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History of the Internet

October 29, 2019 /
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Fifty years ago, on October 29, 1969, at 10:30 PM, a computer grad student named Charley Kline at UCLA sent a message to SRI (Stanford Research Institute.) It was the first connection between computer networks. The Internet began!

Charley Kline

We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI…
We typed the L and we asked on the phone,
“Do you see the L?”
”Yes, we see the L,” came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, “Do you see the O.”
”Yes, we see the O.”
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed…
Yet a revolution had begun…


Q: What is the Internet?


History of the Kirking of the Tartans: is it really Scottish?

October 25, 2019 /
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This Sunday all over the world many churches will observe the Kirkin’ o’ th’ Tartans, a celebration of Scottish heritage and culture.

What is The Kirking of the Tartans?


  • Kirking, from the Scots word kirk which means church, in this usage means “blessing.”
  • Tartans are the traditional plaid emblems of Scottish clans represented in unevenly spaced colored lines and rectangles on woven wool cloth.

Historically, the story is a bit more varied. The popular legend goes as follows:


On July 25, 1745, the young Prince Charles Edward Stewart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” returned from exile in France and landed at Lochnanaugh in Scotland. There he began to enlist the Highland Clans for an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone George II of England and to restore the Scottish throne to the Royal House of Stewart.

Following Prince Charlie’s defeat, the Act of Proscription — to subdue the vanquished Highlanders — banned the wearing of any sign of the Tartan, forbade any speaking in Gaelic, outlawed Scottish music, dancing, or the playing of the pipes.

During the 36 years following the Disarming Act of 1746, when the Hanoverian English government starting with George I strictly enforced this ban, during the Sunday service Scottish Highlanders would touch the hidden piece of tartan cloth under their clothes when the minister gave the benediction or kirkin’, thus rededicating themselves to God and their Scottish heritage.


History of the World Series

October 24, 2019 /
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The World Series is over a hundred years old, starting in 1903 as a contest between the National League and the American League. This sporting event, held in October and sometimes called the Fall Classic has already infringed upon the territory of the next athletic contest run-up with the football season having already begun.

This exciting, riveting, seat-of-the-pants, 3-hour drama plays out on television, but never gets the kind of love that football gets. Baseball is supposed to be the national pastime, but the major religious holiday seems to be Super Bowl. Football is more designed-for-TV with large individuals inflicting physical harm on others tempestuously.

Where did the name “World Series” come from? Does it suggest that this is the championship competition for baseball anywhere in the world, across the entire planet? Canada occasionally gets included, but what do Japanese baseball players think of this? Does it extend off-planet? Will we have to play Mars in a Worlds’ Series? What about the World Series of Poker? Or the World Series of Beer Pong?


History of Mach 1: 72 Years Ago – Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier

October 14, 2019 /
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Glamorous Glennis

Captain Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1


On June 10, 1948, The U.S. Air Force confirmed that Capt. Chuck Yeager had repeatedly attained supersonic speeds in the Bell X-1


But it was on October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager, now 96 and a Brigadier General (retired), actually broke the sound barrier for the first time. I met him on his fiftieth anniversary of that earlier date in Washington DC, on October 14, 1997 — when he retired as a military consultant and once again broke the sound barrier, this time in an F-15. It was on this occasion in 1997 that he was speaking at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He told us about how he did it, in the room right next to the gallery where the Bell X-1 rocket plane is hung.  This is a man with “The Right Stuff.” Indeed you saw his exploits in the movie by that name.

F-15, 1997

This is his story.

[ I recorded the following transcript in an IMAX theater at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum back in 1997 at the 50th Anniversary in the dark typing on my Psion palmtop. It’s a little rough, and I didn’t understand all the technical parts. He’s incredibly sharp for only having a high school education. He has a predilection for “colorful” language. ]

Mach 1

Bell X-1

Bell X-1 at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

“This morning before this talk, they put me in a cherry picker and hoisted me up to the X-1. Was it scary? Heck, usually I got into it several miles up in the air. 48 years ago was the last flight of the X-1. When I got in today, I found a penny on the floor from 1950.

“In 1942-3, Major Cocher at Wright Field conceived the idea of supersonic flight as they were at 60-80% of Mach. NACA, the predecessor to NASA, controlled all research flying. In 1944 the Army Air Corp contracted two X-1s from Bell Aircraft Company. These were flown by Bell pilots. Slick Goodwin had negotiated a $150K bonus for 1.1 Mach. Before this, he had gotten just $10K for .8 Mach for Phase 1. But the Army was spending only $3M for the whole program. Wright Field offered military testers, like me, for ‘free.’


History of Christopher Columbus

October 14, 2019 /
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The man who sailed from Spain to discover America was neither Spanish nor did he actually discover America. But it was true that:

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue


He was actually Italian, born in 1451 to a wool merchant in Genoa and first went to sea in his youth. He sailed to Iceland and Guinea for business and later spent some time as a privateer. It was in 1484, the year after Martin Luther was born in Germany, that Christopher Columbus presented to King John of Portugal the idea of an “Enterprise of the Indies” (no relation to Star Trek‘s starship) where he would sail west to the East Indies, thinking it shorter than the eastern spice trade route. After unsuccessful appeals to the kings of Portugal, England, and France he eventually moved to Spain whereupon his fourth request, he secured the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. You know them as the parents of Queen Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England, and grandparents of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor who presided over the trial of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms.


Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain with three ships on August 3 and arrived not in the East Indies, but in the Bahamas on October 12 of 1492, where he named the locals “Indians.” He sailed on to the islands of Cuba and Haiti thinking he’d reached the islands of the East Indies. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus was not alone among 15th century Europeans in thinking that the world was round, but he did vastly underestimate the circumference of the Earth.


History of Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement

October 8, 2019 /
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The Jewish High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashana and continue until Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” or more correctly Yom ha-Kippurim (Leviticus 16), goes back to Jewish antiquity almost 4,000 years to the time of Moses. This most solemn occasion of the Jewish Festival cycle was the season for annual cleansing from sin, but in time its significance was deepened so that it acquired personal meaning and filled a private need. It is observed on the 10th day of Tishri, the seventh month, and is the climax of the whole penitential season.

Biblical Times

Originally, on one day of the year, the high priest would enter into the innermost part of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple in Jerusalem). He would enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of the sacrifice which was for the sin of the people as a congregation, and sprinkle it upon the ‘mercy seat’ of the Ark of the Covenant (made famous by the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” :-). This would “cover” the sin of the people, as this is what the Aramaic (and Hebrew) root “kaphar” (atonement) means. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., later Rabbinic legislation adapted the old ritual to the synagogue. The blast of the ‘shofar’ the ritual ram’s horn trumpet, signify, among other things, the inarticulate cry of the soul to God.


History of October: the Pumpkin Spice Saga

October 1, 2019 /
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Pumpkin Spice Late


October, the tenth month of the year in both the older Julian and the more recent Gregorian calendar was the 8th month (Latin octo) in the old Roman calendar, but with the addition of January and February got bumped to #10. This month is significant in that, according to the modern Gregorian calendar, it is the first full month that enjoys Pumpkin Spice Latte, initially promoted by St. Starbucks. But it has not always been so, and therein lies the saga.


This concoction of caffeinated seasoned squash with super-heated supersaturated calcium lactose was originally socialized during the ancient part of this millennium, around 2003 when it was introduced as a seasonal beverage. Its formulation has not always been the same, however. Starting in 2015 Starbucks added real pumpkin ingredients, a novel concept and some artificial flavors and colors were eliminated. (more…)

History of Rosh Hashana

September 28, 2019 /
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Rosh Hashana designates the beginning of the Jewish new year, starting today — which according to the Jewish calendar began at sundown last night. “Rosh” is Hebrew for “head” and Rosh Hashana refers to the head of the year on the 1st day of Tishri, the seventh month. Judaism has a solar/lunar calendar system, in which the lunar reckoning predominates. The first in the cycle of months is Nissan (which has nothing to do with the automobile manufacturer), the month in which Passover occurs. However, solar years are reckoned to begin at Rosh Hashana. The new year is heralded with the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn by the “baal t’kiah” (meaning master of the shofar-blast).


History of the Aspens

September 28, 2019 /
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Every year about this time, Fall is ushered in by a flush of Aspen trees as their leaves turn to gold. Where I live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the particular aspen is called the trembling or quaking aspen. The broadleaf and the flattened stem cause them to flutter in the breeze. It is a type of poplar tree called populus tremuloides. As tourists visit New England in Autumn for Leaves and Lobsters, visitors come to Colorado to Leaf Peep as the aspens change to dramatic yellows, golds, and reds. I did so yesterday along the Continental Divide.

Aspen YellowThe change in color occurs first at the highest altitudes. For example, at 9800 feet, the aspens “peaked” their color change and the leaves begin to fall this year early in September. Where I live at 6500 feet, the edges of the aspen leaves are just beginning to turn from green to gold. At this time of the year, the production of chlorophyll which gives the leaf its green pigment slows to a standstill, and the yellow, orange and red pigments of carotenoids and anthocyanins show in the leaf.


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