Tag Archives: history

The Constitution of the United States of America—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

I am an American. I say this with no overtones of pride or regret. It is simply a statement of fact. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, California. I have been living in Brussels, Belgium since 1974.

The reason I mention all this is because being an American living abroad, I am considered to be somewhat of an expert on the United States, its history, its laws, its customs, etc. I am frequently solicited by my non-American friends and acquaintances to explain something they have recently heard about this wondrous country across the ocean because they simply don’t have the background to understand it. I say this sheepishly because Europeans know more about my native country than most people in my native country know about theirs. They also care more about my native country than most people in my native country care about theirs.

A key element in things they have heard about the United States in recent years (particularly since the advent of Donald J. Trump) has to do with the vaunted U.S. Constitution, officially known as the Constitution of the United States of America.

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The Lock—Extraordinary Ordinary Things

A major hit song of the 1960s, in fact, now considered to be a classic, is Roger Miller’s 1966 rendition of “King of the Road,” lauding the freedom of being a drifter, working only when necessary, and constantly moving on. Everything leads the listener to believe the singer is an honest person with minimal wants and needs. However, at one point he informs us:

I know every engineer on every train
All of the children and all of their names
Every handout in every town
Every lock that ain't locked when no one's around.

The last line appears quite ambiguous. I have never quite understood how to interpret it because it seems so out of character with the rest of the song. I would really like to know.

However, what is certainly not ambiguous or open to question is the important roles the lock has played in defining and shaping human society. Indeed, for some, it is virtually the quintessential dividing line between city folks, i.e. those who lock their doors, often with multiply locks, for fear of unwanted intrusions, and country folk, i.e. those who don’t lock their doors because they feel there is no need to. “Everyone knows everyone, so we are certain no one is going to do anyone any harm.”

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Who Shaped Modern Computing — Part 2?

In part one, I asked the question “Who is big in computing?” and probed the answer by constructing a social network gleaned from the references listed below. As expected, the network is scale-free, meaning it contains a handful of highly connected nodes—people, places, and things—and a majority of sparsely connected nodes. Furthermore, the most-connected nodes in the social network are languages, John Backus, and Edsger Dijkstra. Continue reading Who Shaped Modern Computing — Part 2?

Who is Big in Computing – Part 1?

More than 70 years into computing, Moore’s Law keeps on doubling performance of the basic engine of the post-industrial information age. Looking back at this incredible progress makes me wonder, “Who has had the biggest influence on computing since electronic digital computers were designed and built for the first time in the 1940s?” Continue reading Who is Big in Computing – Part 1?