Posts Tagged ‘history’

3500 more years of horses

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Interesting article from Reuters: “Saudi Arabia discovers 9,000 year-old civilization.”

Saudi Arabia is excavating a new archeological site that will show horses were domesticated 9,000 years ago in the Arabian peninsula, the country’s antiquities expert said Wednesday.

The conventional wisdom is that horses were domesticated 5,500 years ago in Central Asia.

20 Years of Websites

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this – the first website went live just over 20 years ago (August 6, 1991 to be exact). was the address of the world’s first world wide web page and server. (.ch is the internet country code for Switzerland, where CERN is).

As for me personally, I downloaded Netscape Navigator in late 1994 or early 1995 during my freshman year at Boston University. I was the first person on my floor to have an internet browser.

Of course, finding web pages was difficult back then, pre-Yahoo and Google … but we made due.

I’d like to find an estimate of how many active web browsers there were on January 1, 1995. I bet it’d blow your mind …

Tea Party Article

Monday, August 1st, 2011

This is a pretty interesting read. I love putting current events into historical context.

How the Tea Party Won the Deal
By Peter Beinart
The Daily Beast – 8 hrs ago

While the details of the debt ceiling deal remain fuzzy, this much is clear: Barack Obama may be president, but the Tea Party is now running Washington. How did this happen? Simple; this is what American politics looks like when there’s no left-wing movement and no war.

Let’s start with the first point. Liberals are furious that President Obama agreed to massive spending cuts, and the promise of more, without any increase in revenues. They should be: Given how much the Bush tax cuts have contributed to the deficit (and how little they’ve spurred economic growth), it’s mind-boggling that they’ve apparently escaped this deficit-reduction deal unscathed.

But there’s a reason for that: since the economy collapsed in 2008, only one grassroots movement has emerged in response, and it’s been a movement of the right. Compare that with what happened during the Depression. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt assumed the presidency and launched the hodgepodge of domestic programs that historians call the first New Deal. By 1935, however, he was looking warily over his left shoulder at Huey Long, whose “Share our Wealth” movement demanded that incomes be capped at $1 million and every family be guaranteed an income no less than one-third the national average.

At the same time, the Townsend plan to guarantee generous pensions to every elderly American had organizers in every state in the union. To be sure, FDR had vehement opponents on his right, but he was at least as concerned about the populist left, which helps explain why he enacted the more ambitious “second new deal,” which included Social Security, the massive public jobs program called the Works Progress Administration and the Wagner Act, which for the first time in American history put Washington on the side of labor unions.

Obama, like FDR, had a reasonably successful first two years: a stimulus package that while too small for the circumstances was still large by historical standards and a health care bill that while subpar in myriad ways still far exceeded the efforts of other recent Democratic presidents.

And then, unlike FDR, he ran into a grassroots movement of the right. Historians will long debate why the financial collapse of 2008 produced a right-wing populist movement and not a left-wing one. Perhaps it’s because Obama didn’t take on Wall Street, perhaps it’s because with labor unions so weak there’s just not the organizational muscle to create such a movement, perhaps it’s because trust in government is so low that pro-government populism is almost impossible.

Whatever the reason, it was the emergence of the Tea Party as the most powerful grassroots pressure group in America that laid the groundwork for Sunday night’s deal. The fact that polling showed Obama getting the better of the debt ceiling debate barely mattered. The 2010 elections brought to Congress a group of Republicans theologically committed to cutting government. And they have proved more committed, or perhaps just more reckless, than anyone else in Washington.

But it’s not just the absence of a mass left-wing movement that explains last night’s deal. It’s the end of the war on terror. From 9/11 until George W. Bush left office, the “war on terror” defined the Republican Party. That meant massive increases in defense and homeland security spending, but it also meant increases in domestic spending—such as the 2004 prescription drug bill—aimed at ensuring that Bush got reelected, so he could perpetuate the war on terror. In that way, “war on terror” politics resembled cold war politics, in which the right’s desire for guns and the left’s desire for butter usually combined to ensure that all forms of government spending went up.

The Tea Party, by contrast, is a post-war on terror phenomenon. Many of the newly-elected Republicans are indifferent, if not hostile, to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re happy to cut the defense budget, especially since cutting the defense budget makes it easier to persuade Democrats to swallow larger cuts in domestic spending. It’s the reverse of the cold war dynamic. During the cold war—especially in the Nixon and Reagan years–conservatives accepted that overall spending would go up in order to ensure that some that increase went to defense. Today, conservatives accept defense cuts in order to ensure that overall spending goes down.

The good news is that the Tea Party, more than Barack Obama, has now ended the neoconservative dream of an ever-expanding American empire. The bad news is that it has also ended whatever hopes liberals once entertained that roughly 100 years after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, roughly 75 years after the New Deal and roughly 50 years after the Great Society, we were living in another great age of progressive reform.

Given the era of fiscal scarcity we’re now entering, those neocon and progressive dreams are now likely dead for many years to come. Meanwhile, the Tea Party’s dream of a government reduced to its pre-welfare state size becomes ever real.

Ten Years of California Adventure

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Wow! How did I miss this today? It’s February 8th!! Today’s the tenth anniversary of Disney’s California Adventure theme park!

Here’s the Orange County Register story on it: “Disney park makes impact over 10 years“.

Personally I think the park has its shortcomings – it was cheap from the start, quite frankly – so it’s nice that they’re now investing in renovations and additions. However, I always though that the park had a certain charm to it. I really became quite fond of it in my last few years in California.

At the time it opened I was living in Burbank, and although I had gone to an Employee Preview day in January (see My thoughts on Disney’s California Adventure) I still decided to make the drive down to Orange County on that first Thursday night.

I also wrote about that trip (see Only in California!).

Ten years later I still like my opening:

Imagine an event so special, it’s only taken place seven times over the past 46 years. The next three times it happens, it won’t even be on North America. And I live only 34 miles away from it.

Yesterday, Disney’s California Adventure opened.

Yesterday, I drove down to Anaheim after work.

I mean, c’mon, who knows where the next Stateside Disney Theme Park is going to be? And I’m sure as hell not going to Tokyo DisneySea in 2001, Disney Studios Paris in 2002, or Honk Kong Disneyland in 2005! But I’m here now, so I figured I’d go for it.

Prescient really, as there hasn’t been a new park in the US since!

There hasn’t even been a new one since Hong Kong, and Shanghai Disneyland is still four years out.

Anyway, I took a roll or two of photos that night, too. Here’s one of the Sun Icon fountain, one of my favorite Disney subjects. Sadly it’s on the chopping block and will be removed in the renovations.

Anyway, happy birthday, California Adventure!

25 Years since the Challenger

Friday, January 28th, 2011


Today’s the 25th anniversary of STS-51-L, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Happy Birthday Mac Plus!

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Today’s the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Macintosh Plus – the first Mac my family ever owned.

It’s a far cry from today’s MacBooks and iMacs, but back then it sure was something …

25 Years of Living Seas

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion (formerly “The Living Seas”).

You might remember that John Ritter hosted the television special that introduced us to Seabase Alpha, Seacabs and Hydrolators.

Here’s a peek at that special now:

Four Years of Awesome

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Sunday was the tenth anniversary of iTunes, and apparently also the fourth anniversary of Apple’s iPhone!

iPhone photo

I can’t believe that it took me four years to get one …

10 Years of iTunes

Monday, January 10th, 2011

I missed this yesterday but it’s worth a mention – Apple’s iTunes music player software was released ten years ago, on January 9, 2001.

iTunes 1.0 logo

I for one wouldn’t want to go back to life before iTunes …

Civil War Myths

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Nothing steams me more than when people re-write history for their own nefarious purposes. Sure, much of history is subjective, and it generally is written by the victors, but some things are just flat-out truths. Facts are facts.

That’s why I enjoyed this Washington Post article: “Five myths about why the South seceded.”

Because as we get closer to April and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter we’re going to see more of this revisionist bullshit.

Cordoba House Parallels

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I guess I haven’t talked about the Cordoba House Islamic Center at 51 Park Place on Manhattan for some time, but the other day I ran across a fantastic article in the New York Times that mentions it.

Check out: “In Fierce Opposition to a Muslim Center, Echoes of an Old Fight.”

The opening is killer:

Many New Yorkers were suspicious of the newcomers’ plans to build a house of worship in Manhattan. Some feared the project was being underwritten by foreigners. Others said the strangers’ beliefs were incompatible with democratic principles.

Concerned residents staged demonstrations, some of which turned bitter.

But cooler heads eventually prevailed; the project proceeded to completion. And this week, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan — the locus of all that controversy two centuries ago and now the oldest Catholic church in New York State — is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone.


Anyone who doesn’t think history moves in cycles is a fool.

Telegraph Island on Warehouse 13!

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

So, being a busy summer and all, I’m a bit behind on some of my television shows. Yesterday I caught up on a few of the recent episodes of ScyFy’s Warehouse 13. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s like The X-Files, but instead of aliens and conspiracies these government agents track down historic “artifacts” that have supernatural powers and lock them up in, well, Warehouse 13.

Some of the artifacts so far include: Lewis Carroll’s mirror, Ben Franklin’s lightning rod, Sylvia Plath’s typewriter, Edgar Allan Poe’s quill pen, Harriet Tubman’s thimble, Timothy Leary’s glasses and the Studio 54 disco ball. As you can imagine it’s a combination of the historic, the nerdy and the, well, goofy.

I’m not really selling it, am I?

It was created by Jane Espenson, who worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and wrote episodes of Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, and, oddly, the third ever episode of The O.C.

It’s good. Well, good for ScyFy.

Anyway, one of the episodes from about three weeks ago was called “Around the Bend”. In it the goofy guy agent (why is the guy agent always goofy and the female always by-the-book?) goes a little crazy and starts imagining conspiracies and betrayals among the Warehouse 13 crew.

The artifact that caused this?

The telegraph from Telegraph Island!

Pete playing with the telegraph from Telegraph Island

Pete gone crazy because of the telegraph from Telegraph Island

Pete almost shooting his coworkers because of the telegraph from Telegraph Island

You might remember Telegraph Island from our days in Dubai, twice we drove up to the Musandam peninsula to Khasab, Oman (see Khasab and Khasab 08).

The Musandam peninsula

Remember, we took the dhow boat cruises along the fjords and went snorkeling?

Closer on the peninsula. Note the fjords.

Well smack dab in the middle of the fjords is Jazirat al Maqlab -Telegraph Island. It’s a rock, really, about the size of a football field where in the 1860s the British built a submarine telegraph cable through the Persian Gulf to India. Apparently the construction crew found the locals hostile, so they built the station on an island for ease of defense.

Telegraph Island

Oddly, Telegraph Island doesn't even make the map on Google

I’m not really sure what happened next, either a mainland cable route opened, or some other alternative appeared, but the British abandoned Jazirat al Maqlab shortly thereafter. I think they were there all of five years.

Today all that’s left are stairs down to a dock and some squared off rocks.

Well, that, and a phrase.

Apparently the expression “around the bend” was coined because of the number of British troops who went crazy taking the cable around the bend in the Gulf, i.e. the Strait of Hormuz.

I’m amazed that Warehouse 13 referenced it. It’s quite the esoteric joke. Not even a half-percenter, I mean, how many people in the world have been to Telegraph Island?

I certainly, have been around that bend.

One Last Thing on Hiroshima

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Some articles about Hiroshima point out that a number of Japanese citizens feel that we should apologize for the atomic attacks: “At Hiroshima Ceremony, a First for a U.S. Envoy.”

I think that it’s impossible to apologize for Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor, or any other act of war, especially six and a half decades later. That’s why wars end and treaties are signed.


Using the events as a means to discuss nuclear disarmament isn’t a bad idea. Let’s just not place any blame, okay?

That’s my final thought – well, at least until Monday’s anniversary of Nagasaki.


More on Hiroshima

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

I’m up at an earlier hour than normal (the cat from Arabia was cold and unhappy, and wanted to share with someone) so I’m reading a little more about Hiroshima this morning.

Two other things that amaze me about the attack are the Japanese reaction immediately before and after.

An hour before the bombing Japanese radar picked up the planes approaching and set off an air raid alert, but fifteen minutes before the drop they estimated that there were only a handful of planes, so the alert was lifted. Plus it wasn’t Japanese policy to intercept such a small formation, so no planes were scrambled.

Afterwards nobody knew that anything was out of the ordinary for quite some time. The radio station in Tokyo noticed that the Hiroshima station was off the air, but couldn’t contact the station by phone. The telegraph operators realized that the main telegraph line was not working just north of Hiroshima. Railroad stations 10 miles away reported a huge explosion, but the Imperial Japanese Army couldn’t get through to their station in Hiroshima.

The army was baffled by the silence – they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizeable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time – so they sent an officer by plane to survey the damage.

It wasn’t until they had flown for three hours – when the plane was still 100 miles out – that they saw the smoke from Hiroshima.


Friday, August 6th, 2010

Holy cow – I didn’t realize it was August 6 until listening to NPR on the way home. Today’s the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

I love recent history because generally it’s easier to imagine what someone of my parents or grandparents generation was going through than Ancient history; Rome, Greece, or any other Empire might as well be an alien planet.

That being said, the way that the second world war ended still baffles me.

  • 130 pounds of uranium-235 created a blast equivalent to about 13 kilotons of TNT
  • A one mile radius of total destruction
  • A third of Hiroshima’s population was killed immediately
  • Within several months the death toll was over 150,000

    While this sounds beyond barbaric you have to put this in context; it had been almost 3 months since VE Day, the allied forces had been firebombing the hell out of 67 Japanese cities over the previous six months, without effect. The Japanese Emperor rejected the Potsdam Declaration in July. The ultimatum clearly stated that without a surrender, the Allies would attack Japan, resulting in “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland”.

    Of course, it didn’t mention the atomic bomb – but that would be tipping our hand a little too much.

  • Waterford Oil Spill

    Saturday, July 17th, 2010

    Today’s the 50th anniversary of an oil spill in North Waterford, Maine.

    I never really though about it, but the Portland–Montreal Pipe Line runs through town on its way to Montreal. Apparently there’s also a pumping station there (along with the one in Raymond at the mouth of Plains Road).

    Here’s the story from July 18, 1960’s Lewiston Daily Sun:

    A break in the Portland Pipe Line a short distance from the pumping station at North Waterford made that area of Waterford a potential powder keg early Sunday morning. The pipe carrying crude oil broke on the hill above the Waterford pumping station and a brook of oil came rushing down the hillside and across the highway and into a small brook where it put an eight inch coating of oil over the water.

    The Oxford County Sheriff’s Department and State Police were alerted and road blocks were set up to keep spectators away from the area.

    Dee C. Hutchins, superintendent of the Waterford station said that the crude oil was highly combustible.

    The Norway, Paris and Oxford Fire Departments were called to the scene to be ready in case something should happen to ignite the fumes which filled the area.

    All available bulldozers from the area were rushed to the scene to build earth dams in the brook to keep the oil from getting into Crooked River. Hutchins estimated that over 1,000 barrels of oil spread over the area.

    Authorities confronted with the hazard decided to burn the accumulated substance, later Sunday. This was done in the brook which the bulldozers had turned onto a series of pools separated by earth dams.

    With an abundance of fire equipment standing by, the oil was burned one pool at a time. The smokey fire drew much attention from motorists in the vicinity.

    It’s no Deepwater Horizon, but still, it’s something for a little town like North Waterford …

    Happy Birthday Disneyland

    Saturday, July 17th, 2010

    On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.

    After 55 years, I think it’s safe to say to truly is a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

    History is Written … by Texas

    Friday, May 21st, 2010

    Continuing the trend of being controversial today, here’s a clever blog entry “What Would U.S. History Look Like If It Were Written By Texas and Arizona?

    A few of the clever bits:

    1803-1848–America continues to expand westward into empty territories. American settlers make the land bloom with the help of friendly Indian tribes.

    1848–Mexico, in an act of friendship following their humiliation at the Alamo by the great Republic of Texas, gives their territories to the United States.

    1941–Patriotic Japanese Americans volunteer to place themselves in gated communities so that America will be safe from Imperial Japan.

    1950–Senator Joseph McCarthy fearlessly highlights how America is infiltrated by communists from Russia and China. Big Hollywood and the liberal establishment are brought to their knees by his brave efforts.

    Oh the whole thing is clever, just go read it!

    New Coke

    Friday, April 23rd, 2010

    It was twenty-five years ago today that Coca-Cola revealed “New Coke!”

    Twenty-five years!

    There are articles (and books) out there that’ll point out every nuanced flaw in completely replacing one’s flagship brand, so I won’t get into that here. Everything written about the New Coke brand either begins or ends with, “How could a major corporation be so dumb?”

    I don’t know the answer to that, but I will ask one question, though. When exactly did Coke switch from sugar to the much less expensive high fructose corn syrup?

    Think about it.

    It’s Census Day!!

    Thursday, April 1st, 2010

    Forget April Fools’ Day, it’s Census Day in my world today. I think I’ve told you my affection for the decennial census (which is Constitutionally mandated – Article I, Section 2, you Tea Bagging-haters). Anyway the census is a snapshot of every household today, April 1, 2010.

    We filled out ours last night and we had a revelation – see, for 36 days of the year Liz and I are the same age. April 1 is one of those days.

    On the census form Liz and I the same age.

    Weird, eh?