I recently made a visit was to the Computer History Museumin the heart of Silicon Valley, and learned some surprising facts about computers, going back to ancient Greece. What surprised me is that electronic computers didn’t suddenly appear in the 1940s with ENIAC, but had their germination in 1890 with the first widespread use of punch cards. And that was also the really beginning of IBM.
Learn about the origins of MP3 music files, and the song from ground zero – and many other things! Know how the term “counter” became applied to the kitchen?
One of the main reasons I came to admire Carroll “Lex” LeFon was his intellectual curiosity. He had a quality that, let’s be honest, one has to try and nurture. It’s too easy to “pick your side” and then find fault with anyone holding a different view.
Particularly in these politically-charged days.
I believe it has to come down to a respect for others. Not putting oneself first above everything.
I learned most of what I know about naval aviation thanks to Lex. He wrote some of the funniest stories I’ve read, and some of the most instructive.
But his real core was more than funny and instructive stories.
Many of his “posts” were of such a nature that to call them “blog posts” does him a disservice. They are more on the essay side of the scale.
If I had to pick one essay of his that exemplified him, this is the one. He picks one of the ugliest things one person could do to another, and asks the reader of that revulsion that most of us would have – does it come from a conscience given by God, or is it more secular in origin?
“Religious/philosophical discussion follows. Those who don’t like that sort of thing, or aren’t capable of joining it in a civil fashion are encouraged to seek their entertainment elsewhere.”
He was genuinely curious about the beliefs of all.
One of his “best friends he never met” was a journalist from the UK, of which “they agreed on virtually nothing“. But they respected each other and were curious about the other’s beliefs.
Although I never met him, nor even had an Internet conversation with him, I have come to believe that if he had been surrounded with readers who simply agreed with him, he would have become bored quickly and Neptunus Lex would probably have slipped back into anonymity in Sandy Eggo way before 9 years.
With the announcement that this September will mark the end of the nearly 60 years of the Reno Air Races, I thought I would mention my experiences there over the years.
I’ve written about some of those experiences here, here, and here.
I started going there in the late 70s, a 2.5 hour jaunt up I-80 from Sacramento. Then (if you were lucky) no wait heading north from Reno a few miles along US 395 to Stead Field. For many years I used to make it an annual pilgrimage. I’m a bit embarrassed to say in later years I got a bit jaded wondering if “this year” I would see something new and exciting. Of course, then I realized that what I was seeing, after the great air race venues of the 30s, was probably the last of its kind.
It was all the more remarkable by the huge increase in the value of these old warplanes. I believe that the top prize for the Gold Division – the Unlimiteds – was something like $100,000? Which was huge in 1964, its first year, when one could buy a Mustang for $10,000 and go racin’. Now with fewer than 100 airworthy Mustangs, with the value of the remainder worth in the millions, even winning wouldn’t cover the expenses I would think.
Those who did race did it because of the love of the race and they were very wealthy.
There are times when I have seen a movie years ago, and then when re-viewing it years later, see it with a new appreciation. American Graffiti is one of those movies. It helped that I recently saw this program on YouTube, The Making of American Graffiti.
It was only director George Lucas’ second movie, and he had a terrible time just convincing the studio to make it. They balked, and only until he got Francis Coppola on board. Coppola had just finished making what would be known as one of the best films in history. And he and producer Albert Ruddy had their own trials in making that movie.
Lucas hired young actors who in time would become famous in their own right, and when he was done after only a month or so of filming, Universal Studios didn’t know what to do with it. As Lucas explained in the documentary it was pioneering in several aspects. I’ll let you watch the documentary for that. And he made that entire movie for the unbelievable sum of $700,000 or so. He said in the documentary that if you had invested in that movie it would have had one of the most profitable returns in movie history.
A search detailing my quest to find a replacement for a small plastic part on my 27 year old Mercedes-Benz. I learned some interesting things along the way. Since I posted a few pictures, and we are running low on space, it is over at Chicago Boyz.
I was a professional programmer from 1980 to 2006. I have a friend who programmed even longer, and from time to time, we like to reminisce on how some of the mightiest High-Tech companies have fallen.
They were proud, multi-billion-dollar companies.
Lotus 1-2-3, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, Digital Equipment are but a few that have fallen. A frequent commenter on chicagoboyz who retired as a renowned and published surgeon, worked for Sears as a summer job many years ago. He made the point that if someone at Sears had the foresight and put their famous catalog on the Net back in the 90s, perhaps they would have been where Amazon is today, and not dying a slow and painful death.
Even I have been guilty of that lack of foresight. When Google decided to buy YouTube for $1.65 Billion, I couldn’t understand the rationale. I thought they were nuts. After all, who cares about a service that will publish any jerky and amateur video the uploader desires? What do I know?
Today I was doing my usual walk in the neighborhood, and I turned down my adjacent street, as usual. Some years ago, when I had dogs, I would usually stop at the house nearest the river and talk with Margaret, an elderly widow. We’d sit outside and the subjects ranged far and wide.
She’d talk about occasionally seeing the ghost of her husband in the house. Was he checking up on her?
Another thing I learned from her was the surprising number of people who have lived on this street since the homes were new.
Normally with our California suburbs growing like weeds, that wouldn’t be a surprise, but these homes were built in the mid-50s. And another surprising thing – many people up and down this street – about 1/4 mile long, know each other.
In many suburbs, many neighbors know very little of each other. Nor do they want to.
So this morning, I turn the corner and I see this woman, obviously advanced in years, on all 4s pulling weeds in the lawn.
From time to time, I’ve liked to post some memories of those whom I’ve come across during life. I had a neighbor who was a character – I seem to gravitate towards characters – people who like to carve their own path through life instead of blindly following the paths of others. And I thought that most of the time, these “snapshots” – memories held and cherished to be occasionally revisited by the owners, leave us when the owner leaves us, never to be known by others.
Several of these friends, in telling me their stories, had me at the time believing silently that it was “hyperbole”. My neighbor was telling me that he enlisted in the Marines when he was 16 during WW2 (there were a few who did that). He was at Tarawa and Saipan. Then after WW2, recalled to Korea where he was one of the “Frozen Chosin”. I thought this was hyperbole, until he invited me to a Chosin Reunion. There were a couple of Army guys there too. He liked to remind me that it took a Marine General who took the place of the Army General to finally get them out and not be slaughtered by the vastly bigger invading Chinese force.
He would tell me things that one who lived by lies about service would not say. They are always about their “heroism” and made up units.
Tonight, on New Year’s Eve, the power went out in my neighborhood. After an hour of moving around in my dark house with my flashlight – with various electrical devices beeping – I decided to drive the 15 miles to my favorite movie theater and see a recommended movie – Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
It followed – from what I know of her – fairly close to her life. A start, as with many black singers, in church singing to a discovery by a top record executive and then a rocket flight to fame and fantastic wealth – and then because of turmoil in her personal life, a plummet. A turmoil brought, in large part, by the fantastic wealth that was coming in.
I suspect had Whitney simply stayed singing in church all of this Sturm und Drang – and her eventual death from drowning in her bathtub from drugs – would have not been on the timeline.
I’ve never needed much of an excuse for a Road Trip. Some years ago, when my niece decided to get married in Minneapolis, my family was making plane reservations while I was planning a road trip.
My late mother, who was never reticent in expressing her opinion, told me on more than one occasion, “Bill! I’m not going say anything more, but I think you are a damned fool for taking that old car to Minnesota! “
Stubbornness has always run in my family, for better or worse.
That old car, a (then) 20 year old Mercedes-Benz 300E, turned 300,000 miles on I-80 near Rawlins WY and later ferried my plane-bound family all over Minneapolis to various functions. Not that I would take any 20 year old car with 300,000 miles across the country. But for the (then) 10 years of my ownership, I knew what was replaced and knew the status of all critical systems, and in the vernacular of 60s NASA astronauts, it was “A-OK”.