How Yellow Fever Led to JP Morgan and Bellevue and Canal Street

A single event can have strange historical ripples.

In 1702 a yellow fever epidemic wiped out 10% of the population in less than three months. This was five hundred people out of a population of five thousand.

The city attempted to deal with recurrent outbreaks by regulating livestock inside the city limits. They also moved slaughterhouses and leather tan yards to the area around Collect Pond, where Foley’s Square is now.

This didn’t help much as they didn’t understand how it was spread.

Another attempted solution was to quarantine the infected. A farm outside the city limits named Belle Vue was bought in 1798 by the downtown hospital for this reason. It became Bellevue Hospital.

The next year, in 1799, before famously shooting someone in a duel, Aaron Burr received a commission from the city to develop a water supply company which he named the Manhattan Company. It is now better known for its financial arm, the Bank of Manhattan which morphed in JP Morgan Chase.

The company lay some wooden pipe. Unfortunately, their source was Collect Pond which, as noted above, was not a great source of clean water. In fact, in 1803 the pond was so polluted, the city decided to drain it. A canal was dug to the Hudson River. That canal was later backfilled and is now Canal Street. Where Collect Pond was, became Five Points.

This is in New York City Little Black Book.

Why Are Streets So Disorganized in Southern Manhattan?

The streets of Southern Manhattan, including areas like the Financial District and the Village, are seen as disorganized or chaotic compared to the rest of Manhattan due to the way the city was developed historically.

Most of Manhattan is in a grid that easily understandable once you learn the secrets (covered elsewhere in New York City Little Black Book). However, the southern tip is a confusing maze of streets. Why?

New Amsterdam’s population was around 2,000. There was no centralized plan and the city grew organically. On the southern end of the island, many of the original Dutch streets remain and the ones that came after tended to be short and narrow, other than Broadway which had been a main Native American thoroughfare. The rest of the island of Manhattan was mostly meadows, farms, ponds and marshes. Early roads tended to follow the easiest terrain.

Here are a few more reasons:

  1. Historical Development: New York City started as a Dutch colony named New Amsterdam in the early 17th century. It was originally confined to the southern tip of Manhattan. The early streets were designed and grew organically according to the topography and the needs of the time. There was no formal city planning, so the roads took on a winding, irregular pattern.
  2. Topography: The landscape also influenced the city design. Streets were constructed to accommodate hills, valleys, and natural features like streams and ponds. This created a lack of grid-like organization.
  3. The 1811 Commissioners’ Plan: The plan that organized most of Manhattan into a grid system (this grid starts at Houston Street and continues north up to the top of the island) did not include much of southern Manhattan. This was because by the time this plan was implemented, lower Manhattan was already densely populated and developed, making it difficult to impose a grid system.
  4. Land Ownership: When the city was initially developing, properties were often defined by physical features such as streams or hills. Individual landowners would then build paths or roads that best suited their own properties, resulting in irregular patterns.
  5. Historic Preservation: Many of these older streets have been preserved for their historic value, even as the rest of the city around them has modernized and become more uniform. This adds to the charm and uniqueness of southern Manhattan, but also contributes to the perceived disorganization of its streets.

While the streets in lower Manhattan may seem disorganized, they reflect the city’s rich history and evolution over hundreds of years. In fact, many New Yorkers and visitors alike find charm in this part of the city for its departure from the regimented grid system.

Another thing as the city great was the shoreline of Manhattan expanded with landfill. The World Trade Center area was originally part of the Hudson River. A number of bays, especially along the East River, were filled in. Look at how the original New Amsterdam would look if overlaid on the current tip of Manhattan.

Of course, that doesn’t help you if you get lost.

I always enjoyed walking around that part of the city which has a rich history. Early in the morning, the night after my prom (held out in Flushing) we ended up in a small diner just before dawn for breakfast. A waitress who looked like Morticia from the Addams Family served us. She made her way, many years later, into New York Minute, my series set in the city in 1977. Indeed, that whole area and the old High Line and the disintegrating West Side Highway make an appearance.

Book Review: That Dark and Bloody River

That Dark and Bloody River by Allan W. Eckert is a historical novel that tells the story of the American frontier in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The book is set in the Ohio River Valley, which was a hotbed of conflict between Native Americans and white settlers. I really believe most people living in that area have no idea how brutal and bloody that battle over both transit on the river and the settling of the lands on either side was.

Eckert’s novel is a sweeping epic that tells the stories of many different characters, including Native American leaders such as Tecumseh and Blue Jacket, white settlers such as Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton, and American military leaders such as George Rogers Clark and William Henry Harrison. The book is full of action, adventure, and even some romance, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into a time of great change and upheaval in American history.

At the time the book is set, the Ohio was the bleeding frontier of the nation and the major road west. As it went, so went the country. I refer to it a couple of times in the latest trilogy (Liz Danger) I’ve written with Jennifer Crusie which we set in the fictional town of Burney, on the banks of the Ohio River.

Eckert’s research for the novel is extensive, and he brings a wealth of detail to his characters and their world. The book is long, but it never feels slow or bogged down. Eckert’s writing is clear and engaging, and he does a masterful job of bringing the past to life.

That Dark and Bloody River is a must-read for anyone interested in American history or historical fiction. It is a powerful and moving story that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

I recommend all of Eckert’s frontier books.

The Liz Danger series is now live for pre-order

The three books of the Liz Danger series which we’ve been teasing people about for a long time now are finally available for pre-order. Not only that, but they will be out fast! Like really fast. Like Lavender’s Blue on 25 July. And four weeks later, Rest in Pink. And four weeks later, One in Vermillion.

We did get a traditional publishing offer on the books but it would have delayed the publication of the first book until fall 2024 and really, we couldn’t hold off inflicting this series on the world that long.

We’ll reveal covers in the next weeks.

And yes, they will be available in print as we get closer to each publication date.

We’re very excited about these books. We feel they get better as you get farther in (not that the start is bad, but the community builds). And Vince and Liz Danger have an interesting ride in their relationship and where they end up might be the conventional HEA, but we like it. And it is a HEA.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Happy Valley Isn’t Happy But It’s Damn Good

Happy Valley is a British crime drama series created by Sally Wainwright and starring Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood, a police sergeant in the West Yorkshire community of Calder Valley. The series follows Cawood as she investigates a series of crimes. I’ve binged the first two seasons and am following season 3 as its released here in the States. My wife is the one who recommend it and she’s always right about her choices.

Happy Valley is a dark and gritty crime drama, but it is also a heartwarming and human story about family, loss, and redemption. Lancashire gives a tour-de-force performance as Cawood, a complex and conflicted character who is both tough and vulnerable. The supporting cast is also excellent, particularly James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce, a dangerous and charismatic criminal. The Brits allow their bad guys to be good lucking and capable of being as charming as a psychopath can be. He is the key to Season One but his arc extends through all three seasons due his connections to Cawood: he’s the father of her daughter’s child, and the daughter committed suicide shortly after giving birth. Talk about a powerful set up of conflict!

Happy Valley is a well-written, well-acted, and well-directed series that is sure to please fans of crime dramas and British television. It is a must-see for anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a strong female lead.

Here are some of the things that make Happy Valley a great show:

If you’re looking for a great crime drama with a strong female lead, then you need to check out Happy Valley. It’s a must-see for anyone who enjoys a good mystery. Be aware though, that there are some true gut punches in store!

A Brief History of Area 51: A Journey Through Mysteries and Speculations


In the middle of nowhere on the way to nowhere is the way I describe Area 51 in my books. Nestled in the remote desert of Nevada, the United States, is a mysterious place that has fueled countless theories, books, movies, and debates—Area 51. For decades, this secretive military installation has been the subject of great interest to conspiracy theorists, curious minds, and UFO enthusiasts, primarily due to the extreme secrecy surrounding its operations. But what exactly is the truth behind Area 51? How did it come to be? Let’s embark on a journey through history to unfold the enigma that is Area 51.

Originally, the site was part of the Nellis Air Force Range– before there was an Air Force, established in 1942.

Here is a brief video:

Origins: The Birth of Area 51

The current mystery of Area 51 was born during the tense times of the Cold War in the 1950s, when the USA was embroiled in a technological and arms race with the Soviet Union.

In 1955, the site was chosen for the development and testing of the U-2, a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hoped would be able to spy on the Soviets without detection. The location was perfect. Its remote desert setting and the adjacent Groom Lake provided a natural landing strip. Officially designated as “Paradise Ranch” to attract workers, it soon became colloquially known as “Area 51”, derived from its grid number on the Nevada Test Site.

The Spy Plane Era

Area 51 played a critical role in advancing U.S. aircraft technology throughout the 1960s. After the U-2 program, came other iconic aircraft, including the A-12 OXCART, a Mach-3 high-altitude reconnaissance plane, and later the F-117 Nighthawk, the first operational stealth aircraft.

However, the secretive nature of these projects and the unusual-looking aircraft ignited public curiosity and speculation. Numerous sightings of unexplained flying objects around Area 51 began to circulate, kickstarting the base’s association with UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

The Alien Connection

In 1989, a man named Bob Lazar claimed on a Las Vegas television station that he had worked at Area 51’s “Sector 4”, where he allegedly reverse-engineered alien spacecraft. While his credentials and story have been widely disputed, his claims sparked a surge of interest in Area 51, linking it inextricably with extraterrestrial activities in the public imagination.

I first became interested in it when I was told by an Army helicopter pilot that en route to the National Training Center, we had to divert around Area 51 because the airspace was so highly classified– and we were the guys in the black helicopters!

When I first researched Area 51 I soon learned every single conspiracy theory about the place came back to to Lazar. But as a fiction writer, I could make something of that.

The Era of Legal Recognition

Despite the base’s notoriety, the U.S. government barely acknowledged Area 51’s existence until relatively recently. In 2005, a simple footnote in a report by the Central Intelligence Agency referred to the base as “Area 51.” Then, in 2013, a declassified CIA document officially acknowledged Area 51 and provided a brief history of the site, marking it the first formal recognition of the site.

Conclusion: The Continuing Enigma

To this day, the precise activities carried out at Area 51 remain classified, and the airspace around the base is strictly prohibited for civilian aircraft. This secrecy continues to provoke speculations about what might be hidden in the Nevada desert.

While the history of Area 51 is undeniably rooted in military and aviation advancements, the air of mystery and intrigue that shrouds the base has made it a fascinating cultural phenomenon. From conspiracy theories about extraterrestrial life to its role as a testing ground for groundbreaking aircraft, Area 51 remains a significant, albeit enigmatic, part of modern history.

As the secrets of Area 51 continue to be a hotbed for speculation and debate, it’s important to recognize the base for what it has verifiably been: a cornerstone in the United States’ efforts in aviation technology and a key player during pivotal moments in Cold War history.

Summer Sales and More From Bob Mayer

As usual, the first of the month brings a plethora (Yes, I know what the word means) of free and discounted books.

Free today only:

The Green Beret Pocket Sized Survival Guide

Life’s Little Black Book



Eyes of the Hammer



The first two books of the Area 51 series are discounted all month to $1.99; also on Kindle Unlmited.

Phoebe and the Traitor is only .99 or Kindle Unlimited for the next five days.

I noticed Youtube put an ad on my latest post on 20 Things Every Hiker Shoulder Have after it hit several thousand views and that got me thinking. Yes, dangerous. I’ve added a subscribe button to all my videos and am in the process of updating them, with things like me actually talking. One day, soon, but not too soon, I will actually, maybe, appear in one. I need 1,000 subscribers to get to the monetize plateau where Youtube actually kicks some of that ad money to me, you know, those 3 cent deposits, so if you’re interested in stuff, not just survival, subscribe please. Go to any of my videos and hit the little button in the bottom right. I’ll be doing survival, writing presentations, history, trivia, stuff on my books, which is pretty much all the previous and more. I’ll also be updating the older ones.

Let’s all enjoy the coming warm months! Unless you live on the southern hemisphere, in which case, don’t fall off.


How AI Will Cripple Authors’ Livelihood versus the Uncanny Valley

Something lost in all the talk of ChapGPT, Bard and the newer programs focused specifically on writing fiction is that they all violate copyright law. AI isn’t generating original work, it’s taking work that is already done, tossing it in a blender and spitting it back out.

There are thousands of writers doing exactly that right now. Either they don’t care that they are stealing, or it hasn’t occurred to them. And this article, and all the other articles, and all the complaining on social media, isn’t going to stop them. It is a reality.

It reminds me, on a much larger scale, of the author who bought hundreds or thousands of paid fake reviews in the early days of Kindle. Before Amazon caught on and cracked down on it. But this is far, far worse. Magazines have already had to close submissions after being inundated with AI generated stories.

I submit Amazon KDP and other platforms are already getting AI generated books and will soon be inundated with them. Worse, will be the people who actively and deliberately violate copyright by feeding books they didn’t write into a AI program, simply hit the “regenerate” button and voila, they have their new book. This is happening and will increase exponentially. No matter how bad they are, this flood will hurt the earnings of authors who produce their own work by diluting the market.

This same applies to all written material. The WGA is on strike because their very existence is threatened by AI. Book authors have no such power.

It’s the Wild West now.

However, it is key to remember something about AI. It has no soul. That might sound philosophical, but it’s very pertinent. AI is not conscious. It is a LLM: large language model. It takes input, prompts, and then combs through what it already has in its databanks (almost all of it illegally copied or, worse, willingly uploaded by writers) and, if attached to the internet, from that great depository of knowledge and dreck. If you think about it, even if it steals someone else’s unique story, it is still a copy of that story. An echo. What does that mean?

There’s a term called the “uncanny valley”.

This was coined by a robotics professor, Masahiro Mori in 1970 to describe an innate human response to a robot that appears human but isn’t.

In this graph the x-axis equal human likeness and the y our emotional response. As you can see, initially as a robot becomes more human-like we do fall for it a bit with a positive response. But there comes a point where the response turns abruptly the other way and we might even be revolted but at the very least we feel unease.’

Courtesy wikipedia

That dip is the uncanny valley.

I’ve looked into various AI and AI writing software and experienced the same. The writing is, overall generic and bland. Occasionally there are intriguing phrases. Even some unusual twists. But overall, something is off. And that’s just for a scene. For an entire book?

Another aspect is garbage in-garbage out. Since the internet is now a vast wasteland of garbage and conspiracy theories and flat-out bad information, the AI is scraping that in along with valid stuff. Indeed, it’s uploading bad writing too. When I asked ChapGPT about myself it informed me there was a television series based on my Area 51 books. Which was news to me.

Indeed, it constantly comes back with wrong answers. Because there are so many wrong answers out there floating around on the internet.

One caveat though, is that we also have an overall dumbing down of the population because of all the misinformation on the internet. Flat-earthers can find other flat-earthers and no longer feel like the fringe. Look at the anti-mask, anti-vaccine movement? If one googles “what can go wrong with the vaccine” you get a ton of answers, none of which, of course, are what immense benefit a vaccine has had in saving lives. And thus, people dive down a deep rabbit hole of disinformation and ignorance. So perhaps many people are ready for AI driven content?

Worse, down the line, everyone can do their own AI driven content and no longer need anyone else’s. Why not be the hero in your own story?

Regardless, AI is here. It’s a reality. And we need to face that reality.

It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Humidity.

Understanding Wet Bulb Temperature and Its Dangerous Implications

I saw Wet Bulb temperature used in a science fiction short film and decided to investigate further because we tend to say “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” a lot. Well, how exactly?

Climate change has brought about numerous environmental challenges, including the rising temperatures around the world. One significant metric used to measure heat stress is the Wet Bulb Temperature (WBT).

Wet Bulb Temperature is a measure of the combined effects of temperature and humidity, indicating how efficiently the human body can cool itself through evaporative cooling. Originally, it was measured using a thermometer with its bulb wrapped in a wet cloth, which is then exposed to the air. The rate at which the water evaporates from the cloth cools the thermometer, and the temperature reading obtained is the Wet Bulb Temperature.

When the Wet Bulb Temperature reaches high levels, it signifies extreme heat and humidity, posing severe threats to human health and well-being. Here’s why it becomes dangerous:

1. Reduced Evaporative Cooling: The body cools itself by sweating, and the evaporation of sweat from the skin helps dissipate heat. However, as the Wet Bulb Temperature rises, the air becomes saturated with moisture, hindering the evaporation process. This impairs the body’s ability to cool down, leading to heat stress and potential heat-related illnesses.

2. Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion: When the body is unable to cool itself effectively, heat stroke and heat exhaustion become significant risks. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s core temperature rises to dangerous levels, resulting in organ failure, confusion, and even death. Heat exhaustion manifests as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps, often preceding heat stroke if not addressed promptly. I cover prevention and first aid for this in my survival books. Also, in a free slideshow.

3. Impacts on Respiratory System: High Wet Bulb Temperatures can also worsen respiratory conditions, as the body’s ability to regulate internal temperature becomes compromised. This is particularly concerning for individuals with pre-existing respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, or other chronic conditions.

4. Threats to Vulnerable Populations: Elderly individuals, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to the impacts of high Wet Bulb Temperatures. Their bodies may have difficulty adapting to extreme heat and are more prone to heat-related illnesses, making them particularly vulnerable.

In recent years, there have been alarming reports of areas around the world experiencing Wet Bulb Temperatures close to or exceeding the limits of human survivability. Such conditions are highly concerning as they indicate a potential for uninhabitable regions, mass migrations, and social and economic instability.

We often hear of the heat index instead of wet bulb, but they are different.

1. Heat Index: The heat index, also known as the “apparent temperature,” is a measure of how hot it feels to the human body when relative humidity is factored in with the air temperature. It takes into account the combined effects of temperature and moisture on our perception of heat. The heat index is typically higher than the actual air temperature on hot and humid days. It helps in assessing the risk of heat-related illnesses and determining appropriate precautions or warnings for the general public.

2. Wet Bulb: The wet bulb temperature, on the other hand, is a measure of the lowest temperature that can be reached through evaporative cooling under current atmospheric conditions. It is determined by wrapping a wet cloth around the bulb of a thermometer and measuring the temperature decrease caused by evaporation. The wet bulb temperature is primarily used to evaluate the potential for evaporative cooling, which affects how effectively the human body can cool down through perspiration. It is particularly significant in assessing heat stress in outdoor or occupational settings.

While the heat index focuses on the perceived temperature by considering the combined effects of temperature and humidity, the wet bulb temperature primarily addresses the cooling potential through evaporation. Both measures are useful in assessing heat-related risks and determining appropriate safety measures, but they provide distinct information about the atmospheric conditions. Thus, I pay more attention to the wet bulb temperature.

Apple has a free app for this, Zelus WBGT.

I go into hot weather preparation and first aid in The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide and the first aid in The Green Beret Pocket-Sized Survival Guide.

What disaster you may face, would you like me to cover next?

Prepare for and deal with Flash Floods

Someone on twitter asked me about this, referencing several recent disasters, where people experienced flash floods. So here goes.

Flash floods are sudden and powerful natural disasters that can occur with little to no warning. They pose a significant risk to life and property, making it crucial for individuals and communities to be prepared. By taking proactive steps and having a solid emergency plan in place, you can enhance your safety and minimize the potential damage caused by flash floods. This blog will provide you with a detailed guide on how to prepare for flash floods, empowering you to protect yourself and your loved ones.

1. Understand Flash Floods:

To effectively prepare for flash floods, it’s important to understand what they are and how they occur. Flash floods are rapid-onset floods caused by heavy rainfall, dam or levee failures, or sudden snowmelt. They often happen in low-lying areas, near rivers, and in urban environments with poor drainage systems. Recognizing the signs and knowing the flood-prone areas in your vicinity will help you make informed decisions and take immediate action when necessary. However, a lot depends on the composition of the ground under you. Our house in Boulder, Colorado, on top of a ridgeline, flooded after a torrential flash rain and the entire water table rose up and flooded everyone’s basement. So be aware of drainage!

2. Stay Informed:

Keeping yourself updated with weather forecasts and flood warnings is vital. Utilize local news sources, weather apps, and official websites to stay informed about potential flood risks. Sign up for emergency alerts or notification systems provided by your local government or disaster management agencies. This will enable you to receive timely information, evacuation orders, and safety instructions.

3. Create an Emergency Plan:

Developing a comprehensive emergency plan is essential for every household. Discuss the plan with your family members or roommates to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. The plan should include:

   a. Evacuation Routes: Identify the safest evacuation routes from your home or workplace to higher ground. Be aware of alternate routes in case the primary ones are inaccessible.

   b. Emergency Meeting Points: Establish designated meeting points both within your neighborhood and outside, in case family members are separated during the evacuation. I cover the IRP, ERP and Big Out Hide Site (BOHS) in detail in The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide. In fact, everything below is covered in detail there, but this is an overview.

   c. Communication Strategy: Determine a reliable communication method to stay in touch with your loved ones during emergencies. Share contact information with each other and have backup power sources for mobile devices.

   d. Emergency Kit: Prepare a well-stocked emergency kit that includes essential items such as non-perishable food, water, medication, flashlights, batteries, a first aid kit, extra clothing, blankets, and a battery-powered radio.

4. Safeguard Your Property:

Taking preemptive measures to protect your property can significantly reduce flood-related damage. Consider the following steps:

   a. Elevate Essential Utilities: Raise electrical panels, switches, sockets, and wiring systems above the flood level. Similarly, elevate HVAC equipment, water heaters, and other appliances.

   b. Install Check Valves: Fit check valves in sewer traps and drainpipes to prevent floodwater from backing up into your home.

   c. Waterproof Basements: Apply waterproofing sealants to basement walls and floors. Consider using flood-resistant materials and keep valuable items elevated or stored in waterproof containers.

   d. Clear Gutters and Drains: Regularly clean and maintain gutters, downspouts, and drains to ensure proper water flow. This will prevent clogging and minimize the risk of localized flooding. One item I highly recommend getting that can save your life and/or save you a lot of damage from accidental floods is a water alarm. Here’s a post I did on that after the deadly floods in Kentucky in 2022. Here is the direct link to a battery powered alarm on Amazon—definitely worth $12.50.

5. Insurance Coverage:

Review your insurance policy, especially the coverage for flood damage. Standard homeowner’s insurance typically does not cover flood-related losses, so it is crucial to consider purchasing flood insurance separately. Consult with your insurance provider to understand the options available and ensure adequate coverage for your property.

6. Practice Flood Safety:

During a flash flood, personal safety should be your top priority. Remember the following safety guidelines:

   a. Evacuation: If authorities issue an evacuation order, follow it immediately. Do not attempt to cross flooded areas by foot or in a vehicle.

   b. Avoid Low-Lying Areas

: Stay away from creeks, streams, and drainage channels, as they can quickly fill with fast-flowing water.

   c. Turn Off Utilities: Before leaving your home, turn off gas, electricity, and water supplies to prevent hazards or further damage.

   d. Seek Higher Ground: Move to higher elevations and find sturdy shelter in a multi-story building or on a roof if necessary. Never seek refuge in a flooded attic or basement.

   e. Do Not Drive Through Floodwater: Avoid driving through flooded roads, bridges, or underpasses. The depth and strength of the water may be deceptive, and you risk being swept away. I cover what to do if you get swept away in your car in the books and elsewhere.


Preparing for flash floods is crucial to safeguard yourself, your family, and your property from the devastating impacts of these sudden disasters. By understanding the risks, staying informed, creating an emergency plan, protecting your property, and practicing flood safety measures, you can be better prepared to respond effectively and mitigate potential damage. Remember, preparedness is the key to resilience, and it can make a significant difference in your safety and well-being during flash flood events.

What specific disaster, perhaps unique to where you live, would you like to see me cover?