December 27, 2007

Close to Home

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Bhutto was assassinated this morning.

Rachael is kind of freaking out because Benazir Bhutto was the featured speaker at Mary Baldwin College last October. Mookie was there, and shook hands with Bhutto after her address.

A quote from that day:

To me, there is nothing more un-Islamic than discrimination, there is nothing more un-Islamic than discrimination and violence against women, and there is certainly nothing more un-Islamic than terrorism.

Tragically prophetic.

Posted by: Ted at 11:28 AM | category: History
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August 22, 2007

Audible History

I talked a while back about, and how I've been listening to a few different audiobooks while at work. So far, so great.

One I especially wanted to mention is Great Moments in History. By packaging memorable events in a modern "breaking news" format, you hear analysis of the action from various viewpoints, on-the-scene interviews, and an unfolding of the story that is rich in details that dry history books discard as superfluous.

For instance, during the description of the British surrender at Yorktown, we learn that French Admiral de Grasse, who was blockading the British from the sea and preventing reinforcements from landing, suffered from asthma to such an extent that he sent a deputy to the formal surrender ceremony. Similar details are given in every episode, from the trial and death of Socrates to Thermopylae to Hastings to Salem for the witch trials, and more. Altogether an extraordinary experience.

Highly, highly recommended.

Posted by: Ted at 07:52 PM | category: PDA Reviews
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One Ringy-Dingy, Two Ringy-Dingy...

Over at The Dangerous and Daring Blog for Boys and Girls, Victor has posted a nifty piece entitled: How People Lived: The Dial Telephone.

I love this part:

At midnight on Saturday, May 28, 1927, the city of Fresno was converting to dial telephones, so the phone company released this public service announcement to the local theaters, to teach people how to use that brand-new piece of equipment...the dial telephone.

He includes the link to an online archive video showing the PSA, which you can see by clicking the links above (and yes, I'm asking you to follow a link to a link just to drive more traffic to The Dangerous Blog. Neener neener). Well worth it.

Posted by: Ted at 05:17 AM | category: History
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July 30, 2007

Obviously Named Before Political Correctness Training Became Mandatory

I didn't know this. In 1954, President Eisenhower initiated Operation Wetback:

The operation began in California and Arizona and coordinated 1,075 Border Patrol agents along with state and local police agencies to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics.[1] Some 750 agents targeted agricultural areas with a goal of 1000 apprehensions a day. By the end of July, over 50,000 aliens were caught in the two states. Around 488,000 people fled the country for fear of being apprehended. By September, 80,000 had been taken into custody in Texas, and the INS estimates that 500,000-700,000 illegals had left Texas voluntarily. To discourage re-entry, buses and trains took many illegals deep within Mexico before being set free.

This was the second such operation, the first being during the Great Depression when Mexican nationals and other illegal aliens were "invited" to return to their native countries because they were competing for scarce jobs with American citizens.

Posted by: Ted at 05:15 AM | category: History
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March 09, 2007

Dredging Up A Little History

The Llama Butchers note that today is the anniversary of the battle between the Monitor and the Virginia (aka Merrimac). That rang a bell, faintly, and I recalled a post I made way back on the history of ironclads in the US Navy. There were more of them than you realize.

Posted by: Ted at 10:50 AM | category: Military
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October 28, 2006

Uncle Sam's Best Hockey Team

In 1942, shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters hockey club was born.

Brainstorm of Lieutenant Commander C. R. MacLean, a former player from Michigan and personnel officer at Curtis Bay Yards in Maryland, the Cutters played through the 1942-43 and 1943-44 seasons in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, considered to be one of the most competitive leagues of its time.

They also played a number of exhibition games and once, at Carlin's Iceland in Baltimore, their home ice, the Cutters went head-on against the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

The Cutters took two league championships in their brief history, and the team was broken up when the Coast Guard came under pressure because the guys were playing hockey when so many others were in combat.

Go read, and learn about a little-known bit of frozen history.

Posted by: Ted at 09:47 AM | category: History
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October 22, 2006

A Little History: Chapman's Mill

On the way to our monthly rocket launches, we would pass an old stone building just off the interstate (I-66, west of Manassas). Set back into some woods, the building was multi-storied but just a shell, lacking even a roof. We always wondered about it, but never took the time to take the next exit and backtrack to try to learn more.

Recently, we noticed some work being done on the old building, and there is now a sign posted that included a website address.

The building is known as Chapman's Mill. There's some fascinating history about the people and building itself, and here's a teaser:

Some other interesting facts about Nathaniel Chapman: He was the executor of both Augustine and Lawrence Washington's estates. His wife's mother was the half sister of Mary Ball Washington--Augustine Washington's second wife. His daughter Lucy, married Samuel Washington the brother of George Washington.

Augustine Washington was the father of the father of our country.

Head on over and get edjumacated.

Posted by: Ted at 02:44 PM | category: History
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September 27, 2006

Find Peace, Iva Toguri

Iva Toguri, age 90, passed away yesterday. You've heard of "Tokyo Rose", now read the tragic story of the woman falsely convicted of being an American traitor.

Thank you Q&O for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 06:59 PM | category: History
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September 14, 2006

Digging through the attic

Here's an animated US history lesson that I linked to back in September of 2003. It's still cool.

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June 19, 2006

Finding Fathers

Nancy Kenney was 2 years old when she last saw her father. He never returned from his final mission aboard the submarine USS Lagarto during WWII. The boat was lost with all hands in the Gulf of Thailand in May, 1945. The wreckage was rediscovered only last year.

Navy divers on Friday completed a six-day survey of the wreckage site. They took photos and video of the 311-foot, 9-inch submarine for further analysis by naval archeologists.

The divers found twin 5-inch gun mounts on the forward and rear parts of the ship - a feature believed to be unique to the Lagarto.

They also saw the word "Manitowoc" displayed on the submarine's propeller, providing a connection to the Manitowoc, Wis., shipyard that built the Lagarto in the 1940s.

Eighty-six sailors died when the Lagarto sank in May 1945. The Japanese minelayer Hatsutaka reported dropping depth charges and sinking a U.S. sub in the area, though it was never known what ship it destroyed.

Ms. Kenney is relieved and at peace, because after 60 years she now knows where her father rests.

The Navy considers the sea to be a proper final resting place for "our people who are killed in action," according to a Navy spokesman. The wreck will not be disturbed.

That's one heck of a Father's Day present.

Posted by: Ted at 04:22 PM | category: History
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March 18, 2006


Uncle Sam does, and he's had it for half a century now.

Happy 50th Birthday to the B52 Stratofortress
. One seriously bad mofo.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 07:22 PM | category: Links
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December 04, 2005

Last One Dancing

From the December 4, 2005 New York Times (sorry, no link):

The last of the Ziegfeld Girls is still dancing.

Doris Eaton Travis, Broadway's longest-running performer, is planning to waltz again at the New Amsterdam Theater for two nights in March. When the curtain
rises again at her old stomping grounds, Mrs. Travis will be 102.

The last of the Ziegfeld Follies girls, Doris Eaton Travis, 101, will dance again next year on Broadway. "The New Amsterdam is where I started," Mrs. Travis said recently from her ranch in Norman, Okla. "And that's where it looks like I'm going to finish."

doris eaton1.jpg

Mrs. Travis, the honorary president of the National Ziegfeld Club in New York, which raises money for indigent women in show business, was 14 when she became a member of the Ziegfeld Follies in 1918, joining a legion of long-legged lovelies in a variety show created by the impresario Florenz Ziegfeld. Along with two sisters and two brothers who also appeared in the Follies - which featured singers and comics as dancers and ran from 1907 until 1931, the year before Mr. Ziegfeld's death - Mrs. Travis worked the stage alongside stars like Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice and Will Rogers.

For the past eight years, she has returned to New York to help raise money for
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, dusting off old dance numbers like the swing trot and the black bottom before several thousand theatergoers who probably missed her opening act 87 years ago.

"Every year, she brings down the house," said Nils Hanson, administrator of the Ziegfeld Club. "She's the darling of Broadway, a New York treasure."

When Mrs. Travis first performed for Broadway Cares in 1998, she was joined by four other original Ziegfeld Girls, all of whom have since died.

Last month, when the former Ziegfeld dancer Dorothy Wegman Raphaelson died in Manhattan at 100, Mrs. Travis became the sole survivor of a bygone era of song and dance, when the Follies shared Broadway marquees with the likes of Fred and Adele Astaire and Bob Hope.

"It's a strange feeling to know that all of that is gone," she said. "It can get kind of lonely."

Mrs. Travis says that she is overcome by a sense of nostalgia whenever she steps onto her old stage. "I think back to all the beautiful people I danced with, all the beautiful numbers, hearing that wonderful applause," she said. "It was a beautiful era, and there hasn't been anything like it since."

Mrs. Travis remembers Mr. Ziegfeld as a man determined to "create an environment of beauty and grace," when putting together his Follies shows. "He would always scrutinize our costumes," she said. "He always wanted to make sure that there was nothing vulgar about the way we dressed, and that we were all a picture of elegance out there on stage."

Mrs. Travis and her siblings grew up in Washington and began their careers as child actors with Poli's Theater there. By 1913, before Mrs. Travis turned 10, she was performing at Poli's in front of huge Friday night audiences, which sometimes included President Woodrow Wilson. "The president loved coming to our theater," Mrs. Travis recalled. "During curtain calls, we would wave to him, and he would wave back at us."

After leaving New York in 1938, Mrs. Travis opened the first Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Detroit, building a successful chain of 18 of those studios throughout Michigan, which she operated for 30 years. In 1970, she moved to Norman to live on an 880-acre ranch with her husband, Paul Travis, who died two years ago. She continues to keep her spirits and her rhythm alive by teaching country-western dancing at a small club near her home.

"Listen now, some days I get up and I don't feel like doing the Charleston," she said. "But I still feel pretty good, and I still love to dance."

In 1992, at the age of 88, Mrs. Travis became the oldest student to graduate from the University of Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in history. Two years ago, she was the lead author of "Days We Danced: The Story of My Theatrical Family From Florenz Ziegfeld to Arthur Murray" (Marquand Books).

"It seems strange to me," she said, "that of everyone from that world, this old Follies Girl is the last one standing."

And the last one dancing.

There's a current photo of this amazing lady in the extended entry. more...

Posted by: Ted at 01:06 PM | category: History
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October 29, 2005

Tuskegee Airmen Vets Visit Namesake Unit in Iraq

This is awe-inspiring.

More than 60 years after the formation of a pioneering group of black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, three of its aging members visited their former unit in Balad, a city just north of Baghdad.

"This is the new Air Force, this is the Air Force that represents America, all of it. It is not an organization of African American pilots trying to break the segregation system - they have done it," Lt. Col. Lee Archer, 85, said Friday in a telephone interview from Balad, where the 332 Expeditionary Air Wing is based.

Col. Archer is America's first black Ace from World War II.

Archer, of New York City, said the new unit "reflects the entire image of America. In that dining room was everything that makes America what it is: black, white, Asian, Pacific islanders, people from different parts of Europe. This is what America is."

He was one of three original Tuskegee Airmen in Balad. Archer was accompanied by retired Tech. Sgt. George Watson Sr., 85, from New Jersey and Master Sgt. James A. Shepherd, 81, from Maine. The visit was arranged by Air Force officials to link the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen with a new generation.

Of the many things that the United States military does well, possibly the most underappreciated by the civilian world is how it quietly emphasizes the historical significance of the various units to it's warriors. You can bet that this reminder of the 332nd's beginnings has boosted morale even higher and subtly pointed out that the men and women in that unit have a mighty big legacy to live up to. By all accounts, they are.

Read more about the Tuskegee Airmen here.

Posted by: Ted at 07:35 AM | category: History
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October 06, 2005

I like cookies. I like history.

So you know I love this site full of the history of cookies!

Thanks to James at Starfighter's Model Blog for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:04 AM | category: History
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September 09, 2005

Historical Tidbit

Apparently Americans have a habit of vandalizing statues of those we consider tyrants. All the way back to July 9, 1776.

Later that night, American troops destroyed a bronze-lead statue of Great Britain's King George III that stood at the foot of Broadway on the Bowling Green [New York - RJ]. The statue was later molded into bullets for the American Army.

That's from an exhibit of the Declaration of Independence at the Library of Congress.

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August 23, 2005

Goodbye to Music Pioneer Robert Moog

He revolutionized electronic music. Rob over at Left & Right has more.

Posted by: Ted at 08:05 PM | category: History
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March 07, 2005

Mad Genius

Jack Parsons was one of the founding members of the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Prior to WWII, he was part of a group researching rocket propulsion.

Parsons, moreover, came up with the first "castable" rocket fuel (so called because it could be cast in a mold), replacing conventional black powder with an asphalt mix. This innovation made rocket fuel safer and easier to handle, and set the stage for the use of solid fuels by the space shuttle and other spacecraft in later decades.

He was also rather better known as a figure in the world of the occult.

Try a google on "Jack Parsons" for a whole slew of odd sites. For instance, there's Jack Parsons & the Curious Origins of the American Space Program or this Rotten Library entry on the man.

There are at least two biographies available from Amazon: Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons, and a newer one Strange Angel : The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons.

Via Transterrestrial Musings.

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March 04, 2005

Cue strings

Happy (327th) Birthday to composer Antonio Vivaldi.

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January 26, 2005

Wallops Island

Wallops Island is Virginia's designated Spaceport. It was named for John Wallop, a 17th-century surveyor who began patenting land on Virginia's eastern shore in the 1660's. In 1672 he received a Crown Patent of the 13-square-kilometer island from King Charles II, and in his will John Wallop referred to "my island formerly called Keeckotank." It was also known as Accocomoson or Occocomoson Island, but has borne the name "Wallops Island" for more than 260 years.

Source: "Origins of NASA Names" by Wells, Whiteley, and Karegeannes, NASA SP-4402, 1976

Posted by: Ted at 12:04 PM | category: Space Program
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January 20, 2005

Little Joe II

The Little Joe II series of rockets did for Apollo what the Little Joe I did for Mercury*.

From Rockets of the World:

In order to make the flight to the moon, the Apollo spacecraft was launched atop a six million pound tank of explosive liquids called the Saturn V.

Little Joe 2 liftoff

Once again, a Launch Escape System (LES) was fitted to the nose of the capsule to move the astronauts out of harms way during the boost phase, and the Little Joe II program was designed to test the LES.

At it's most basic level, the Little Joe II consisted of a series of structural rings covered by commercially available sheets of corrugated aluminum. Four fixed fins provided guidance, with additional control surfaces added on later flights.

The first Little Joe II flight took place in August, 1963 at White Sands missile range in New Mexico.

On the final test flight, as the rocket ascended it was intentionally sent into a wicked tumble before the LES was activated. It performed flawlessly, proving the system would work under worst-case conditions.

In all, just five Little Joe II flights were made. Studies were made to extend the program to test the Apollo Lunar Module, but the idea never went beyond wind-tunnel testing (the Little Joe II/LM stack proved dynamically unstable). There was even a proposal for an orbital version.

There are some really nice photos here at the Field Guide to American Spacecraft.

If you'd like to build a flyable model rocket version of the Little Joe II, JimZ has the original Estes plans available for free online.

*I've discovered some errors in the original post. Corrections have been made and noted.

Posted by: Ted at 11:40 AM | category: History
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