Tag Archives: history

Kukla, Fran and Ollie – Here We Are Again

A evening pause: Hat tip Jim Mallamace, who writes, “Before there was Shari Lewis; before there were the Muppets, there was Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. An American television staple from 1947 – 1957, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie demonstrated there would be as large an adult audience for puppetry as there was a child audience. Burr Tillstrom voiced all the puppets. Fran Allison was the host. In this video, they sing their theme song ‘Here We Are Again.'”

Do a quick search on youtube and you can find clips of them singing songs from things like The Mikado and doing satire on television advertising. As primitive as it might seem when compared to modern television, this was a children’s show with a whiff of sophistication.

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Wernher von Braun material up for auction

Original material by Wernher von Braun that formed the basis for three classic 1950s coffee table books about the future of space is up for auction.

A collection of some of the most important seminal documents of the Space Age are open for bids as rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun’s “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” archive goes on the block. A collection of signed technical drawings, schematics, memos, orbital diagrams, and mathematical calculations related to von Braun’s efforts to sell an ambitious space program to both the American public and the US government, it’s the centerpiece of the Space and Aviation Auction at Boston-based RR Auction through April 19.

On March 22, 1952, the American weekly feature magazine Collier’s hit the newsstands. Among its usual mixture of advertisements and articles was the first of a series of features that would run for the next two years. These seemed like the wildest science fiction at the time, but would become established fact within a surprisingly few years. The series was called “Man Will Conquer Space Soon” and included painstakingly detailed color illustrations by magazine artists Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep. It outlined a complete program for building an unmanned satellite, a manned space shuttle, a space station, an expedition to set up an outpost on the Moon, and topped it off with the conquest of Mars.

Later compiled into and expanded by three coffee table books – Across the Space Frontier (1952), Conquest of the Moon (1953), and The Exploration of Mars (1956) – the series was the brainchild of Wernher von Braun, one of the great rocket pioneers of the 20th century. He was the man behind Germany’s V2 rocket, and architect of the Saturn V booster that would send the first men to the Moon on the Apollo missions.

Those coffee table books are three of my most prized books in my somewhat large library. Anyone who was involved in the 1960s space race read them. When I was old enough to read I found them in my local library. They formed the basis of Disney movies, television shows, and rides at Disneyland. Other Hollywood productions were influenced by them. And most important of all, young men like Jim Lovell were influenced by them, making them want to be astronauts.

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Jimi Hendrix On An Acoustic Guitar

An evening pause: There are two clips, with the second beginning at 4:37. This is I think more interesting than good. The first clip is well shot, but it clearly is an unfinished music video because Hendrix himself I think was unsatisfied with his performance. The second is better performed, as it is a improvised performance at what appears to be a party. Regardless, they are worth watching because even when he played below par you can see he is playing at a level above most.

Hat tip Michael Nelson.

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R.I.P. Ed Charles

Ed “Glider” Charles, the third basemen for 1969 Miracle Mets of New York, has passed away at 84.

Few today will know his name. No matter. Charles was a poet, a kind soul, a leader of men, and a fine athlete. From the article:

The Mets released a statement on the Glider’s passing. “Ed Charles, our beloved Glider and Poet Laureate of the 1969 Mets, was one of the kindest and warmest people ever to be a Met. His essays and poems inspired his teammates to the improbable World Series championship. With Jackie Robinson as his role model, Ed perpetuated a legacy of making a positive impact on other people’s lives. Everyone at the Mets are sending condolences, thoughts and prayers to Ed’s longtime companion Lavonnie Brinkley, his two sons Edwin and Eric, sister Virginia Charles and brother Elder.”

For those who lived and watched the incredible, now almost unbelievable miracle that produced the 1969 World Champion New York Mets, Ed Charles is a person who will never be forgotten.

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University of Chicago to cease support of Yerkes in October 2018

The University of Chicago announced today that it will cease all support of the Yerkes Observatory, home of the world’s largest refractive telescope, in October 2018.

The University of Chicago has announced plans to wind down its activities at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis., over the next six months and to formally cease on-site operations by Oct. 1, 2018.

The upcoming summer season will therefore be the final season of University activities at Yerkes. The University is announcing the plans well in advance in order to engage with Yerkes staff and nearby communities, including the village of Williams Bay, in considering long-term plans for the property.

The telescope is no longer useful for scientific research, but it is historically important, and as the press release admits, “has continued to make important contributions through its education and outreach programs.” And while I can understand their decision, they sure didn’t leave the staff at Yerkes much time to find new backers. When the National Science Foundation decided it was dropping support for its telescopes at Kitt Peak, it gave them literally several years to round up new support.

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America’s first space weatherman gets to say “Go!” again

John Meisenheimer, the launch weather officer who gave the go-ahead for the first successful American satellite launch, Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958, was honored at the 60th anniversary of that first launch by having him to give the go-ahead for GovSat 1, launched on January 31, 2018.

The story is very touching, especially because Meisenheimer had scrubbed the Explorer 1 launch twice previously because he did not trust the weather. In 1958 he alone had that power, and no one questioned it. When the rocket flew, it was because he had decided the weather was no longer an issue.

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Abraham Lincoln – a tribute on his birthday

An evening pause: It is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It is time to once again repost this Lincoln tribute. As I have said previously, it is necessary we remember again the amazing good will he repeatedly expressed, even to those who hated him and wished to kill him. As I said in 2015:

We should also remind ourselves, especially in this time of increasing anger, bigotry, and violence, of these words from his second inaugural address, spoken in the final days of a violent war that had pitted brother against brother in order to set other men free:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

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San Francisco area #1 in nation for fleeing residents

Fleeing the communist state: The San Francisco area is now #1 in the nation in the number of residents fleeing for more hospitable regions.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s own study of the out-migration says workers are moving to Sacramento, Austin, and Portland due to a number of factors. But topping the list is the high cost of housing. “You can’t even contemplate getting into the housing market here,” Hancock said. “And I don’t mean just service workers, but highly skilled professionals. The tech elite are having a hard time affording reasonable housing in Silicon Valley. That makes it difficult for employers to recruit.”

The article however also cites the politics of the region.

Dabak cites crowding, crime and politics as the reasons for her own exodus. “We don’t like it here anymore. You know, we don’t like this sanctuary state status and just the politics,” she said. She plans to sell her home for about $1 million, buy a much larger place near Nashville for less than half that and retire closer to family and friends.

I am reminded of East Germany in the 1950s. Ruled by the Soviets and the communists they installed (whom today we might call radical leftists), it became the only western nation in the world that had a shrinking population, mostly because of the vast numbers of residents that were fleeing to West Germany, where they were free to make a living as they wished. In East Germany’s communist state they were poor and oppressed. In West Germany’s capitalist state they could be prosperous and free.

To solve this problem, Khrushchev built a wall between East and West Germany, to imprison his citizens. When they continued to flee, using the loophole that existed in Berlin (with half its territory controlled by the western Allies), he then built a wall through the middle of the city. It stopped the population loss, while making the residents of his communist bloc prisoners.

What will the leftist radicals who now run California do? As people flee their bankrupt state, will they then decide to build a wall to keep people in? I wonder.

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The Falcon Heavy vs the Saturn 5

As SpaceX prepares for what it hopes will be the first static fire test of its Falcon Heavy rocket today, this article provides a nice detailed comparison between the new heavy lift rocket and the Saturn 5, the biggest rocket ever built and successfully launched.

But where the Falcon Heavy comes out ahead is in economy. The estimated cost of a Saturn V launch in today’s dollars is a whopping US$1.16 billion. Meanwhile, the upper estimate for Falcon heavy is US$90 million. That’s million with an “M.”

So, which rocket comes out ahead? In terms of sheer numbers, the Saturn V wins hands down, but the contest is a bit unfair. Saturn V was a Cold War project with a main objective to put a man on the Moon as part of the struggle to prove the superiority of the Free World over the Soviet Union. It was a cost-is-no-object machine intended to win a bloodless battle for world supremacy.

Falcon Heavy, on the other hand, is a business venture. Its job is to make a profit for SpaceX’s investors and its development always had one eye on the ledger at all times. Its design is different, its function is different. To compare it with the Saturn V is a bit like comparing a nuclear strike carrier with the Queen Mary 2. Beyond a certain point, the exercise becomes meaningless.

Read it all. The comparison is quite fun, especially if you are an American and proud of our country’s history in space. To date, no one has built a rocket that truly compares with the Saturn 5. And now, today, an American company is proving that such rockets can be built in the future, for an affordable price.

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An illicit visit to two abandoned Soviet space shuttles

An evening pause: Hat tip John Harman. This video has been around for awhile, but I hadn’t ever actually watched it until now. What it shows is very cool, but sad in so many ways. As a government project the whole Soviet space shuttle program was generally a dead end waste of resources (as was our own shuttle). Yet, it was possibly one of Soviet Russia’s greatest technological achievements — which they have allowed to rot away in these abandoned hangers, rather than opening them up for their citizens to see and admire and learn from.

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R.I.P. John Young 1930-2018

John Young, the ninth man to walk on the Moon and the only man to fly a Gemini capsule, an Apollo capsule, and the space shuttle, passed away yesterday at the age of 87.

Young was the only spaceman to span NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs, and became the first person to rocket away from Earth six times. Counting his takeoff from the moon in 1972 as commander of Apollo 16, his blastoff tally stood at seven, for decades a world record.

He flew twice during the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s, twice to the moon during NASA’s Apollo program, and twice more aboard the new space shuttle Columbia in the early 1980s.

His NASA career lasted 42 years, longer than any other astronaut’s, and he was revered among his peers for his dogged dedication to keeping crews safe — and his outspokenness in challenging the space agency’s status quo.

Young captained the first shuttle Gemini flight and the first space shuttle flight, and also flew twice to the Moon, landing once.

God speed.

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Two for a Penny – The Grapes of Wrath

An evening pause: To help start out a new year, a scene from the 1940 John Ford classic, The Grapes of Wrath, based on John Steinbeck’s novel. While the movie tended to make government a saintly hero, which bothered me from the first time I saw it, it also captured the heart and generosity of the American spirit, as certainly existed in the previous century. Even if you are poor and desperate, if you insist on paying your fair share and don’t ask for a hand out, Americans immediately rally around you, in a quiet unassuming way, without wishing credit or accolades.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette.

Note that I am in need of suggestions for evening pauses. If you have made suggestions before, you know where to send them. If you haven’t and want to, leave a comment here and I will email you. Don’t include the link to the pause, however, as I want to schedule it, and that will blow the punchline.

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R.I.P. Rose Marie

Rose Marie, best known for her role on the Dick Van Dyke show in the 1960s, has passed away at 94.

Diane and I recently rewatched the entire Dick Van Dyke show, and they come off as fresh and as funny as when they were made more than a half century ago. If you want to see adult comedy at its best, not the modern obscene and shallow adolescent humor that dominates today’s culture, you must see this show.

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Scientists catch a big volcano eruption on Io

Scientists reviewing twenty year old data from the Galileo orbiter that studied Jupiter and its moons in the 1990s have identified the most intense volcanic eruption yet found on Io.

While looking through the NIMS temperature data, Davies and his colleagues spotted a brief but intense moment of high temperatures that cooled oddly quickly. This signal showed up as a spike in heat from a region in the southern hemisphere called Marduk Fluctus. First, the researchers saw a heat signal jump to 4–10 times higher than background, or relatively normal, levels. Then just a minute later, the signal dropped about 20%. Another minute later, the signal dropped another 75%. Twenty-three minutes later, the signal had plummeted to the equivalent of the background levels.

This signature resembled nothing Davies had seen before from Io. The lava flows and lava lakes are familiar: Their heat signals peter out slowly because as the surface of a lava flow cools, it creates a protective barrier of solid rock over a mushy, molten inside. Heat from magma underneath conducts through this newly formed crust and radiates from Io’s surface as it cools, which can take quite a long time.

This new heat signature, on the other hand, represents a process never before seen on Io, Davies said: something intense, powerful, and—most important—fast.

There’s only one likely explanation for what the instruments saw, explained Davies, whose volcanic expertise starts here on Earth. Large, violent eruptions like those seen at Stromboli are capable of spewing huge masses of tiny particles into the air, which cool quickly.

The article makes it sound like we’ve never seen this kind of eruption on Io before, which isn’t really true. Such eruptions have been imaged, but this is the first time that infrared data of their temperature spike was captured, thus confirming its nature.

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Ringo Starr to be knighted

Ringo Starr, who grew up in the poorest of situations and was so sickly that he ended up getting almost no education, will be knighted by the Queen of England in the coming year.

The article paints a great picture of Starr, who always came off as the nicest and most endearing Beatle, and whose abilities on the drums in many ways cemented the band’s musical style. What makes my heart sing about this story however was how it demonstrates that it is still possible in the English-speaking world to come from nothing and rise to greatness. Starr’s poor background could have led to any number of bad ends, but he instead chose to play drums, and ended up helping to change the world’s musical culture.

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Benjamin Shapiro – Theme from Schindler’s List

An evening pause: Performed live in 1996, when Shapiro was twelve years old. Note that this is that Ben Shapiro, the orthodox Jew and well-known conservative columnist whom leftists ignorantly love to call a Jew-hater and white supremacist. How they come to that conclusion can only be because they are willfully ignorant or so filled with hate and their ideology that they can’t look at reality with any honesty.

I think, during this holiday season, it is wise to also reflect on humanity’s tragic failures, one of the worst of which was the Holocaust during World War II.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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A spot on Mars, as seen by different orbiters over the past half century

Mars as seen over the past half century

The science team of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have assembled a collection of images of the same location on Mars that were taken by different Martian orbiters, beginning with the first fly-by by Mariner 4 in 1965 and ending with MRO’s HiRise camera. The image on the right, reduced in resolution to post here, shows these images superimposed on that location, with resolutions ranging from 1.25 kilometers per pixel (Mariner 4) down to 50 meters per pixel (MRO).

This mosaic essentially captures the technological history of the first half century of space exploration in a single image. Mariner 4 was only able to take 22 fuzzy pictures during its fly-by. Today’s orbiters take thousands and thousands, with resolutions so sharp they can often identify small rocks and boulders.

The mosaic also illustrates well the uncertainty of science. When Mariner 4 took the first pictures some scientists thought that there might be artificially built canals on Mars. Instead, the probe showed a dead cratered world much like the Moon. Later images proved that conclusion to be wrong as well, with today’s images showing Mars to be a very complex and active world, with a geological history both baffling and dynamic. Even now, after a half century of improved observations, we still are unsure whether life there once existed, or even if exists today.

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