Transcontinental Mail Service Began 100 Years Ago Today

A Butterfield Overland Mail Coach at Fort Chadbourne museum in Bronte, Texas. Photo: Pi3.124(Wikipedia)
A Butterfield Overland Mail Coach at Fort Chadbourne museum in Bronte, Texas.
Photo: Pi3.124(Wikipedia)

On 15 September 1858 transcontinental mail service between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, CA began when the Overland Mail Company sent out its first stages. Under contract with the U.S. Postal Department, it would transport mail twice a week between those two points in 25 days. It avoided the slow ocean voyage and promised quicker transport of mail between east and west. Although subsidized by a $600,000 by the federal government, Overland Mail Company would spend over a million dollars establishing way stations (10-20 mile intervals) and improving the 2,800 mile route.

Custom-built stages driven by teams of horses soon were racing across the open spaces of the West. They carried more than mail with passengers willing to spend 25 days in carriage that was hardly comfortable. Way stations along the way provided some comfort but pricey. And if you got off the stage at a way station, there was a possibility the stage might take off with out you. In that case you were stranded until the next one arrived but if it was full it might be a while for the next one as well. Aside from the dust that was ever present, there were no comforts and the coach ran night and day. Toilets were few and far between (as were places to wash off the dust). Then there were other problems as well. Coaches were targets for robbers and even the occasional Indian attack making it sometimes a risky proposition. Add to it that some stage drivers were not always sober making the ride more uncomfortable. Some of the routes connected states like Alabama to California through Texas.

In 1860 Overland Mail was taken over by Wells Fargo that operated the Pony Express mail service and other operations. With the Civil War looming, the Overland would be forced to change its route by an Act of Congress. Its contract with the government would end in March 1861. During the war, many of the West and Southwest and stations would be become targets of either the Union or Confederacy to prevent their use by the other side. Wells Fargo would resume stagecoach transcontinental service but it would end on 10 May 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed. Local stagecoach service though would continue on (to ferry people, cargo, and mail away from trains) until the advent of the automobile. Today there is an effort underway to preserve the transcontinental route as a heritage trail.

1.This Day in History (
2. Butterfield Overland Mail Route (website about the mail route)

Titanic News: Anniversary of finding, Titanic II tickets, and Titanic Whistles

1. Titanic II Ticket Demand Expected To Increase
Cruise Ship News speculates that now the project is back on, that demand for tickets will begin again. “One thing we do know though, and that is the fact there will now be renewed demand for Titanic 2 ticket prices. Details of Titanic II tickets had already been shared, but not their prices. We do know that there will be first, second and third class like the original liner, and some people have been offering up to £640,000($987,216USD) so they can be the first to experience life aboard the Titanic 2.” They might want to wait until construction actually begins before offering substantial sums of money. There is still a lot of doubt this will get built.
Source: Titanic 2 Ticket Demand Renewed Following Latest Launch News(14 Sep 2015,Cruise Ship News)

2. Titanic Whistles Heard For The First Time Since 1912 At Luxor Titanic Exhibition
Back in 1912 recording media was very primitive so we have no idea what Titanic’s whistles sounded like. Now we have a pretty good idea. A set of Titanic’s whistles were recovered in 1993,cleaned and then X-rayed. The whistles are believed to been on the first funnel and could be used one last time. In 1999 using high-pressured air, the whistle tones were recorded. The whistle sound, two separate blasts of about eight seconds each, are heard by visitors to the Titanic exhibition at Luxor hotel in Las Vegas. A replica set of the whistles is on display as well (the original is at the Huntington Park, California exhibition).
Source:Whistles Give Voice To Tragedy At Luxor Titanic Exhibition(13 Sep 2015,Las Vegas Review Journal)

3. 30 Years!
On September 1, 1985, a joint expedition of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and French National Institute of Oceanography (IFREMER) located Titanic just a little after 1am. Lying over 12,400 feet down, it was a major success for Robert Ballard (WHOI) and Jean Louis Michel of IFREMER to finally locate the wreck. Using a new approach of using a deep towed sonar and video camera system, they were looking for debris rather than just one large object. They found the debris field and followed it to the wreck. It was a major achievement for both and brought worldwide attention. It answered some questions and raised more. Titanic did not sink in one piece but in two. Further explorations would learn there was no large gash but perhaps punctures caused by the iceberg grazing against it. The subsequent salvage would touch off a firestorm between Titanic historians and enthusiasts, a debate that still lingers to this day.
Source: 1985 Discovery of RMS Titanic(Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Masterchef US Season 6: The Top Three

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svgLast week saw the departure of Katrina but this recent episode ended Nick’s time on the show. It was sad to see him go but understandable why he was sent home. With four left the pressure to find the best is really on and the pressure is undeniably overwhelming. They had three boxes filled with the judge’s favorite ingredients. Christina’s box was put to the side. An ominous sign that the combined elimination and dreaded pressure test would be very painful indeed.

Nick chose Claudia as his partner leaving Derrick and Stephen together. While they had their problems (like Derrick putting pomegranate seeds in the appetizer) they got the win. What was frustrating to watch was two normally very good cooks produce such mediocre food. They tried for a crab broth but with an hour there was no way to get that done in time to do it justice. The resulting Italian crab cakes were okay but did not scream Masterchef worthy dish. Claudia made the dumbest mistake of all by telling Nick to put the salmon skin side down on the kale. All that crispness was destroyed by its watery bath on the kale. And Graham said it was a salmon prophylactic (Christiana looked appalled when she heard it). Hard to believe two normally fierce and dependable cooks ended up in this pressure test.

It was no ordinary one either and no place to hide. Having to replicate one of the Christina’s most complicated six part chocolate cake normally takes months to master correctly. They had one hour. Even Gordon appeared shocked at the challenge. Neither of them completely mastered it though Claudia managed to make it lighter in texture than Christina’s (which she liked). But she failed on the presentation. Nick got the presentation right but something was terribly amiss inside. This is where chemistry comes into play. Back in high school I often wondered how chemistry would be of any concern to me after I graduated. It does, just not in ways expected. Baking is one place where understanding how things work together (or not) makes all the difference between a good cake and a poorly done one. Ratios and ingredients have to be balanced precisely. If you mess up those ratios, it screws up the chemical reaction resulting in something different.

And Nick made that mistake. Instead of asking Claudia for some ingredients, he changed the recipe slightly. Remember these judges know exactly how the cake is supposed to taste. Christina said something was off and Gordon got Nick to admit he had altered the recipe for the missing ingredients. And this resulted in a sweeter cake. Since chocolate is the main ingredient (in different forms), you have to balance it right so the sweetness does not overwhelm. So in the end while Claudia’s cake was not that good visually, it was good on the inside. Claudia moves on while Nick leaves. I expect though he will set up his gastro pub and that is a place I want to go. He will probably consult with Gordon for tips and advice. He may be off the show but he is not done in the cooking world.

Three are left: Claudia, Derrick and Stephen. I still think Derrick is the weakest of the three. I think this could come to Claudia and Stephen. At any rate the finale is this week and the winner will soon be revealed.

Update on Premier Exhibitions and Dinoking

PremierExhibitionslogoThe South China Morning Post is reporting that Linda Ching, the daughter of Ching Mo Yeung who is accused of financial crimes by China, is no longer part of the Dinoking deal and replaced by another investor. Her investment was revealed in documents filed with the British Columbia Securities Commission and the US Securities and Exchange Commission. However Dinoking has informed Premier that the funding note involved was replaced by another investor on 6 Jul 2015.

Interestingly the three members of the finance group that Dinoking put together are difficult to verify. The Post was unable to confirm one identity and two are firms in the British Virgin Islands making it impossible to learn the owners due to secrecy laws.

Okay so we have investors whose names and identities are deliberately being kept secret. And a connection to a figure seeking refugee status in Canada who the Chinese say committed financial crimes (and also being sought by Interpol as well). Does make one wonder if the motive behind the Seller’s lawsuit is buyers remorse. And this is a way to scuttle the deal. Well just a thought.

Source:Linda Ching, Daughter Of Chinese Corruption Suspect Michael Ching, Is Replaced As Investor In Titanic Firm’s Merger(11 Sep 2015,South China Morning Post)

Premier Exhibitions News:Lawsuit Could Impact Pending Merger With Dinoking

explosv2A lawsuit by Mark Sellers, former chairman of Premier Exhibitions and through Sellers Capital owns 15.4 million shares in the company, is suing George Wight Jr. and his companies, Armada Enterprises and Armada Group of Florida. In 2014, Sellers agreed to sell his majority stake in Premier for $16.2 million. Sellers alleges Wight reneged on the deal. And he also alleges Wight misled the Premier board and shareholders about the money available to complete the deal. Sellers is requesting that a federal judge force Wight to follow through with original deal terms, seeks more than $12.5 million in damages. Currently Premier is the process of merging with Dinoking Tech. Dinoking exhibits animatronic dinosaurs. The deal is yet to be approved by the shareholders (to be voted on in October) and would allow Premier to acquire all shares of Dinoking for $6.4 million and its principal shareholder, Daoping Bao, will take control of the company.

Needless to say, this is going to cause some problems for the Dinoking merger. If the lawsuit succeeds, it would force Wight to consummate the original deal with Sellers. Not that everyone is entirely convinced of the Dinoking deal. There are nagging questions about Dinoking and its capital sourcing. And Andrew Shapiro who is president of Lawndale Capital Management with a five percent stake is quoted as saying:

Similarly, if new, more skilled board and management were assembled, Lawndale might be willing to participate in a rights offering to all shareholders to raise additional equity supporting a debt refinancing that together might prove to be a superior bid to that of Dinoking and its questionable capital sourcing.

Source: HopCat owner files $12.5M lawsuit over Titanic shipwreck deal(9 Sep 2015,

Additional articles on Premier of note:
‘Titanic’ shareholders cast doubt over merger, stunned that Chinese corruption suspect’s teenage daughter, Linda Ching, is financier(4 Sept 2015,South China Morning Post)
Premier Exhibitions – Shareholders Stunned Over Suspected Graft(4 Sep 2015, Valuewalk)
Premier Exhibitions : releases the following response regarding a potential financier linked to Michael Ching Mo Yeung(9 Sep 2015,

Hat tip to Bill Willard on alerting me to this news.

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Masterchef US, Season 6: Final Four Revealed and Katrina Goes Home

MasterChef_Logo_&_Wordmark.svgKatrina, who has shown some good cooking skills but seemed to have a lot of self doubt about her abilities, finally went home. Judging from the comments on other Internet sites, many are not unhappy. I had my doubts that Katrina would get into the final four. While she certainly has the cooking skills, she lacks confidence in her abilities and is easily distracted by overthinking her cooking. Now they all faced a stern mystery box challenge of cooking with one ingredient and a limited pantry box. Nothing tests the creativity of a chef like this challenge. And they all rose to the challenge. Claudia won with her unique idea of a Tomato Napoleon and got the win.

Claudia was automatically put into the top four and filled a basket with twenty of her favorite things to cook with. To fill it out, three former Masterchef winners stopped by with baskets of their own. Christina naturally had Asian ingredients, Luca an Italian one, and Courtney (who still irks me and comes across as too mercenary) dessert ingredients. With Claudia selecting who gets baskets, she could really throw someone a huge disadvantage. Nick got what he did not want-the Mexican basket (Claudia’s). Derrick got the difficult dessert basket and Stephen the Asian. And Katrina got perhaps the easiest of all, the Italian basket. It ought to have been a slam dunk for her but instead sent her home.

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

Both her and Derrick ended up in the bottom. He did an underwhelming pot a crème that was too dense and the mascarpone not mixed in it. Not one of the judges thought it was Masterchef worthy but not bad either(except too dense). Katrina did a veal scaloppine but while her pasta was excellent, the veal was still mooing. Gordon was visibly disappointed as were the other judges. This is not someone usually careless but obviously the challenge got to her. She lost focus and allowed the still mooing veal on the plate. Had she left the veal off the plate, Derrick would have likely gone home. Derrick though did do just enough in their minds to go forward. It is a general rule of thumb on shows like this that if you serve raw meat that is supposed to be cooked, you go home unless someone did worse. Derrick’s dish was underwhelming but just enough (barely) from sending him home.

So the Final Four are Claudia, Derrick, Nick and Stephen. The semifinals are next and two will be chopped for the final two to meet for the head-to-head showdown in the grand finale. I still think Nick and Stephen could be the top two but if Stephen royally screws up, I expect Claudia to get the nod. Derrick is good but I think he might have reached his limit.

Katrina, as a consolation, was invited to spend time in Ramsay’s restaurants in France so she can start to get some training, She did show a lot of creativity and Gordon thinks she has a future in the business. While Hetal will make a great baker (and I would go to her bakery for a great pie!), Katrina with the right mentoring could well become a very good chef with her own restaurant.

Happy Labor Day (US)

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Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. It became a federal holiday in 1894 to celebrate workers and their achievements. It has also become the “unofficial”end of summer as by this time schools have reopened and most summer vacations have ended. Also by this time the days (in the northern hemisphere) are starting to get shorter as we get closer to the autumnal equinox. As all fifty states observe the holiday, state and local government offices are closed as well. Banks are closed as are the U.S. financial markets. Most people who work in office jobs get the day off but retail stores do not observe the holiday usually offering special “Labor Day Sales” to draw customers in.

Happy Sunday

Image:Petr Kratochvil(
Image:Petr Kratochvil(