Category Archives: learn something

About the awesome Mr. Rogers

Fred Rogers (aka: Mr. Rogers) was awesome. End of post.

Okay, yes, he deserves more. Much more.

The sarcastic, irreverent humorist publication “Cracked” was spot on when they said about Mr. Rogers:

Sit down, neighbor, and hear of a man who did not conquer the world, but did it one better; he reminded us that the world needs unity rather than conquest. He walked among us as a man, although he was a hand-to-God saint. They say the difference between a saint and a psychopath is empathy, and Mr. Fred Rogers had an ocean of it, which makes him either the sanest man in history or the craziest hero we ever had.

Here we go

Frederick “Fred” McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author, and television host. Rogers was most famous for creating and hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001), which featured his gentle, soft-spoken personality and directness to his audiences.


  • 1928 – Born (Latrobe, PA (near Pittsburgh))
  • 1946 – Graduated High Shcool
  • 1946 – Entered Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
  • 1948 – Transferred to Rollins College (Winter Park, FL)
  • 1951 – Graduated from Rollins College
  • 1952 – Married Sara Joanne Byrd
  • 1953 – Began first show “The Children’s Corner” on WQED (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • 1959 – Son James born
  • 1961 – Son John born
  • 1963 – Graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • 1963 – Began the show “Mrrogers” on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Toronto, Ontario)
  • 1968 – Began “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” on the CBC
  • 1999 – Inducted into the Television Hall Of Fame
  • 2001 – Retired “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”
  • 2003 – Died (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • 2012 – “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”

* Not to mention multiple awards and honors Mr. Rogers has earned from his peers, etc.

To get started, if you’re the type that likes to watch videos, here’s one called “35 Facts About Mr. Fred Rogers”


Mr. Rogers was born, raided, and graduated from High School near Pittsburgh, PA. He went to the Ivy League school Dartmouth College in New Hampshire but transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, FL where he graduated with a BA in Music Composition in 1951. In 1963 he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained as a Presbyterian (USA) minister.


Many of the most memorable things Rogers said to children were inspired by things his own grandfather, Fred Brooks McFeely, said to him. “I think it was when I was leaving one time to go home after our time together that my grandfather said to me, ‘You know, you made this day a really special day. Just by being yourself. There’s only one person in the world like you. And I happen to like you just the way you are,’” Rogers remembered. “That just went right into my heart. And it never budged.” (Rogers named Mr. McFeely, the show’s Speedy Delivery messenger character after his grandfather.)


Mr. Roger’s parents were among the few who owned a TV in the early 1950’s. Mr. Rogers (I just can’t call him ‘Fred’) wasn’t impressed with what he saw on TV. He felt more could be done. In 1953 he got a job at Pittsburgh’s public television channel (WQED) where he’d hope to make a difference via children’s programming. Following are just a few ways he really made a difference.


In 1963 “Mrrogers” aired via the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC). In 1966, “MisteRogers’ Neighborhood” aired in the US on a channel that would later become PBS. The show targeted children aged 2-5 and was produced by Pittsburgh’s WQED and ran nationally until 2001. It was this show that became Mr. Roger’s claim to fame.

And now for the most famous song of all…


In 1969, President Nixon wanted to cut public television funding in half. Mr. Rogers, in 6 minutes, changed it all…


Mr. Roger’s first TV show in ’53 was live and titled “The Children’s Corner”. The idea was to show children’s educational videos. But opps! The first episode started out as a disaster. Within the first 2 minutes of the premiere the first shown film broke! Mr. Rogers scrambled and saw a puppet he was given the night before the premiere. It was a tiger named “Daniel” and it was through this puppet-model programming that Mr. Rogers found his niche.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is the puppet continuation of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood after the death of Mr. Rogers.



Mr. Rogers Rulz!

Jolly Roger

Possibly the most accurate version of the original “Jolly Roger”

I’ve recently learned a lot about the history of the traditional Pirate flag, aka skull-and-crossbones or the Jolly Roger. The story about how we got to this icon is probably something you didn’t even know — and might be surprised!

I was listening to a podcast (Jolly Roger relevancy from around 10:50-13:50) about how to warn people 10,000 years from today that there there is a spot in the desert that contains deadly nuclear material. Language changes (just read Shakespeare’s writing from only 400 years ago). And so do symbols…and in this case, about the same amount of time (if not faster!).

A suggestion was made by Carl Sagan who proposed the symbol of the skull and crossbones (aka the ‘Jolly Roger’) as an icon for danger. Unfortunately, this is another perfect example of how symbols change over time.

In the Middle Ages the icon of the skull and cross bones was used in Christian art. Originally the bones were in the shape of a crucifix (not an ‘X’) and the skull was of Adam, the first man. This icon not only represented death (bones) but also resurrection (the Cross of Jesus) and rebirth (or resurrection through Jesus because of the cross).

By the late 1600’s or early 1700’s, ship captains would scribe the skull and crossbones in the ship logs by the name of someone who died while en passage. It was intended by the captains as a positive epitaph but others couldn’t help but associate the icon with death.

Meanwhile, piracy was on the rise. They ruled the seas by threat and intimidation. Many pirates used flags that depicted a bleeding heart (as in what’s going to happen to you if you don’t comply) and/or an hourglass (as in your time is short to comply).

Then in 1720 there was a pirate named Calico Jack Rackham who was tried in England for piracy on the high seas. He became a sensation not just because he was a pirate, but because there was a woman on his ship pregnant with his child.

It was Rackham’s flag that was probably red with two swords shaped in a ‘X’ below a skull. It was this icon, that most likely became the ‘Jolly Roger’ (probably the English version of the French ‘Joli Rogue’ meaning ‘pretty red’).

So the point of this post was to talk about the Jolly Roger, but I realize my intro leaves you slightly hanging. The point is that symbols change too. The Jolly Roger went from an icon of hope in the afterlife to an intimidating symbol of death, or something you just slap on a lunchbox because the kid is ‘a rebel’.

Listening to Podcasts

Back in the day I listened to, created, and participated in podcasts.

Then I took a break for about a decade.

So much has changed and there’s a lot of great stuff out there to listen to. I’m going to try and help you get hooked into (or add to) these audio broadcasts.

So What’s A Podcast?

Let’s just make sure we’re starting from the same corner of the Internet. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a podcast as:

a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet

So what happens is an audio file is created and stored (usually in a MP3 format) then put online. The thing that separates a one-off audio file from a podcast is that podcasts are a series of audio files that one can subscribe to (more on that soon). The name ‘podcast’ comes from, as best as I can tell, ‘pod’ taken from Apple’s successful iPod (released in 2001 and the first/easiest way to take your audio files on the go) and ‘cast’ from the word ‘broadcast’.

Several podcasts are simply an Internet-ready, downloadable version of a radio program (think separate talk radio programs). Most are created to circumvent the radio waves and go straight to the Internet.

So How Do I Get Podcasts?

I decided that before I get to what podcasts are good and/or available, I’d first talk about how to get them into a podcast delivery device (our tastes may vary!).

I’d wage that 99% of internet-inclined people have a copy of iTunes. It’s a great start because it’s cross-platform and ubiquitous (i.e., available on any computer device you own). If you have iTunes, open up the iTunes store and find the ‘podcast’ menu. From there you can subscribe to whatever you want as a one-stop-shop. iTunes will manage all updates for you (remember that a podcast is a series of updated audio files). This is great because you can stay updated on your computer, iPod, iPhone, etc. and it’s all through one program — iTunes.

If you have devices such as a smart phone or tablet, there are apps for that. Choose wisely — there’s many for iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad/iWhatever) and Android).

Currently my favorite podcast app is ‘Downcast‘. It allows me to make many customized playlists but it currently doesn’t have anything available outside of iOS (so it only syncs to my iPhone and iPad, not my PC laptop or even the web).

BTW, if you’re putting your podcast episodes on a portable device like an iPhone, iPad, Android, etc, that device has a hole for a headphone input. You can also check in your car to see if you have an auxiliary input hole that matches your headphone plug (3.5mm). If so, get something like this extension from Belkin so you can pipe the audio from your device through your car speakers (I use this every day to listen while driving). For long term, you might consider a charger to keep the battery fresh (see: this USB car charger and charging cable for iPhone 5.

So What Podcasts Are Out There?

No matter what program or app you’re using you should be able to find most, if not all, podcasts available. One reason I recommend starting with iTunes is that their podcast store is probably the largest catalog available. If you’re using an app instead of iTunes, they often provide a list of the top subscribed podcasts as well. Or if you stumble upon a podcast online, you can usually manually add it to your app directly. So go browse and enjoy!

Following are the podcasts I’m currently subscribed to and enjoying (note: although I’m providing links to websites, you can simply search for the titles in your podcast player of choice):

Podcast That Explain or Teach

  • Stuff You Should Know – This is by far my favorite. They tackle a topic, usually in the format of ‘how ___ works’. They are smart and funny so you learn and are entertained at the same time!
  • StarTalk Radio – Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and it’s all about space and the cosmos.
  • Hello Internet – These hosts are the very knowledgeable and intelligent YouTube personalities CGP Grey and Brady Haran. They talk about (and sometimes debate) everything interesting (and sometimes relevant).
  • NPR: Planet Money Podcsat – “…Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”
  • Stuff To Blow Your Mind – More learning as you dive deep into a random but interesting topic.
  • Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – Would you like to uncover conspiracy theories?
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – Explore important and interesting moments in history that your teacher probably never told you.
  • DecodeDC – Do you care about the politics in Washington, DC? I don’t blame you if you don’t anymore. But would you like to know what’s really going on?
  • BrainStuff – There’s this group of people who work at and they try to explain, well, stuff.
  • A Way With Words – “…language examined through history, culture, and family…about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies.

Podcasts That Connect The Dots
These are some of my favorites. They typically start with something kinda random, follow the trail, connect the dots, and end up somewhere very interestingly unexpected

  • 99% Invisible – “…a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world…”
  • Freakanomics Radio – “…the podcast that explores the hidden side of everything…”
  • NPR: Ted Radio Hour Podcast – “…based on talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections…”
  • Radiolab – “…a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience…”

Podcasts That Are More Personal To Me

  • The Alton Browncast – If you’ve ever cooked and you don’t know Alton Brown then get it together, man!
  • The Nerdist – Warning: NSFW! Comedian/Entertainer Chris Hardwick hosts everyone on this talk-show.
  • TigerNet Talk – I love my Alma Mater (from the Latin ‘alma’ meaning ‘nourishing’ and ‘mater’ meaning ‘mother’). And I love Clemson football!
  • The Walking Dead Cast – I love “The Walking Dead” on AMC and this is the best podcast I’ve found reviewing each episode.
  • Daily Radio Program with Charles Stanley – I remember the first few years when I got serious about my faith and I began listening to a radio station that played various sermons. One always stood out and it was from this preacher from Atlanta. Can’t always go 100% with him because I’ve done my homework and I know where he’s coming from. I’m currently catching up with him because I think he’s right most of the time, theologically speaking. And he motivates me.
  • Star Wars Minute – if you want to uber-geek on Star Wars, here’s your podcast. I’m currently catching up. They watch just one minute of the Star Wars movie and talk about it for 10-15 minutes. Uber-geeks might find new nuggets in here but everyone else will be at least entertained re-living the franchise one minute at a time.

Some maps are just wrong

Challenge: how do you make a 2-dimensional rectangular representation of a 3-dimensional sphere? Well we have a few contenders when it comes to making a 2-D map of the Earth.

Most of us will recognize what is called the Mercator Projection Map created in the mid/late 1500’s by a European cartographer named Gerardus Mercator:

Mercator Projection Map

Notice that Greenland is as big as Africa? Well, that’s not right! Check it out. The Mercator map depicts them as the same:

Mercator - Greenland vs Africa

But in reality, check out how big Africa actually is!

Africa vs The World

Yeah, you saw that correctly. Africa is as big as the US, most of Europe, China, and India combined! Meanwhile, Greenland is just slightly bigger than Texas tripled.

Greenland vs Texas

More problems:

  • Greenland takes as much space on the map as Africa, when in reality Africa’s area is 14 times greater and Greenland’s is comparable to Algeria’s alone.
  • Alaska takes as much area on the map as Brazil, when Brazil’s area is nearly five times that of Alaska.
  • Finland appears with a greater north-south extent than India, although India’s is greater.
  • Antarctica appears as the biggest continent, being infinitely large, although it is actually the fifth in terms of area.

So how does this major discrepancy happen? The bottom line is when you take a sphere and put it on a 2-D rectangle it results in distortion. I tried to find an animated illustration but failed. So try this on for size: if you were to draw circles on the globe that each covered the same amount of space you’d get this on the Mercator map:

Mercator distortion

Now ‘distort’ the map instead of the circles and you get what Frenchman Tissot published in the late 1800’s:

Globe distorted with circles

In the early 1970’s, a German filmmaker published what is known as the Gall-Peters Projection map by elongating the poles to make land mass equal:

Gall-Peters Projection Map

Well that helps some but not a lot because land is still distorted. Your best bet to understand the shape of our 3-D Earth is to get a 3-D globe. But in the meantime, on this 2-D media, your best bet is the Winkel Tripel Projection Map.

Winkel Tripel Projection Map

Happy Cartographing!

The Louisiana Purchase Was A Bargin

210 years ago, President Thomas Jefferson made a deal with the French to buy out all of their ‘ownership’ in North America after Napoleon reclaimed the property just three years prior. It was quite a deal even in those days. The US bought it for around three cents per acre. This purchase wasn’t just for the rights to New Orleans (the mouth of the Mississippi River), but also…

…all or part of 15 present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; most of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans; and small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

This purchase doubled the land mass of the current USA and provided areas for immigration from the East to occur.

Roman Numerals

Ever get confused when looking at Roman Numerals? Here’s a refresher course…

I = 1
V = 5
X = 10
L = 50
C = 100
D = 500
M = 1000

If a lesser value concludes a greater value, add. For example, VII = 5 + 1 + 1 = 7
If a lesser value proceeds a greater value, subtract. For example, IV = 1 – 5 = 4

Therefore, MMXIII = 2013, MMXIV = 2014, and MCMXCIX = 1999.

That’s all there is to it.

Unless you’re really confused then type in the number into Google and ask it what it means in the other numeration!

Legally Blind


Just like there are degrees of deafness, there are degrees of blindness as well. Do you know what is considered legally blind in the US?

You’ll recognize the eye chart above, right? Notice beside the big “E” it says ’20/200′. What those numbers mean is that a person with normal vision can read that “E” from 200 feet away but if one can’t read it until only 20 feet away, then that person is deemed legally blind.

In other words, when you’re at the doc’s office or standing 20 feet away from an official eye chart and all you can read is the top line of “E”, then you’re legally blind.

If you’d like to get some great insight on the life of a blind person, you should watch the YouTube Channel by Tommy Edison. This is a blind guy that honestly answers submitted questions to him — and his sense of humor is great! Questions like: “how do blind people dream”, “how can one describe colors to blind people”, and “how do blind people use paper money”. Fascinating and entertaining stuff.

To whet your appetite, here’s Tommy sharing some of his favorite benefits of being blind.

Pretty Awesome Dude: Robert Smalls

It’s probably a safe bet that 99% of the people reading this post have no idea who Robert Smalls is.

It’s time to fix that.

Mr. Smalls was born in 1839 as an enslaved African American in Beaufort, South Carolina, who became an entrusted ship’s pilot whom freed himself, his crew and their/his families from slavery in none other than Charleston, SC.

When Mr. Smalls was 23, he took advantage of an unbelievable opportunity to freedom. The white owners and ship-mates of the Southern CSS Planter went to shore for a ‘night on the town’, Smalls and the rest of the enslaved crew commandeered the ship and sailed for the Union fleets.

Considered a traitor to the South and a hero to the North, Smalls later became an elected official as the SC House of Representatives in 1865 where he helped convince Pres. Lincoln to accept Blacks into the Union Army and them became a SC Senator in 1871.