Mitch's Blog 7.0

Mitch's Blog


Saturday, November 25, 2006

20 Years On

November, 25, 2006

Like I've said in years past here on my blog, today is my favorite day of the year, since it's my birthday of course! Thanks to all who have written on my Facebook wall to wish me happy birthday so far. I entered my third decade of life today, but, so far, that fact has been overshadowed by the fact that I’ll never again have –teen suffixed to the end of my age. Unless, that is, I happen to be around in the year 2099. But I’m not planning on such a thing at the present time.

According to Wikipedia’s entry on November 25 – which, by the way, is the 329th day of the year – some important historical events took place on this day, some important historical figures were born on this day, and, likewise, some important historical figures died on this day. Here’s a rundown of what I find to be some of the more important or interesting events/births/deaths. The full list can be found at

  • 1034 - Máel Coluim mac Cináeda, King of Scots dies. Donnchad, the son of his second daughter Bethóc and Crínán of Dunkeld, inherits the throne.
  • 1120 - The White Ship sinks in the English Channel, drowning William Adelin, son of Henry I of England.
  • 1491 - The siege of Granada, last Moorish stronghold in Spain, begins.
  • 1542 - Battle of Solway Moss. The English army defeats the Scottish.
  • 1667 - A deadly earthquake rocks Shemakha, Caucasia, killing 80,000 people.
  • 1703 - The Great Storm of 1703, the greatest windstorm ever recorded in the British Isles, reaches its peak intensity and maintains it through November 27. Winds gust up to 120 mph, and 9,000 people perish in the mighty gale.
  • 1758 - French and Indian War: British forces capture Fort Duquesne from French control.
  • 1783 - American Revolutionary War: The last British troops leave New York City three months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
  • 1874 - The United States Greenback Party is established as a political party consisting primarily of farmers affected by the Panic of 1873.
  • 1905 - The Danish Prins Carl arrives in Norway to become King Haakon VII of Norway
  • 1926 - The worst, deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. November history strikes on Thanksgiving day. 27 twisters of great strength reported in the midwest, including the strongest November tornado, an F4, that devastates Heber Springs, Arkansas. 51 deaths in Arkansas alone, 76 deaths and over 400 injuries in all.
  • 1936 - In Berlin, Germany and Japan sign the Anti-Comintern Pact, thus agreeing to consult on what measures to take "to safeguard their common interests" in case of an unprovoked attack by the Soviet Union against either nation.
  • 1940 - Woody Woodpecker first appears, in the film "Knock Knock."
  • 1943 - Statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina was re-established at the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia.
  • 1947 - New Zealand ratifies the Statute of Westminster and thus becomes independent of legislative control by the United Kingdom.
  • 1950 - The People's Republic of China joins the Korean War, sending thousands of troops across the Yalu river border to fight United Nations forces.
  • 1952 - Agatha Christie's murder-mystery play The Mousetrap opens at the Ambassadors Theatre in London and eventually becomes the longest continuously-running play in history.
  • 1963 - President John F. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • 1973 - Greek President George Papadopoulos is ousted in a military coup led by Lieutenant General Phaidon Gizikis.
  • 1975 - Suriname gains independence from the Netherlands.
  • 1992 - The Czechoslovakia Federal Assembly votes to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia from January 1, 1993.
  • 1999 - The United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution designating November 25 as the annual International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
  • 2004 - Korean Research team announce that they have used cord blood stem cells to regrow a parapeligic's spinal cord. Patient walks for the first time in 19 years.
  • 1501 - Yi Hwang, Confucian scholar (d. 1570)
  • 1835 - Andrew Carnegie, British-born industrialist and philanthropist (d. 1919)
  • 1841 - Ernst Schröder, German mathematician (d. 1902)
  • 1843 - Henry Ware Eliot American industrialist, philanthropist and the father of T. S. Eliot (d. 1919)
  • 1844 - Karl Benz, German engineer (d. 1929)
  • 1881 - Pope John XXIII (d. 1963)
  • 1914 - Joe DiMaggio, American baseball player (d. 1999)
  • 1915 - Augusto Pinochet, Chilean dictator
  • 1938 - Charles Starkweather, American serial killer (d. 1959)
  • 1944 - Ben Stein, American actor
  • 1947 - John Larroquette, American actor
  • 1953 - Jeffrey Skilling, former CEO of Enron
  • 1960 - Amy Grant, American singer
  • 1960 - John F. Kennedy, Jr., American publisher (d. 1999)
  • 1971 - Christina Applegate, American actress
  • 1976 - Donovan McNabb, American football player
  • 1979 - Brooke Haven, American porn star
  • 1981 - Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush, daughters of George W. Bush and Laura Bush.
  • 1986 - Amber Hagerman, American kidnapping and murder victim, basis of the Amber Alert system (d. 1996)
  • 1185 - Pope Lucius III (b. 1097)
  • 1374 - Philip II of Taranto, Emperor of Costantinople (b. 1329)
  • 1881 - Theobald Boehm, German inventor of the modern flute (b. 1794)
  • 1884 - Adolph Wilhelm Hermann Kolbe, German chemist (b. 1818)
  • 1885 - King Alfonso XII of Spain (b. 1857)
  • 1885 - Thomas Hendricks, Vice President of the United States (b. 1819)
  • 1920 - Gaston Chevrolet, French-born American race car driver and automobile pioneer (b. 1892)
  • 1968 - Upton Sinclair, American journalist, politician, and writer (b. 1878)
  • 1998 - Flip Wilson, American actor and comedian (b. 1933)
As you could guess from reading what historical events happened on November 25, the date is celebrated as Independence Day in Suriname and National Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The WeatherStar

So back in the day I was a big fan of The Weather Channel. When I say back in the day, I mean during the middle part of the 1990s, way back before the internet was a source for all the weather information a person could ever want and before The Weather Channel itself started going downhill, in my opinion, by dropping intellectual documentaries in favor of sensationalistic "weathertainment" prime-time shows and featuring home & garden segments that have little, if anything, to do with weather. Though the changes the channel has made in the recent years may have brought in more advertising revenue and broadened the base of viewers, it’s led a lot of people who used to like the channel about a decade ago to tune out.

One of the cornerstones of The Weather Channel back in the 1990s was the widespread use of the WeatherStar 4000 machine to display local forecasts. I don’t know if many people know (or have ever stopped to think) about this, but every cable operator that carries The Weather Channel leases a machine that turns satellite-fed data from the channel’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia into information pertinent to the viewers in the specific area that the cable operator serves. The first machine designed to fulfill this function was called the WeatherStar. This name stuck with all subsequent upgrades and versions until the latest and greatest machine – the Intellistar – came out in 2004.

Today, most cable operators use the Intellistar or its slightly less sophisticated predecessor, the WeatherStar XL. However, a few select operators, primarily those that are either unaffiliated with one of the large cable conglomerates in the country or serve just a small base of customers, continue to use the WeatherStar 4000, the machine that defined The Weather Channel in the 1990s.

The WeatherStar 4000 debuted in 1990 as the first graphics-capable local forecast machine. Although they look charmingly outdated by today’s standards, the graphics on the WeatherStar 4000 made it stand out from its text-only precursors, one of which (the WeatherStar JR) is still used by a very small number of cable operators today.

What all of this leads to is a discovery I made all the way back in August. I was randomly browsing around Wikipedia, something I occasionally do when I get bored. I’m not quite sure how, but somehow I made it to the page that discusses The Weather Channel’s WeatherStar technology. Upon looking at the external links section, I noticed a link that led to the website of a maker of software that emulates the WeatherStar 4000 on any modern, Windows-based computer.

You can imagine my excitement when I clicked on that link. I knew I just had to get a hold of the program so that I could start running my own local forecasts on my own computer. As it turned out, however, getting the emulator wouldn’t be that simple. Over the summer, the people responsible for writing the emulator’s code discovered some sort of bug and took down the link to download it until a repaired version could be released.

Because the emulator is put out purely as a labor of love, fixing any problems that arise can take a while. Actually, a long while. An up-to-date, fully-functional version of the emulator wasn’t released until last weekend, meaning I had to patiently wait for my copy for nearly three months.

But now that I have the emulator and have set it up to display a local forecast for Grand Forks, I am thoroughly enjoying it. Seeing all of the screens from the WeatherStar 4000 brings back all those memories of watching the weather channel 10 or so years ago. In fact, here are some screenshots taken just a few moments ago (the actual output of the emulator is 800x600 pixels):

Do you want to run your own WeatherStar 4000 emulator on your computer? It’s easy to download it and set it up. Just head over to, read the information there, and then click on the link that says head over to the forums to get started. From there, the link to download the program is in the forum entitled downloads.

One important thing to note is that your computer will need to have the Microsoft .NET Framework Version 1.1 installed. If you don’t have it (most computers don’t), click on the link that says Microsoft .NET Framework on the homepage. Then download that program and install it. Once all of that is done, you can download and install the WeatherStar 4000 emulator.

It’s slightly tricky to get the emulator set up for the first time, but luckily there is good technical support on the forums. Head into the forum entitled tech support and look for the "sticky" post named Eltiempo's Documentation 'write-up', **updated**. This post will contain all the information necessary to set up the emulator. Alternatively, once you figure out what information you need to put in to make the emulator work correctly, you could use the handy website.

Like the real-life WeatherStar 4000, the emulator also has the capability to play music. If you need any of the Muzak type of music played in the actual local forecasts, head on over to another great website for fans of The Weather Channel,

As for logos, those are also available on the forums at Look in the general discussion forum.

So, there you have it, if you do decide to download the emulator, I hope you have fun with it!

Now, since I’ve been talking about the weather all throughout this post, I thought it would be good to include some photos of the recent weather in the Grand Forks area. A storm system associated with the cold front that brought cold weather to a large part of the country last week dumped a quick 1.5-2 inches of wet, slushy snow in Grand Forks last Monday, the 30th of October. As a result, October 31st – Halloween – looked and felt a lot more like November 31st. The snow largely stuck around until today, when the warmer temperatures invading the region began to melt it. In any event, here are a few photos:

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The winter-looking scene along the Coulee - it's hard to see, but the water was already starting to freeze

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The trees near Merrifield Hall cast shadows on the fresh snow

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Your photographer and his footprints

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Footprints leading up the hill behind Witmer Hall

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This is what campus looked like on Halloween

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Here's another Halloween scene - it was sort of strange to see leaves still on some of the trees

Previous Posts

Four Years Have Passed
Winter of 2007-08 Musings
7th Annual Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials
Another Birthday
A Beltated Update
2007 Vacation: Day 10 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 9 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 8 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 7 Summary
2007 Vacation: Day 6 Summary


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The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of Mitch Wahlsten and the participants
Mitch's Blog began on December 23, 2001