The Computer Age Turns 75

 

In February 1946, the first general-purpose electronic computer, the ENIA, was introduced to the public. Nothing like ENIAC had been seen before, and the unveiling of the computer, a room-filling machine with lots of flashing lights and switches–made quite an impact.

ENIAC (the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was created primarily to help with the trajectory-calculation problems for artillery shells and bombs, a problem that was requiring increasing numbers of people for manual computations. John Mauchly, a physics professor attending a summer session at the University of Pennsylvania, and J Presper Eckert, a 24-year-old grad student, proposed the machine after observing the work of the women (including Mauchly’s wife Mary) who had been hired to assist the Army with these calculations. The proposal made its way to the Army’s liason with Penn, and that officer, Lieutenant Herman Goldstine, took up the project’s cause. (Goldstine apparently heard about the proposal not via formal university channels but via a mutual friend, which is an interesting point in our present era of remote work.) Electronics had not previously been used for digital computing, and a lot of authorities thought an electromechanical machine would be a better and safer bet.

Canada single-handedly destroys the Alaska cruise industry

 

This week, Canada has contributed to the ruination of the Alaska cruise industry. Numerous cruise lines, including Princess, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Holland-America, Crystal, and Seabourn, cruise to Alaska from ports on the US West Coast, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Canada has now prohibited any cruise line from cruising in their waters, or landing at any of their ports, until the end of February 2022. That is a year from now. Not to mention, the ruination of the finances of the State of Alaska, which stands to lose over 800,000 passengers who shop and tour in Alaska from those cruise ships, and up to $800,000,000 of revenue from those passengers.

Canada also hosts other cruise lines on the US Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, and Atlantic Coast from ports in the US such as Detroit, Chicago, New York, and Boston. For the next year, cruise lines such as Victory and American Queen will not be able to run river cruises that touch any part of Canada. Just this week, we received in our mail fancy brochures from both of the above cruise lines, detailing their 2021 sailings, which will now have to be canceled.

The reason for all this destruction of economic value and livelihoods? Yes, it’s the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. Canada just could not allow itself to be invaded by all those infected tourists, who would, of course, spread the deadly virus to every Canadian citizen they encountered. “Public health” is now the accepted reason for millions of people all over the world being prevented from traveling, visiting their loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, eating out at a local restaurant, attending school or concerts, and celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families.

‘Tis the Season for Bad Christmas Music

 

The Christmas season brings with it holiday music: some quite good, some not so good, and some wonderfully bad. Every wave of popular music brings with it eventual Christmas singles or albums. Singing stars, and others, seem drawn like the wise men following the star. Consider a few examples, but do set your beverage down before listening, as some are inadvertently merry and bright.

We start, of course, with disco. At the tail end of the disco craze, you could expect orchestras to show they are with it. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra did not disappoint, recording a medley, “Hooked on Christmas” in 1981. The Universal Robot Band released “Disco Christmas” in 1977, straddling street cred and sentiment. Then there were the combined efforts of various session musicians and disco labels. Salsoul released the 1976 album whose cover art you see here. I think the Salsoul OrchestraChristmas Medley” is better than the philharmonic attempt. All of these are better than the perhaps earnest attempt by Charo: “Mamacita, Donde este Santa Clause.” Then there is the album by Mirror Image, a group of studio musicians, turned out Disco Noël with “Silver Bells” as you’ve never heard it before:

2020: Year of Conspiracies, Real and Imagined (Unpopular Opinions Contained Herein)

 

The word “unprecedented” is going to need to be replaced, don’t you think? At this point, it’s pretty much worn its welcome out with me. I could really stand to do with some good, old-fashioned precedent rather than the continuous string of horrors this year has served up.

But stressful times can have the effect of separating the wheat from the chaff, and this year is no exception. We’ve seen considerably greater quantities of chaff (such that my hide is chafed)this year, especially with regard to the emergence of bogey-men in the form of conspiracy theories. This may be unpopular, but this series (for which @westernchauvinist gets partial credit) is about airing your unpopular opinions in a sort of… annual vanity bonfire. And I’m burning with the desire to make myself unpopular.

R.I.P. Dave Prowse, Darth Vader

 

It remains one of my most thrilling visits to the movies. I had seen clips for this upcoming science fiction film, Star Wars, on Creature Features (in the San Francisco Bay Area, KTVU). I wasn’t impressed. It was just a little scene inside a space ship and that ape creature’s make-up wasn’t nearly as impressive as what was done for Planet of the Apes.

But our family took a vacation to see relatives in Colorado and one of my cousins told me I had to see this film. He had already bought the soundtrack album, which I thought was a rather strange thing to do, not knowing I’d soon do the same. Soon, I was sitting by him in a movie theater in Colorado Springs. As that John Williams surged, words drifted over my head and soon huge spaceships. I had never experienced anything like it. And I love it.

Soon the camera took us inside that rebel ship. It was being invaded. A huge masked man, all in black including a grand black cape boarded the ship. “Scary” didn’t begin to describe him. In the film, he was an underling to greater forces, but it was difficult to imagine who Darth Vader could possibly answer to. Who could be even more dreadful than this Sith Lord? When Vader escaped the explosion of the Death Star, it was frustrating and exciting. Multiple viewings of the film led to discussions with friends, “Will there be a sequel? Darth Vader has to come back.”

Welcome to 2030

 

This article was penned by a member of the Danish Parliament to promote discussion about just where we are headed.

To some, it’s a utopian goal … the desired endpoint of our current big tech, big government, Marxist cooperative. To others, it’s a totalitarian hell to be avoided at all costs. But it was published by the World Economic Forum, proponents of the “Great Reset.”

Is this where they really think we could end up? It seems amazingly economically naive for something put out by an economics organization. Free clean energy? Free telecommunications? Free … everything? Without some analog to the Philosopher’s Stone, scarcity will be with us always. And with it, nothing is free. Some method must exist to ration scarce goods. Prices, determined by the free choices of free people, seem to be the best way we know to do this. But it’s not the only way. All the others depend on varying degrees of authoritarian fiat. Surely the WEF knows this. So why pretend that there is a “free stuff” possible future? They certainly seem to know there is a downside to the “free stuff” future…

Nine Months as a Shingle Maker

 

I can’t resist @jameslileks‘s request for me to expand on my stint as a shingle maker.

Six years ago I was graduating college with a business degree and a seven-month pregnant wife. I had worked full-time at a local farm and home store throughout college but it wasn’t going to pay the bills once the little one showed up. Every day I’d check the job postings, applying for everything that would pay well enough and provide some sense of career opportunity. Numerous interviews and a few other offers but nothing quite like what I was needing or wanting.

1950s of the Future: Freedomland vs. Stepford Wives

 
Qu’elle Future!

When the 1950s and early 1960s are discussed by the retrospective experts of academia and PBS hush-toned documentaries, traditional families are generally portrayed as vehicles for an oppressive patriarchy. They are nothing more than little capsules of conformity; individual bulwarks against personal expression and freedom; a suppression of human nature and appetites.

Trapped in Fear

 

As I write this essay, I don’t even know if I’m going to post it. I only know my heart is aching and I can’t make the pain go away. It’s one thing to know that Americans are suffering due to their fear of Covid-19 and the propaganda that has been promoted throughout this country; it’s another to see a friend suffering from a fear that she is unwilling or unable to overcome.

I have known this woman for more than ten years. She is a Leftie. We learned a long time ago that there is no point in discussing politics. She is smart and sweet and is a down-to-earth person in so many ways. She developed a wonderful program to help children learn to read by bringing dogs into the learning process. And she’s been a good friend.

Reader sought

 

Ricochet has many very literate members, several authors, several editors.

For 12 years I have been working on a paper on the making of copies of baroque oboes in the United States, 1960-1995. The paper is nearly ready to send to a major musicology journal for review. It’s 15,000 words, 35 illustrations, 200 footnotes, most of these being citations.

“Say goodnight, Blue Eyes”: George Burns on Best Friends (Quote of the Day)

 

“So there I was, married to a woman who knew she loved me because I made her cry, and best friends with a hack violin player who thought it was hysterical when I hung up the phone on him.”-George Burns (1896-1996), Gracie: A Love Story 

The morning after Christmas of 1974, the hack violin player died. Ten years earlier, the pixie-like Catholic girl cried for her Jewish husband who had died suddenly of a heart attack, and that same hack violinist had held his best friend’s arm through the long funeral service, stopping only to carry the girl’s coffin. It had been a long fifty-five years. 

Minneapolis Isn’t Lost – Yet

 

WalgreensIt’s an odd thing to see your city on the news night after night. I suppose those living in New York City, Washington DC, or Los Angeles hardly bat an eye at the attention, but for Minneapolis it’s been surreal. Those of us in the Twin Cities have a sort of little-brother complex – always chasing the coattails of other, bigger cities, like Chicago or New York, trying to elbow our way into relevancy. Now in the summer of 2020, we have our moment. And it’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be.

The initial riots and violence in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death engulfed the city like a blowtorch. But there is still a city here, with people struggling to survive, to pick up the pieces of their neighborhoods, to find hope in the ashes of their reality. There is a fight to save a city – once at the threshold of vibrancy and decency and opportunity – now at the edge of the morass.

Once the fires in the streets receded to smoldering embers, the national news outlets chased the rioters to the next blazing city. But when they left, other groups were quick to take advantage of our wounded city. Citizens were angry. Angry at leaders who utterly failed at everything except casting blame at each other, and of course, Trump. Angry at suffering economic ruin after months of state-mandated shutdowns, immediately followed by unopposed, violent rioters and looters. Angry at civic institutions that failed to protect lives and property. All the anger provided the perfect opportunity for groups marching under the flag of justice to step in and promised solutions – and radical change.

The T-shirt

 

“A woman does not have to be modest in order to be respected.”

This is a quote from a T-shirt worn by an otherwise scantily clad female model in a magazine.

Fauci’s Farcical Facemask Follies

 

Full disclosure: I’m a mask skeptic. A mask denier. I am not, though, a mask refuser. If a business establishment puts up a sign that says “mask required” or, better, “please wear a mask,” I’ll do it without too much grousing ’cause that’s me, I’m a giver. I carry and, as required, wear a mask for the same reason I carry a leash when I walk my German Shepherd Dog. I don’t need the accouterment in either case, but if I can prevent anyone feeling ill at ease with my actions, I will. Did I mention yet that I’m a giver? Yeah? Okay, drivin’ on.

As we’ve navigated this pandemic, I’ve seen indicators and warnings (term of art, in my previous life) that we’re all getting played across the board by this pandemic reaction and mitigation efforts. What I am saying is not that there should be no mitigation or protection efforts. I’ve stated my preferences of the start point for protecting the vulnerable before, and early on in this grift.

On Hagia Sophia and Spiritual Reclamation

 
Hagia Sophia without the minarets

As of Friday, July 24, 2020, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has been put back into active use as a mosque. As a Christian, I of course mourn this deeply. As a historian, however, the move does not surprise me. Many are the religious sites around the world today that were once worship sites for other deities, for other peoples, and for other mysteries, some barbaric. That historian in me says we should temper our outrage that the conquerors of a land would choose to make what use of that land that they will, for we have done the same ourselves. We should be wary of venting too much indignation over the status of a building lost ere Columbus sailed the ocean-blue and started a chain of losses for the peoples who once dwelt where we now live. In a way, Erdogan was right in his contempt for a foreign opinion on this matter; the Turks rule the roost in Turkey (would that Turkey respected others’ borders and rights as vehemently as he demands for his own country, however, as Cyprus, Syria, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Greece can all attest).

American Architectural Geography: Part 1, Timing

 

Last winter, Ricochet’s own @thelostdutchman published a great series about Pennsylvania political geography. Being something of a geography geek myself (the map-loving kind, not the critical-theory-spouting kind), I thought I’d try my hand at writing something a tad less detailed and a tad more ambitious — a brief description of American architectural geography.

Finding data which says something meaningful about architecture is not an easy task, perhaps because architecture is an art, and art isn’t quantifiable. But, still, the statistical gods have smiled upon us Americans. In 1940, the Census Bureau decided, for the first time, to ask detailed questions about American housing. As the libertarians winced, homeowners and renters filled out a questionnaire inquiring about such subjects as property values, housing size, mechanical systems (like heating, plumbing, and electricity), and, best of all, housing age. The data is aggregated by county and city (and farm and non-farm), and it’s organized, roughly, by decade — with a category for houses built before 1860, one for houses built in the 1860s and 1870s, one for houses built in the 1880s, and so on. This means that the interested obsessive (like me) can gain some understanding of any one county’s architectural chronology. Is the data accurate? Not entirely. Self-reported data is seldom accurate. But it’s accurate enough to show trends. I’ve done plenty of spot-checking, and the data usually aligns with what I’ve observed. The picture it paints is a meaningful one.

Bullsh*t words/expressions that have got to go! 2020 Edition

 

Bullsh*t, non-English expressions that make people irredeemable to me as soon as they use one. Their original English language meanings have been distorted beyond recognition, and in many cases they now exude that unctuous quality that Our Overlords use to conceal their insidious totalitarianism.

No free thinker as defined as such in 2020 should ever use these cringeworthy expressions. They belong to the mob.

The Space Between 9/11 and Year Zero

 
911
The aftermath of 9/11 in New York City

The terror attack on September 11, 2001, was undoubtedly the transformative event of my youth and shapes my worldview as an adult. Now we bear witness to the next generation’s defining moment: an unprecedented national lockdown and social upheaval. Like 9/11, the mindset of the people who live through it reflects both the environment of what came before and the reaction to everything that comes after. There haven’t been straight lines drawn between 9/11 and the current cultural, social, and political chaos that is occurring in America now. Rather we’re living in a pendulum that those in power would rather see blasted off-course into the heavens than swing back to a state of balance between natural rights, freedom of thought, liberty, and law and order.

RIP Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben

 

It is with great sadness that we come together today to mourn the deaths of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. Born in 1889, Aunt Jemima spent her life providing delicious breakfasts for everyone she came into contact with. Since his birth in the late 1940s, Uncle Ben did the same for lunch and dinner. Sadly, their lives have come to end this year in an effort to make amends for their racist pasts. Meals will never be the same.

In related news, Mrs. Butterworth is reported to be on life support. Only 59 years old, she may not be long for this world either. (Old commercials available for viewing under the “About Us” tab at the first link.)

On a more serious note, how in the world is removing well-known African American icons/logos from the public sphere supposed to make anything more equal for the African-American community? Doesn’t removing them just make the field that more unbalanced for them? It’s like the looting and rioting that’s been taking place recently. Things aren’t fair for African Americans! What can we do about it? Destroy the communities in which many of them live and do business! Yeah!

Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Knitting Wars

 

Greetings fellow Ricochetti knitters (you know who you are). I just got fired from KnitCamp!

It’s a knitting community I joined only about a week ago, at the enthusiastic suggestion of my sister (former Lefty, now not-so-much) who really enjoyed it because the woman who ran it hadn’t gone woke and/or wasn’t bullying her customers about such matters. When I checked her website myself, I found that she did have an “all are welcome here because diversity” statement, but it was quite lovely, and not at all out of bounds.

My sister had found the site, and KnitCamp to be free of the “smell-me” politics that infect so much of the online knitting presence these days. It’s a fee-based membership, and the members support each other, and the lady who runs it (Marie Greene, an apparently lovely woman with a serious “Doris Day” vibe), creates and sells beautiful, well-fitting patterns, and works hard at this. One of the features of Knit Camp is the “knit-a-longs,” a phrase that will be familiar to knitters, where a group selects or is presented with a particular pattern, people sign up to knit it, and with regular (in this case, virtual) meetings, support, and encouragement, people find out that they can do much more than they thought they could do alone. Who knew?

Member Post

 

This is my first post ;-). My 24-year-old daughter has been sheltering with us since mid-March when she left the northeast. She’s been working from home (south) and she and her boyfriend are steeped in the narrative that we’re all gonna die since the “hick” states are slowly coming out of lock down. Preview Open

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