Happy 220th Birthday, Old Ironsides!

Designed by master shipwright Joshua Humphreys, the USS Constitution was launched October 21, 1797, from Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in Boston (site of present-day Constitution Wharf/U.S. Coast Guard base). She first sailed on July 22, 1798, as one of the six frigates that began the new United States Navy that was created “in defense of commerce.” Constitution’s final construction cost was $302,718.84. She is remembered for capturing 33 vessels in 57 years of active service and for her three War of 1812 victories against the British Royal Navy. Constitution’s first War of 1812 battle occurred on August 19 against HMS Guerriere. The defeat of Guerriere was the first frigate-to-frigate victory of the U.S. Navy over the Royal Navy, then the largest navy in the world. Constitution became “Old Ironsides” when an American Sailor noticed that some of Guerriere’s shot failed to penetrate Constitution’s thick oak hull. “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” the Sailor purportedly exclaimed, and thus the nickname was born.

USS Constitution became “America’s Ship of State” in October 2009, is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, and is the oldest sailing vessel worldwide that can still sail under her own power. Constitution sailed for the first time in 116 years on July 21, 1997, to commemorate her 200th anniversary and again on August 19, 2012, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and her battle with HMS Guerriere.

 – Naval History and Heritage Command


Courtesy Michael Haywood, all rights reserved

The ship! Never has she failed us! Never has her crew failed in showing their allegiance and belief in the country they served, or the honor they felt, in belonging to the ship that sheltered them, and on whose decks they fought, where so many gave their lives. To have commanded the Constitution is a signal honor; to have been one of her crew, in no matter how humble a capacity, is an equal one. Her name is an inspiration. Not only do her deeds belong to our Naval record, but she herself is possessed of a brave personality. In light weathers, in storm or hurricane, or amid the smoke of battle she responded with alacrity and obedience, and seemed ever eager to answer the will of her commander. May the citizens of this country, in gratitude, see that she, like her namesake and prototype, will never be forgotten. Her commanders in the future, as well as in the past, will see to it that here flag never shall be lowered. She was conceived in patriotism; gloriously has she shown her valor. Let her depart in glory if the fates so decree, but let her not sink and decay into oblivion.

Commodore William Bainbridge, 1831

As an active-duty warship, the USS Constitution is crewed by a select group of U.S. Navy Sailors who share her story with visitors from around the world and continue the U.S. Navy’s tradition of service through community outreach.

Have a Slice of Pi

Today is one of the few days when the nerd geek wanna-be in me surfaces…

It’s National Pi Day – the day we celebrate that wonderful irrational number.

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

Pi didn’t earn its name until the 18th century, when Welsh mathematician William Jones started using it symbol ( “π”, the first letter in the Greek word for perimeter). In Medieval Latin it was known as quantities, in quam cum multiplicetur diameter, proveniet circumferential, or “the quantity which, when the diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference.” What a mouthful. Not as easy as pi. (from Wired magazine, by Matthew Hutson).

The average sinuosity of a river (its length as the fish swims divided by its length as the crow flies) is pretty close to pi. Why? Water on the outside of the bend erodes the bank, while slow-moving water on the inside of the curve deposits silt. Eventually the shape morphs into a loop – until an overflow cuts off the detour, straightening the curve. Rinse and repeat. (from Wired magazine, by Matthew Hutson).

Finally, Albert Einstein was born on Pi day – March 14, 1879.

How much more geeky can you get than that?

Have a piece of Pi!

Pi Day

Where Were You 50 Years Ago?


  • Dallas
  • JFK
  • Texas Book Depository
  • The Grassy Knoll
  • Assassination
  • Lee Harvey Oswald
  • Conspiracy Theory
  • Jack Ruby
  • Jackie Kennedy
  • Lyndon Johnson
Walking toward the Grassy Knoll, October 2013

Walking toward the Grassy Knoll, October 2013

Texas Book Depository - 6th Floor Museum

Texas Book Depository – 6th Floor Museum

On a trip to Dallas last month, I stayed in a hotel only a block away from one of the most significant events in American history. As I walked the site, I thought of the words and images  that became an indelible part of our language and culture on that day 50 years ago.

There are more books about this single event than there were in the days of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. 50 years later, many people still have questions about what really happened.

My question is simple:

What if it hadn’t happened?

Thank You, Martin Luther

On October 31, 1517, Luther posted 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany – and launched the Protestant Reformation.

For a brief backstory, go here.

The 95 theses contained Luther’s opinions of what was going wrong in the Catholic church. Excommunicated from the church and condemned to die, Luther was given protection by Prince Frederick of Germany. For the next 10 years,he worked on another task we should thank him for – the translation of the Bible from Latin (which only a few learned men could read) to German – the language of the people.

Others soon took up the cause, and the “protest” spread to other nations outside of Germany. Soon a new church was spreading across Europe – and the world, changing not only the religious landscape but all civilization as well.

Now almost 500 years later, look how far we have come.

So much good, and yet…