Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Oliver Heaviside

By Nancy J. Farrier

It’s the time of year when kids are back to school and learning is in full swing. They’ve missed their friends and grown bored with summer. Even the tedium of the school day can be interesting. I hope. 

But school often has challenges for children. I find it fascinating to read about people who have persevered despite a handicap. Today, I’m blogging about a man who overcame odds to excel in the field of electronics and math.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Oliver Heaviside was born in London in 1850. As a young child he contracted scarlet fever, resulting in a hearing impairment. He struggled with interacting with other children and with school. I can only imagine the difficulty of life in the 1800’s when you had trouble hearing what people said to you. 

At 16, Oliver left school. He didn’t like the classes but continued to study on his own. He enjoyed languages, math and electricity. He learned Morse code and became a telegrapher, a field his uncle encouraged. He moved to Denmark at that time.

He continued to study electricity and eventually gave up his work to study electricity full time, especially Maxwell’s equations. Heaviside admitted he hadn’t had much math in school and had forgotten a lot of what he learned. For several
Photo by FF-UK, Wikimedia Commons
years he focused on the higher mathematics so he could understand Maxwell’s equations and his work. 

In the 1880’s through the turn of the century, Heaviside regularly published his work in trade papers such as The Electrician. Later, he put the papers together and published his works, Electromagnetic Theoryand Electrical Papers.

As his hearing continued to decline, Heaviside became more of a recluse. He still continued to publish his works but would deliver the paper to a grocery store where the publisher would go to pick it up for publication. Much of what Oliver Heaviside did and accomplished is over my head, but I can appreciate his importance in the world of math.

Photo by welcomeimages
Wikimedia Commons
In 1891 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Mathematicians of reknown stated that his operational calculus was one of the most important discoveries of the 1800’s. Heaviside also took Maxwell’s twenty equations and reduced them to four. Although Maxwell is still credited with the equations, most mathematicians recognize Heaviside’s input as being a crucial part of the work.

Another major discovery credited to Heaviside is the layer of the ionosphere that reflects radio waves. The ionosphere was not confirmed until 1923, but in 1902, Heaviside proposed the layer that is now called the Heaviside layer. Most people have not heard of this, but in the musical, Cats, there is a song taken from a T.S. Elliot poem that uses the line,  Up up up past the Russell hotel, Up up up to the Heaviside layer.

Cats Musical by Effie
Wikimedia Commons
In his later years, Oliver Heaviside became rather eccentric. He withdrew into himself and became even more reclusive. He used granite blocks for furniture in his home and didn’t bathe much at all. His slovenly state continued to deteriorate except for his fingernails which he kept clean and painted bright pink.

Heaviside died in 1925 when he fell from a ladder. Most of his acclaim came posthumously. In 1947, the Nobel prize winner won for proving the Heaviside layer truly existed. Many of the terms used today in electromagnetic theory were first coined by Heaviside. He was a brilliant mathematician who did not receive the recognition he deserved at the time. Yet, he continued to do the work that he loved.

Have you heard of Oliver Heaviside, or the Heaviside layer? Later it was called the Kennelly-Heaviside Layer. I was fascinated with this man who dropped out of school and found a way to pursue his calling despite a severe impairment. It is hard for me to imagine what he went through, but his contributions to society are amazing.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Gold in Them Thar Hills - and a Giveaway!

 by Davalynn Spencer

The Gold Rush isn’t over in Colorado. It resurfaces every year in late September through mid-October as high-country aspen and lower country cottonwoods exchange their summer greens for glimmering gold and fiery reds.

Colorado's aspen groves line highways and mingle
with evergreen forests. - Author's photo
“There’s gold in them thar hills,” people have been known to say, and they flock to the Rocky Mountains like migrating geese for a gander at the scenery.

This coming weekend officially introduces fall to our calendars. Even so, it’s often hard to predict exactly when peak foliage viewing times will be. According to arborists, scientists, and others in the know, catching the colors in their prime is all about chlorophyll and temperatures. And elevation.

Author's photo of Rocky Mountain color in an early fall snowstorm.
The higher the elevation, the earlier autumn swishes her lovely skirts along the Rocky Mountains. A general rule of thumb for viewing fall foliage in colorful Colorado calls for higher-elevation stands and those located farther north to flash sooner than lower, southerly sites.

Colorado’s famous aspen trees and their poorer cousin, the cottonwood (both are in the poplar family), change colors for the same reason other deciduous trees do: photosynthesis decreases as daylight hours lessen in the fall.

Have you noticed in early September that daylight seems to have cut loose and run? That’s because we lose an hour of daylight during the month of August as the earth tilts toward autumn. And we are not the only living beings that feel it.

Technically, the leaves of these trees don’t change from greens to golds – the color range is there all along, like stars in the sky that we can’t see during the day. Yellows, oranges, and reds are merely masked by the green hues until chlorophyll production fades.

Author's photo
The United States National Arboretum says a wet growing season followed by a drier, clear-sky autumn and cool nights generate the brightest colors. In addition, unhealthy trees are less vibrant than healthy trees, much like other growing things, including humans.

Colorado is not the only state to harbor aspen trees, and they thrive in higher, colder regions with cool summers. The trees are often called quaking aspens due to the longer, flatter petiole, or leaf stem, that allows the leaves to flutter in the slightest breeze.

Aspen leaves "quake" due to their longer leaf stem. -Author's photo.
Aspens grow in colonies connected via underground root systems. The oldest known colony is found in the Fishlake National Forest of Utah, where it covers roughly 106 acres.

Comment to be entered in a drawing: I’d love to hear about a trip you took to see the colors – even if it was just around the block. Those who comment below will be entered in a random drawing for an e-copy of my latest release, Mail-order Misfire, Book 2 of the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings Collection.

Wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, Davalynn Spencer writes cowboy romance. She is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author and winner of the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction. And she’s fairly certain that her previous career as a rodeo journalist and crime-beat reporter prepared her for life in Colorado wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with her via her website at

Monday, September 16, 2019

Sharecropping in the 20th Century

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with people who just picked up everything and moved to a new town or out of state. I was in awe of anyone who went abroad … like the missionaries who came to speak at our church. Having lived in a total of three places my entire life, all within about 6-7 miles apart, I’m still intrigued by others’ ability to just pick up and go.

In farming parts of the country in the 19th and 20th centuries, it wasn’t unusual for families to move at the drop of a hat. I remember Mama telling me about one of her uncles who had a whole passel of kids. They’d just up and move in the middle of the night. One day they’d be there, and the next, they’d be gone. A few months later, they might show up on some other farm a few miles away. 

Cleveland, Mississippi, sharecropper with children.
1930s Farm Security Administration photograph.
Courtesy, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

This would have been in the late 1950’s, 1960’s, long before I was born. (Okay, not THAT long before… ahem!) The old tarpaper shacks they lived in wasn’t much, and they wouldn’t have had much to move, but still, I can’t imagine just piling everything in a wagon (or an old beat-up jalopy of the day) and lightin’ a shuck, at least not without a good bit of thought beforehand.

They were sharecroppers. They didn’t own any land of their own, but would agree to work for a landowner in exchange for a place to live and a share of the crops grown or some other form of payment. Cash was hard to come by, so in some cases, payment might mean a cow, horse, wagon, or simply the profit from their share of crops. If the crops failed, everybody lost… and it was going to be a hard winter. It wasn’t unusual for sharecroppers and tenants to work all year just to feed their family. And even that was in scarce supply some years.

Tenants and sharecroppers were similar, but also different. Tenants usually paid the landowner rent money, had his own tools, plows, and horses/mules. Obviously, the landowner and the tenant farmer could come to any agreement they chose, but the most common was that the tenant farmer would reap all the profit from the land he farmed, but he was also taking on all the risk, usually buying seed, feed, fertilizer, etc. on credit.

Sharecropper family on wagon in Lee County, Mississippi.
1930s Farm Security Administration photograph.
Courtesy, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Sharecroppers might have nothing more than a few changes of clothes and a bit of furniture. They depended on the landowner to supply everything needed to farm, and they received a percentage of the profit from the crops only after the crops were sold. If the crops failed, everybody lost… and it was going to be a hard winter.

There were good, honest, and fair landowners, and there were those who preyed on the poor. There were good, honest, hardworking tenants and sharecroppers and there were those who took advantage of their employer (the landowner). It was a beautiful thing when honest, hardworking farmers paired up and became successful together.

My father was one of the most hardworking men I ever knew. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He started out with nothing in the fifties. Married to my mother at 18, they were young (so young!), poor, and hungry, but they were hard workers. They had a couple of good experiences and a few not so good as sharecroppers.

My parents came in on the end of the tenant/sharecropper period in Mississippi. In the mid-20th century, landowners took advantage of new technology and began replacing tenant farmers and sharecroppers with tractors, cultivators, disks, cotton pickers, harvesters, and pesticides.

Woman and child picking cotton in Lauderdale County, Mississippi.
1930s Farm Security Administration photograph.
Courtesy, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Yes, it was a hard life, but life was hard on most everybody back then, and they didn’t really know any different. But even as hard as it was, my parents used their skills, determination and desire to succeed to make something of themselves. By the time I was born, they’d managed to purchase 40 acres of land, were in the process of clearing it and had started a Grade “C” dairy farm with a handful of Jersey cows. A few years later, they switched to Grade “A” milk. When Daddy passed away suddenly at the young age of 54, they had a thriving dairy farm and a herd of beef cattle.

He and my mom were truly part of the American Dream, made possible by sharecropping.

So, did you move around a lot as a kid? As an adult? Any sharecroppers here? Tenant farmers?

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

19th Century Death Sentence--Diabetes PLUS GIVEAWAY!!

Diabetes~ It touches everyone these days, if not a family member than you know someone who has been affected by the disease.

Did you ever wonder if this is a 20th plus century problem or older? My family has seen the devastation of diabetes, as type 1 runs in the family. I decided to do some research into this growing disease and found it so interesting I thought I'd share it with you.

Diabetes dates back to early Egypt well before 1000 BC. It wasn't referred to as diabetes but as 'the passing of too much urine'. Historians believe the two are one in the same. Unlike today, it was also considered a rare disease. By 50 AD a Greek physician named Aretaeus speaks of the 'the passing of too much urine' and coins the name that we know it as today, diabetes, giving it a clinical name.

Jump forward to the nineteenth century when we know diabetes was treated with blood letting or opium to help the sufferer deal with the pain associated with dying from diabetes. Moving ahead another century, the disease brought research. Diabetes was no longer a rare disease, and often afflicted children. The children lay in comas dying in wards of fifty or more patients while the parents mourned for them, waiting for their imminent deaths.

Frederick M. Allen, a physician, discovered that the disease was a metabolic disorder and much more than just high blood glucose levels. Because of this discovery, he developed a low carbohydrate diet which was referred to as the starvation diet.
Parents, by putting their children on this starvation diet, were able to gain up to another year with their child before they succumbed to the life stealing disease. Adults were able to survive closer to two years on the diet.

While Allen's diet treatment didn't cure, it did give patients a chance of controlling their disease though bringing them to the brink of starvation in the process.

Left, child on starvation diet, right, on insulin

Left, on starvation diet, right, on insulin

And research continue. Frederick Banting, Charles Best, J.B. Collip and their supervisor, J.J. R. Macleod were hard at work in 1921 looking for a way to save diabetic sufferers. Banting had an idea how to extract the serum that the pancreas excreted. He brought it to Macleod who became his supervisor and thought it hopeful starting the new research project. Banting brought on Best as his assistant. 

       Banting                                                                  Best


       Collip                                                                 Macleod

A year later after many trials and many errors an insulin injection was believed to be discovered and given to 14 year old Leonard Thompson who lay dying in a Toronto hospital from the disease. Due to the impurities in the insulin he had a severe allergic reaction and further injections had to be halted. The men worked on relentlessly trying to remove the toxins from the serum. J.B. Collip was able to purify the insulin on January 23, 1922, removing the toxins, and once again they gave it to a 14 year old boy. This time getting a positive result and saving the boys life.

An emotional moment came for the wards that housed the fifty plus children in comas and dying from diabetes. Banting, Best, and Collip went from one bed to the next and injected each child in the ward with the insulin that had been successful on the Thompson boy. Before they had reached the last of they dying children the first they'd given shots to were coming out of their comas and waking up, to their parent's astonishment and joy.

This lifesaving discovery was up for a Noble Prize. It caused much dissention between the men when Banting and Macleod were given the award. Banting insisted his partner Best deserved to have won instead of Macleod and split his winning money with his partner. Macleod split his with Collip. In the end, Banting and Best were the ones remembered for their research while Macleod and Collip seemed to be forgotten. 

I didn't realize how close my aunt had come to be one of those children in a ward, born only 15 years after the discovery of insulin. At eleven years old her teacher realized something was wrong when she was sleeping through class. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and went on insulin. Since then many of my family members have been diagnosed with the disease. 

What about you? Do you know anyone who has benefited from Banting, Best, Collip, and Macleod's hard work? Had you ever thought about when diabetes became a health issue? Do you think you would have put your child on the starvation diet, knowing it was painful but also knowing it would give you another year with them?

GIVEAWAY: Answer one or more of the above questions to be entered to win a copy of choice of one of my books in choice of format.

 Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.
  After the death of her cruel father, Brithwin is determined never again to live under the harsh rule of any man. Independent and resourceful, she longs to be left alone to manage her father’s estate. But she soon discovers a woman has few choices when the king decrees she is to marry Royce, the Lord of Rosencraig. As if the unwelcome marriage isn’t enough, her new husband accuses her of murdering his family, and she is faced with a challenge of either proving her innocence or facing possible execution.
     Royce of Hawkwood returns home after setting down a rebellion to find his family brutally murdered. When all fingers point to his betrothed and attempts are made on his life, Royce must wade through murky waters to uncover the truth. Yet Brithwin’s wise and kind nature begin to break down the walls of his heart, and he soon finds himself in a race to discover who is behind the evil plot before Brithwin is the next victim.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Take a peek at what 17th Century makeup was like!

 Often when we think of the past, we picture women with plain, glowing faces. No makeup, no eye shadow, just fresh faces aglow with sunshine and fresh air. After all they didn’t have pollution back then, nor did they have chemicals and other additives put in their food, and most people ate fresh foods!  In some centuries and locations this was true, but I was shocked to discover that in the 17th and 18th centuries, women did, in fact, wear makeup. At least women in the higher classes.

White or pale skin was very much in fashion. The whiter the better. White skin

represented wealth and luxury while tanned skin meant you were a common laborer. How different from today!  In order to achieve the whitest look possible women put a paste on their faces made of a lead powder or chalk mixed with egg whites and vinegar.. The thicker the powder, the better. In fact often the powder would often crack if the lady dared to smile too wide or raise her brows. Can you imagine attending a party where you couldn’t express yourself for fear of cracking your face??

The cheeks were reddened by adding a little cerise powder (white lead to which red coloring was added), or by using Spanish paper which was bought dyed red to rub on the skin. Lips were reddened with fruit juice or cochineal.

However, the lead in the makeup and the inability for the skin to breathe over long periods of time, did incredible damage to the skin, and to the lady.  Many women are believed to have died of blood poisoning from the lead. In addition the use of these powders containing lead and mercury resulted in scars and blemishes. Here’s an actual report from a man who didn’t find the same woman he married in bed with him the next morning.

An unfortunate husband writes to the Spectator in 1711, asking, if it be the law that a man marrying a woman, and finding her not to be the woman he intended to marry, can have a separation, and whether his case does not come within the meaning of the statute. Not to keep you in suspense, he says; as for my dear, never man was so enamoured as I was of her fair forehead, neck, and arms, as well as the bright jet of her hair; but to my great astonishment, I find they were all the effect of art. Her skin is so tarnished with this practice, that when she first wakes in a morning, she scarce seems young enough to be the mother of her whom I carried to bed the night before. I shall take the liberty to part with her by the first opportunity, unless her father will make her portion suitable to her real, not her assumed countenance

Yet instead of ceasing to use the makeup, women began using patches to cover
up the scars and blemished caused by the makeup. They also used them to cover up pock marks formed by the many outbreaks of small pox, and soon these patches became an integral part of the make-up of that time. They were normally made of silk or leather and were cut to form pictures of things like hearts, stars, diamonds, crescent moons and even a tiny coach and horses, birds in flight, sailing ships, and anything one’s imagination could conceive of.
Small boxes were made so that the fashionable person could carry extra patches, in case one fell off or a new look was desired.

The placement of these patches meant different things. 

  • On right cheek means married. On left, engaged, near mouth, available
  • Close to the eye, she names herself provocative or fascinated.
  • On the corner mouth, this is the lover and kissable.
  • Above the lip, she is flirty.
  • Under the lip, she becomes mischievous or flirty.
  • On the nose, sassy, impudent or strapping.
  • On the forehead, the majestic or haughty
  • On the cheek, this is the gallant or flirty one.
  • On a wrinkle or laugh line, she is cheerful and playful
  • On the chest, this is the generous one.
  • On a button, the receiver.
  • Or well on the chin, would not at all this be the discreet one?

The earliest mention of the adoption of patching by the ladies of England, occurs in Bulwer's Artificial Changeling (1653). Our ladies, he complains, have lately entertained a vain custom of spotting their faces, out of an affectation of a mole, to set off their beauty, such as Venus had; and it is well if one black patch will serve to make their faces remarkable, for some fill their visages full of them, varied into all manner of shapes. 

He gives a cut (which we copy) of a lady's face patched in the then fashionable style, of which it might well be sung:

'Her patches are of every cut,
   For pimples and for scars;
Here’s all the wandering planets’ signs,
   And some of the fixed stars.'


It is believed that the vaccination for smallpox, discovered in 1796, eventually led to the end of the fashion of wearing beauty patches.
Fascinating, huh?

I incorporate the use of patches and the language of love in my Award-winning novel, The Ransom.

This is everything I love in a book - fast paced, witty, daring, romance.... Cannot wait to read more!! A must read!! Amos, book reviewer

The Ransom is a journey not soon forgotten. . . Cindy Vallar, editor Pirates and Privateers 

Buy from Amazon 

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Craftsman House Series: Decorating the Bungalow

Antique Stickley Chair
by Denise Weimer

For the past several months, we’ve enjoyed a virtual tour of the exteriors and interiors of Craftsman homes, a style currently enjoying a construction revival in our country. During the early 1900s, the architectural firm of Greene and Greene in California responded to the Arts & Crafts movement in America by launching Craftsman-style architecture. The popularity of the style endured until roughly 1929. 

From our recent posts, we can picture the low, spreading exterior style of Craftsman homes, often with stone accents and wooden shingles. Inside, we would expect the use of natural woods, especially oak, with chair rails, colonnades, and built-ins. We can't forget the coffered ceilings and five-panel doors. Walls would be painted in earth tones, adorned by peaceful murals, or feature geometric or nature-themed stencils.  

But let’s say we were lucky enough to own one of these babies. How would we begin to do decorating justice? Some of the ways these homes were gussied up back in the day included:

  • Pottery: Rookwood, Roseville, Van Briggle, Grueby, Teco, Fulper
  • Chinese and Japanese wares
  • Baskets
  • Tiffany pieces and lamps (pendant, table, and floor)
    1920s Rookwood Vase
  • Hammered copper bowls
  • Rugs: William Morris hand-woven Hammersmiths; oriental and Turkish; Donegal carpets from Ireland; grass mats from China or Japan for summer; American Indian designs
  • Glass vases by Tiffany, Steuben, and Loetz
  • Plain, neutral table and bed linens with embroidered, geometric, or natural-styled borders
  • For the walls: old family portraits, framed letters or house plans, botanical prints, and amateur watercolor paintings
  • Furniture: pieces featuring straight lines and inset panels to highlight the quality of the wood, especially white oak, in the style of Gustav Stickley; leather upholstery; settles with cushions rather than sofas; Mission-style rockers; beds with coordinating headboards and footboards
1920s Roseville Vase
Do you own a Craftsman? What personal touches do you include? Chime in below.

In my hot-of-the-press novel, Fall Flip, interior designer Shelby Dodson has to ditch her modern flair to satisfy her retired clients and their Augusta, Georgia bungalow. While her new contractor, Scott Matthews, offers more opinions than she desires, Shelby finds her warehouse full of decorations from previous flipping projects of little help. When she commandeers Scott’s muscles for trips to the river market and antique store, she accidentally jump-starts a romance! Not decorating your own Craftsman home? There’s always the virtual shopping experience with Scott and Shelby (Fall Flip on Amazon)! And good news, it’s won’t dent your wallet near as much.

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for Smitten Historical Romance, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. Her historical romance, The Witness Tree, is also releasing this month with Smitten (The Witness Tree on Amazon). A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise here:

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William Morris Hammersmith Rug

See also: Old House Online, “Bungalows of the Arts & Crafts Movement,” Patricia Poore, November 24, 2010. Decorator’s Wisdom, “Decorating a Craftsman Home With Vintage Furnishings,” by Mike and Amy. Arts & Crafts Homes and the Revival, “Carpets and Rugs for Arts & Crafts Style Homes,” by Brian D. Coleman, October 18, 2014.