A Brief History Of Life

For most of us, the Pyramids symbolize the distant past. After all, they’re more than 4,500 years old. But for geologists and paleontologists, they might as well have been built yesterday. That’s because these biographers of the primordial deal in increments of millions and even billions of years as they struggle to reconstruct our planet’s life history, which is so vast that those 4,500 years would have to be replicated a million times over to reach back to Earth’s beginnings 4.5 billion years ago. Looked at another way, if one were to measure our planet’s age as a single 24-hour day, the first human civilizations would appear less than a second before midnight.

The geological time scale, established by scientists in the mid-19th century and agreed upon internationally, breaks down the eternity of our planet’s history into more manageable units than years. The scale functions as a massive calendar, dividing the history of life into eras, periods, and epochs based on fossil evidence. In this feature, explore the history of life on Earth as we know it today, from the earliest bacteria to the first modern humans. To launch the interactive, click on the image at left.—Lexi Krock

This interactive originally appeared on NOVA’s Missing Link Web site.

(A Brief History Of Reunions)

A Brief History of Reunions

(Originally printed in the Reunions Supplement of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, June 1994, reprinted here with permission from the PAW and the original author, Dan White ’65)

imageAlumni reunions date back to Princeton’s earliest years, when the entire College of New Jersey, as it was then known, was housed in Nassau Hall. The close association of students who roomed, ate, prayed, and attended classes together in the same building gave birth to a spirit of camaraderie that continued after they left.

“My jovial hours at Nassau Hall…I shall always consider my happiest,” wrote James W. Alexander, Class of 1820 and later professor of belles-lettres at Princeton. “I often recall a merry circle of careless college blades seated at the ‘witchingtime of night’ around a Nassau fire, by the way a preeminently good one, enveloped in fragrant clouds, enjoying all that flow of youthful hilarity and good humor which a release from irksome duty engenders.”

Graduates returned on Commencement Day, which for about the first hundred years of the college was held in late September, to visit professors and undergraduates friends. Yet Commencement drew non-Princetonians to the campus as well, according to John Maclean, Class of 1816 and the 10th president of Princeton. In his two-volume History of the College of New Jersey, published in 1877, Maclean recalled that Commencement provided a good excuse for farmers to come to town for a public holiday — not to watch the ceremony, but to hold a saturnalia in which “everybody felt at liberty to take part in every amusement or entertainment he thought fit.” Nassau Street, along the front of the main campus, was “crowded with wagons and tables and hundreds of men, women, and children bent upon nothing but amusement.” Alumni found the carnival atmosphere of excessive consumption, gambling, and horse racing conducive to their own merriment. The popular drinking spot then was the Nassau Tavern, and meetings that began in campus recitation rooms often ended there.

imageBy 1826, the steward of the college anticipated alumni guests and offered wine and a special dinner, paid for by the college president, on Commencement Day. That same year, Maclean helped establish an organization that would “promote the interests of the College and the friendly intercourse of its graduates.” On Commencement Day, he announced the formation of the Alumni Association of Nassau Hall with James Madison, Class of 1771, as its first president, and himself as secretary, centering its activities around Commencement.

When graduation was moved to the month of June, in 1844, the Alumni Association meeting and class reunions moved with it. According to Alexander Leitch ’24 in A Princeton Companion, soon after the Civil War alumni coming to Commencement Day took part in “an ordered procession to the place of their dinner meeting.” While enjoying their dinners, guests listened to a variety of alumni speeches.

By the turn of the century, Reunions had become a robust convention that began as long as a week before Commencement. Admission was restricted to alumni. Families were invited to watch the Princeton-Yale baseball game, a rivalry that began in 1868. The Saturday afternoon game became the focal point of reunions, and as alumni attendance grew, occasional classes would hire a band to lead their group to the playing field.

Distinguishing class buttons soon gave way to elaborate reunion costumes and corresponding hi-jinx. At its tenth, the Class of 1898, clothed in white Roman tunics with orange Roman bands, classic buskins, and orange lacings to the knee, bore shields painted with the ’98 insignia. They wreathed their white helmets with ivy and carried short Roman swords. Apache dancers, Spanish toreadors, Scotch Highlanders, bellhops, cooks, soldiers, sailors, baseball players, Arabs, and monks descended on the town each June thereafter. The Class of 1909 shuffled in as a deck of cards for one reunion.

In 1906, reunion planners were vexed by the problem of how to get the alumni to the baseball game in an orderly fashion to prevent the wild rush for the best seats. Someone suggested that the alumni be formed together in a procession and marched down to the ballfield. Classes who would not submit to any other regimentation gladly accepted the chance to parade. They had already been practicing for several years. The procession of classes soon acquired the sobriquet Pee-rade and, as well, a menagerie if animals from elephants to tigers. Marching bands and exotic floats joined in.

At first, only alumni marched in the P-rade, but as Princeton entered the ’20s, the alumni welcomed boys and girls up to the age of 16. Older girls and women were barred, lest they draw attention away from the alumni marchers. The edict against women in the P-rade continued well after W.W.II.

Reunions were canceled during W.W.I, but they resumed in the ’20s with as much glitter as ever. Yachts motored up the Delaware-Raritan Canal from Trenton and anchored by Lake Carnegie at the south end of the campus. Class flags were hoisted and boisterous parties were held, during which people sometimes fell overboard.

As Reunions entered the ’30s, conversations in the tents and at class dinners changed. Alumni heatedly debated everything from Communism to Franklin D. Roosevelt and WPA. One class carried a P-rade sign that read “FDR is a Harvard man with a Yale honorary degree.” Six months before Pearl Harbor, the 15th-year reunion class electrified the wires along the tops of its barricades to keep out the undesirables.

Throughout W.W.II, Reunions were canceled again. In the spring of 1946, more than 10,000 alumni returned to celebrate what was called the Victory Reunion, a catch-up for all of the classes that had missed their major (five-year) reunions during the moratorium. The next year, for the first time, a class held its reunion on campus; 1922 celebrated its 25th inside Holder courtyard, close to Nassau Hall. The university would not allow liquor on the premises, but 1922 posted a bar on the other side of University Place, near its headquarters. Other classes followed suit. Five years later, the university caved in and liquor became a part of on-campus reunions.

Following the war, too, Reunions increasingly became a family affair, although the women were not officially welcome in the P-rade until the advent of coeducation at Princeton in 1969.

Nineteen sixty-six marked the last Princeton-Yale Reunions baseball game. Yale explained that it had become too difficult to rally its team so long after the end of the regular season and withdrew. In its place, a three-inning alumni game was instituted the following year. Then on June 4, 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles. The funeral train was to travel through Princeton Junction, a few miles from campus, the same afternoon as the P-rade. A debate arose between those who thought the P-rade should be canceled in respect for the Kennedy family and those of who thought it should take place as usual. They compromised. The baseball game was canceled, and the P-rade followed a revised route that kept it on campus. The game was never revived. Since it was no longer necessary for the P-rade to end at the baseball field, on the outer limits of campus, new routes were tried during the next few years.

Another crisis tested the mettle of the P-rade in the spring of 1970, when the U.S. Incursion into Cambodia heightened anti-war sentiments on college campuses. As Reunions drew near, Princeton’s senior class voted not to march in something as frivolous as the P-rade. A small delegation appeared at an emergency meeting of the Class Affairs and Reunions Committee and asked that the P-rade be canceled altogether. An alumnus on the verge of apoplexy stood up and declared, “Young man, I have come 2,500 miles to march in the P-rade, and you are not going to stop me.” The committee chairman quickly thanked the seniors, announced the P-rade would be held as scheduled, and adjourned the meeting. A group of seniors broke ranks and marched and were cheered by the other classes.

The P-rade rested from its perambulations for sixteen years, beginning in 1975, when Clarke Field was decided upon as a terminus. A meeting of the Alumni Association substituted for the baseball game.

Today the P-rade follows a new route down Elm Drive, the main artery through campus, and ends at Poe Field. An increase in participants, from around 6,100 alumni and relatives in the late ’60s to more than 9,000 in 1990, had lengthened the time of the P-rade to three hours. Huge gaps and bottlenecks at the 1879 arch led many to break away from the procession before reaching Clarke Field and the president’s reviewing stand. As a result, few had been staying for the meeting of the Alumni Association.

The new route, inaugurated in 1991, has no bottlenecks, is 15 percent shorter than the old one, and provides ample room for spectators. Reminiscent of the local festivities of the early 1800s, the new terminus has featured a carnival atmosphere with pony rides, clowns, jugglers, a steam calliope, and a hot-air balloon to entertain alumni and their families as well as townspeople.

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A Brief History Of The Prompt And Connected

“I think we should talk to Federico about joining the show.”

With that, my podcasting career – and life – got a lot better.

This was the spring of 2013. Myke Hurley and I were packing our bags at Myke’s original podcast network, heading over to 5by5. He and I had been publishing a weekly Apple show named “The 512 Podcast,” but we wanted to do something bigger and better, and Myke had the idea to wrangle Federico into things.Supported By​Agenda. An elegant new take on notes.

While MacStories is just a few months younger than my website, even six years ago I knew it was something special. Federico works harder than just about anyone in this business, and it shows. I didn’t know him then, but I respected the hell out of him for his work, and how he handled himself online.

The idea for the podcast was pretty simple. The three of us have drastically different backgrounds (and accents), and Myke was right that our various approaches to technology would make for an interesting show. We’d cover Apple and related companies, but through our own unique lenses.

The Prompt was born.

We initially had planned on having rotating guests come on to help shore up our coverage of specific stories, but over time, we realized the show was stronger with just the three of us.

We also realized that we often disagreed on the simplest things – regularly with Federico and I at opposite ends of something, and Myke in the middle. At first, I was uncomfortable with this dynamic, but it proved to be one of the key ingredients in The Prompt’s success. Being an iPad-first user was really rare back in those early years, and Federico was able to bring his perspective to the world, and to me, the older, more wise Mac user.

The Prompt took off like a rocket. It was immediately bigger than the old show, and just continued to grow. Of course, 2013 was a different era. The Prompt began after Build and Analyze and Hypercritical ended, and just a few months after ATP got off the ground.

In many ways, it was the right show at the right time, and it afforded Myke, Federico, and I opportunities we’d never had before. My first podcast appearance with Jason Snell was on The Prompt, and it’s how I met folks like Dr. Drang, Underscore, and many more.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that The Prompt ran for just over a year, but that is because the biggest opportunity came along: starting Relay FM in the fall of 2014.

The Prompt had given us the confidence we needed to go out on our own, and its size opened our eyes to how many people were interested in what we had to say about Apple and other tech.

When we launched Relay FM, The Prompt got rebranded as Connected, but despite the snazzy new artwork, the show stayed the same. We still disagreed on things and still enjoyed tossing ridiculous antics into what would otherwise be a pretty straight-forward tech podcast.

A massive high point for Connected came at WWDC 2018, when the podcast’s artwork was used in the slides showing off the Podcasts app on the Apple Watch. It was then repeated at the end of the keynote as Tim Cook recapped the morning’s news.

This happened in the most Connected way possible. Federico was in the audience for the keynote, and Myke was in his hotel room in San Jose, with a bunch of other nerds.

I wasn’t in California yet, but still at home in Memphis due to a death in the family. I was watching the keynote at my desk, and all of a sudden Tweetbot exploded. It was fitting that for one of the show’s biggest moments, we were apart from each other. Our locations are even highlighted in our show’s artwork.

In our six years podcasting together, Federico has gone from a coworker to a dear and trusted friend. We may not get to see each other more than a couple of times a year at best, but what we record every Wednesday is just the tip of the conversations we hold throughout the week.

I’ve seen Federico go through rough times with his health, but he’s come out the other side stronger than ever. I’ve watched him agonize over things like iOS reviews, just to publish the best iOS-centric content on the Internet. It’s been exciting to see the team at MacStories grow over the years, which is a testament to Federico’s strengths both in content creation and in business.

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