Archive for the ‘America’ Tag

Don’t wanna eat no pickle   Leave a comment

I drove down to North Carolina yesterday. The drive went terribly, thank you very much. I play a game called Bakery Story on my phone, and the app froze on my phone, so instead of driving with a GPS telling me what to do, I was driving blind, and turning my phone on every time that the screen went dark so I could drain the battery. That’s how badly my phone was frozen: I couldn’t turn it off using the power button. As soon as it died, I charged it and uninstalled the app. Never again.

But unfortunately I was already driving in unfamiliar territory. The Washington-Richmond 95 corridor is awful, especially with construction, so I decided to drive in the opposite direction.

I normally take 95 to 85 to 70 to get to James’. I drove Rt 7 to 81 instead. I had been planning on using my GPS to get me from 81 to Cary, but, as I said before, I had no GPS because my phone was broken. So instead, I took 7 all the way across the state, drove down 81, got onto 64, and drove all the way back across the state to meet up with 95. I missed the 95 traffic alright. But it didn’t save me any time.

While driving down 81, in the heart of RoVa, driving up and down mountains, three bikers drove behind me for nearly an hour. I kept speed with traffic, stayed in my lane, etc. I’m frightened of driving around bikers; there’s nothing but air between them and the road. These bikers looked especially vulnerable, as they were wearing regular street clothes rather than biker clothes.

I was also driving almost next to a truck. A blue Golf pulled up behind the truck and then started flashing its blinkers to change into my lane. I lifted my foot off the gas pedal. The car pulled into my lane, then sped off into the distance. The lead biker immediately changed lanes to drive around me; she drove in the diagonal between my passenger front tire and the edge of the truck, turned her head towards me, and seemed to yell. I thought for a moment that she was yelling at me, which was ridiculous, because I would never hear her. One of her friends sped by her, even closer to the truck than she was. The third was still behind me. I wondered if she was yelling at him. Finally the woman sped off to drive in front of me. The third biker swerved to get around me, and flipped the bird at me as he did so.

My jaw dropped. I was absolutely baffled. Two trucks maneuvered around me, and I was left in the dust of the bikers, absolutely confused as to what I did wrong, how I pissed off these bikers enough that they would yell at me and flip me off. I continued on towards Staunton, trying to shake the confusion from my head. I reminded myself that these were probably not very good bikers; their leader drove with her head turned away from the road for several minutes and absolutely none of them wore safety gear, not even helmets. The guy who flipped me off at least kept his eyes on the road, waited for the way to become clear, and wore a leather vest. But as I drove the last 25 miles towards the I-64 junction, I continued to replay the last few minutes with the bikers over and over again, wondering what I did wrong.

Posted July 28, 2014 by agentksilver in Personal

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How I Burned the Bacon   Leave a comment

A week or so ago, I spent two days with a group of fifth-graders, teaching them about the Boston Massacre. Most of this teaching involved showing them the famous engraving by Paul Revere. I had them tell me what they saw, and then had them extrapolate from there. I’m not stupid, I didn’t say “extrapolate”. I said “what do you think that means?”

I had some notes from the teacher in my hand as the kids and I analyzed this primary source. It was a fantastic exercise. The kids learned a lot, about the Boston Massacre and the use of images as propaganda. They also did real history as opposed to just being told what to think, which is a major plus.

But one of the points that the Teacher’s Notes made, which I wasn’t sure what to do with, was the fact that Crispus Attucks is depicted as white in the image. There are three dead men depicted in the engraving. All three are white. Despite its name, only five people died in the Boston Massacre (as opposed to the dozens or hundreds the name implies). Three of the dead were white men, one was a white boy, and the last was Crispus Attucks, a black man. The fact that there are no black men on the engraving at all indicates some rewrite of the facts, but to go so far as to say that Crispus Attucks was turned white for propaganda purposes seems to be going too far. After all, three white men died, back when it was thought that white men were the only people worth noting. The three white men are being shown dying. To me, the boy and the black man were completely ignored.

I didn’t mention this thinking to any of the kids. All I did was point out the lack of Crispus Attucks, and slid that right into the demographics of the crowd overall (very peaceful, diverse, and well-dressed for a mob of ropemakers and dockworkers, don’t you think?). The kids jumped right onto the fact that no one in the mob has a weapon. A lesson was learned.

It occurred to me today, two weeks later, that Crispus Attucks is the only name I know from the Boston Massacre. How often had I pointed out the Commander of the British regiment to the kids, without knowing his name? I didn’t even know the name of the white men and the boy who had died. Just Crispus Attucks. Which isn’t a bad thing, but this morning, as I stared into the bacon frying in the pan, I suddenly wondered if that was on purpose. Perhaps the Civil Rights movement had something to do with it. What was more important for American schoolchildren to know, the names of each individual person that died at the Boston Massacre, or the fact that there were only five of them? In the grand scheme of things, did we really even need to know their names? And yet, here I was, with this fact. Crispus Attucks died in the Boston Massacre. I didn’t know what his job had been beforehand. I didn’t know how old he had been. All I knew was that he died on March 5, 1770, by British hands.

Google has a tool called the Ngram, which tells you how many percentage of books, in each year, included a certain phrase. It’s therefore easy to compare mentions of the Boston Massacre to mentions of Crispus Attucks.

The mid-1850s had a sudden spike of interest in the Boston Massacre; possibly because of the impending Civil War and the surge of patriotism in the North and South towards their respective countries. Tellingly, Crispus Attucks’ name was not use proportionally. In other words, most mentions of the Boston Massacre didn’t mention Crispus Attucks. Perhaps they didn’t want to mention that black men were fighting for the American cause from the start, or perhaps, like me, the writers felt that the existence of the five victims was more important than their individual names. Or perhaps the Boston Massacre was just a name, a reference in American society, the same way we talk about the Boston Tea Party as an example of rebellion without mentioning what the participants actually did.

Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre don’t sync up until the post-WWII era, when the Civil Rights movement kicked off. Look at how neat that is. From 1940 onwards, Crispus Attucks isn’t always mentioned, but interest in him surges and plummets at the same rate that interest rises and falls in the the Boston Massacre in general. I think my theory is correct: I only know the name of Crispus Attucks because of the efforts of the Civil Rights movement.

Still, a simple Google search pulled up all of the names of the Boston Massacre victims. I wondered what the story would be. Would Crispus Attucks be excluded from the narrative? Would the four white people have been mentioned while excluding the black man? The results turned out to be an absolute mess, so I sorted them a bit.

James Caldwell was the name of a prominent Irish baronet who lived from 1722-1784. He served in the Army and wrote a book or two. In a few places, interest in his name surges at the same rate as the Boston Massacre, but not enough to make me think that the James Caldwell mentioned is the dead Bostonian.

The last three rarely sync up with the Boston Massacre. Perhaps some books mention them, but not always? Only Crispus Attucks seems to be directly linked to the Boston Massacre, and that looks to be the result of the Boston Massacre.

Crispus Attucks was born into slavery in 1723 Massachussetts to Prince Younger, a black slave and a local Indian, Nancy Natick. In September 1750 he escaped captivity. He was 6’2, and knock-kneed, and made a living for himself in and out of Boston Harbor, first working on whaling ships and then later as a ropemaker. He was part of the mob that started a fight with a lone British soldier outside a pub. He was the first one killed.

James Caldwell was born in 1753. He was not from Boston; he had only recently arrived on a ship, the merchant ship Hawk. Very little else is known about him. He was part of the mob that started the fight, and was the third to die.

Patrick Carr was born in 1740 in Ireland. He was not part of the mob, but instead ran to help. He was shot in the abdomen crossing the street. It took him nine days to die of his wound, during which time he gave a testimony of what happened, and notably forgave the British soldiers who opened fire. Sam Adams therefore denounced him as a papist. He died on March 14, 1770, the last to die.

Samuel Gray was born in 1718 and was a professional ropemaker. He was apparently always starting fights, and had the previous week started a fight with some British soldiers. Two of those same soldiers had reappeared during the fight, as reinforcements for the British sentry the mob had happened upon. He was the first person fired upon, although he was not the first to die.

Matthew Kilroy was one of the soldiers Samuel Gray had fought with the week before. He ended up killing Gray. He was later convicted of murder.

John Maverick was born in 1753, a local apprentice to Isaac Greenwood. He was not part of the mob that started the fight, but was instead called over by the bells and hubbub. He and his friend, John Greenwood, assumed it was a fire and ran to help. The two boys got separated in the fight. Maverick may not have started the fight, but when the British soldiers raised their guns in fear, he shouted, “Fire away!”, indicating that he probably got wrapped up in the revolutionary spirit/mob mentality. He died of his wounds on March 6.

Edward Montgomery stumbled a bit, whether it was from slipping on ice, or getting his with a stick or a snowball. He was the first person to fire, although whether he fired on purpose or accidentally is left for debate. He was apparently heard shouting for the other soldiers to fire.

Captain Thomas Preston was born around 1722, and was probably Irish. He was Captain of the Guard that day. Upon hearing that a mob was looking to attack and kill a sentryman, he sent about 12 men to the sentry’s aid, and then went to the mob himself. He claimed to have stood between the mob and his soldiers himself. He was found Not Guilty, but soon after left the army and returned to the British Isles.

President’s birthdays   2 comments

Historic Mount Vernon’s Facebook Page broke the news today that Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, has signed an official proclamation that in Wisconsin, February 22 is “George Washington Day”. That reminds me as well that my representative in Congress, Frank Wolf, is spending my tax dollars and I guess my time trying to get George Washington’s birthday made a Federal holiday again — no more of this generic “President’s Day” crap. Admittedly, the first two federal holidays in the country was July 4 and Washington’s birthday, but times have changed. We found a second awesome President with a February birthday (Lincoln). President’s way is a way to acknowledge both Presidents.

I find it weird that Walker and Wolf, two folks who are into small government, are trying to get us to celebrate a friggin’ Federalist. First President who won the Revolutionary War or not, he did not agree with their politics. The Founding Fathers were men, not symbols. That’s what makes them so interesting, so fascinating. The Constitution was not handed down to us from on high, but reached over several months of compromise. The Declaration was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, but it was still written in committee. I find myself insulted by this movement to honor George Washington as a way to demonstrate patriotism, just as much as I’m concerned about Texas’ attempts to downplay Jefferson’s role in history. History is like science.

Anyway, if we’re going to mess with President’s Day, why would we stick with just honoring Washington and Lincoln? What other days could we choose? To that end, I made a list of every single birthday of every single President.

presidents bday first pic

presidents bday second pic
Sources: Wikipedia and

I ended up having to draw my own scatterplot graph of the information, which was easier to mine for data. Some interesting factoids:

-More Presidents were born in October than any other month (Jimmy Carter, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Dwight David Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Adams)
-More Presidents were born on the 29th of every month than any other day (Andrew Johnson, John F. Kennedy, John Tyler, William McKinley)
-The only day on which there have been two Presidents born is November 2nd (James K. Polk, 1795, and Warren G. Harding, 1865)
-Calvin Coolidge has the most Patriotic birthday, July 4, 1872 (I wonder if he used that to his advantage?)
-The average age at the time of their inauguration was 55 years.
-Grover Cleveland was only 48 at the time of his first election — the first President under 50. No wonder he came back four years later, he had time!
-We’ve had 6 Jameses, 3 Georges, and 4 Johns.

If we’re going to start picking arbitrary Presidents Days, I would go with either November 2 or October 29. And if your name is James, your birthday is November 2 or October 29, and you’re 54, you should probably start running for President.

From JoCoPedia:

Following the 2008 election, renditions of the song were updated to “W’s reign of terror’s finally over; Obama is pretty excellent so far”

Never be satisfied   Leave a comment

I don’t know if you can tell — I doubt you can — but I am actually a serious student. I just didn’t do my homework in this class for three weeks. And I am pretty terrible at writing in a serious, academic manner. I swear I am working on that. However, not only am I taking steps to reduce my workload so that I can, like, get my work done, but also, I am not satisfied with the work that I have done. That…that’s what serious academics are, right? Never satisfied?

Anyway, this is the map I attempted to make yesterday:,-77.158731&spn=0.00475,0.010568&t=h&z=17&vpsrc=6&amp

I was not happy with it. At all.

1) It does, indeed, take you to Gunston Hall — but it doesn’t tell you that it’s taken you to Gunston Hall. I want there to be a little thumbtack or icon or something, that you can click on and it tells you that this random building in the middle of nowhere is Gunston Hall, which was built by/for George Mason (the Lover) and sat on a 5500-acre tobacco farm, and that we care because George Mason (the Lover) was key in creating the Bill of Rights.
2) You have to c&p the url. Maybe this is something other people have complained about. I was hoping for an embeddable map. I may take a screen shot, after I get a thumbtack on that map.
3) I put the “&output=kml” at the end of the url, but all that did was make it so that it wanted to open the link in Google Earth. When I had my boyfriend try the link with that language at the end, he couldn’t open it, because he doesn’t have Google Earth on my computer. So hmm.

Going back to grab it through “My Places” gets me exactly what I want.


See? I took a screencapture as proof.

Not sure how I’ll figure this out. Next time, folks!

Posted October 27, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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I’m back, baby!   Leave a comment

Would you like to see me catch up on three weeks’ worth of blog posts? You would? Okay. Well, not all in one post. But hopefully within the next week. Presumably it’s not going to be high-quality postings, but after catching up, I should be able to focus on quality, not quantity.

Anyway. First things first, making a map in Google Maps. I considered showing you my favorite sandwich shop. Then I asked my boyfriend if that was a good idea. He said, “Why not your sandwich shop?”

I said, “Why not Zoidberg?

This made him laugh. If you type “Zoidberg” into Google Earth you get a toy shop on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. After hmming and hawing I decided to go with showing you where Gunston Hall is.

Gunston Hall is the manor where George Mason (the Lover) and his wife lived. It was also a tobacco plantation. If you look for it on Google Maps, it brings you to a nearby church. Presumably more people are interested in church than in George Mason (the Lover), but that’s a topic for an entirely different blog entry.,-77.158731&spn=0.00475,0.010568&t=h&z=17&vpsrc=6&amp

(you may need to copy+paste)

You can visit this place! Take 123 south to Route 1, go north 2.5 miles, then turn onto Gunston Road. Then drive. For a really long time.

Tomorrow: Mason Neck, as it was back then.

Posted October 27, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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