Archive for category trivia


100 Wonders of the World

Apparently, I’ve only seen five (12,25,84, 88 and 99). Although it’s possible if the planned vacation next year pans out I’ll be adding at least another three. Looks like there’s a lot more traveling to do for anyone who wants to catch all 100.

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Happy Thanksgiving

But first, a word or two from Abe Lincoln proclaiming the national thanksgiving day in 1863. It was later, of course, moved back a week to the 3rd Thursday in November by FDR in an attempt to lengthen the holiday shopping season and improve fortunes for businesses during the depression:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.”

Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.

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Some of my favorite “footnotes to history.” Sorry, but I just had to come up with something to blog before people get on my case about not posting often enough. You probably know all of these and can come up with better additions to the list as well:

  • Gavrilo Princep
  • Roger Boisjoly
  • Capt. Joseph Hazelton
  • Presper Eckert (and John Mauchly)
  • Crispus Attucks
  • Capt. Edward Smith
  • Caesar Rodney
  • Philo Farnsworth
  • Edwin Drake
  • John Bardeen
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Reginald Denny
  • Harry Frazee


Florence ADMAX

The topic of the “supermax” prison in Florence, CO (wikipedia article) came up in discussion last week, so I figured I would expand on it a bit via the blogosphere.

USP Florence ADMAX (as it is officially called), is one of only two “supermax” federal prisons (the other one is in Marion, Illinois), and is the only federal prison built from the ground up originally as a locked-down “supermax”. It’s where the U.S. sends federal prisoners who are extremely dangerous, or at risk in some peculiar way. The federal bureau of prisons has a particularly neat website where you can search for information on any particular federal inmate — provided, of course, that you know the exact first and last name. What follows is a partial list of the “interesting” guests of the federal government that will be residing in Florence for the remainder of their natural lives:

  • Richard Reid24079-038. The guy who tried to blow up an airplane with a bomb in his shoe, and is forever to be known as the “shoe bomber.”
  • Ted Kaczynski04475-046. The “unabomber”.
  • Robert Hanssen48551-083. FBI agent, spied for the USSR. His revelations to the enemy resulted in several covert agents and spies being outed and probably killed, and is guilty of violating U.S. code title 18 section 794. The content of which has been drilled into my head by a certain previous employer of mine, but that’s for another blog entry.
  • Terry Nichols08157-031. Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator. His partner in crime, Timothy McVeigh also served his time at ADMAX Florence, before his execution.
  • Eric Rudolph18282-058.1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber, bomber of multiple abortion clinics, and longtime fugitive. There’s an interesting and lively discussion on wikipedia about whether he should be referred to as a “Christian Terrorist.” But that’s beyond the scope of this blog.
  • Ramzi Yousef03911-000. “Mastermind” and perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
  • Mohammad Salameh34338-054. Another perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was supposedly arrested while trying to collect the deposit on the van that they blew up.
  • Zacarias Moussaoui51427-054. Terrorist and possible would-be-participant in September 11th attacks.

Also supposedly present at Florence are: Charles Harrelson (Woody Harrelson’s father), Brink’s Heist robber Richard Scutari, and Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano. Here’s a more complete list.

There’s just something oddly fascinating and vaguely dangerous about all of these people being at the same place, but I suppose that concentration at a single supermax facility is probably the best way to do these types of things. The people of Florence are apparently not happy about staffing levels at the facility, and worry that the place now known as “terrorist central” might actually be a terrorist target.


Happy Birthday IBM PC

August 12th marks the 25th birthday of the computer that all “PC” users can trace their ancestry to: the IBM PC. I’ll spare you the anecdotes about the choice of MS-DOS over CP/M, or the crappiness of the PC architecture in general, or how project “Acorn” (as it was called) marked a major shift in the way that IBM did business, and ultimately, in the history of technology in general. I also won’t go into detail about how Don Estridge’s decision to get the system out the door fast by using off-the-shelf parts and an open architecture paved the way for all of the PC clones, and led to a PC on pretty much every desk here in 2006. It’s late at night as I’m writing this, and, if you care, you probably already know all about that stuff.

An initial review of the system (thank you google groups, formerly dejanews), is amusing. “even the I/O cards are separate!” So lets take a minute to both curse and praise the folks at IBM, particularly the late Don Estridge, for the legacy left by the IBM model 5150, better known as the IBM PC.

Ahh this is bringing back memories of autoexec.bat, config.sys, emm386.exe, IRQ conflicts, and the like. But my favorite DOS error message (who is general failure, and why is he reading my hard drive?) is an oldie but a goodie for those of this computing generation:

General failure reading drive C:
Abort, Retry, Fail?


Captain Al Haynes and United 232

Well, since this topic came up at some point last night, I figured it’s time to blog about it. On July 19th 1989, United Flight 232 was a DC-10 flying from Denver to Philadelphia via O’Hare. The crash of flight 232 is probably the most well-known american aviation disaster, due to the presence of film crews at the crash. What most people don’t know, however, is the full story of how the 185 survivors of the crash owe their lives to the extraordinary actions of the captain, the crew, and a DC-10 instructor that just happened to be deadheading as a passenger when the plane’s hydraulic systems all went into the weeds.

In subsequent reconstructions of the circumstances of the accident in flight simulators, no pilot, regardless of seniority, has succeeded in reproducing the flight crew’s achievement of maneuvering the aircraft as far as the runway, generally losing control in mid air.


Read the rest of this entry »

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20 years ago

The 20-strikeout game is one of the rarest happenings in baseball, and one of my favorite. In fact, it’s so rare that it’s only happened three times (four if you count Randy Johnson’s gem that went into extra innings in 2001). Two of those games were pitched by the same man. Of course, it was approximately 20 years ago, on April 29th 1986 that Roger Clemens became the first to strike out 20 in a single game. Dan Shaughnessy, with his usual flair for the dramatic, recounts the night in a Globe article. Anyway, think maybe we’ll be seeing him back in a Sox uniform this summer? Now that would be an event, indeed. Heck, last night we gave Doug Mirabelli a veritable hero’s welcome back to RSN, can you imagine what would happen with the rocket? Alas, it’s probably just wishful thinking.

NESN actually rebroadcast the 1986 game last week, but I never got around to setting the tivo. It can be watched on as part of the Baseball’s Best collection though. I wonder if anyone out there has a bittorrent of it. Of course now that I mentioned that, the commisioner of baseball is going to be stopping by soon with some big dudes wielding bats.

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Physicists and Misc.

My former co-worker, and all around stand-up guy, CK, somehow found quite a neat picture and posted an entry in his blog.

That’s quite the crew there. Names I immediately recognize include Heisenberg, Scroedinger, Pauli, Bohn, Einstein, Lorentz, Curie and Planck. All in one picture!

Incidentally, I’ve been reading 1/2 grim dude’s many recent recipes, and am impressed. I’ve just whipped up a batch of chili (which I’ve been known to do from time to time), and I’ll post the recipe as soon as I can find it. I must say it’s pretty good.

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Communist Party

I’ve ordered two of the following t-shirts. There’s just something about Marx with a lampshade on his head and Lenin and Stalin wearing party hats. I should probably add the disclaimer to this that I’m not a communist, I just thought it was a cool shirt. Click for larger image. This might be almost as good as the “you have died of dysentery” shirt.

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