Friday, August 2, 2013

History Picks Its Path

Thought for the day:  When you come to a fork in the road, take it.  [Yogi Berra]

Sometimes, it seems like life is a labyrinth of choices, doesn't it? With a leap of faith, we pause at each fork in the road, and then choose one path after another as we make our way through the maze. As we continue our journey forward, we try not to waste too much time pondering the what ifs of the paths not taken.

Not today. Nope. Today, we're purposely gonna waste some time pondering a few historical what ifs. Hold your hand eye-level, with your thumb and forefinger separated by about an inch. That's how close the following historical events came to taking an entirely different path...


What if... Abraham Lincoln were assassinated before he even took office? Didja know he received thousands and thousands of death threats during his presidency? Didja know he came (hold up that thumb and forefinger again) this close to being assassinated before his inauguration even took place? The plot hinged on creating a distraction by staging a riot when he was passing through Baltimore en route to the inauguration, and then shooting him during the ensuing chaos. Luckily, Lincoln's head of security Allan Pinkerton (ring a bell?) uncovered the plot, and successfully thwarted it by changing to a circuitous travel route, and putting Lincoln in disguise.

What if... LBJ were killed the same day as JFK? He came... this close. Fourteen hours after Kennedy's death, when everyone's senses were on heightened alert, a Secret Service man spotted a dark figure walking on the Johnson property that night. Allegedly, with his finger on the trigger, Agent Gerald Blaine aimed his machine gun at the unknown figure. Luckily, he recognized Johnson before pulling that trigger.



What if... Germany had air superiority during World War II? After all, the country already had a stellar reputation for its technological ability. What if... Germany had a stealth bomber?

Believe it or not, they came this close...

You may have already known about Lincoln and Johnson, but I wonder how many of you know about this... how many of you know about Germany's stealth bomber? AKA the Horton HO 2-29.
Hermann Goering ordered German designers to come up with a bomber that could carry 1000 kg over 1000 km flying 1000 km per hour.  Two pilot brothers, Reimar and Walter Horton, came up with a flying wing design, and the first of only three prototypes was built and tested in March, 1944. The planes were built primarily out of wood, powered by jet engines, and coated with a mixture of charcoal dust and wood glue. Top speed was 970 km per hour.




Before Germany could begin producing the plane on an industrial scale, the Allied troops invaded, and captured the blueprints and what was left of the only remaining prototype.





Those remains are now at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., where they have undergone extensive testing, and hopefully, will some day be put on display.



Analysis determined the canopy to be made from a polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) plastic, which chemists developed a decade earlier.
 In 2008, following the original blueprint, and using only materials that were available in 1944, Northrup-Grumnan built a full-scale replica of the Horton HO 2-29. They also tested the stealth capability of the original charcoal dust and wood glue mixture, and determined that it would have provided a 20% reduction in radar detection. The Horton replica is currently on display at the San Diego Air and Space Museum.



So, tell me. Was this what if  revelation about the first stealth bomber... a flying wing, no less... as startling to you as it was to me? Know of any other what if that came this close to changing the course of history?

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                               The Road Not Taken

                                         Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
                                         And sorry I could not travel both
                                         And be one traveler, long I stood
                                        And looked down one as far as I could
                                        To where it bent in the undergrowth;

                                        Then took the other, as just as fair,
                                       And having perhaps the better claim
                                       Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
                                       Though as for that the passing there
                                       Had worn them really about the same,

                                       And both that morning equally lay
                                       In leaves no step had trodden black.
                                       Oh, I kept the first for another day!
                                       Yet knowing how way leads on to way
                                        I doubted if I should ever come back.

                                       I shall be telling this with a sigh
                                      Somewhere ages and ages hence:
                                      Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
                                      I took the one less traveled by,
                                     And that has made all the difference.


113 comments:

  1. Those old prototypes look much like newer designs for stealth jets. Interesting post, Susan.

    We may yet leave his planet. . .hopefully in a starship.

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    1. You're right. Those prototypes were way ahead of their time. Amazing.

      Leave the planet? Well, okay... but only if we're back in time for my girl friend's party tomorrow night, okay?

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  2. I really enjoy history and your post had some interesting historical facts. Thanks for sharing this post.

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    1. Me, too. History can be fascinating, especially the little-known facts that aren't usually taught in schools. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

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  3. Terrific research. I learn so much here!

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    1. Wait'll ya see what's in store for next Tuesday... it'll blow ya away, dude. HA!

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  4. Great post with so much detail Susan :)

    I love the poem at the end... always makes me think of the decisions and paths I am constantly choosing between...

    I just wanted to tell you I am taking a small break from blogging... I need to as it was either take a break from blogging or take a break from exercising... I decided I could handle giving up blogging more:) I will be back to catch up with you in a couple of weeks :)

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    1. I'm glad you liked it, Launna. You know quite a lot about picking your path these days, dontcha? And here you are picking it again by continuing to concentrate on your exercises. Good for you. You'll be running that 5K in no time. Take care of yourself, and we'll "seeya" in a couple weeks.

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  5. Not sure when but FDR came close to being assassinated sometime before he became president. As far as Nazi jet fighters go the Me-262, although first flow with jet engines in 1942, it wasn't an operational fighter until the last phases of WW2. It had several issues, one of them being reliability but had it come on the scene earlier, and in sufficient numbers, it would have greatly changed the equation of the war.

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    1. You're absolutely right! How in the world did I forget to mention the assassination attempt on FDR? That's a HUGE "what if." It happened in February of 1933 in Miami, just prior to his first inauguration. The shooter, Guiseppe Zangara, fired five shots, but luckily, none of them hit Roosevelt. Not so luckily, Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, was killed, and four others were injured.

      Good one, Beach Bum! FDR had a huge impact on history.

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  6. ...but they didn't happen. That's what matters. (And now I am thinking of the line from Whittier's poem MAUD MULLER:

    Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
    The saddest are these: 'It might have been'.

    I'm not sure I agree, though...

    Have a great weekend!

    Diana at About Myself By Myself

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    1. That line from Whittier's poem always struck me as regret about missed opportunities... particularly for lack of trying. Not much point blubbering over what's past, though, is it? I still like to believe things have a way of working out for the best.

      You have a super weekend, too!

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  7. Wow. I didn't know about Johnson's close call OR Germany's stealth bomber. Fascinating.

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    1. Cool. I'm glad you find this stuff fascinating, too.

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  8. Life is full of What If's. I only knew about the Lincoln one. The others are new.
    This is my "What If". My husband had the Washington Senators baseball team before they went to MN and became the Twins. Fidel Castro wanted to be a pitcher and tried out for the team in 1950 or 51. (I forgot). My husband said he wasn't good enough. BUT if he had been signed, Castro would have most likely become a capitalist and that might have changed history and the cold war, etc. I used to tell my husband he could have changed history and he would just give me "That Look." Haha

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    1. holy wow, Manzanita... now that's a HUGE what if...

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    2. Wow, Manzie! I knew that about Castro, but it is totally cool that your hubby owned the Senators at the time. (I woulda given him hell over not signing Castro, too... HA!)

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  9. These are really fascinating. I remember my high school history teacher telling us that Germany came so close to conquering the world during WWII and it's such a scary thought. I would like to think that the world would have never allowed that top happen but it's still a scary thought nonetheless.

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    1. I'm glad this stuff interests you, too. We can't change what's happened, but it's fascinating to consider the twists and turns history has taken.

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  10. That's one of my favorite Frost poems. But thinking about the what ifs and crazy coincidences that make up the world just blows my mind. Everything was so close to being different from what it is!

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    1. That's one of my favorite Frost poems, too. Yeah, thinking about the "what ifs" can be a little mind-blowing. Like suppose our mothers had "headaches" on the nights we were conceived...

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  11. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing the what ifs.

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    1. My pleasure. I'm glad you find it fascinating, too.

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  12. I knew about all the threats to Abraham Lincoln's life, I'm not sure how, I must have read it somewhere...I'm rather glad none of them was carried out, he was a great man. One of my nephews, Lincoln, was named for Abraham Lincoln, my sister in law admired him greatly. I certainly didn't know about Germany's stealth bomber and I'm glad that didn't come to pass. If it had, my family might have never come to Australia and I would have grown up to be a German hausfrau serving chicken and dumplings with apple strudel for dessert.

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    1. How neat that your nephew was named after Abe Lincoln. I wouldn't be surprised if your family knows more about him than some Americans.

      I'm grateful history went the way it did... but I do love chicken and dumplings and apple strudel. (And sauerbraten... even better!)

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  13. Really great post, Susan! I love history and did not know of any of these interesting facts. I have been educated today, and that is a good thing.

    Much of all our lives are lived between our thumbs and forefingers. The "what ifs" and "if only" are the choices we make or are made for us. Early on, we make that mad dash through life without a care and other times we squeak by always wishing that luck will be on our side, until it isn't.

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    1. Super! I'm glad all these historical tidbits were new treats for you.

      Good way to put it. Yeah, I guess you could say most of our lives are lived between our thumbs and forefingers. When we're young, most of us don't give much thought to the "what ifs" and simply decide and then plunge headlong into situations. Age and experience make us more aware of the "what ifs", and that's good, as long as we don't let uncertainty paralyze us when it's time to take action.

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  14. Ah the Pinkertons! My favorite detective agency! I did know about that, of course, but I did not know about Johnson almost buying it immediately after JFK's assassination or about Germany's almost almost stealth bomber. Interesting stuff :)

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    1. I figured the Pinkerton mention would get your attention...

      I'm glad you found the other stuff interesting.

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  15. You just never know
    How things will go
    Choose a path
    Find joy or wrath
    But then whether sad or cheery
    could still hold true with the alternate reality theory

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    1. We set our feet upon the track,
      And make our turns, never looking back.
      For right or wrong, we'll make our way
      To reach our destiny at the end of the day.

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  16. Yep, the Nazi scientists were pretty sharp when it came to designing rockets and other flying things. Which of course is why the United States of America hired some of them and put them to work in NASA after the war.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Precisely. I knew Germans were technologically astute, but I was still surprised to learn about the stealth bomber,

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  17. 'When you come to a fork in the road, take it.'

    Well. We're gonna.

    I love visiting Air and Space museums. The air itself seems to speak. I just reread that and it seems repetitive but it's true!

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    1. Yes, I know you are. (And no regrets, missy!)

      I love air and space museums, too. And we've been to some terrific ones.

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    2. Could go for a hug this morning. Am making plans for my little one to have her final play dates as our move date will be here super fast (less than three weeks) and I am emotionally and physically overwhelmed ...

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    3. If I were there, I'd give you such a big hug, your eyes would bug out, but I'm not, so here comes a virtual one. And a kiss on the forehead. It's gonna be fine. Keep telling yourself that. It'll be fine.

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    4. Thank you, Susan. Never have I wanted my eyes to bug out more. :)

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    5. Hold on! Whooooosh! That was a giant burst of positive thoughts coming your way.

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  18. Well you learn something new every day! What if... interesting and scary to ponder!

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    1. Cool! I'm glad you learned a little something-something. (No pop tests later, either!)

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  19. So many people will only take the fork in the road that matches the pattern they already have.

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    1. You're saying they have no sense of adventure, eh? Life's too short to miss out on taking an occasional detour.

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  20. Thought provoking indeed! Interesting about the stealth bomber.

    By the way, Yogi is not as goofy as he sometimes sounds.

    His house was in the middle of a road which divided at a "fork" where the road then went in a circle. When giving directions to his house he would say quite correctly though somewhat comically, "When you come to the fork in the road...take it!"

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    1. Oh, cool! I have NEVER heard that explanation of Yogi's "fork" quote before, but I love it. (Now, it ain't gonna be so easy to explain some of his OTHER funny quotes...)

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  21. Fantastic post, Susan!

    One historical "this close" event I know about is that during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress considered replacing George Washington with Horatio Gates as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army because Washington was losing too many battles. But one of the amazing things about Washington is that only he could turn a loss into something that made his soldiers more loyal than ever.

    When he lost at the Battle of Long Island, he snuck his army off the island overnight during a rainstorm using numerous small boats. Washington himself left on one of the last boats. When Howe showed up at the camp in the morning to demolish the trapped Americans, he found them all gone.

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    1. Thanks! I figured this one would be right up your alley.

      Great "what if" about Washington. I'll bet you know a ton of 'em. (Your students probably do, too!)

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  22. Fabulous post today.
    All the what-if's and this close. So amazing.
    I love @Manzanita Castro story.

    I am not surprise my the stealth bomber their scientists were really farther ahead than ours. I remember the first NASA rockets and the mention of the German scientist.

    Years ago I saw a British TV series about life in the UK after Hitler and Germany won the war. I remember it being very interesting but I never saw all of the series.

    My Grandfather was a Pinkerton Detective. I have a old photo of him in his coat and hat. I wrote a post about him on my blog. I am very proud of him and what he had to endure to legally come to America.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I'll bet that was a thought-provoking TV show.

      Verrrry cool about your grandfather! I'll have to search through your blog to find the post about him. Ooops, I'm gonna have to do it later. It's time to get off the computer and out in that kitchen to rattle them pots and pans.

      Cheers!

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    2. Your so funny... I can't believe you went back to find the post. I was too tired to even look it up. The mew meds I am taking make what is left of my puny brain hurt ! Only two more weeks. Yea me !
      I wish I knew more about my Grandfather he was already old when I was born. I do know some funny family stories but none about his detective work. I wonder if that is why I like detective and mystery novels ?

      cheers, parsnip

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    3. New meds stink. Side effects to new meds smell even worse.

      Hey! Could be... it's in the blood!

      Take care. I hope you have a super weekend.

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  23. One really likes Robert Frost.

    I think it would have been awful if LBJ had not been President.

    http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2008/summer/lbj.html

    Civil Rights legislation, poverty programs, education programs, medical insurance for the elderly, more liberal immigration, Head Start, the Jobs Corps, Upward Bound, Native Indian support groups, VISTA, Foster Grandparents, Legal Services for the Poor, and endless other things.

    Against all odds, he was a giant.


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    1. (Just ONE? I think LOTS of people like Frost.)

      Johnson was a real powerhouse. Nice article. Thanks for the link. I liked that quote in there about the difference between liberals and cannibals; I'd never heard that one before. He could be funny... and outspoken... but he sure knew how to get legislation through Congress.

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  24. Life is a random thing. I think it's difficult for us to grasp how totally random it really is. Wonderful post. I think about these things, too. ;)

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    1. Indeed. One decision leads to another leads to another, and they're all like making choices in a labyrinth. Glad ya liked it. (Great minds think alike, they tell me...)

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  25. HAhaaa…. I have a whole list of Yogi's quotes… he kills me.

    Seems somewhere I remember hearing of that bomber. There are a lot of scary what ifs f'sure. I was alive and well when the Bay of Pigs was in full tilt boogie. As well as being in San Francisco in 1968 when California was predicted to be swallowed up by an earthquake ~ it was a 6.5 or 8 or something like that instead of predicted 7. something …. then moon landing in '69.

    man oh man ~ being old? you live through a lot of what ifs… and it never stops. What if Florida didn't have hanging chads and Al Gore had been President and couldn't we have all predicted that a black man would be President before a woman?

    I tell ya… hopefully, before I die … I will see a woman President ~ preferably Hillary… hope this doesn't start a WHAT? slew of comments but you got me started … your fault… ha

    and this quote from the above poem ...

    "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."

    has long been a mantra of mine ;)

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    1. Yogi kills me, too. He came up with some real doozies.

      Yeah. we've both been through some pretty astounding times, and I hope we live through a lot more of 'em.

      Terrific mantra! Being a non-conformist has probably led to some pretty exciting adventures, too.

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  26. Replies
    1. I'M GLAD YOU LIKED IT! (Why are you yelling?)

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  27. Too many "what if's" to consider. If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump is ass!

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    1. My hubby says that one about the frog, too. Great minds...

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  28. Interesting what if's. And kind of scary, but they do make for interesting stories.

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  29. We "sang" that poem (put to music) in eighth grade so many times I will NEVER forget the poem! That said, mostly I leave the what if's behind.

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    1. I've never heard that poem done as a song, but I'll bet it was pretty. "Behind" is the healthiest place to leave those what ifs.

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  30. Lots of food for thought. There are so many "what ifs" to ponder. Life could have been so much different today. And once in awhile I run across a great book with a writer that puts those "what ifs" on paper for us to be amazed by.

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    1. Yes! I've read some books like that, too. They're great at stimulating the imagination, aren't they?










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  31. Interesting post today...and all those "what if's" can be either very scary or very fun to think about.

    A fun movie that explores all of life's what ifs to the hilt is Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow. I highly recommend it - and the ending is pure genius that will put a smile on your face. It's just a cute little movie - nothing serious such as the Lincoln story, or the German stealth bomber.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll see if I can find that movie next time I go to the store. Cute and not serious sounds just right for a movie.

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  32. Fascinating. As always. I love the way you clearly spend much time researching your eclectic topics.

    On another note entirely, have had a lovely positive response to the post about your book on my blog. A few sales methinks :)

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    1. Thanks. What can I say? I'm an information junkie. I have a head filled with tons of useless information... but I'm pretty good at trivia games.

      Super! Thanks so much. It was such a pleasant surprise to see that post on your blog. I reeeeeally appreciate it. Happy weekend!

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  33. what ifs are always scary, but we do love alternative history!

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    1. It's an interesting mental exercise to consider alternative history, and you could probably name several movies that played out some of those alternatives.

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  34. I love this poem..it is intriguing to muse about life's little forked road moments- what ifs and why nots...wise choices and dumb luck...sometimes I wonder.

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    1. Yes, it can be intriguing to ponder the forks we've encountered, but in the end, we must trust that we're choosing the right paths and that we'll always find our way to exactly where we're supposed to be.

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  35. I really enjoyed this post. I love that poem by Frost. It was a good idea to add it.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Frost's poem just seemed like the perfect fit.

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  36. I love the philosophical questions your post raises. I have firm convictions that 'nothing just happens.' I really feel that there is a grand scheme and that we are privileged to play a role in it. So when I choose the path less taken...its always with a whispered prayer...

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    1. And I love the way you approach those philosophical questions. Your leaps of faith and whispered prayers breed inner peace.

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  37. I didn't know any of this stuff, except that I wasn't a bit surprised about the Lincoln part. The rest ... well, good thing that the Hitler regime was thwarted on that angle. Very interesting that they built the bomber after so long.

    I always enjoy your posts so much, Susan. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had chosen differently in my life's path, but I am happy and blessed now, and that is all that really matters.

    Hugs,

    Kathy M.

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    1. Hi-ya, Kathy. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was really astounded by the stealth bomber "what if."

      I guess we all wonder about where other choices might have taken us, but I'll bet a bunch of little kids are happy you're on your present path. You're blessing them as much as they're blessing you.

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  38. Fascinating stuff, Susan. I think the comments were as interesting as the original post. That picture of the stealth bomber really freaks me out. As numerous people have pointed out, those scientists were way ahead of their time in terms of the technology. It is very frightening to imagine that project coming to fruition. It would have changed everything for the worse. The much worse.

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you find this stuff fascinating, too. And you're right. Good comments always make a post so much more interesting. (Lots of smart people around here!)

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  39. Glad they didn't get to complete the stealth. Our lives would most likely be a bit different today.

    Thanks for doing that post about Texas. Don't know how I missed it. I learned about it from Robin's blog!

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    1. I think the whole world's grateful they didn't complete it.

      My pleasure. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  40. I was going to quote that Robert Frost poem. I'd got this comment all ready in my head but you beat me to it. It's one of my favourite poems and, as you might guess from my today's post, the sentiment suits me.

    I often wonder "what ifs" but more about my own life than the greater picture. Must start living in the present!

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    1. HA! Evidently, great minds DO think alike! Our posts went together quite well.

      Yep, we all need to get better at learning how to carpe the heck out of each diem.

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  41. You raise a lot of good food for thought, Susan. It's a bit scary how close I, and the world, have come to things going entirely differently.

    Robert Frost is a favorite. I can't read his poems too many times.

    xoRobyn

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    1. Yeah, it's a little scary to think about some of the close calls, but on the other hand, we're still here, plugging along. So que sera sera; our destiny seems to be in very good Hands.

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  42. I love that you ended it with Robert Frost.

    What if's are great to ponder when the road taken has led to a happy ending (such as in all of the above cases). :)

    Wishing you a happy rest of the weekend!

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    1. Robert Frost seems to be a favorite for everyone. (I'll have to include his stuff more often!)

      Good point. The what ifs would be sheer torture to consider if the outcomes were horrible.

      Thanks! It was a loverly weekend. I hope yours was, too.

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  43. Awesome research and interesting information to learn! Thanks so much!

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  44. i have a hard enough time figuring out 'what is' that i can't think about 'what if'. :)

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  45. Fascinating post. I think alternative history is the scariest genre out there, and "we came this close" are four of the most terrifying words. You know what Newton said, for every action there's an equal and opposite yada, yada, yada. Or put more simply, change doesn't happen in a vacuum. Had the Germans reached stealth, sure we can guess what would have happened had all else remained the same, but unless you're Led Zeppelin, the song rarely remains the same. :)

    VR Barkowski

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    1. GREAT comment! Thanks. (Gee, maybe you should consider writing a book...)

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  46. I love history and this stuff is right up my alley. I'd never heard that story about LBJ before, amazing. I remember reading about how Hitler came very close to being killed while a soldier in WWI. Impossible to imagine how different the world would be if that would have happened. If only!

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    1. Wow, lots of things would have been different if Hitler hadn't survived WWI. But consider this: how many people would never have been born if their parents hadn't been thrown together by the circumstances of WWII?

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  47. As a student and teacher of history, I do understand that history is a living, breathing concept. We must consider the social, political, economic, religious, geographical and other "forces" to get a clear picture. For example, someone else posted a thesis similar to that of Martin Luther on a church door 300 years earlier, and was promptly executed. All the forces of history must be lined up perfectly. No single human really alters history.

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    1. Absolutely. But the actions of each human being can create a ripple effect on the people he encounters, even if he isn't aware of it. And those ripples, when added up, have the potential power to influence the world and its history. But like you say, timing is very important in all of this.

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  48. I have chills. Seriously. You know that saying timing is everything? How true is that!

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    1. Uh-oh. Sorry to give you chills. Want some chicken soup?

      Seriously, you're right. Timing IS everything.

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  49. That was fascinating! I like playing the "what if?" game, too. Like (and I'm not being a wise guy), what if Lincoln was inaugurated immediately after the election, instead of four months later? Then, the South would have been better able to see that he only wanted to stop the SPREAD of slavery instead of abolishing it completely (don't think for a minute I thought slavery should have remained...). Maybe the Civil War would never have happened. Maybe...

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  50. Thanks so much for buying my book, Susan. You're the best. I'm getting yours as soon as I place my next order. (It's been #1 on my list. Woohoo!)

    xoRobyn

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    1. My pleasure. I'm looking forward to receiving it.

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  51. Some interesting 'what if's. I don't really believe much in coincidence so I have to think even these things turned out as they should have. Mostly for the best, but some maybe not. (Not the biggest fan of Lincoln.)

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    1. I'm with you. In most cases, I tend to believe things work out exactly as they should.

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  52. This is why I love alternate history!

    Hitler was also a failed (rejected) artist. What would have happened had he been accepted as a painter???

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    1. Yeah, it's fascinating stuff to contemplate, isn't it? Good point about the artistic angle. (Some of his paintings were quite good.)

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  53. When you come to a fork in the road, you might get a flat tire, or "tyre" as in English, English.

    As usual, a fascinating posting, full of what if's. Amazing what would happen if things were a bit different in history. This might be a stealth comment. Hell, we even get stealth tax.

    In an what if adjustment of history, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar would not be the famous one on my blog.

    Thank you, Susan.

    Another one of your ever growing legion of adoring fans,

    Gary :)

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    1. Stealth comments are perfectly acceptable, not that you can get away anonymously. Even without your picture, I think I'd recognize your "style".

      Somehow, I don't think Penny would mind sharing the spotlight with you.

      Cheers!

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