100 years ago today: the Christmas truce of World War I

One hundred years ago, World War I was devastating Europe, and the battle lines had already stalemated and turned very bloody. But something happened the night of the 24th of December that year, that became known as the Christmas truce:

The Christmas truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man's land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce.
In 2005, after the last survivor of the Christmas truce had died, the New York Times published this article of excerpts of journals and memoirs of those that were there. Some selections:

It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about 7 or 8 in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights -I don't know what they were. And then they sang "Silent Night" - "Stille Nacht." I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune.

Then suddenly lights began to appear along the German parapet, which were evidently make-shift Christmas trees, adorned with lighted candles, which burnt steadily in the still, frosty air! … First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up "O Come, All Ye Faithful" the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

I shouted to our enemies that we didn't wish to shoot and that we make a Christmas truce. I said I would come from my side and we could speak with each other. First there was silence, then I shouted once more, invited them, and the British shouted "No shooting!" Then a man came out of the trenches and I on my side did the same and so we came together and we shook hands - a bit cautiously!

We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans - Fritz and I in the center talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like street corner orators. … What a sight - little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman's cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs.

Eventually the English brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as our friends for a time.

Not everyone approved of this, however--

Cpl. Adolf Hitler of the 16th Bavarians lambasted his comrades for their unmilitary conduct:

Such things should not happen in wartime. Have you Germans no sense of honor left at all?

Merry Christmas to everyone and a happy new year.

Toy Story and the fourth movie curse

So it's been announced that Toy Story 4 will be released in 2017.

Here's hoping Pixar can break what I've come to call the Fourth Movie Curse: in short, fourth movies of a connected series always suck.

Some examples:

Die Hard, Die Hard 2 (Die Harder), Die Hard 3 (Die Hard With A Vengeance), Die Hard 4 (Live Free Or Die Hard) <-- sucks

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull <-- sucks

Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection <-- sucks

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man's Chest, At World's End, On Stranger Tides <-- sucks

The numbering itself doesn't matter. For example, Star Wars: 4, A New Hope; 5, Empire Strikes Back; 6, Return of the Jedi; 1, Phantom Menace <-- sucks hard

But wait, you say. Star Trek 4 was actually pretty good. True. However, Wrath Of Khan was not a sequel to Star Trek 1: The Motionless Picture; it tried to pretend the previous movie never happened, and it wasn't even called Star Trek 2 until they came out with Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock.

So: 2, Wrath Of Khan; 3, Search For Spock; 4, The Voyage Home; 5, The Final Frontier <-- sucks amazingly hard

Here's hoping Pixar has better luck.

Death Valley's moving rocks

The mystery of the 'slithering stones' of Death Valley appears to have been solved-- they got it on video, even:

According to [Richard] Norris, a geological oceanographer and paleontologist, Death Valley’s rocks move under a delicate mix of water, ice, sun, and wind. Norris and his cousin were able to document the rock movements by inserting GPS tags into chunks of limestone and syncing their movements with readings taken from a custom-built weather station.

Unlike one of the previous explanations, which had thick ice capturing the rocks and carrying them along like a miniature glacier, Norris said their evidence shows that thin ice floes break up and pile against the rocks. This creates enough friction to cause the rocks to skim across the muddy surface of a temporary pond. If you were there to see it, the rocks would look like ice-breaker ships plowing through sea ice—though in this instance, it’s the ice that’s moving the ships.
National Geographic has the full story.

Brigadoon Day 25: now with ssh access

Twenty-five years ago, a "weekend hack that got out of hand" called TinyMUD opened to the world, and here we are 25 years later. Point your mud clients at 4201 if you have a client; if you don't, then there is now ssh access available-- get the login and password at TinyMUD Classic's homepage:

Spread the word! Classic will be up through Labor Day.

New Pink Floyd album.

Four words none of us ever expected to hear put together again without a negation (such as "there will never be another"):

It’s been 20 years since the last Pink Floyd album came out, and now frontman Dave Gilmour is ready to knock the dust off and get the band rolling again. Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, announced via Twitter that Pink Floyd would be releasing a new album, ‘The Endless River,’ in October of this year.

Man, I hope it doesn't suck.

2014 NCAA men's college basketball tournament, flat-ASCII brackets

Flat-ASCII NCAA brackets for 2014:

            2nd Round  3rd Round   Regionals            1st Round  Dayton
                March 20-23       March 27-30              March 18-19
 1. Florida -------\_________                          Albany -----------\_16S
16. _______________/      (1)|_________                Mount St. Mary's -/ Tue
 8. Colorado ------\_________|         |             North Carolina State\_12MW
 9. Pittsburgh ----/                   |_________      Xavier -----------/ Tue
 5. Virginia Commonwealth____          |         |
12. Stephen F. Austin     (5)|_________|         |           Final Four
 4. UCLA ----------\_________|         Thu/Sat   |           April 5, 7
13. Tulsa ---------/                    South    |_________
 6. Ohio State ----\_________          Memphis   |         |
11. Dayton --------/      (2)|_________          |         |
 3. Syracuse ------\_________|         |         |         |
14. Western Michigan                   |_________|         |
 7. New Mexico ----\_________          |                   |
10. Stanford ------/      (6)|_________|                   |
 2. Kansas --------\_________|                             |
15. Eastern Kentucky                                       |_________
 1. Virginia ------\_________                              |         |
16. Coastal Carolina      (7)|_________                    |         |
 8. Memphis -------\_________|         |                   |         |
 9. George Washington                  |_________          |         |
 5. Cincinnati ----\_________          |         |         |         |
12. Harvard -------/      (3)|_________|         |         |         |
 4. Michigan State \_________|         Fri/Sun   |         |         |
13. Delaware ------/                     East    |_________|         |
 6. North Carolina \_________          New York  |                   |
11. Providence ----/      (8)|_________          |  Thu/Sat          |
 3. Iowa State ----\_________|         |         | (1) Orlando       |
14. North Carolina Central             |_________| (2) Buffalo       |
 7. Connecticut ---\_________          |           (3) Spokane       |
10. St. Joseph's --/      (2)|_________|           (4) Milwaukee     |
 2. Villanova -----\_________|                                       |
15. Milwaukee -----/                                      Arlington  |_________
 1. Arizona -------\_________                                        |   2014
16. Weber State ---/      (5)|_________             Fri/Sun          | Champion
 8. Gonzaga -------\_________|         |           (5) San Diego     |
 9. Oklahoma State /                   |_________  (6) St. Louis     |
 5. Oklahoma ------\_________          |         | (7) Raleigh       |
12. North Dakota State    (3)|_________|         | (8) San Antonio   |
 4. San Diego State\_________|         Thu/Sat   |                   |
13. New Mexico State                     West    |_________          |
 6. Baylor --------\_________          Anaheim   |         |         |
11. Nebraska ------/      (8)|_________          |         |         |
 3. Creighton -----\_________|         |         |         |         |
14. Louisiana-Lafayette                |_________|         |         |
 7. Oregon --------\_________          |                   |         |
10. Brigham Young -/      (4)|_________|                   |         |
 2. Wisconsin -----\_________|                             |         |
15. American ------/                                       |_________|
 1. Wichita State -\_________                              |
16. _______________/      (6)|_________                    |
 8. Kentucky ------\_________|         |                   |
 9. Kansas State --/                   |_________          |
 5. St. Louis -----\_________          |         |         |
12. _______________/      (1)|_________|         |         |
 4. Louisville ----\_________|         Fri/Sun   |         |
13. Manhattan -----/                   Midwest   |_________|
 6. Massachusetts -\_________       Indianapolis |
11. _______________/      (7)|_________          |
 3. Duke ----------\_________|         |         |      1st Round  Dayton
14. Mercer --------/                   |_________|         March 18-19
 7. Texas ---------\_________          |           California Polytechnic\_16MW
10. Arizona State -/      (4)|_________|               Texas Southern ---/ Wed
 2. Michigan ------\_________|                         Iowa -------------\_11MW
15. Wofford -------/                                   Tennessee --------/ Wed