Monday, July 23, 2007

Who was Tecumseh?

Tecumseh was a Shawnee leader who united Native Americans from several different nations against the US. Few of his followers were Shawnee. Aided by his brother's (Tenskwatawa) religious teachings he organized a resistance to stop the Americans at the Ohio River. They allied themselves with the British during the War of 1812 and were badly beaten.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Elk Cloned celebrates 25th anniversary

In 1982, some teenager created what we now know as the first computer virus that was released into "the wild". Elk Cloned was created on an Apple II and copied onto a 5 inch floppy disc. The disc was passed onto his friends, hence copied onto their harddrive. It was a joke really, something to annoy his friends. Every 50 times they booted up, their computer would compose bad poetry. It was a challenge and a lot of fun. Each of friends had to out do him ... now we all have to buy anti-virus software to prevent massive damage done to our data, lives and finances. An entire industry has been built on a handful of nerds playing tricks on each other.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Slovakia and Slovenia are two different countries

I was recently on a river cruise in Eastern Europe on the Danube River. The journey from Nuremburg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary was not only relaxing but intellectually fulfilling. We stopped at two other German cities (Regensburg and Passau) and three Austrian cities (Melk, Linz and Vienna). We passed by the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava but did not officially enter this nation. While on the boat watching this beautiful city go by us, conversation among the tourists ensued. Some were calling it Slovenia and some were calling it Slovakia. I said to someone that this was Slovakia, not Slovenia but I since I wasn't 100% sure that Slovenia was a different country and not just another name of Slovakia I didn't push the point.

Now that I have my internet access back, I double checked. Slovenia is a different country from Slovakia. Slovenia has a very long history, most recently it was once a part of Yugoslavia since 1945 and gained independence when that country broke up in 1991. It is east of Italy on the Adriatic Sea.

Slovakia became an independent nation recent also, when Czechoslovakia split up (often called the Velvet Divorce) into two distinct nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1993.

It is easy to see how this mistake is made since all this history happened within two years of each other.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Deadwood and comstock laws

I love the HBO series, Deadwood. When I watch the show, I always have to wonder ... did people really swear that much back then? I know we are all products of media that we are exposed to, but still, it is odd for me to see an old Western town with people talking trash. Apparently, people did speak that way probably worse than they do on Deadwood because these folks were not well educated and illiterate. They came west due to not having any opportunities in the East. We idealize their courage so why not their words.

Hollywood has certainly sanitized our impressions of the West but it doesn't stop there. Comstock Laws passed in the mid-to-late-19th century prevented "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials in the mail. With this in mind, historians could get a skewed view of how folks talked if they could never swear while writing. Comstock laws also restricted anyone from writing about any type of birth control, but that has since been deemed unconstitutional.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Pentagon

The construction of The Pentagon in Arlington, VA was started on September 11, 1941 ... exactly 60 years before American Airlines flight 77 struck the building on the historic day of the 911 attacks on 9/11/01. The Pentagon houses the US Department of Defense and is shaped like a pentagon if you see it from the sky. I have always found it odd that such an important building was so distinguishable from the sky. It was designed this way to help it fit into the ridge where it was originally planned. President Roosevelt moved it from that ridge to its current site because he didn't want it to obstruct the view of DC from Arlington Cemetery. The design remained after they changed the site of the project.

The cafe in the center of the building is called ... The Ground Zero Cafe. This was named long before 911.

The Pentagon is so large that you could fit 3 Empire State Buildings in it.

This building was started just 3 month before we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. At that point, the President knew that the War was inevitable. He knew the building would be needed but thought they would never fill it so had planned on using parts of the building as a library. Ironically, this is one of the reasons why the attacks on the building in 2001 did so little damage. The floors of the building are irregularly thick, thick enough to hold the weight of a ton of books.