Jan 27th, 2009 Posted in currents, history | no comment »

The inauguration was, to say the least, quite an experience.  There was the standing on the mall for 6 hours in subfreezing temperatures with a couple of million of our closest friends… the random appearance of Samuel L. Jackson… the crowd spontaneously breaking out into chants of “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” when W appeared on the Jumbotron, and the silence followed by cheers as the oath was administered (more or less, courtesy of the Chief Justice).  Then came the inaugural ball, with appearances by both the Obamas and the Bidens.  And of course, the trusty camera was there for it all.

close calls

Dec 13th, 2008 Posted in history | no comment »

Everyone knows that if 267 people in Florida had voted differently, Al Gore would have won the 2000 presidential election.  But what about other years?  Here’s a site that answers the general question, “How few people (and in what states) would have needed to vote differently to change the outcome of each election?”  (In 2008, the answer was 445,912 people in seven states.)

community of opportunity

May 27th, 2008 Posted in history | no comment »

Last weekend I visited the Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park in California’s Central Valley. The park is on the site of Allensworth, a town founded 100 years ago by Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other African American pioneers. Their mission was to create a self-sustaining community where African Americans could build better lives for themselves. A dwindling water supply, diversion of railroad activity to a neighboring town, and the defeat in the State Legislature of a Tuskegee-inspired vocational school envisioned for Allensworth led to the town’s decline, but fortunately its legacy lives on. Here are photos I took during my visit.

first sounds

Mar 29th, 2008 Posted in history, tech | no comment »

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have succeeded in playing back the first known sound recording, made in 1860 by a Parisian named Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. What’s interesting is that the sound waves (of a woman singing) were actually recorded on paper, and the LBNL scientists were able to convert the graphical waveforms back into audio.

a date that will live in infamy ;-)

Mar 12th, 2008 Posted in history | no comment »

My birthday was on March 1. Leafing through an “on this day” type history book in a bookstore (and later Wikipedia), I discovered that some interesting things happened on one March 1 or another. The two that caught my eye were the Battle of Adwa in 1896 (a rare instance of an African country, Ethiopia, defeating a would-be colonizer, Italy) and Pennsylvania becoming the first state to abolish slavery in 1780. Other things that were interesting were the founding of Rio de Janeiro (1565), the beginning of the Salem witch trials (1692), the admission of Ohio (1803) and Nebraska (1867) to the Union, the establishment of Yellowstone National Park (1872), and the completion of the Hoover Dam (1936).