Category Archives: History

Isaac Azimov, the man who changed Sci-Fi

Isaac Azimov, the man who changed Sci-Fi

Isaac Azimov, one of 3 founders of the modern Science Fiction, was born on January 2nd, 1920 in the Soviet Union. His family immigrated to the United States when he was just a boy, so he never learned Russian. He started to write books at the early age, writing over 500 throughout his career.

The most known books are his “Foundation” and “I, Robot” series. He also penned the 3 main laws of robotics that are holding true to this day:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Rest in peace Isaac, we will remember you forever!

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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in History, Sci-Fi


The real story behind the plane crash from the “Bridge of Spies”

The real story behind the plane crash from the “Bridge of Spies”
Exactly 54 years ago, on February 10, 1962, Francis Gary Powers walked past Rudolf Abel on Glienicke Bridge. The first-ever spy exchange was complete.
After watching the “Bridge of Spies” movie with my wife, I got so fascinated by the plane crash scene that I decided to do some research. While the movie focuses on the first-ever spy exchange between the United States and Soviet Union, I wanted to learn more about the American pilot himself and the reasons his spy plane got shot down.
Turns out the pilot’s story is no less fascinating than the spy exchange and the timeline of events preceding the crash and the events that followed it spawns exactly 45 years – 45 years of secrecy, fear, lies, deceit and just outright bluff. Since I speak fluent Russian and Latvian this story is a combination of facts taken from many different sources. I’ve tried hard to separate facts from fiction, so the end result should be as close to the truth as it can be.
At some point I realized that I’m writing a book, not an article, so I had to scale down and cut some things out. If you have any specific questions please feel free to drop me a note. But the story of Francis Gary Powers, his fateful flight and the events that followed it, as well as the political scene at the time, it’s all here. With that in mind…. Have fun.
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Cold War, History, Soviet Army


Happy Birthday Ric!

Happy Birthday Ric!
Warrick Merrell Locke (Ric Locke) was born on February 3rd, 1948 in Pittsburg, Texas. He served in the United States Navy, on an aircraft carrier. After retiring from the Navy he became a very active blogger with strong political opinions. In his own words he was a “self-opinionated S.O.B.

Ric has started writing his Temporary Duty book in the late nineties, revising it multiple times between 2001 and 2005. The book was ultimately self-published and exists only in electronic form.

Ric has passed away in July 2012 after losing his battle with lung cancer. He posted a “This ain’t working” entry on his personal blog 3 days before his death. For a long time he had to rely on donations from Temporary Duty fans and his friends because the book has sold so well that the Internal Revenue Service has denied him the Social Security benefits he was entitled to.

At the time of his death, Ric was working on the sequel to “Temporary Duty” called “Service Call”. About 2/3rds of the book was written and there’s a community effort to get it finished by some other author.

To commemorate Ric’s birthday here are some quotes from his book:

– “Very few things are actually impossible. Some of them are improbable”
– “’Freedom’ is a noble ideal, but has no referent in the perceivable Universe. None of us is truly ‘free’ so long as we require air, water, food, and shelter to survive”
– “Beer is like gravy. Everybody has it, and everybody claims to have invented it”
– “When you’re reading it’s better to have quiet, so you can listen to the voices the book makes in your head”
– “It’s a basic principle of trading that the other party should be made as unsure of himself as possible. Confused people make bad deals”
– “No matter where you were or what was going on, hot water and soap and razor and the familiar curves and hollows of your own face centered you, started the day off with something solid, something you could handle, a minor success to serve as omen for the rest of the day. Maybe that was why women used makeup”
“To keep ‘desperate improvisation’ so far within the bounds of civilized custom is remarkable in and of itself”
“There comes a time when self-confident optimism turns into flat reckless stupidity”

Happy Birthday Ric! You are with the Makers now. God bless you!
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in History, Ric Locke


Anna, princess of Russia, queen of France

Anna, princess of Russia, queen of France

In the year of our Lord 1048, Henry I, king of France, had decided to marry again. At first he wanted to marry his relative’s daughter, but the Pope said “No way!”, out of fear of inbreeding (most royal families were all relatives back then). So Henry sent emissaries all over Europe to find a suitable bride. Perhaps the emissaries got lost during their travels, because they’ve found an unlikely bride for a catholic French king – Russian orthodox princess Anna of Kiev, daughter of Yaroslav the Wise. Unlike most princesses of the time, Anna could read and write and even ride a horse. It took a while to get the things arranged, but in 1050 Anna of Kiev had married Henry and became “Anne of Rus, Queen of France”.

Even while her husband was still alive, Anna was actively participating in the affairs of France. She gave birth to 4 children, including the next king of the Franks, Philip I. After Henry’s death she has managed to govern France all by herself for a while. Yet being a woman, she didn’t get a chance to do it for long.

Some time after Anna’s death, the French have introduced the Salic Law, an interpretation of an older custom which specifically prohibits any property to be owned by a woman. By extension it means that any time a king of France dies, the crown goes to the closest relative from the male line (brother, uncle or cousin), bypassing the dead king’s wife or any of his daughters. The law was put in place to prevent an English queen to become the queen of France as well, thus ruling both countries and was the primary reason for the 100-year war between France and England. Because of the Salic Law, while there’s still Elizabeth the II, the ruling queen of England, all French queens after Anna could only reign, not rule.

But Anna’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t the fact that she could rule France all by herself. She introduced the name “Philip” into Western culture. “Philippos” means “lover of horses” in Greek. So if your name is Phil, please give your thanks to Anna. Just don’t get any crazy ideas about horses, ok?


Posted by on January 29, 2016 in History, Kings and Queens


The difference between Czar and King

The difference between Czar and King

Ever wondered why a British monarch was called “king” and an Imperial Russia’s monarch was called “czar”? Both august fellows seem to perform identical duties, but for some reason are being called differently. Why? Let’s find out!

The original Latin word “rex” means leader, ruler, chieftain or monarch. It has the same meaning as Sankrit word “rajan”, better known as “maharaja” (great king). While the word “rex” is not in active use today, it’s traces can be found in many modern words, such as “di-rect”, “regis”, “Regina” and “Reich”

The English word “king” is a combination of Anglo-Saxon words “kin” and “son of”. You know, back in the day where men were chosen to lead rather than born, the kings were meant to take care of their people.

Here’s another word – “Caesar“. Originally a surname of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, the word became a synonym for “king” shortly after he got stabbed. Many Roman emperors were including this word in their official titles without hesitation.

Lastly, there was this great King of Franks and everybody was calling him Charlemagne. In Latin his name was “Karolus Magnus” and in English “Charles the Great”. The modern male names “Charles”, “Karl” and “Carl” are direct descendants of this king’s name.

Now to the point. The Slavic word “tzar” (also tsar or czar) is directly derived from “Caesar”. For the same reason many German emperors had a the title of “Kaiser”, even though in German language there’s a different word for a king – “Konig”. And most Slavic languages, including Russian, have a word reserved for any Western European king: korol’ (король) – a descendant of the Charlemagne’s Latin name Karolus.

So in an unlikely case you’re ruling over a Slavic country your title will be “czar”, but if your little kingdom lies way out West, your title will be “king”. Hail Caesar!



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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in History, Kings and Queens


Christmas Truce, the 1914 way

Christmas Truce, the 1914 way

The Christmas truce was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914, during the bloody days of WWI. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some 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.

However, the peaceful behaviour was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

The truces were not unique to the Christmas period, and reflected a growing mood of “live and let live“, where infantry in close proximity would stop overtly aggressive behavior, and often engage in small-scale fraternization, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes. In some sectors, there would be occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades, while in others, there would be a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised, or worked in full view of the enemy.

The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation – even in very peaceful sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable – and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.

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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in History


An Aircraft Carrier made from ice

An Aircraft Carrier made from ice
In 1943 Canadians tried to built an aircraft carrier from a mixture of ice and wood pulp. Known as “pykrete” this material is as strong as concrete, does not melt as fast as ice and is cheap to produce. A “bergship” made of pykrete would be not only unsinkable but also indestructible, since most of the damage can be repaired with seawater. Well, as long as the temperature around the ship is below freezing…
Project Habakkuk was the plan to build an enormous aircraft carrier, actually more of a floating island than a ship. The bergship would be providing a convenient landing site for the military aircraft operating between Canada and Greenland. Since exact properties of pykrete were unknown at the time, a 1000 ton 18m by 9m model was built on a lake near Alberta, Canada. However, the real ship was never finished. As it turned out, the ice ship still needed steel for reinforcement and proper operation and the engines were a pain to attach. Besides, you can’t have the crew eat cold rations and live in parkas all the time.
In December 1943 the project was officially abandoned. It took 3 hot summers for the prototype to melt completely.
In 2009, the Mythbusters dudes have built a small boat out of pykrete. They confirmed that the material is nearly bullet-proof and very strong. It melts anyway….
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Aircraft Carriers, History

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