History Articles

Movie Review: No Time To Die

October 15, 2021 /
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This James Bond film is the 25th in the Eon Productions canon and the last for the actor Daniel Craig. But this is not the end of the almost 60-year film franchise. It is an above-average James Bond flick and an immensely satisfying conclusion to Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond. (No spoilers)

I walked into the movie curious about whether it was missing a comma: “No, Time To Die.”


Expect you to die

“Choose your next witticism carefully, Mr. Bond; it may be your last.”

Why? The title seems to be a play on the interchange between James Bond and his enemy Goldfinger:

“Do you expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”


History of Mach 1: Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier

October 14, 2021 /
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Mach 1

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.


Yeager’s Background

But it was on October 14, 1947, that Chuck Yeager, who died in 2020, actually broke the sound barrier, Mach 1, for the first time.


ShatnerIt may not have been the Mach 3 speeds of yesterday’s Blue Origin sub-orbital flight by William Shatner, the 90-year old actor from Star Trek fame, but Yeager did it 74 years ago!


I met Yeager on his 50th 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.


History of Christopher Columbus

October 11, 2021 /
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The man who sailed from Spain to discover America was neither Spanish nor did he actually discover America, at least not the mainland. But it was true that:

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


Origin of Christopher Columbus

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, the Holy Roman Emperor who presided over the trial of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms.

History of the Marathon

October 11, 2021 /


Today in Boston, Massachusetts is the running of the Boston Marathon beginning at the start line in Hopkinton at 10:00 AM and following the race route into Boston.

This is the oldest and longest-running (no pun intended) annual marathon event, at least in the Western World. It began in 1897, the year following the reintroduction of the marathon competition into the first modern Olympics in 1896.

Last year the race was not run on this date due to the Coronavirus. Otherwise, this large event typically features over 30,000 participants, from all 50 states and over a hundred countries — and half a million spectators — and is one of more than 800 marathons held each year worldwide. It differs from other marathons in that it requires a qualifying time from another marathon, run within a limited date range on a particular type of course. The Boston Marathon is held annually on Patriots’ Day — which used to be fixed on April 19 signifying the beginning of the Revolutionary War — but is now the third Monday in April.

History of October 10: 42 Day

October 10, 2021 /
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  • Question: What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

  • Answer: 42


Question: What does that mean?

I met Douglas Adams about 30 years ago when he spoke to Sun Microsystems, where I was working at the time. I have never heard anyone speak quite as fast as he did.


Douglas Adams was famous for creating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a comedy science fiction series. First, it was available as a radio broadcast on BBC, but later adapted to several novels, a TV series, a feature film, and a video game.

His trilogy of 5 books, plus a 6th posthumously, features an episode where our protagonist posits a question to the computer “Deep Thought,” which spends 7.5 million years calculating. Such an incredibly simple and succinct answer to an amazingly profound question leaves one wondering what the answer “42” means. He gets the answer

“What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”
“Six by nine. Forty two.”
“That’s it. That’s all there is.”
“I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe.”


History of October: the Pumpkin Spice Saga

October 1, 2021 /
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October, the tenth month of the year in both the older Julian and the current Gregorian calendar, was the 8th month (Latin octo) in the ancient Roman calendar, but with the addition of January and February, it got bumped to #10.

This month is significant because, 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; in some years it is not so, and therein lies the saga of this coffee concoction.


Origin of Pumpkin Spice Latte

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. In 2015 Starbucks added real pumpkin ingredients, a novel concept, and some artificial flavors and colors were eliminated. (more…)

History of Coffee: International Coffee Day

September 30, 2021 /
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Yesterday, September 29, was National Coffee Day in the US and 16 other countries.

But tomorrow, October 1, is International Coffee Day, shared by the National Coffee Day in 12 countries.

Whether percolated, filtered, steeped in a French press, poured over, or made with high-pressure steam in an espresso maker — at 10 to 15 times the quantity of coffee-to-water as gravity-brewing — 90% of humans ingest this caffeinated beverage regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug and capturing the imagination of people the world over.


History of Coffee Day

It became International Coffee Day first in Milan, Italy, at Expo 2015 back on October 1, 2015, following a decision the previous year by the International Coffee Organization. Expo 2015 was a World Expo focusing on “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” where the Italian companies Illy and Lavazza sponsored coffee.


History of the Aspens

September 25, 2021 /
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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.

Aspen YellowThe color change occurs first at the highest altitudes. For example, at 9,800 feet, the aspens “peaked” their color change, and the leaves begin to fall this year earlier in September. Where I live at 6500 feet, the edges of the aspen leaves are just starting to turn from green to gold. At this time of the year, chlorophyll production, 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.

History of Oktoberfest: Why is it in September?

September 23, 2021 /
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Why is the famous German beer festival held in September if it’s called Oktoberfest? Officially, the beer festival starts the third Saturday in September through early October for 16 to 18 days.

But not this year, Oktoberfest 2021 has been canceled like last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. So let’s look back at Oktoberfest’s origin.


Oktoberfest History

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the royal wedding in Munich — the capital of the old kingdom of Bavaria — between Ludwig, the Bavarian Crown Prince and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, princess of Saxe-Altenburg. The celebration began October 12 and lasted until October 17. In subsequent years the festivities were repeated, lengthened, and moved to September when the weather was better.

The festivities were originally held for the citizens on the fields in front to the gates of the city. The fields were renamed Theresienwiese for the princess but are often abbreviated to simply die Wiesn. Over the years the celebration grew to become a celebration of Bavarian agriculture, culture, and food.

History of Fall: What is the Autumnal Equinox?

September 22, 2021 /
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FallHISTORY OF THE FALL: What is the Autumnal Equinox?

This time of year represented New Year’s Day, according to the French Republican Calendar. However, since that calendar was only in use from 1793 to 1805, following the fall of the French monarchy in 1792, very few still celebrate this day.


Date of Autumn

Instead, September 22 or 23 marks the beginning of Fall or Autumn associated with the Equinox. This word is made up of two Latin root words aequus and nox meaning “equal night” referring to the fact that daylight and night time are equal in duration.



When the plane of the earth’s equator passes through the center of the Sun, metaphorically speaking, you have evennight, twice a year. This year, the astronomical autumnal equinox (Fall) occurs on September 22 at 19:21 UTC. This means Temps Universel Coordonne (or Coordinated Universal Time) if you speak French, roughly equivalent to Greenwich Mean Time if you’re British, Zulu Time if you’re a pilot. The Vernal Equinox occurs six months later.

Since each equinox occurs at the same time whether in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere, though the seasons are reversed, it is becoming common to call the (northern) vernal equinox the March Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox the September Equinox, thereby avoiding that annoying Northern Hemisphere bias.

During the Equinox:

  • The Sun rises due east and sets due west
  • The Sun rises at about 6 AM and sets about 6 PM local time in most places on the planet except the poles
  • In other words, daytime and nighttime are about the same length, worldwide
  • The center of the visible Sun is exactly above the Equator
  • The edge between night and day (solar terminator) is perpendicular to the Equator, equally illuminating both the northern and southern hemispheres.


History of Sukkot: Festival of Booths

September 20, 2021 /
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Tonight at sunset, September 20, begins the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, also known as the Festival of Booths or Festival of Tabernacles.

We’ve talked about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but this holiday is significant because it is considered one of the three “pilgrimage” festivals in the Jewish calendar.

The Old Testament Book of Leviticus discusses the Exodus from slavery in Egypt of the Children of Israel. They were to commemorate it by living in temporary booths for a week

“… that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  Leviticus 23:43

The week started with a Sabbath (rest from work) and ended on the eighth day with a sabbath.

History of Talk Like a Pirate Day

September 19, 2021 /
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The International Talk Like A Pirate Day began not back in the Golden Age of Pirates in days of yore but in 2002. It was celebrated each year on September 19; though it started in the United States, it is now celebrated internationally across the Seven Seas.

Pirate GuysThe Tale of Talk Like a Pirate Day

The legend goes that its origin was June 6, 1995, during a racquetball game between John Baur and Mark Summers, when Pirate expletives were uttered following an injury. But because this is the observance of D-Day, the date was set instead for September 19, the birthday of the ex-wife of one of the two founders. It was celebrated in relative obscurity by John, Mark, and their friends until one fateful day.

The Captain’s Log

Dave BarryIn 2002, the American humor writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Barry wrote a newspaper article about it and promoted the idea. The rest, as they say, is history. Unlike some of the newer Geek Holidays — like Pi Day, Foursquare Day, or Towel Day — this holiday has gained traction among a broader audience with growing media coverage, books, T-shirts, merch, and other booty.

The trademark has been non-restricted and is more what you’d call a “guideline” than an actual rule. The fact that Hermione Granger‘s birthday in the Harry Potter books is on September 19 shows that this parody holiday has gone viral.