Das Rabblemeister

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Archive for the ‘Famous photos’ Category

Thursday, November 11 — Armistice Day (1918), known in the U.S. as Veteran’s Day

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Don't you hate it when this happens? (Image from Gizmodo. For more info on what happened and to see some other captions for this image, click on the image.)

  • On this day in 1918, at 11am Central European Time — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 — a cease-fire went into effect that ended the fighting of World War I, which became known at the time at The Great War and The War to End All Wars. It had been a war so horrific — at times tens of thousands dead in one day, millions gassed with skin- and lung-searing poisons, millions more fallen to the new mechanical Grim Reaper, the machine gun. More than 8 million soldiers died, more than 20 million more were seriously injured or disabled, many millions of civilians dead from starvation, disease, genocide, and other calamities of war. The world was so shocked and horrified by war of such unprecedented scale and ferocity that it was certain mankind would never repeat such a thing. Or so it was thought, not realizing that within the Versailles Treaty that ended World War One lay the seeds of something far, far worse less than 30 years later.
  • In 1953, after World War II and the Korean War, an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner named Alfred King thought it would be a good idea to extend the November 11 Armistice Day, which had become a U.S. holiday in 1938, to be a day to celebrate veterans of all wars, not just those from World War I. King’s campaign gained local and soon national support, a bill to implement it was passed by Congress in 1954 and signed by President Eisenhower. Thus on June 1, 1954 the American Armistice Day holiday on November 11 became Veteran’s Day. After the passage of the Uniform Holiday Act in 1971 Veteran’s Day was temporarily moved to be the fourth Monday in November, but by 1978 it had been moved back to November 11, where it remains today.
  • Want to be mayor of Lynchburg, South Carolina? The town’s mayor, in a spat with the City Council, resigned this past August, and last week an election was held for a new mayor. Unfortunately, no one wanted to run, so there was no one on the ballot. So the town had a do-over — but still no one wanted to run. But someone was elected anyway, even though no one was on the ballot. How did that happen? Can’t figure it out? Find out.
  • Unexpected opposition: A very powerful, and perhaps unexpected, opponent has spoken out against the Ground Zero Mosque: Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it probably should: Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is one of the most internationally influential, and certainly the wealthiest, member of the royal Al Saud family that reigns over Saudi Arabia, sometimes called the “the Warren Buffet of Arabia,” estimated to be worth $19 billion. The American-educated Prince stated:

“I am against putting the mosque in that particular place. And I’ll tell you why. For two reasons: first of all, those people behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York, and not try to agitate the wound by saying ‘we need to put the mosque next to the 9/11 site’…The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can’t say ‘let’s just go back to where we were pre-9/11’. I am against putting the mosque there out of respect for those people who have been wounded over there.”

  • Economics is boring, right? I mean, since the 1930s the biggest debate in economics has been between the theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, two old dead white guys who wrote boring books on economics theory. By the 1970s it looked like Keynes had won, but in the last 30 years Hayek has made a big comeback — but really, how boring is all this? Well, sometimes not boring at all.
  • The best saved for last: To those of you who have served your country in uniform — thank you. All the rest of us owe you a debt we can never repay. And I think I speak for a great, great many in saying we will never, ever forget.

Thursday, November 4 — King Tut’s tomb found (1922), Hungary invaded by USSR (1956)

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The solid gold, exquisitely decorated burial mask of King Tutankhamun. He became Pharaoh at age nine, died at nineteen, cause still disputed. Click on the image for more about King Tut.

  • King Tut’s tomb was discovered by famed archaeologist Howard Carter on this day in 1922. Carter was working under the employ of Lord Carnarvon and waited until Lord Carnarvon arrived before entering the tomb together on November 26. Much excavation followed and it wasn’t until February 16 that the burial chamber was officially opened. On April 5, 50 days later, Lord Carnarvon died, giving a grand start to all the stories of “King Tut’s Curse.” After the opening of the burial chamber there was more excavation, not a few disputes, and Carter left the project. He returned in January 1925, but it still wasn’t until October 28, 1925 that the lid of the inner sarcophagus was removed and the mummy was first seen, almost three years after the entrance to the tomb was first discovered, more than 3000 years after the mummy had been placed in the tomb.
  • The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a popular Hungarian revolt against the Communist government that had been forcibly imposed by the USSR at the end of World War II. It was a spontaneous revolt that started on October 23 with student demonstrations. On October 24 Soviet troops and tanks stationed in Hungary moved into Budapest. But in daring street fighting by Hungarians often armed with no more than Molotov cocktails, Hungarian civilians were able to push back the Soviets troops and destroy, disable, and even take over some of the Soviet tanks. By October 28 the fighting was largely over and by October 30 a new popular government was being put in place. Political prisoners were freed and plans were laid for an open, multi-party democracy. A Hungarian delegation started negotiations for withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary and Soviet ambassador Yuri Andropov (later head of the KGB and Soviet prime minister) promised the USSR would not invade.
    On the night of November 3 the Hungarian delegation was invited to Soviet Military Command near Budapest to discuss withdrawal of Soviet troops. But around midnight the delegation was arrested and very early on the morning of November 4 the Soviets launched a massive invasion with 22 Army divisions, including the Soviet 8th Mechanized Army. They encircled Budapest and moved in, firing indiscriminately at both civilians and military targets. The Hungarian free government pleaded for help from other countries, but none came. The free republic was crushed within hours.
    Afterward the Soviets and Hungarian Communists conducted mass trials of over 22 000 Hungarians, many thousands were imprisoned, hundreds executed. Some of the leaders of the revolution sought asylum in the Yugoslavian embassy, were granted safe passage out of the country by the Soviets, but were then captured as soon as they left the embassy and taken out of the country. Several were later returned to Hungary, executed, and buried in unmarked graves.
    In 1991, after the fall of the USSR, the Russian government under Mikhail Gorbachev apologized to the Hungarian people for the brutal invasion of 1956. Boris Yeltsin repeated this apology in 1992, speaking before the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest.
  • Does Star Trek represent a fascist society? Perhaps Communist? Well, think about it:
    • There doesn’t seem to be a civilian government, politics, or free elections. All the top-level decisions seem to come from Star Fleet Command, so the United Federation of Planets looks to be an Earth-centered military oligarchy.
    • There’s never any discussion of money or finance, as if free enterprise were irrelevant or non-existent.
    • There’s a lot of racial conflict: Klingons vs. Romulans vs. humans vs. all kinds of other freaky species, almost all of which seem to prefer their own kind over others.
    • In the original series, at least, almost everyone in Star Fleet looks to be white. There’s a token Asian (Sulu), a token black (Uhura), a token eastern European (Chekhov), a token Vulcan (Spock), and that’s about it most of the time. In Star Trek: The Next Generation there was a greater variety of tokens, but by far the most common were still plain-vanilla white people, and even some of the token aliens (like Counselor Troi and all the Vulcans) looked remarkably just like plain vanilla white people with no more than maybe a weird ear or nose. Apparently Star Fleet is mostly a huge horde of of WASPy-looking white people. There’s more diversity in Iowa than there is in Star Fleet.
    • The Prime Directive appears to be inherently paternalistic, preferring to keep less-advanced people as quaint cultural exhibits rather than share with them potential labor- and life-saving technologies, thereby also preserving Federation supremacy of technology and power.
    • All the Star Trek series, more so the later ones, seem to assume lefty-chic ideology, in fact in all but the original series it goes largely unquestioned. On the other hand, religion is either banished or ridiculed (a conscious decision by series creator Gene Roddenberry).

Is it a silly discussion? Of course it is, but it’s fun and lots of people have put lots of energy into it — see here and here, for example. (For some other viewpoints, see here and here.) I mean, the whole point of Trekkie-ism is to pretend this stuff is serious, just as among devotees of Sherlock Holmes there’s a universal convention that it’s all to be treated as real history, even though they all know it’s not. FYI: There are similar debates about Star Wars society, with many arguing that the Empire is actually in the right. Great topic for endless over-the-net debate.

Some pictures are hard to explain. For more hard-to-explain pictures, click on the image. (A tip o'the hat to the blog MyPointless, linked from the photo.)

Thursday, October 28 — birthday of Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837) and Jigoro Kano (1860)

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  • Tokugawa who? And Jigoro what? OK, for the one or two of you who are not deeply steeped in 19th-century Japanese history, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was Japan’s last shogun. And Jigoro Kano was the Japanese martial artist who invented Judo. Both were truly remarkable men with very interesting lives and many varied accomplishments, such as Yoshinobu for both his overhaul of the Japanese military and for his photography, and Kano who in addition to being one of Japan’s all-time great martial artists was Japan’s national director of primary education and the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee. Well worth reading about both — see links above.
  • Afghan girl

    This photo of an Afghan girl is one of the most famous photographs in history, taken by Steve McCurry for National Geographic in 1985. In 2002 McCurry returned to Afghanistan and found her again. She had never seen the cover photo and had no idea that hers is one of the most famous faces on the planet. Click on the photo for her amazing story. Her name, by the way, is Sharbat Gula. Image copyright National Geographic Society.

  • Also born on this day: Gilbert Grosvenor (1875), founder of the National Geographic Society, by whose maps you can go look up where Japan is. Also Microsoft founder and multi-gazillionaire Bill Gates (1955), who helped create a generation of children, and now young adults, who no longer know how to use paper maps.
  • Taliban Tabasco? Forewarned, spice lovers: Carrying salt, pepper, or spices in your luggage can get you tagged as a potential terrorist. See this incident of well-known food writer whose Tabasco Spiced Salt got him flagged for special search. More examples in the comments.
  • Cable customers with attitude: Don’t you hate it when the cable company drops one of your favorite channels? It’s infuriating, but what can you do? The cable companies usually hold a local monopoly and therefore have all the power — or do they? In New York local provider Cablevision got into a dispute with News Corp. (owner of the Fox Network and Fox News) and decided just to drop Fox. Oops, not so fast: Customers are so angry at losing Fox that they’ve just hit Cablevision with a $450 million class-action suit, including a request for an injunction to force Cablevision to restore Fox immediately. ($450 million is about one month’s revenue for Cablevision. New Yorkers pay an average of $150/month for cable — yikes.)
    Some of the immediate anger is because blacking out Fox means blacking out the impending World Series. But another  stated cause in the lawsuit is that “The Fox Channels provide a distinctive point of view in the political speech arena, which Cablevision customers are being deprived of just days before a critical mid-term election in the United States.” That’s rather surprising coming from the very liberal New York City area, but perhaps it shouldn’t be: In the latest ratings (and for most of this decade) Fox News has out-pulled all the other cable news networks (CNN, HLN, MSNBC) combined, and by a large margin at that. And it’s not just conservatives — 61% of Fox News’ audience is moderates or liberals, meaning more liberals and moderates watch Fox News than any other news channel (!). In fact Fox News is now the second-highest-rated of all cable channels, which is simply amazing for a channel that does only news and politics. C’mon, all you news junkies, watch something else once in a while — the History Channel, Discovery, Nat Geo, the Cartoon Channel, something other than just news.
  • Squasher and squashee: Looking up the numbers on Fox News’ ratings dominance reminds me of what Ted Turner, at the time owner of then-dominant CNN, said about Fox News when it first went on the air in 1996: “We’ll squash them like a bug.” Flashback, 3000 years ago: Pride goeth before a fall, quoth the writer of Proverbs.
  • Dumber than insects: In computing news, it was announced today that the fastest supercomputer in the world is now… in China. But to put that in perspective, researchers at Queen Mary University of London have found that one of the hardest computing problems in the world — the so-called “traveling salesman” problem, which is how to determine the shortest path to reach multiple arbitrary locations visiting each one only once, a problem that can easily take a supercomputer days to solve for just a few dozen locations — can be solved in only a few minutes by… a bee. A plain ol’ buzz-around-flowers honeybee or bumblebee. And having solved the problem, the bee will then remember and re-use the route. That’s quite remarkable considering that a bee’s brain is about the size of the tip of a pencil — the pointy tip of a pencil. Based on current computing theory, one could make a pretty good case that a bee-sized brain simply cannot do that, just as aerodynamicists once stated that, based on their mechanics and aerodynamics, bees should not be able to fly — except they do.