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  • March 13, 2020

    Now for Something Truly Puzzling!

    Chris Ramsay is not your usual nerd. Between his ZZ-Top-like beard, sleeve tattoos, and quotidian hoodie/baseball cap, you would foolishly think that he is not one of the world’s greatest puzzle solvers. And you would be wrong! This guy has built up a massive YouTube subscriber following of over 6.62 million, that’s million with an M, subscribers solving Level 10 puzzles. Level 10 puzzles are the hardest possible puzzles in the world that would drive most of us bonkers trying to solve. But not Chris Ramsay. In fact, he thrives on these challenges. He has spent countless hours attacking some of the world’s most difficult and craziest puzzles such as: The Impossible Excalibur Puzzle The Absolute Hardest Jigsaw Puzzle The Hardest Lock Puzzle in History And many, many others. Even though the amount of time it may take for him to solve one of these could be half a day, his videos are thankfully edited down between 15 and 25 minutes (give or take)—and they are they are truly fascinating to watch. There’s also lot of sped up POV footage and pithy commentary as he tinkers with these mind-numbing enigmas. Another thing to note about Chris is that he’s a very good cinematic videographer as well. Frequently, he’ll introduce a new puzzle video with a sweeping array of lens flared artistic and themed cinematography along with an epic Game of Thrones-style music score. It’s his signature film style, coupled with his happy-go-lucky (and extremely patient) persona, along with his inconceivable ability to solve crazy puzzles that make him a YouTube sensation. If you like real physical 3D puzzles that you can touch, rotate, tinker with, and lose your mind over, then you want to watch Chris Ramsay’s YouTube Channel. He’s also got links to where you can purchase these puzzles yourself for hours of intense eye-hand-brain coordination entertainment that...
  • January 1, 2020

    Tarzan of Mars

    Today’s Progressive Pioneer is none other than the ultra-prolific planetary romance and adventure novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs (EBR). Burroughs’ work—particularly on his John Carter of Barsoom (i.e. Mars) series—are the unsung inspiration for stories such as Flash Gordon, Star Wars, and even Avatar. All eleven Barsoom novels describe a world so rich in detail, culture, wildly eccentric science and technology (for his time), outlandish and terrifying creatures, and extraordinary complex characters story tellers have been tapping into for over a century. However, Burroughs’ work goes beyond just his Barsoom/Mars books. He is even more known for his Tarzan adventure novel series of 26 books. These stories were so famous during Burroughs’ time that he immediately saw the tech trend value in exploiting them in all forms of media (against so-called experts’ advice at the time). Tarzan became an instant hit on radio, in comic books, and in film. In fact, even Burroughs’ daughter Joan married Tarzan film actor, James Pierce, starring with her husband, as the voice of Jane, during 1932-34 for the Tarzan radio series! However, the most interesting fact about Burroughs’ Tarzan is that not one but two towns were named after the character! Tarzana in California, which started out as EBR’s eponymous ranch in the Los Angeles area, and eventually became incorporated as the American town of Tarzana in 1927. Tarzan in Texas was also formally named in 1927. There’s even an impact crater on Mars named after EBR! Burroughs was born in Chicago Illinois on September 1st, 1875 and died on March 19th, 1950 at the age of 74. He was married twice, first to Emma Hulbert (1900–1934) where they had three children together (Joan, Hulbert, and John); and then to actress Florence Gilbert Dearholt (1935–1942). He passed away in Encino California but he is laid...
  • January 1, 2020

    Ad Astra Per Feminae

    With the 34th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster this past Tuesday, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to Christa McAuliffe as the first teacher in space who perished on that fateful day back in 1986. And, I thought it would also be fitting to include Sally Ride, America’s first woman astronaut. Both are Progressive Pioneers who advanced space exploration for generations of future American female astronauts, young women everywhere. Here are their stories: Sharon Christa McAuliffe (A.K.A. Christa) is famously known for being chosen as America’s first teacher in space. Though, she never made it into space due to a tragic accident involving the Space Shuttle Challenger 73 seconds into liftoff on January 28, 1986. Despite the loss of McAuliffe and the other six crewmembers aboard the space craft, which is regarded as a national tragedy, McAuliffe’s life is celebrated and honored all across the country. Schools, scholarships, documentaries, and more have all been named in her honor. She has inspired whole generations of kids since that fateful day to reach for the stars and to achieve their dreams. McAuliffe was born in Boston on September 2, 1948. Her father, Edward Christopher Corrigan was an accountant of Irish descent, and her mother, Grace Mary Corrigan, was a teacher of Lebanese Maronite descent. McAuliffe received a bachelor’s degree in Education from Framingham State College and a master’s degree in Education (supervision & administration) from Bowie State University. She married Stephen J. McAuliffe in 1970, with whom she had two children, Scott and Caroline. She eventually took a teaching job Concord High School (Concord, NH), where she would eventually apply for President Ronald Reagan’s Teacher in Space Project for NASA. Out of 11,000+ applicants, she and teacher Barbara Morgan were the final two chosen in 1985, with McAuliffe earning the top spot. Both McAuliffe and Morgan took a year’s leave of absence to train for the space shuttle mission...
  • October 17, 2019

    Chariot Runner of Digital Music

    Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, known throughout the world as Vangelis has been dubbed the great composer of Symphonic Electronica. Probably best known for his Academy Award‐winning score for the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, Vangelis’ music has inspired whole generations of digital artists from musicians to filmmakers and more. In fact, when the score for the sequel to another of Vangelis’ iconic film scores, Blade Runner (1982), came rolling around for Blade Runner 2049 (2017), he was firstly considered for the job. Vangelis declined and the job fell to another great composer of traditional and digital music, Hans Zimmer. Zimmer cited several times that Vangelis’ music would be a huge influence in the sequel’s score. The reason that he is a Progressive Pioneer is that his music not only pioneers symphonic electronica but transcends it to all mediums (film, television, theater, sports, etc.). Born in 1943 in a coastal town in Thessaly Greece, later raised in Athens, Vangelis began composing music since the age of four! However, it is the way that he began composing music which would define his later digital‐electronica aural accomplishments: by experimenting with sounds, such as placing nails and kitchen pans inside their family piano, and with radio interference. He made music from a sea of unique sources ranging from synthesizers, sitars, harps, finger cymbals, orchestral instruments, and choirs to name a few. From there his decades‐long‐spanning career has been an epic adventure of artistic supremacy. Some highlights are: 1963–1974, Vangelis performed in several rock bands, and began scoring music for Greek film and television projects. He was even invited to join the famed progressive rock band YES. During the 1970s–1980s, Vangelis moved to London, England and secured a lucrative record deal with RCA Records. After the release of his seminal work, the album Heaven and Hell,...
  • In the battle of the Virtual Assistants (VA), it seems like everything else, there are too many choices. Alexa, SIRI, Google Assistant, and Cortana are practically household names at this point. While each has their particular set of benefits, no one AI (i.e. Artificial Intelligence, because that’s what we’re really talking about here) can fulfill every request made of it. With next year’s pending launch of my company’s (PTC) flagship PLM platform, Windchill (integrated with Microsoft Azure’s cloud solution)—facilitating manufacturers’ efforts to rollout NPIs (i.e. new product introductions)—I thought it would be interesting to explore some aspects of where VAs/AIs are these days in a practical sense from home to business. I’d venture to guess that most homes feature more than one VA. The Digtal Batman household runs both SIRI on our iPhones/iPod and AppleTV 4K, and we run an Echo Dot featuring Alexa. It’s interesting to note the significant differences for our needs. For example: Alexa comes in handy when playing music from Amazon Music Unlimited and radio broadcasts over IHeartRadio. Whereas, SIRI dials our phone numbers, reads our texts, provides us with navigation, and helps us search/navigate our Apple TV 4K streaming device. Conversely, like most PTC employees running Windows 10 on their laptops, Cortana can easily be enabled. But I think it would be a little weird if everyone in the open seating at Seaport HQ started talking into their computers all at once! Though I haven’t used “Okay Google” in a while, it does come in handy for general searches and navigating the plethora of online/cloud‐based productivity, calendar, and meeting tools available—especially if you’re using Google Chrome. And what’s really interesting is now each of these separate VA platforms are starting to work together: organizing calendars across different devices (like cell phones), providing email from multiple...
  • So it turns out that Kevin Costner was right all along not to try to fake a British accent in the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves! In fact, if anyone spoke closer to the way the mythical Robin Hood would have spoken back in those days, it would have been Costner (portraying the titular character) and not the predominantly British cast (with the exception of Morgan Freeman of course who played the Moor Azeem sporting a Persian dialect)! Okay, now before my British friends flame the hell out of me listen to my reasoning on this matter: So last night while watching an episode of Sleepy Hollow I was intrigued by an exchange between Ichabod Crane and one of the modern-day police officers. The officer was trying to insult Crane by saying something that he wasn’t an American because he spoke with a British accent. However, the officer didn’t realize that Crane was transported through time from the American Revolution to modern times (by witchcraft) and that would explain his accent because back then (ca. 1776) American colonists and their British counterparts all pretty much spoke with the same accent. So then my interest was piqued, and I looked up when did American English and British English accents diverge. The answer surprised the hell out of me! It turns out that it weren’t Americans who lost their so-called British accent. It was the British who gained theirs over the last 300 years or so (242 years since the American Revolution)! I couldn’t believe it! I have a degree in English but I don’t recall this being covered in any of my English classes. Please no comments about the quality of American education—let’s just stick to the subject at hand. So anyway, that blew my mind. I’ll post the link to the research here. Now there are a few exceptions to...
  • Not too long ago on a rainy night early in October 2015, I found myself attending my 30th high school reunion for the RHS Class of 1985. Attending Revere High School was, like for a lot of young people, both a harrowing and amazing experience. However, over the years, I seemed to only focus on the former, and had all but forgotten the latter. Why? It probably had to do with a less than pleasant personal life. My parents were split up, my family struggled to make ends meet, my social life was all over the place, my young romantic life was non-existent (not for lack of trying though), and I had no idea who and what I was or to become. In fact, as it turns out, I had many, many friends in high school who reminded me of just how much they liked me, and still liked me 30 years later. 30 years… Quite a long time to lose touch with so many good people. I basically avoided all the reunions until the last one like they were the plague. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. What turned me around? Believe it or not Facebook did. Say what you will about this social media network being a huge waste of time and a banal wasteland of inane babble, Facebook allowed me to reconnect with my old classmates reminding me of just how great they really were. A few people in particular, like Christine Ruberto (Berensten, her married name), really got me off my duff to come back to the fold and see everyone once again. And I’m sure glad she did! It was held at the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus Mass. on Sunday October 4, 2015. Though the weather outside was rainy, the atmosphere inside was...