An Anniversary

One thing I hate about having a website is that I often miss big anniversaries. If an upcoming date is 75th anniversary of broadcast TV, or the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, you can bet I’ll find out about it two or three days after the fact, thus missing a chance to commemorate it on my site. Heck, the Steelers win in last year’s Super Bowl made me forget the 30th anniversary of Sid Vicious’ death, something I had been counting down for years!

So this time I won’t forget: today marks the 65th anniversary of the Allies’ bombing of Dresden in World War II.

After the atomic bombing of Japan, the bombing of Dresden is considered one of the Allies’ most controversial actions during the war. Although Dresden was a manufacturing and communications center for Nazi Germany, the Allies didn’t bother bombing the city’s suburbs, where such manufacturing took place. Instead they bombed the city center, allegedly in hopes of disrupting both communications and to cause panic and confusion amongst refugees – something the Brits learned for themselves when the Germans bombed Coventry (contrary to popular belief, Churchill and other British leaders didn’t let Coventry get bombed so as to prevent the Germans from finding out that the Allies had broken their Enigma machines; while the British knew from decrypted Enigma traffic that the German bombers were coming, they had no idea what their target was. Churchill himself thought it was London, not Coventry).

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Saturday’s Random Stuff

A lot of this stuff has been building up over the past few days, and much of it isn’t even news:

– English supermarket chain Waitrose recently unveiled a new “super deluxe” brand of toilet paper… that has cashmere in it!

– Contrary to popular belief, Henry VIII didn’t kill all (or even most) of his wives. He famously divorced Katherine of Aragon. He then executed Anne Boleyn on very flimsy grounds. Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to his only son. He annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves, as he found her incredibly ugly. He executed Kathryn Howard (who, unlike Anne, really was having affairs with just about everyone behind his back). He was then survived by Katherine Parr. An easy way to remember the fates of his wives is the rhyme “Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived”.

– Gregorio Iniguez, general director of the Chilean Mint, has been fired after the mint produced thousands of 50 peso coins that had “Republica de Chiie” stamped on them. Misspelling your own country’s name is a pretty big blunder… but what’s more amazing is that it took authorities a year to notice the problem!

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Bypassing Web Filters

Many companies use some sort of web filter system to keep employees from visiting “time wasting” sites like Facebook, MySpace, eBay, and more. Such filters can be the bane of existence for many employees, and they are hard to get around. You might have heard of “proxy servers”, which act as a kind of “middleman”: your work computer connects to the proxy server, which then connects to the site you actually want to visit; the proxy then sends the content back to your work computer. Such a setup also allows you to access geographically-restricted content; a British computer user, for example, can connect to a proxy server in the US to access to watch US-only content.

The trouble with proxy servers is that most web filters block them too. But chances are those filters haven’t blocked your own home computer, and setting up your very own proxy server is actually pretty easy. This post over at shows you how to do it in a handful of easy steps. Once you have everything up and running, you should be able to connect to your home computer from work and access any site you want!

A REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT WARNING: Bypassing web filters is a fireable offense at many companies. In fact, the more locked-down your work Internet experience is, the more likely your could be fired for trying to bypass their Internet security measures. Although the IT guys won’t be able to see which sites you visit, they will be able to see multiple connections to your home computer via port 80, so they’ll be able to tell that you’re using a proxy. In this crappy economy, you might not want to lose your job just so you can browse Facebook at the office. You’ve been warned!

Happy Georgia Day!

GeorgiaHappy Georgia Day!

Today is the 277th birthday of my home state! This date marks the day that English general, philanthropist, and Member of Parliament James Oglethorpe landed at Yamacraw Bluff, in what would soon become the city of Savannah. He arrived on this date with 116 colonists on the ship Anne.

Georgia was initially created as a debtor’s colony, where British people in severe debt could start new lives by creating farms that would grow silk, indigo or rice to be sent for sale in Mother England to satisfy their debts. However, there was a considerable delay between the initial idea of Georgia and the granting of her Royal Charter, so that the philanthropic idea was forgotten. In the end only around two dozen debtor families moved to the new colony. In their stead, early Georgia was populated by disaffected people from all over Europe, including Huguenots from France, Protestants from Salzburg … and soldiers. That’s because one of the other reasons the Crown approved of Georgia was for it to act as a “buffer colony” between the newly prosperous South Carolina and Spanish Florida.

Interestingly, liquor and slave labor were banned in early Georgia. Although the “debtor’s colony” idea was quickly dropped, Oglethorpe and other trustees of the colony nevertheless felt that both liquor and slavery would distract people from their goal of building a new colony. As you might guess, the population of early Georgia didn’t grow very much until these bans were repealed in the late 1740s. Even more interestingly, the importation of slaves saved the colony in more ways than one: not only did it attract wealthy Englishmen who wanted to create South Carolina style plantations, it also required the importation of slaves from what is now Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Angola. These Africans had considerable experience with building dams and earthworks and cultivating rice and indigo. It wasn’t until the Africans arrived that those crops took off in the colony.

You can read a digital scan of Georgia’s original Royal Charter here.

Don’t Copy That Floppy!

Here’s the classic anti-piracy video Don’t Copy That Floppy, complete with awful 1992-era computer graphics and the cheesy Old School rap of “MC Double Def DP” (who appears to be blissfully unaware of the double entendre that “DP” would obtain in the Internet generation):


I’ve seen this a hundred times in my day, and I still laugh out loud every time I see it. Sure, you can make fun of the old computers and cheesy effects and music… but what really makes me giggle is how hard the producers are trying to be “hip”, even though this style of rap went out of fashion in 1985… that, and how silly “copyright protection” comes across in a public service announcement. Sure, we get “don’t beat your kids” or “stay off of drugs”, but “respect the intellectual property rights of copyright holder, yo!” just makes me giggle!

Facebook Chat: Now with XMPP

Facebook is the most popular social network out there. Unfortunately the chat client included on the site kind of sucks… or at least it did, until yesterday. That’s when Facebook enabled support for XMPP, an Open Source instant messaging protocol. So if you use a multi-protocol chat client like Pidgin, Adium, iChat, or Digsby you can now have Facebook chats within your instant messaging client (or, if you use Digsby, you can use the far more stable XMPP instead of Digsby’s hacked-together interpretation of Facebook’s own protocol).

How do you get in on the love? Just download and install Pidgin or Digsby (or, if you’re a Mac retard, use a Mac compatible XMPP client). Then go to this page on Facebook’s site, which has full instructions, complete with screen caps.

If you’re already rocking an XMPP client, all you need to do is add an XMPP account, and then enter the following details:

Username: [your Facebook user name]
Jabber ID: [Facebook user name]
Password: [your Facebook password]
Port: 5222
Use SSL/TLS: no
Allow Plaintext Authentication: no

A quick word: your “Facebook user name” is the name that appears in the URL of your Facebook profile, not the email address you use to log in. If you’re unsure what your user name might be, just click here and then click on “Other” under “Connect your Client” and Facebook will helpfully tell you what it is.

C of E “recognizes” ACNA

Big news… or maybe not. The Church of England is meeting in Synod, and has adopted the following resolution:

That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada,

“(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.”

At first glance, it appears to be big news: the Church of England “recognizes” the Anglican Church of North America!

On further reading, this isn’t as awesome as it might appear. The Synod voted down a stronger worded resolution the day before, and this resolution says nothing about recognizing the ACNA as an actual province of the Anglican communion. It simply says that it “recognizes” that there are “Anglicans” in the United States and Canada that wish to remain members of the “Anglican family”, which, as someone else said, is a “nearly infinite source of nuance”.

And then there’s the old “explore further” chestnut, which means that in sometime in 2011 a vaguely-worded report may or may not be released that may or may not say anything of consequence by a committee that may or may not have a backbone (given the truly awe-inspiring power of Anglican committees, I’ll let the reader guess what I think the outcome will be. In all likelihood, such a report will, much like the verbal gymnastics of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, amount to exactly nothing. Dozens of pages of fluff designed to not ruffle the (multicolored) feathers of the Episcopal Church*, while at the same time throwing a meager bone to Orthodox Anglicans in North America… and pleasing no one… especially the 95% of Anglicans in the rest of the world who don’t live in England or North America.

Read more about it here.

* – (multicolored) feathers? Confused? See this:

Pointy Hat Club

A Sad Day

Phil HarrisI’m sad… because Phil Harris, captain of the fishing vessel Cornelia Marie on the Discovery Channel’s popular show Deadliest Catch, has passed away. He was 53.

As I reported last week, Harris had just brought his ship into port to offload a catch when he fell victim to a stroke. Although he showed signs of improvement last week, he nevertheless passed away yesterday. I was initially a fan of Sig, a rival captain on the show. But Phil’s preternatural ability to find crab, his gruff (but lovable) personality, he cigarette-affected voice and laugh, and the tough love he showed his sons Jake and Josh (also fishermen on the show) quickly won me over. When I first read of his passing, I almost shed a genuine tear. You will be missed, Phil!

Rest in peace, brother!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-07

  • Anyone else think it's cool that Jesus said "love your enemies", not "don't have enemies"?? #
  • Not that I really care, but… Go AFC!!! #
  • This weather sucks… #
  • Dear Apple: RIM, Palm, Plaxo, Google and dozens of other companies make software that syncs with Outlook without crashing it. Take note. #
  • "The seediest dive on the wharf, populated with every reject and cut-throat from Bombay to Calcutta. It was worse than Detroit." #
  • Hey Americans… each of us are now $6,000 deeper in debt! THANKS CONGRESS! #

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