Sherman Sacks Columbia, SC – February 17, 1865

William Tecumseh ShermanSherman captured Savannah, Georgia shortly before Christmas of 1864, after cutting a swath of destruction across that state. After spending some time Savannah, Sherman moved his army into South Carolina. Sherman began his Carolina campaign on February 1st. By the 17th, he had captured Columbia. Sherman sacks Columbia, South Carolina – Feb 17, 1865 – HISTORY.com

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and Confederate batteries opened fire on the Federal garrison of Fort Sumter in April of 1861 to get the festivities started. So the Union soldiers were particularly delighted in bringing war to South Carolina.

The troops under Confederate General Wade Hampton abandoned the city leaving it open to Sherman’s troops. The Union soldiers set fire to city – many after getting drunk.

Sherman wrote:

“Though I never ordered it and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over the event, because I believe that it hastened what we all fought for, the end of the War.”

About 2/3 of the town burned before the flames were extinguished, but Sherman set more fires – to all the government buildings – three days later before they marched out of Columbia.

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An Interesting Cold War Anniversary

An interesting fact about the Berlin Wall. This isn’t something that would occur to me. The Berlin Wall – the 10 most famous quotes about the barrier – The Local

Monday February 5th, 2018 marks 28 years, two months and 26 days since the Berlin Wall fell, meaning it has been gone for exactly the same time as it stood.

The quotes are worth a look, from “No one intends to build a wall…” To “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this…” But the one I always liked is this.

“Die Mauer wurde nicht in Washington, Bonn oder Moskau zum Einsturz gebracht. Sie wurde von den mutigen und unerschrockenen Menschen eingedrückt, und zwar von Ost nach West.”

(Or – The Wall was not brought down by Washington, Bonn or Moscow. It was razed to the ground by the courageous and intrepid people, from both the East and the West.)

Semi-automatic Pistols of the 1800s

An interesting bit of history, with some great photos of the early attempts to build auto-loading pistols. (The photos are worth your time.) American Rifleman | In The Beginning: Semi-Automatic Pistols of the 19th Century

There is no doubt that the entire industry was changed with the invention of smokeless powder in 1884 by Paul Vieille. Until then, it had been impossible to create a reliable self-loading arm, for the foul-burning blackpowder would jam even the finest action after only a few shots. [snip]

Smokeless powder opened the door to a different world. The quicker-burning material yielded higher chamber pressures, the burn-off was more complete so there was less residue to clog the mechanism and, as an added benefit, the powder was much less corrosive.

The names of the companies involved are mostly European. Mauser. Luger. Mannlicher. And others. Including Fabrique Nationale, which produced a few firearms from designer John Moses Browning.

Anyway, click through and take a look at some of antiques.[Hat tip Say Uncle]

Dr. Anita Borg

Anita BorgDr. Anita Borg (January 17, 1949 – April 6, 2003) is one of the women in Tech, that people should know, but mostly don’t. About Anita Borg

That fact that she got a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1981 wasn’t as surprising as it might seem today. In the early 1980s, women were going into computer science in the same proportions that they were getting into medicine. But in the late 1980s, that was changing in noticeable ways.

Anita founded Systers, an online community, in 1987 with 12 fellow women technologists. She wanted Systers to provide a space for women to discuss about issues they experienced at work and share resources with each other. Systers still operates, offering a closed-network, safe community for women technologists.

She co-founded the yearly celebration in honor of Grace Hopper, which is currently billed as “the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.” (Tickets sell out in minutes from when they become available.)

She received the Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing for her work in 1995. In 1997 she formed the Institute for Women and Technology. It was renamed in her honor after she died of a brain tumor in 2003. She received numerous awards and honors over the course of her life, and generally tried to make things better for women in technology.

California Fires, Eucalyptus Trees, and Building Codes

This is happening with too much regularity. In San Diego, Lessons on Rebuilding From a Neighborhood Once Ravaged by Fire

The thing that caught my eye is the main photo attached to the article. If you click through you are treated to the site a VERY nice house under construction in a neighborhood that suffered “heavy damage” after (I presume) the 2003 fires.

After Hurricane Andrew hit (and decimated) Dade County Florida, the county made some serious changes to building codes. The state of Florida eventually followed suit on at least most of the changes for hurricane protection. (For one example, you can purchase Dade County Windows, which were required if you don’t have hurricane shutters. They will stop a 2X4 piece of lumber fired at about 120 mph.)

The house being built/rebuilt in California after the 2003 fires is completely stick built shown with plywood roof sheeting and strand-board walls. Now based on its neighbors, it would appear that it will end up with a tile roof (completely fire-proof) and stucco exterior walls (mostly fire-proof). But there is no concept of fire break around the other houses, and while it is hard to be sure, there appears to be at least one Eucalyptus tree in the background.

As they have for years, local residents eye the towering Eucalyptus trees that shade their streets with dread over their explosively flammable branches. They grimace each time they see a wooden fence in the neighborhood, thinking of it as a Roman candle that could shoot flames onto a nearby home.

15 years since the fire decimated the area and there are still Eucalyptus trees in the area. (We won’t talk about lessons learned from the 1991 Oakland Hills fire.) What is wrong with this picture? Forget the fact that they are an invasive species introduced from Australia, displacing native plants, and they do not support native animals. Eucalyptus trees excrete a highly flammable oil. It is this oil, and these trees that are behind a lot of the California fires. (Trees on fire can actually explode, sending flaming bits all around spreading fires.) But those trees are still in the neighborhoods.

And while I’m no expert, it doesn’t appear that the building codes have changed to encourage more in the way of fire-resistance.

There is a movement to eradicate the Eucalyptus at least from certain areas in California, but I would think cities – in danger from wild fires – would want to do that immediately. Immediately being in 2004.

In Honor of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper on Her Birthday

Grace Hopper (Amazing Grace) has to be one of my favorite people of the 20th Century. This post was compiled in 2006. (So some of the links might be broken.)


Grace HopperNot very many women were getting degrees in mathematics in 1928. (Not many are doing so today.) Grace Hopper got her MA in 1930 and a PhD. in 1934. She joined the Naval Reserve in 1943. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was a pioneer. She was one of the founders of modern computing.

Grace Hopper was the one who said, “It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” (This is one of my favorite quotes.)

Grace Murray Hopper often presented a piece of wire about a foot long, and explained that it represented a nanosecond, since it was the maximum distance electricity could travel in wire in one-billionth of a second. She often contrasted this nanosecond with a microsecond – a coil of wire nearly a thousand feet long – as she encouraged programmers not to waste even a microsecond.

First Computer BugHave you ever wondered where the term “computer bug” comes from? The Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator stopped working in September 1945. Lieutenant Junior Grade Hopper (who was always good with gadgets) was one of those who took it apart piece by piece until a moth was found stuck between the contacts of relay number 70. The log entry says “First actual case of bug being found,” and the word went out that the machine had been “debugged.” [click on the image for a large view of the log and the bug.]

Lt. HopperAlthough programmers the world over love-to-hate COBOL (the COmmon Business Oriented Language), it was one of the first compiled languages.

Perhaps [Grace Hopper’s] best-known contribution to computing was the invention of the compiler, the intermediate program that translates English language instructions into the language of the target computer.

Her compiler lead directly to the development of COBOL; a major step into the modern world of computing we know today. And there is still a VERY good chance that COBOL wrote your last pay check, printed your last bank statement, tracks your car insurance, …

Amazing Grace even has US Naval vessel named in her honor. The USS Hopper (DDG-70) is a 500 ft. long AEGIS Class Guided Missile Destroyer, generates 100,000 shaft horsepower and was commissioned on 6 September 1997. The ship’s motto is “AUDE ET EFFICE” which translates to “Dare and Do,” a favorite phrase of Rear Admiral Hopper’s when giving advice.

Grace Murray Hopper died in 1992 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, having become the first woman to hold the rank of rear admiral. Grace Hopper’s military awards and decorations include:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • American Campaign Medal
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal with two Hourglass Devices
  • Naval Reserve Medal

The Navy, fittingly, has named its Data Automation Center in San Diego after her.

North Korea’s Nuclear Program

I will leave you to learn what you can about the latest test launch of a missile by North Korea. It is all over the news, after all. But I thought it would be a good time to remember why we are facing a nuclear North Korea. To be fair, things started before Clinton and went on after him, but we could have eliminated their nuclear program if we wanted to.

And of course Obama said very similar things about the Iran nuclear deal. I expect that will have a similar outcome.