April 29, 2020: 11:56 am: history

1700s – US: FU Dad, I’m going to start my OWN country
Europe: Good luck with that

1800s – US: Countrying is hard
Europe: shakes head.

1900s – US: Looks like you’re in trouble Dad. I’m really sorry about all our arguments. I’m here to help
Europe: Thank you, son.

2000 – US – I’m having a mid-life crisis
Europe: I’m old.

December 5, 2013: 11:01 am: history, humour

The origins of the medicine ball are shrouded in the mists of the history of the tribes of North America. Some have speculated that it refers to shamanistic practices, others to some sort of traditional healing ceremony. The story is rather more prosaic. In the 1500s explorer Vasco De Gama reported tribesmen using a “weighty spheroid in ceremonial activity” which may lend to the confusion about shamanism.

While no more detail exists from De Gama, a later journal of the explorer Franklin Seagraves describes a conversation with a chieftain about the unusual healthiness of its members. Seagraves writes, “The chieftain then explained that his people use a ceremonial ball with divers markings on it and totems in an activity called by some untranslatable word. He showed me this ball and while its appearance was normal, it was strange heavy. He then caused his sons to demonstrate all manner of passings and liftings and other odd comportations with the thing such like I have never seen fore or since. It was made a gift to me with the recommendation that its proper use was ‘great medicine’ and I should add years to my time in its application.”

References are scattered after this but sometime in the late 1600s some medical men are found to refer to “Seagraves Lifting Ball” and “Seagraves Great Medicine”. These intermittent usages finally settle into the usage “medicine ball” by the mid 1700s and the rest, as they say, is history.

August 8, 2012: 10:04 pm: history, humour

The other day I saw some old footage with athletes wearing CCCP on their uniform, the Cyrillic letters for USSR. It got me wondering how the old Soviet Union would be doing in the medal count if it was still together. So I did a quick count and posted it on Twitter.

The inevitable literalnet responded that not all the medals would have been won, because of team restrictions etc. But a few more interesting people replied with curiosity of how the Roman empire would do, or perhaps the British Empire.

Granted, an exhaustive survey would find out the origins of every athlete that medaled and then account for the team restrictions and who might have won if certain atheletes had been barred from medaling because of that. What I did took me too much time as it is, so this is not that and it’s not perfect.

However it is an amusing, at least to me, look at the medal count with old-timey empires put in for fun.

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
European Union 67 88 75 230
British empire 51 41 54 146
Roman empire (ca. 117) 39 52 49 140
USSR 25 26 45 96
USA 34 22 25 81
People’s Republic of China 36 22 19 77
Holy Roman Empire (ca. 1600) 20 28 24 72
Russian Federation 11 19 22 52
Great Britain 22 13 13 48

Notes: I counted half the US medals in the British Empire since more than half of the US population lives in the old colonies. I also counted half of Italy for the Holy Roman Empire since only northern Italy was part of the time period I used. I also only used half of Great Britain’s medal count for the Roman Empire, since I really didn’t feel like digging up which of the medal winners were from Scotland and Northern Ireland (and possibly Wales and Cornwall etc. etc. if you *really* want to get sticky about it).

December 19, 2007: 2:19 pm: history, Technology, Work

Russ Pitts, former Half Price Books Computer Section Manager, Head of Insomnia Productions, Producer of SuBBrilliant TV, writer for SuBBrilliant News, and one-time Line Producer of The Screen Savers, wrote a long, involved, insightful reminscence of his years at TechTV.

This paragraph sums it up:

I laugh now when I hear the phrase Web 2.0, not because I think it’s an inherently stupid concept (it isn’t), but because back when Web 1.0 was barely in its adolescence, The Screen Savers was already pushing the envelope, stretching that bitch at the seams and wanting more. So we created TV 2.0, in which you were part of the show, and even if you never called in, never logged in or sent in an email, watching other people do so, you knew that you could. You knew that we cared. Because we did. It was all for you. Yes, we were having the fucking time of our lives, but we were doing it for you, because we’d been there on the other end of that TV screen thinking nobody understood why these things were so important to us, and we knew how lonely it could be. And we wanted you to know you weren’t alone.

Thanks for that Russ. I mean it. It makes me even more proud to have worked there to have it expressed that way.

Read the whole thing at FalseGravity.com.

December 3, 2007: 6:41 pm: history

I started playing around with Ancestry.com, which is a fascinating site for genealogical research. They have tons of primary sources from several countries, including census reports, marriage records, etc. I even found a scan of my Great Grandfather’s World War I draft registration card, in his own handwriting.

One cool feature is the ability to import other people’s trees if you share an ancestor. This can make quick work of tracing some lines. I was able to trace a line form my Father’s Mother back to King Edward of England. In fact, once you can do a neat trick like that, you can take advantage of some enterprising folks tress that include the genealogies of the middle ages.

Back then, any noble worth his salt tried to trace his line back to Roman Emperors. And of course Roman Emperors traced THEIR lines through Alexander the Great to Hercules and thus to the gods.

All of this means, I’m descended from Zeus, and here’s the breadcrumb trail to prove it. Click on the thumbnail to get the full image.

Family Tree Zeus Style

October 10, 2006: 4:36 pm: history

It’s not an exact match, and certainly not scientific, but you can see some historic cycles by looking at things that chracterise certain decades.

1820s – War/Recovery (If anything recovery from 1814 but tenuous)
1830s – Promise (Railroad construction booms)
1840s – Turmoil (Mexican-American War)
1850s – Depression (1850s depression, Bleeding Kansas)
1860s – War/Recovery (Civil War, Transcontinental railroad, death of Lincoln)
1870s – Promise (Telephone, light bulb, phonograph, reconstruction)
1880s – Turmoil (electricity, cars, new imperialism)
1890s – Depression (Panic of 1893, depression)
1900s – War/Recovery (End of Phillipine-American war)
1910s – Promise (Relativity, X-rays, radio, Hollywood, World War I)
1920s – Turmoil (Flappers, Roaring 20s)
1930s – Depression (Great Depression)
1940s – War/Recovery (WWII)
1950s – Promise (TV)
1960s – Turmoil (Vietname, hippies)
1970s – Depression (Stagflation)
1980s – War/Recovery (Cold war)
1990s – Promise (Peace, tech boom, Internet)
2000s – Turmoil (World Trade Center, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism)
2010s – Depression
2020s – War/Recovery

August 8, 2006: 6:51 pm: books, history

Your body and how it worksI scanned and uploaded an old health pamphlet called “Your body and how it works.” I put it up on Flickr. The best part is the illustrations.


February 11, 2006: 2:42 pm: history

I Nazi eagle crest pulled out of the sea near Urugayhave to admit this picture creeps me out. It’s the eagle crest of the nazi warship Montevideo Graf Spee being pullled out of the sea off the coast of Uruguay. From the MSNBC article:

Divers have been working on and off since 1998 to recover the ship piece by piece, part of a multimillion-dollar effort by Argentine and German investors to refloat remains of the Nazi fleet and open a museum.

While I admire the objective preservation of history, I just have to say seeing Nazi stuff in the light of day is a bit spooky.