Archive for category history

R.I.P. Geocities


“Founded in 1994 as Beverly Hills Internet, what is now Yahoo GeoCities was one of the first services to offer an easy way for early Internet surfers to publish their own Web pages.”

GeoCities, once one of the 10 most visited domains of the entire internet, and repository of around 10 terabytes of people’s home pages and information dating back to 1994 is shutting down today. Ken Gagne says all that needs to be said about it in his excellent ComputerWorld blog post today. Soon we’ll be losing such gems as my high school friend Josh’s Phiggity-Phat Home Page from c. 1996, featuring amazing gems on Fred Couples, David Carradine, Peter North, and the A-Team. Such a loss, indeed. Thankfully, the archive team is working on saving it. Also, check out XKCD’s tribute to geocities in today’s comic.

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OMG! Virus! (c. 1988)


An awesome retro news report from 1988 about the super scary Morris Worm. Centered on MIT, it features none other than jis himself a few times. And an amish part-time virus hunter cum MIT student? Courtesy of The Scottographer .

Some good quotes:
“the students were safe … their computers were not.”
“the suspect, somewhere…. a dark genius.”

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The Play’s The Thing


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

So, just curious. What are your favorite words from the bard? The above piece has struck my fancy lately, although it’s neck and neck with “what dreams may come.” Discuss!

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Farewell Analog Television: Flipping the Switch


My fellow blogger, Scottoway took a moment to eulogize the passing of analog television when it happened earlier this month.

I just happened to come across a pretty neat video via snapstream blogs and that fine stand-up character Mike at 1000 monkeys that tells the story in a more direct way.

Here, the author recorded the transitions on several channels, and put them together in this montage. It’s pretty neat (in my opinion) to actually watch them flipping the switches.

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I Was There (The Inauguration — Experience of a Lifetime)


Yes, I was there. The idea was hatched among a group of my MIT friends back around the election in November, and we went ahead and bought our train tickets and set up our accommodations way back then — actually on the eve of the election. Luckily, that did not jinx things, and I was there on the mall with about 2 million other people to see Barack Obama get sworn in as our nation’s first African-American president.

The day started for all of us at 4:00am, as we awoke in Andrew’s grandmother’s living room. We stumbled through a quick bite to eat, and then down to the bus stop. It was nice that we were right at the end of a bus line, so there were no crowds or difficulty getting transportation to the mall. The bus got us as far as Dupont Circle, and then we walked the rest of the way. It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and we arrived on the already-crowded mall at around 6:30am, ready to wait another 4.5 hours for the ceremony to begin. It was cold, crowded, long and tiring, but it was worth it.

I was a part of history, along with the millions of other people standing there with us watching on the huge jumbotrons and listening over the loudspeakers. At the moment the presidential oath was read, there was an outburst of joy like none I had ever been a part of before. There was a nice, older black couple next to us who had driven up all the way from Alabama and were crowded into the masses with us and at the moment it became official there were high fives and flag waving and hugs all around for everyone. To say it was a special moment would be the understatement to end all understatements. Definitely something I’ll be proud to hopefully tell my grand kids about someday.

Check out the small photo album here

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On Obama and Speaking and Leadership and Next Tuesday


It was a Tuesday night, July 27th 2004. I was sitting alone working on the computer, in the living room of my house in Champaign, Illinois. There was a dude named Barack Obama running for senator that year, and even though pretty much nobody had ever heard of him (myself included) he was going to give the keynote that night at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. I had the TV on in the background, so I could hear this speech and see the guy I was probably going to be voting for to become the junior senator from Illinois when I filled out my punch-card ballot that fall.

The speech started out well articulated, but slow and not very notable in my opinion. At somewhere between 10 and 11 minutes into the speech however, that changed. As his voice rang out from the television, and a remarkable cadence arose, I turned around in my chair, gripped by the oratory. Here’s the meat of the speech:

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there is a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief — It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family. E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of “anything goes.” Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.


Go on, watch the whole thing. I find it interesting to look back on this speech from four years ago, and find the themes of his campaign just barely taking shape in it. By the end of the speech, I was wondering to myself if I had ever heard a politician in recent times with the ability to inspire like that, and I was convinced, like many others, that this guy was something special.

See, in my opinion, the job of President isn’t nearly so much about making policies, drafting laws and toeing party lines, as it is about the intangible things like being a leader, inspiring us, bringing us together, and empowering and comforting the nation as necessary — especially in today’s global climate. This is something that our current president failed at miserably in the days after September 11th 2001. It would have been the perfect opportunity to unify the nation, soothe some raw nerves, and cement his status as a charismatic leader. Instead, he gave a series of disappointing speeches — culminating in the decent, but disappointing speech to congress on 9/20 introducing the term “war on terrah”, saying “either you’re with us or you’re against us,” and promising that “we will prevail.” While I’d definitely say that it’s the best speech he’s ever given, that’s not saying much. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the effects of someone with real charisma and speaking techniques to someone who can’t pronounce “terror” properly, has a halting speaking style with no flow, and who is giving a speech that he definitely didn’t write a large portion of for himself…

I am excited and proud that next Tuesday, I’ll be walking down the street to my local polling place, and casting my ballot to elect Obama as the first African American president.

45 years ago, Martin Luther King said: “”I have a dream that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ ” Maybe, just maybe, we’re a little closer to that day.

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Gorby Smites Zombie Lenins With Laser-beam Eyes


Dear Lord, this song and music video by Russian rockers ANJ is made of win. It is so full of awesome that it just might blow up your computer and set your entire internet connection ablaze with the heat of a thousand former-soviet ICBMs. And no, I’m not just saying this because I *heart* Mikhail Gorbachev — the first and only president of what we now call the “former Soviet Union,” and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

From the creator:
I did this video for a Russian Metal Band called ANJ. It is pretty crazy. When I saw the lyrics it seemed to be an earnest tribute to Mikael Gorbachov (that’s how the Russians spell it), so I was a bit confounded about what the video concept should be, but then I had a brainstorm to take it way over the top and I think it was just the thing. Suffice to say it’s half Russian History allegory as told through an old zombie movie made in the Soviet Union, and half animated Soviet Propaganda posters. It’s in HD, so let it load a bit before you play it and then click the little “four arrows” symbol on the lower right part of the viewer to see it in true HD.


GORBACHOV: THE MUSIC VIDEO – BIGGER AND RUSSIANER from Tom Stern on Vimeo.

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Happy Birthday, America


I’m going to duplicate the sentiment of Paul Levy, a former professor of mine at MIT, and now the dude who my wife works for over at Beth Israel Deaconess, and remind everyone of what the fireworks are all about today. Go ahead, take a few moments to read it — especially that second paragraph there. As he says: “What a great document. A superb exposition and argument. And it was signed. They weren’t afraid of posting their opinions, even though it put their lives, liberty, and property at risk. Why are so many reluctant to own their opinions today?”

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

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Nerdism


Paying tribute to Gary Gygax earlier this month, the New York Times apparently published the following flowchart. Note the close proximity between Second Life and girls (although it doesn’t quite get there), and the resounding NO branches coming off of Fur Con.

09opart.large.gif

And yes, I do realize that “blogging about diagrams” is a box on the chart…

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Clip Show


In honor and observance of the Writer’s Strike currently going on, here is my version of a “clip show.” This blog has over 175 entries now, some good, some bad, some awesome. I know there are several new readers here, and it’s a pain to sift through the entire blog to find the good nuggets. Here, in my opinion, are the 15 most worthy entries if you’re flipping through this place I like to call “Into the Weeds”:

  • yuck: Cold Stone Creamery Rant
  • The Soul of the Commuter: Commuting sucks. In very many ways. Here I get back to my urban studies roots.
  • UIUC Mail Server Disaster: A tale of sysadmin sorrow from 2002
  • Trivia: See if you can identify who all of these footnotes to history are.
  • The Cult of Scientology: Mini-rant and link to a freaking awesome article on scientolgy.
  • Longwood Towers: Rant about why the Longwood Towers Condominiums are some place you should not be thinking about living in.
  • Kozmo.com: : Classic tale of dot-bomb woe. Ever wonder what that “kozmo” box is that’s sitting in the kitchen lounge on second west?
  • Florence Co. ADMAX: Crazy terrorist prison in Colorado with all sorts of nasties inside.
  • New Apartment: Check out the awesome view from my living room.
  • Driving in Boston: A primer, with scary crazy maps of intersections.
  • Captain Al Haynes: The amazing story of Capt. Haynes and United flight 232.
  • Firefighting Mode: Some systems philosophy, and the condition of what things were like back when I worked at MIT IS&T.
  • The Switch: Mac vs. PC
  • Unofficial!!!!: The crazyness at UIUC known as “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” and why it is awesome and awesomely stupid at the same time.
  • Datacenter Transformer: A tale of woe from some crazy-ass electrical problem and superbad preparation and handling at MIT IS&T.

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