Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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Today in History: October 15th

Thanks a lot, Turkey

1529: The Siege of Vienna: Austrians fend off a Turkish invasion of Vienna, halting the tide of Ottoman conquest across Europe. This proves to be a turning point, and counterattacks eventually drive the Ottomans from the continent. In retaliation, the Turks cease their importation of Fezzes to Europe, cursing hat-wearers to endure brimmed headwear. They also withdraw the closely-guarded Turkish technique for removing the naturally-occurring buttons of hard fabric-covered material that form at the uppermost part of hats. The haberdashiary-schism is the origin of the unwanted “squatchee” found atop today’s baseball caps. For this reason, the schoolyard trick of slapping it to produce a sharp pain is known as the “Turkish Tap.”

1582: As decribed in a previous “Today in History” the Gregorian calendar is implemented in Italy, Portugal, Poland, and Spain, causing October 15th to directly follow October 4th. On the morning of the 15th, citizens of those countries awake groggily, with the nagging feeling that they have forgotten something important. They halfheartedly do old-timey things while gazing disorientatedly from their windows or wall-holes, and rack their brains over the strange, unsteady feeling that they woke up with. Meals across the continent are punctuated by awkward conversational silences as 16th century people find themselves unable to think of things to talk about. For roughly 10 days (presumably due to the amount of time skipped on the calendar), much of Catholic Europe hangs under a cloud of vague unease.

It happens that Pope Gregory XIII pushed back implementation to October 4th over the initial choice of October 1st because he was concerned that the Cardinals would forget about his birthday which fell on the 3rd. He had a strong suspicion that they had pooled their gift money to buy him a reeeeeally special new pope hat, and he always felt that he never got what he really wanted for his birthday. But 1582 might be the best one ever if he got the hat he wanted the most in the whole world!

1864: The Battle of Glasgow is fought. This is probably exactly what it sounds like. Some kind of Scottish insurrection or something. Don’t worry about it. Who would ever name a second place after Glasgow, one of Britain’s most dismal industrial towns? And even if someone else did, it would probably be in like, Australia or Canada or something… but since nothing really happened in any non-American former British colonies prior to at least the 1960s it wouldn’t have happened there. It doesn’t matter, just move along.

They put their jackets on for this photo.

1954: FORTRAN, the first high-level programming language, is released to the coding community for the first time. In 1954 the “coding community” consisted almost exclusively of men wearing horn-rimmed glasses, white short-sleeved shirts, narrow ties, and working in bright windowless rooms full of whirring machines. Developed by IBM, it was the first programming system consisting of readable statements rather than hard-coded machine language (though it still involved the use of punch cards). The first program run in FORTRAN was a sequence that would accept any input and return the statement “SEGMENTATION FAULT: NULL POINTER”


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Ryan and I are coalescing into this new, joint blog. We could have used the blog I originally created, but for some reason “” wasn’t seen to be properly capturing the spirit of community. All 2 of my old posts have been copied over to this site.

We searched high and low for an easy way to cross-post between multiple blogs, but failed entirely. Surprising and disheartening. Time was when we didn’t used to bother with this 3rd party hosting shit; we could code a site up by hand on our home computer, in a day, with all the features we needed, and it’d be bulletproof. That was 2000. Now you install some professional-grade software on a secure machine and within five minutes of going live you have a bug infestation of third world proportions. Or some acne-laden kid in the Netherlands steals your entire computer and repurposes it to spreading propaganda for kitten-eating Nazis, before going out and not getting laid. The Internet seems to have evolved into some sci-fi dystopia where, upon leaving the Google arcology, one quickly perishes from a combination of nuclear fallout and giant ants.

Launch time is always the roughest time for a new venture. Momentum has to keep up or you fizzle. Particularly difficult when you have “things to do” because you’re a “real person.” There is something about long stretches of left-brained work that drains inspiration, and words become the Enemy. I try to keep up because it’s good exercise, and my creative homunculus no longer fits into its going-out jeans. One can always fall back on actually writing about a topic, I suppose. I’ll try to avoid that to the end.