Who Are the Gideons?

They take their name from Gideon in the Book of Judges who was strictly obedient to the word of God. The Gideons began their work 100 years ago as a group of traveling salesmen and Christians who left behind a Bible in each hotel for road weary travelers. Gideons now place 63 million Bibles each year in prisons, hospitals, military bases and, of course, hotel rooms. That’s 120 Bibles every minute. Most Gideons are still common folks with day jobs.

The Xerox Alto


I always knew that Xerox was the first to come up with a GUI but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it.

The Alto was the first system to pull together all of the elements of the modern Graphical User Interface. The Alto was designed and built by Xerox for research and, although Xerox donated a number of them to various organizations, they were never sold.

The Xerox Alto was designed to be a relatively small, yet powerful, personal office computer with the ability to present information graphically, and to easily share information. They were also designed to utilize laser printers that were also under development at Xerox.

The first Alto was completed in 1973. The hardware of the Alto machines consisted of:

  • A 606*808 tall monochrome bit-mapped video display.
  • A 3-button mouse.
  • Optional 5-key chord key set.
  • Large 2.5 megabyte removable disks.
  • 16-bit microcode programmable CPU custom-built from TTL chips.
  • A total address space of 64 K 16-bit words (128k bytes), including the graphics bitmap.
  • Using memory bank selection, a total of 256 K words (512K bytes) was possible.

The Canary Project


The mission of The Canary Project is to photograph landscapes around the world that are exhibiting dramatic transformation due to global warming and to use these photographs to persuade as many people as possible that global warming is already underway and of immediate concern.

To compile a persuasive body of images, we will be photographing at least 16 landscapes throughout the world. These images will show that global warming: (1) is affecting the world in a variety of ways (melting, sea-level rise, drought, extreme weather events, dying habitats, etc.); (2) is affecting every place on earth.

Photograph of Mozart’s Widow


The Museum of Hoaxes thinks the picture of Mozart’s widow that has been going around the net for the past week is a hoax.

Last week the London Times printed a photo that, so it claimed, was the only known photograph of Mozart’s widow (Constanze), taken in 1840 at the home of Swiss composer Max Keller when she was 78 years old. (She’s supposedly the woman on the far left.) However, the photo has generated controversy online, where a number of scholars have labeled it a hoax.

Anglo-Zanzibar War

Wikipedia’s entry on the shortest war:

The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar on 27 August 1896. With a duration of only 45 minutes, it holds the record of being the shortest war in recorded history.

The war broke out after Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini, who had willingly co-operated with the British colonial administration, died on 25 August 1896, and his nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, seized power in what amounted to a coup d’├ętat. The British favoured another candidate, Hamud bin Muhammed, whom they believed it would be easier to work with, and delivered an ultimatum ordering Bargash to abdicate.

(Thanks Jack)

DISH, Texas

Thank goodness my hometown of TIVO, Massachusetts would never do anything so lame.

DISH is a town located in Denton County, Texas. The town has a population of approximately 125. Formerly called Clark, the town was officially renamed DISH (all capital letters) in November 2005.

The municipality was previously named after its founder, Landis Clark, who incorporated it in June 2000 and served as its first mayor. Clark was beaten by one vote in the Spring 2005 election by Bill Merritt.

In exchange for renaming the town, all residents of the town will receive free basic television service for ten years and a free digital video recorder from DISH Network. There was no opposition to renaming Clark; twelve citizens attended the council meeting to support the measure.