The First Americans

The kind of migration illustration that was in books showing the land bridge theory.

How did the first people arrive in the Americas? When I was in school the book showed some people in furs making their way out of the frozen tundra and across a land bridge from Siberia. The land bridge is gone, well, it is submerged. But those people made it over it at the end of the last ice age when the glaciers retreated and gave them a corridor to North America.

But were they the first? The Americas covers a lot of land. There’ is evidence in Chile of a human presence on that coast at least by 14-18,000 years ago. In Florida, researchers found evidence of a mastodon butchering site that’s about 14,550 years old.

But a new look at a theory from the 20th century that looks at archaeological and genetic evidence that the first humans to arrive in the Americas may have followed the north Pacific coast from Asia to North America. This path is being called the "kelp highway" and if this theory holds true those people traveled the route well before glaciers retreated and other people came over the land bridge.

About 16,000 years ago, if people were traveling south on the coastline they would have had a clear route at sea level. There would have been fish, shellfish and other resources. There was no dangerous ocean crossing to make.

The new look at this theory supposes that these earliest of Americans moved south into Central America.

The old land bridge theory has a few cracks. Studies of pollen, fossils and DNA that the Siberia ice route wouldn't have opened until about 12,600 years ago. Oh, the came, but they were not first.

There is more searching to be done for places they stopped along the kelp highway. Maybe those first people followed the coastline in skin boats. Maybe.

We know a lot. We keep finding out more. We have so much more to discover.

Armistice Day and the Vietnam War

Image, Public Domain

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 (though it also observed on the 10th as it is in 2017) to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compi├Ęgne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I. The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, and coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day as public holidays. In the United States, it is more commonly called Veterans Day.

 I watched the PBS series The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick(also a book)  It was difficult to watch. I could only watch one episode at a time.

It has been more than forty years since the Vietnam War ended for the U.S. but many of its wounds have still not healed.

I did not fight in that war, but I did know people of my age you did fight and some died there.

As this documentary makes clear, we argued then and some still argue about why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. It divided the country.

The film uses many interviews in America and Vietnam and gives us perspectives of U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, and POWs. It tries not to take sides.

Knowing that Armistice Day was approaching again and thinking about the Vietnam War and the wars being fought around the world today and the ones that may come in my future, I tried to set down the connection between the holiday and the war for me. The poem below is the result.

Armistice Day

Once, November 11 was called Armistice Day,
honoring Americans who have served their country in the armed forces.

On that day in 1918, the First World War came to an end.
Papers signed in Paris and five hours later a cease-fire
at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It is the birthday of Kurt Vonnegut, best known for an anti-war novel
That was holy text for many in the movement of the 1960s.

On February 2, 1972, I sat with my brethren born in 1953 in a Rutgers dormitory lounge
circled around someone’s small black and white portable television
to watch a draft lottery in which our birthdates, numbered 1 through 365,
written on slips of paper, were placed in separate blue capsules,
mixed in a shoebox and then dropped into a deep glass jar.
Capsules were drawn from the jar one at a time.
March 6 was the first day drawn and those boys were assigned lottery number 1.
One boy in the room had that birthday.
He began to cry and his roommates took him away.
But we stayed until the last birthday, July 23, was called.
Someone said that if your number was higher than 100, you would not be drafted.
My birthday, October 20, was number 352.
I do not recall anyone cheering or joyful for having a high number.
Though it was not November eleventh, it was, for me, Armistice Day.
The Vietnam War had ended.

But it had not ended.
April 30, 1975, with the capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army,
marked the end of the war. I was a senior; studying for my final final exams.
I was not one of the 58,220 U.S. service members who died in the conflict
or one of the 1,626 who remained missing in action though my friends and classmates were.
I was not a soldier who had killed any of the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian soldiers
and civilians that we can only estimate at 1.2 million or perhaps 6.8 million.
Numbers that no one can really comprehend.
I graduated without ceremony, and that autumn I began to teach.
There were lessons taught, lessons learned and ones we still have not learned from.
North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year, and many Americans
did not, would not, or could not hear the news.

- Kenneth Ronkowitz

In fact-checking the poem, I came across a site about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I have visited that monument in Washington D.C. about a half dozen times and it always moves me to tears.

Through the website, you can search for a name, or those who came from your home state or hometown or, as I did, those who were born in your year or on your own birthday.

Vietnam was the first "television war"

1966 - Vietnam War U.S. Casualties


A lot of people listen to a lot of podcasts, but there are still a lot of people who have no idea what podcasting is all about.

A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download and listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user's own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.

Podcasting was  first known as "audioblogging" back to the 1980s. The ability to download bigger files via broadband internet and the arrival of portable digital audio playback devices didn't arrive until the early 21st century and that is when podcasts became podcasts.

There were many devices that allowed you to hold music and other audio files. The iPod was the biggest seller and gave part of its name to the shows that you downloaded. Podcast(ing) is a portmanteau of "iPod" (the Apple brand of media player) and "broadcast."

RSS feeds and other podcatching software (for the iPod it was iTunes) allowed you to subscribe to a show and have episodes automatically download to your device.

Back in 2004, I told people that it was "like a VCR or DVR for the radio." That was what first attracted me to it. I could subscribe to radio programs that I liked but couldn't always listen to when they were originally broadcast.

Downloaded music was always far ahead of podcasts and software like Napster made music downloads (legal and illegal downloads) incredibly popular.

But podCASTING, like broadcasting, is all about the subscription services provided. That aspect goes back to RSS, a portable player and a download system. One was developed at Compaq Research as early as 1999 or 2000. Called PocketDJ. In 2001, Replay Radio (later Replay AV) was a DVRish recorder for Internet Radio Shows.

iTunes was released in early 2001 and the iPod was released late that year and they certainly gave podcasts a big boost.