison to wrap it up. After calling the 23-year-old Edison into his office, Lefferts asked, “Now, young man, I want to close up the matter of your inventions. How much do you think you should receive?” Edison considered, and estimated about $5000 based on his time and effort, but figured he could accept $3000. Fortunately, he lost his nerve at suggesting this seemingly huge sum of money, and said, “Well, General, suppose you make me an offer.”

“How would $40,000 strike you?” Lefferts asked.

Edison nearly fainted. He had always based his consulting service on the amount of time needed to develop a new product, but now he realized that a price based on the value of the product to the buyer was more important. He had learned a valuable business lesson that would help him considerably in the future.

[Adapted from Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World]

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

[Daily Post]

Ghoulish Desserts

Tags

,

ghouls-1Twas All Hallow’s Eve and the ghouls were rabid.

“I haven’t eaten for centuries,” claimed one.

“Millennia,” for me.

“Let’s go get a bite,” Dracula chimed in.

“But where,” they howled in unison.

Alas, gone were the days when lambs, hominid and ovine, were sacrificed to the demons, the body snatchers, the ghouls. Now all you can expect are those calorie-filled sugar rushes that are given out today. A ghoul must watch his weight, you know.

“I miss my home in Hungary,” said one. “We had ghoulash every night.”

“Ah, those were the days,” a croaking chorus cacophonied.

“Stop complaining!”

Everyone, living and unliving, turned to the speaker. “How rude,” one said.

“Listen, this happens every Halloween eve. We wake up early to prepare for tomorrow’s haunting day, then waste it all whining about the lousy trick-or-treatings.”

The ghouls stared in disbelief.

“Let’s just go out there and shake up some bones. Sigh, not you, skeleton; I mean’t that rhetorically, not literally. Sheesh.”

This sounded promising.

“Yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s pretend we’re trick-or-treaters and scare the bejesus out of those lame candy-pushers. You, Skel, pull off your head in front of them. You, zombie, go ahead and drop and arm or two when they try to hand you those disgusting candy corn things. You, witch, well, can’t you toss a spell at someone? That oughta freak out a few goody-two-shoes old lady, right?”

Cheers erupted among the group. After reattaching some inconveniently dropped body parts, all agreed to the plan.

But first, the ghoulash.

Happy Halloween!

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

[Daily Post]