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Journeys Made More Enjoyable

Some of the stuff we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

TxDOT tells us its campaign against trash is gaining traction—which we find encouraging. On a more somber note, we remember a drive through downtown Dallas 50 years ago that changed the nation—when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Finally, if you hear Aggies bragging about their great volcano, it’s no joke. But you’ll probably never see it.

Less Mess in Texas

Texas is not as messy as it used to be, apparently.

The state’s roadsides are less cluttered than they were in 2009, reported the Texas Department of Transportation. [See “Don’t Mess With My Bit of Texas,” March 2013.] The agency, which measures trash accumulation every four years with the Texas Litter Survey, said visible litter is down 34 percent, a result it credits to the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign.

These encouraging results come despite an additional 1.1 million drivers on the state’s roadways in the past four years.

Workers helping with the litter survey examined about 4.8 million square feet of roadside (equivalent to a 1-foot-wide line long enough to connect Brownsville and Amarillo). They found that tire and rubber debris was the most common type of trash, followed by food and beverage containers.

Cigarette butts, considered “micro litter” by TxDOT, were the most common type of all litter, the survey found, with a projected 500 million to be found on Texas roads by the end of 2013.

The Aggies’ Magma Carta

How about a hearty Whoop! for the world’s largest volcano, which is doing Texas A&M University proud about 4 miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The volcano, named Tamu Massif, has a footprint about the size of New Mexico and sits some 1,000 miles east of Japan. What, you may ask, does a volcano under the Pacific Ocean have to do with Texas A&M? Geophysicist William Sager led a team of scientists that announced the volcano’s discovery in September, and though he’s a professor at the University of Houston, Sager spent 29 years at A&M. Part of the volcano’s name is in honor of A&M—TAMU is an abbreviation for the university. Massif is the French word for “massive” and a scientific term for a large mountain mass, says Sager.

The volcano is completely submerged, and Sager doesn’t think its peak ever rose above sea level over its 145-million-year existence.

Mauna Loa in Hawaii had been the largest known volcano on Earth.

He Had Connections

This month’s Texas History story, “The Legend of the Yellow Rose,” introduces you to a fellow, William Bollaert, who seems to have played a key role in substantiating some parts of the legend of the woman considered to be the Yellow Rose of Texas. Bollaert heard details about Emily West from none other than Sam Houston.

Interestingly, Bollaert, an English scientist, is also connected to research that led to important discoveries about electricity, according to findings in 1996 by James Lutzweiler, who was researching the veracity of the Yellow Rose story.

In 1842, Bollaert was checking out land in Texas for a speculator friend in Britain when he bumped into Houston.

Before that, though, Bollaert worked as an assistant chemist to Michael Faraday, whose discoveries in electromagnetic induction made possible the development of the electric motor.

And there’s more—Bollaert reportedly saved Faraday’s eyesight after a lab accident nearly blinded him, allowing Faraday to continue his research for another 44 years.

On This Date: Commemorating JFK’s Assassination

Dallas city planners have been preparing for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy for more than a year. The shooting, on November 22, 1963, jolted the country and stained the consciousness of Dallas, and organizers of ceremonies planned for later this month are determined to reverently mark the milestone.

“We are planning a simple, serious, understated, respectful public memorial to commemorate President Kennedy’s life,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said in The Dallas Morning News.

Plans call for the ceremony to begin at 11:45 a.m. on November 22 with church bells tolling throughout the city, followed by a moment of silence. A ceremonial flyover and prayers from religious leaders are included in the program.

Kennedy’s “death forever changed our city, as well as the world,” Rawlings said. “We want to mark this tragic day by remembering a great president with the sense of dignity and history he deserves.”

Attendance at the event will be limited to about 5,000, and ticketholders will be vetted by Dallas police.