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April 20th, 2009

April 19

"Listen my children, while we pause for the midnight ride of William Dawes..." (Even Google can't find the original of this parody, which I heard as a child from my father.)

Some memories of Paul Revere Day:

It was either April 19, 1962 or April 19, 1963, while visiting Boston with my family, when I first attended a baseball game at Fenway Park -- Red Sox vs my beloved Tigers -- and first rode the Boston MTA. I was 9 (or 10) years old. My cousin Ricky Grimaldi, who lived in Boston and would have been 17 or 18 himself at that time, took my brother and me while my sister went with my parents to visit colleges. 

(Probably 1963. According to Google, the Red Sox hosted the Tigers in both 1962 and 1963. The 1963 day was a double-header, which is closer to what I remember; I think that, due to the Marathon, the game started at 11 am and that we only stayed for the first game. But then I remember the Tigers winning, when in fact they lost all three games, the one in '62 and both in '63. Also, in spring of 1963 my sister would have been a junior in high school, more likely to be interested in visiting colleges. By the way, she wound up at College of New Rochelle in New York.)

On April 19, 1975, a horribly over-complex computer program that I had been working on since the spring of 1973, designed to model the thermal evolution of the icy moons of the outer solar system, finally compiled and ran to completion. I immediately ran it with a dozen starting conditions (each run took two hours, waiting for my cards to come to the front of the queue at the IBM 360 computer, MIT's pride and joy in those days). Two weeks later, I had a master's thesis written based on the results, and I could graduate on time.

I also learned the first rule of computer modeling: keep debugging the program until you get the answers you want, then stop.

On April 19, 1978, I defended my PhD Thesis. I chose the date deliberately in memory of the previous two landmark events.

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