Wisdom, a checklist about students’ use of technology

August 18, 2013

Cheat Sheet:  What do you want kids to do with technology?  By Bill Ferriter

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter The Tempered Radical blog.williamferriter.com @plugusin

“Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome,” Bill Ferriter says.  He’s right, of course.

Tip of the old scrub brush to April Niemela@AprilJNiemela.

More, generally:


Typewriter of the moment: Aaron Copland in California

August 15, 2013

Composer Aaron Copland at his typewriter in California; Aaron Copland Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1939 or 1940

Composer Aaron Copland at his typewriter in California; Aaron Copland Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1939 or 1940. The photos is placed as either San Diego or Palm Springs; I’m leaning towards Palm Springs with those mountains. Anyone know?

Oddly, the Library of Congress photo site is down for the weekend; here's an image that shows what the photo should look like.  Links should work again come Monday.

Oddly, the Library of Congress photo site is down for the weekend; here’s an image that shows what the photo should look like. Links should work again come Monday.

Details for scholars and history buffs:

ITEM TITLE

Aaron Copland at typewriter, Palm Springs or San Diego, 1939-1940.

SOURCE

Collection: Aaron Copland Collection; Music Division, Library of Congress
Box/Folder: 472/1
Original format: 1 print: b&w; 2.5 x 2.5 in.

DIGITAL ID

copland phot0077

I don't think this photo is under any copyright, but the collection contains this general language:

Photographs - used by permission of The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., 254 West 31st Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10001, phone 461-6956, fax (212) 810-4567. The Fund's permission is limited to the right to reproduce the image of Aaron Copland. All rights to use individual photographs are controlled by the respective owners of the copyrights in those photographs. For those listed as unidentified, we invite users to contact us with any information they may have with regard to those items.

Is it odd to find a composer working at a typewriter, and not a piano?  Especially before 1990, music writers had much occasion to use the machines -- for lyrics, for descriptions of their music and how the published version should look, and for correspondence -- and, baby, do composers have correspondence!  The brand on this machine I have not been able to determine; it's a portable, I imagine, looking at the case to Copland's left -- the typewriter case.

Was Copland a hunt-and-peck typer?  Looks like to me from this photo.

Did you notice the U.S. flag on the pole on the other side of the house?

I wonder what he was working on, in California, at that time.

More:

English: Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland at a machine where we'd expect to find him -- years after the photo at the top. Wikipedia image


Outlaw flying in the American west

August 15, 2013

Old Jules tells a great story here about cranking up the old Cessna and climbing high enough to watch the vast powers of the U.S. military run training operations in the New Mexico Desert.

Pilots, bless ‘em, tend toward the ornery end of the scale.  That’s what you want if something breaks on your airplane.  You want a guy at the stick who says, “Dagnab it, let’s see how to get out of this one safely.”  (Shades of Flight.  A great movie, really — did you see it?)

This is the place to insert the heroics of pilots in various times of stress, Wally Stewart and his crew bringing their B-24 bomber back over the Mediterrannean and dropping it perfectly on the runway, where it fell apart from the bullet holes [See KUED resources here].  That brave American Airlines crew in the DC-10 over Detroit, Flight 96, who lost hydraulic control when the rear cargo door blew out, and after a string of blue talking, brought the plane down safely (one flight attendant died in the explosion). Those United Airlines pilots who brought the DC-10 Flight 232 down in Sioux City, Iowa, after the rear engine flew apart and destroyed all control of the tail and rudder.  That brave U.S. Airways crew that executed a perfect landing in the Hudson River with Flight 1549.

I think if you talk with pilots much, you get the idea that they like things a little on the edge.  They don’t develop those cool, steely nerves that save lives by having nothing go wrong, ever, or by not pushing their aircraft where the wonks at the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., say aircraft should not be pushed.  We hope they do all this pushing in flight simulators; but we also know better.

Cessnas, and just violating some of the rules, don’t deserve those accolades, really.  These stories tell how pilots might develop the skills the brave guys use later.  But they are stories, nevertheless, and they deserve to be told.  They may not save your life flying, but they’ll enrich your life, and help you get through the stuff here on the ground.

So go read Old Jules’s tale.

Then come back here; here are a couple of stories, true as I remember them (a couple of which really should be tracked down; the American west of the latter-half the of 20th century is full of these stories, and they need to be told).

I told Old Jules:

What’s outlaw in flying?

Two observations.

Years ago, while I was staffing the Senate, my brother, Jerry Jones, who spent a good deal of time in his last 20 years in Page, Arizona, called to ask me to check in on a Senate hearing on some FAA issue or other.  Turns out someone — National Park Service, perhaps? — was asking FAA to significantly tighten rules on flying around NPS stuff, including around Rainbow Bridge National Monument.  Apart from the usual issues of air traffic congestion and safety around conflicts between “fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft” (airplanes and helicopters) in and around the Grand Canyon, there were complaints about small plane pilots flying under Rainbow bridge.  The thing really is massive, and you could put the dome of the U.S. Capitol under it, so it’s about 500 feet high . . . what barnstorming pilot could resist?

A somewhat skeptical group of senators quizzed the FAA and Park Service guys on what the problem was, other than noise and hubbub to hikers (who had hiked a mile from the marina on Lake Powell).  About that time Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, shuffled into the hearing.  Goldwater was very protective of grand things to see in Arizona, like Rainbow Bridge, and he was also a pilot.

Barry Goldwater, U.S. Senator (AZ-R)

Barry Goldwater, U.S. Senator, R-Arizona. Wikipedia image.

At some point, one of the officials making a case to yank licenses from pilots who pulled the illegal stunt made a comment that questioned the sanity of any pilot who would do such a thing.  Goldwater sat upright.  You mean any pilot who would do such a thing is crazy? Goldwater asked.  Well, yes — and we don’t want crazy people flying airplanes, the official said.  How about such crazy people representing the people of Arizona and passing judgment on your proposals? Goldwater asked.  Then he said he didn’t want an answer to that, that he had some grave reservations about the proposal, and he left the hearing.

I later caught a conversation with the senator in a hallway, in which someone asked him directly if he’d ever flown under Rainbow Bridge, and he said something like, not enough times that the FAA needs to worry about it.

Brother Jerry started a public service effort in his Page days, Page Attacks Trash, a project to clean up litter in and around Page, on the Navajo Reservation, and in the Lake Powell National Recreation Area (NRA) and Rainbow Bridge NM.  It was a great clean-up effort, got the support of the Salt River Project (who operate the Navajo Generating Station in Page); it was big time.  Iron Eyes Cody, who did the famous anti-littering ad featuring the tear in the eye of an American Indian, sometimes dropped in to help out.

Jerry arranged for some television Public Service Announcements (PSAs) filmed in and around Lake Powell, to fight littering.  One of the spots was shot at Rainbow Bridge.  Jerry’s health had been failing for years, but he’d get his cane and make the hike, just to watch the proceedings and keep it all going well.  They finished the spot, broke sticks (as they used to say in the filming biz), and were walking back to the boats at the marina, Jerry and his cane far in the rear.  Just before the film crew rounded the bend, they heard a small airplane buzzing around and the tell-tale cut of the engine, to lose altitude, before roaring the engine to pass under the stone formation.  One of the cameramen had some footage left, and had the presence of mind to turn on the camera and film the thing.

Well, the Park Service and FAA were outraged to hear of the event.  They subpoenaed the film footage, and blew up every frame to see if they could get the tail number on the airplane.  To be honest, I don’t know how that turned out.  I do know that one my wall I have a massive picture of my late brother, two by two-and-a-half feet, waving to the cameraman, with Rainbow Bridge in the background.  That frame didn’t have any useful information, and the law gave him the photo.

The Rainbow Brigde National Monument

Rainbow Brigde National Monument; no, I wouldn’t try to fly a plane under it, either. You could, if you had to, but the authorities would probably track you down like a woodpecker and yank your license. Wikipedia image

Two:

The West Utah Desert remains desolate.  On the border between Nevada and Utah, there ain’t much of nothin’.  A few roads connect a few ranches, but there’s a good reason U.S. 50 and 6 out there is known as “the loneliest highway in the world.”  Bandits might be regarded as welcome company out there sometimes.

Anyway, it was expensive to run copper wires out there, say, 50 miles, to an isolated ranch house, or a lone gas station, or some other building said to be a business.  So mostly, AT&T didn’t do it.  People who lived and worked out there just had to get along without phone service.  Enter a guy named Art Silver Brothers (I think; my memory fades, too)), who figured out that radiophone service worked okay.  Give people a radiophone — a device which existed then, but which required several pounds of gear and a lot of juice, relatively — and they could dial up the “local” grocery store to check to be sure the milk was good this week, before driving 50 miles to get some dairy whitener for the coffee.

A photo from Beehive Telephone in 2012, showing their service area.

A photo from Beehive Telephone in 2012, showing a part of their service area in Utah, or Nevada, or both. The company still exists!  On their website, they say:  “

Art strung wires where he could, using REA-installed power poles, or fence poles, or whatever he could, and thin, light copper wiring.  His Beehive Phone Company was one of the last truly independent phone operations in the U.S., serving a grossly underserved area with patchy service.  He didn’t get rich doing it.  He was the company’s only employee most of the time.

Stringing copper over 50 miles for one phone, a company can have difficulty maintaining such lines.  Art had a pilot’s license, and he learned he could spot downed lines and other trouble from the air . . . and it was just one step to landing his small airplane on the local road, fixing the problem, and taking off again.

Well, that got the ire of the FAA.  They said he shouldn’t do that.  They argued that he was impeding traffic an imposing dangers.  He said he was keeping lifelines open for people in far-flung places, and it was not a problem for traffic on roads where there might be two vehicles a week passing by.  FAA paid for traffic studies on a bunch of those roads; and they enlisted the FCC to try to shut down Silver’s operations.

Remember, part of the system was wired, and part was radio.  Turns out that in those pre-cellular days, the radio frequencies Silver used were in the “emergency” spectrum — radio frequencies used by cops and firefighters in places where cops and firefighters existed.  FCC took to taping the “phone conversations” of Art’s customers, and in yet another hearing in the Senate, charged that Art was abusing emergency frequencies.  The star audio was a tape recording of a woman ordering a significant amount of liquor from a liquor store that served probably six counties in eastern Nevada.  FCC argued that obviously was not an emergency, and it amounted to an abuse of spectrum, and it was enough of an abuse to shut down the phone company.

Art finally got his chance to explain.  Someone quizzed him about that liquor order, and whether that was appropriate use of emergency radio spectrum.

Well, Art started, the woman making the liquor order was the owning madam of [a] western Nevada brothel, set way in the hell in the middle of nowhere.  “And I gotta tell you, if you run a whore house, and you run out of whiskey, that’s an emergency.”

Those were good days to attend hearings in Washington.  The Tea Party has ruined all that.

That’s my story; the true facts are probably better.

More:

Jerry Jones and Rainbow Bridge

A bad snapshot of the picture on my wall, Jerry Jones waving from the path to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, moments after a small aircraft flew under the Bridge.


Typewriter of the moment: Superman’s (1950s television)

July 20, 2013

Stumbled across this photo of Superman typing away:

Superman typing.

Superman typing. Is that a Remington? (George Reeves played Superman in the television series that ran from 1952 to 1958, “The Adventures of Superman.”)

I’m pretty sure it’s a Remington, a manual  (if you can tell differently, please let me know).  Superman’s “alter ego” was Clark Kent, whose job in the comics and this television series was as a reporter for the Daily Planet, the newspaper for Metropolis.

Do you think the typewriters on Krypton used a QWERTY keyboard?  How did Superman deal with typographical errors, in the time before Correcting Selectrics?


Typewriter of the moment: Alice Denham, circa 1956

June 8, 2013

One needs a typewriter to type out a story; but one needs a story to tell, first.

Alice Denham and her typewriter, 1956

Alice Denham, Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month in July 1956; photo undated, but probably about the same time; from 20th Century Man

I haven’t been able to identify the typewriter.  A short story she wrote appeared in the same issue of Playboy as her playmate layout.

Denham led an adventurous life in the New York literary scene, as an aspiring writer, and as a woman who liked sex.  Was she working on her book in this photo?  It was eventually published in 1967, My Darling from the Lions.

In 2006 she got attention for another book, a tell-much memoir of her life and romances and flings along the way, Sleeping With Bad Boys – A Juicy Tell-All of Literary New York in the Fifties and Sixties, good enough, or historically interesting enough, to get a review in the New York Times.

If typewriters could talk, you know?

More:


Typewriter of the moment: Stanley Kubrick’s

June 6, 2013

Stanley Kubrick's typewriter on Instagram, from sophireaptress.

Stanley Kubrick’s typewriter used in “The Shining” on Instagram, from sophireaptress.

It’s an Adler, but Instagram isn’t built for details, you know?

The typewriter is probably on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Kubrick Exhibit, which closes June 30, 2013 (hurry!).

More:


Spam templates

April 19, 2013

Organized efforts to fight spam, by major computer security firms, by major internet players, have paid off in interesting ways.

I use WordPress‘s Akismet spam catching program, and it works very well.  Especially I enjoy the ability to see some of the spam in the holding tank where the program asks whether I really want to dump something.  In recent months the false positives have fallen through the floor.  The crude sex trade spam of two years ago — up to a thousand a day — are gone.  Hooray for the spam fighters.

Spam topics

Spam topics you don’t want to see on your blog. No offense to the real Spam, which is pretty good stuff if you’re in a hurry for breakfast.

Spammers have gotten a bit more sophisticated.  In attempts to get around Akismet and other spam-trapping and spam-killing programs, they’ve created programs that tailor comments to the blog in question, trying to trick the filters into thinking it’s a legitimate comment.  About one in a hundred of these comments get through.

What do they say?  “Great post.”  “Just what I was looking for.”  Sometimes a mention of a word, or the title of the post is inserted.  The idea is to get the comment posted on a blog, where a link from the name of the poster will take an unwary reader to someplace else, a pornography site, a site to sell shoes or handbags, or counterfeit shoes and handbags, or generic pharmaceuticals — or phony pharmaceuticals.  A thousand different products.  In an internet where some advertisers will pay a nickel a click, even an accidental click from an unwary blog browser can make money, if repeated a hundred thousand times.

Spammers work to tailor comments.

And then, someone fails to code the thing correctly — and instead of tailoring spam for a site, the robot commenters insert the whole damnable script.

Like this one I got today.  Wonder how they try to get around your  spam filters?  Here’s the script, a catalog of spam comments you’ll find on blogs all around the world, before the filters get to them:

{
{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough
for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good content as you
did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.

Spam Bots

No, it doesn’t really work like this.

|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting. {Very well| Perfectly| Well| Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will| I’ll} {right away| immediately} {take hold of| grab| clutch| grasp| seize| snatch} your
{rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to find} your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or {newsletter|e-newsletter} service. Do {you have|you’ve} any?
{Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order that} I
{may just|may|could} subscribe. Thanks.|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make some plans for the future and {it is|it’s} time to be happy.
{I have|I’ve} read this post and if I could I {want to|wish to|desire to} suggest you {few|some} interesting things or {advice|suggestions|tips}. {Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write next articles referring to this article. I {want to|wish to|desire to} read {more|even more} things about it!|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make {a few|some}
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I {want to|wish to|desire to} {read|learn} {more|even more} {things|issues} {approximately|about} it!
|
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{lovely|pretty|beautiful} {worth|value|price} {enough|sufficient} for me.
{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web
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the {internet|net|web} {will be|shall be|might be|will probably
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ever before.|
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the topic of} this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph}
{here|at this place} at this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site},
I have read all that, so {now|at this time} me also commenting {here|at this place}.
|
I am sure this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} has touched all the internet {users|people|viewers|visitors}, its really really {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} on
building up new {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}.
|
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{sister|younger sister} is analyzing {such|these|these kinds of} things, {so|thus|therefore} I am going to {tell|inform|let know|convey} her.
|
{Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}, {I really like|I
like|I love} {your blog|your site|your web site|your
website}!|
Way cool! Some {very|extremely} valid points!
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{and the|and also the|plus the} rest of the {site is|website is} {also very|extremely|very|also really|really} good.
|
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{blog|website|web site|site}. I stumbledupon it ;) {I will|I
am going to|I’m going to|I may} {come back|return|revisit} {once again|yet again} {since I|since i have} {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} it. Money and freedom {is the best|is the greatest} way to change, may you be rich and continue to {help|guide} {other people|others}.|
Woah! I’m really {loving|enjoying|digging} the template/theme of this
{site|website|blog}. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s {very hard|very difficult|challenging|tough|difficult|hard} to get that “perfect balance” between {superb usability|user friendliness|usability} and {visual appearance|visual appeal|appearance}.
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{In addition|Additionally|Also}, the blog loads {very|extremely|super} {fast|quick} for me on {Safari|Internet explorer|Chrome|Opera|Firefox}.
{Superb|Exceptional|Outstanding|Excellent} Blog!
|
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Any way keep up wrinting.|
{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you guys
{are|are usually|tend to be} up too. {This sort of|This type of|Such|This kind of}
clever work and {exposure|coverage|reporting}! Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve {incorporated||added|included} you guys to {|my|our||my personal|my own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey}! Someone in my {Myspace|Facebook} group shared this {site|website} with us so I came to {give it a look|look it over|take a look|check it out}. I’m definitely {enjoying|loving} the information.
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{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves} what you guys {are|are usually|tend to be} up too. {This sort of|This type of|Such|This kind of} clever work and {exposure|coverage|reporting}! Keep up the {superb|terrific|very good|great|good|awesome|fantastic|excellent|amazing|wonderful} works guys I’ve {incorporated|added|included} you guys to {|my|our|my
personal|my own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey} would you mind {stating|sharing} which blog platform you’re {working with|using}? I’m {looking|planning|going} to start
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P.S {My apologies|Apologies|Sorry} for {getting|being} off-topic but
I had to ask!|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hey there|Hello|Hey} would you mind
letting me know which {webhost|hosting company|web host} you’re {utilizing|working with|using}? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 {completely different|different} {internet browsers|web browsers|browsers} and I must say this blog loads a lot {quicker|faster} then most.

Can you {suggest|recommend} a good {internet hosting|web hosting|hosting} provider at a {honest|reasonable|fair} price?
{Thanks a lot|Kudos|Cheers|Thank you|Many thanks|Thanks}, I appreciate it!
|
{I love|I really like|I like|Everyone loves} it {when people|when individuals|when folks|whenever people}
{come together|get together} and share {opinions|thoughts|views|ideas}.
Great {blog|website|site}, {keep it up|continue
the good work|stick with it}!|
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Look advanced to {far|more} added agreeable from you!

{By the way|However}, how {can|could} we communicate?
|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hello|Hey} just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
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The {style and design|design and style|layout|design} look great though!
Hope you get the {problem|issue} {solved|resolved|fixed} soon.

{Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|
This is a topic {that is|that’s|which is} {close to|near to} my heart… {Cheers|Many thanks|Best wishes|Take care|Thank you}! {Where|Exactly where} are your contact details though?|
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to find out any {topic|matter} on {net|web} as compared to {books|textbooks}, as I
found this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} at this {website|web site|site|web page}.

|
Does your {site|website|blog} have a contact page?
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I’ve got some {creative ideas|recommendations|suggestions|ideas} for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great {site|website|blog} and I look forward to seeing it {develop|improve|expand|grow} over time.|
{Hola|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Greetings}! I’ve been {following|reading} your {site|web
site|website|weblog|blog} for {a long time|a while|some time} now and
finally got the {bravery|courage} to go ahead and give you a shout out
from {New Caney|Kingwood|Huffman|Porter|Houston|Dallas|Austin|Lubbock|Humble|Atascocita} {Tx|Texas}!

Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up the {fantastic|excellent|great|good} {job|work}!

|
Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los
angeles|California}! I’m {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work so I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog} on my iphone during lunch break. I {enjoy|really like|love} the {knowledge|info|information} you {present|provide} here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
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. {Anyhow|Anyways}, {awesome|amazing|very good|superb|good|wonderful|fantastic|excellent|great} {site|blog}!
|
Its {like you|such as you} {read|learn} my {mind|thoughts}!

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in it or something. {I think|I feel|I believe} {that
you|that you simply|that you just} {could|can} do
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{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hello}, i read your blog {occasionally|from time to time} and i own a similar one and i was just {wondering|curious} if you get a lot of spam {comments|responses|feedback|remarks}? If so how do you {prevent|reduce|stop|protect against} it, any plugin or anything you can {advise|suggest|recommend}? I get so much lately it’s driving me {mad|insane|crazy} so any {assistance|help|support} is very much appreciated.|
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{Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just} like my old one! It’s on a {completely|entirely|totally} different {topic|subject} but it has pretty much the same {layout|page layout} and design. {Excellent|Wonderful|Great|Outstanding|Superb} choice of colors!|
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My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the {expenses|costs}. But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using {Movable-type|WordPress} on {a number of|a variety of|numerous|several|various} websites for about a year and am {nervous|anxious|worried|concerned} about switching to another platform. I have heard {fantastic|very good|excellent|great|good} things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it? {Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|
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{I’m|I am} not sure where {you are|you’re} getting your {info|information}, but {good|great} topic. I needs to spend some time learning {more|much more} or understanding more. Thanks for {great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent} {information|info} I was looking for this {information|info} for my mission.|
{Hi|Hello}, i think that i saw you visited my {blog|weblog|website|web site|site} {so|thus} i came to “return the favor”.{I am|I’m} {trying to|attempting to} find things to {improve|enhance} my {website|site|web site}!I suppose its ok to use {some of|a few of} your ideas!!\

I’m reminded of those students who go to great lengths to cheat on tests, when it would be easier, and take less time, to simply learn the material.

Spammers, please take a hike.

More:


Abraham Lincoln, inventor – only president with a patent?

February 10, 2013

Lincoln’s (and Darwin’s) birthday rolls around again next week. What do we know about our 16th president who was the subject of a great and a silly movie in the last year?

Some wag sent out this Tweet today.

Any visitor to Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello knows of Jefferson’s wide-ranging interests, and work in science and invention.  I was rather surprised to discover the depth of George Washington’s inventive work, in a seminar sponsorred by the Bill of Rights Institute at Mount Vernon a few years ago.

Abraham Lincoln, too?

Sangamon_River_near_Lincoln's_First_Home_in_Il...

Sangamon River near Lincoln’s first home in Illinois – Photo from Wikipedia

Lincoln lived along the Sangamon River, and he saw development of the river for commercial navigation to be a boon for his district’s economic growth.  Unfortunately, the Sangamon is not deep; boats had difficult times navigating over the many logs and snags, and shallows.

So, Mr. Lincoln offered a technical solution, for which he was granted a patent in 1849.  Details below, from Google Patents:

lincoln-patent-for-buoying_vessels_over_shoals

lincoln-patent-for-boat-buoying-in-jpg

Drawing for Abraham Lincoln’s patent of a boat bouying apparatus.

Was Lincoln the only president to get a patent?  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington worked hard at inventions.  Jefferson shared Ben Franklin’s view that new inventions should be for the benefit of all; does that mean he didn’t seek patents?  Washington’s inventions — including the 16-sided barn for threshing wheat — tended to be improvements on processes; I don’t know of any evidence he even thought of patenting any idea.

It’s possible that Lincoln was the only president so far to have held a patent.

Lincoln’s invention was never built, and that patent never used.

This is an encore post with additions.

More, and miscellany:

 


Time machine! For Digital Learning Day

February 6, 2013

Screen shot from HHMI's iPad app, Earth Viewer -- the time machine function.

Screen shot from HHMI’s iPad app, Earth Viewer — the time machine function.

Stealing the entire post from P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula:

I’ve been playing with it for a while. It turns out that when you go back to Cretaceous Morris, you need to be able to swim really well, but Cambrian Morris is high and dry on a fairly small landmass (whoa, but oxygen is way down and carbon dioxide way up). You can have your own time machine, too — it’s the EarthViewer app for iPad, and it’s free from HHMI Here’s what it has:

• Data and continental reconstructions dating back billions of years

• Climate and carbon dioxide data for the last 100 years

• The ability to manipulate the globe and zoom to any location

• Track the location of modern cities back over 500 million years

• In depth features on major geological and biological events in Earth history

• Clickable details on geologic eons, eras, and periods

• Automated play modes

• An extensive reference list

• Suggestions for classroom use

• Tutorial videos

Did I mention that it’s free? This HHMI thing is pretty danged sweet.

There is no creationist/Noah’s Flood version.

No Windows version, yet, either.

Did we mention the Howard Hughes Medical Institute made this and related apps free?


Typewriter of the moment: Abigail van Buren’s IBM

January 17, 2013

Abigail van Buren,

“Dear Abby,” Abigail van Buren, sorts through letters asking advice. Newseum photograph.

News flash, on Facebook, from the Newseum:

Abigail Van Buren, author of the “Dear Abby” advice column, died Jan. 16, 2013. She was 94.

NPR’s e-mail added a couple of details:

NPR BREAKING NEWS:

‘Dear Abby’ Dies; Pauline Phillips Was Adviser To Millions

Writing under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she wrote the world’s most widely syndicated column. The daily readership grew to more than 100 million. The column is now written by her daughter, Jeanne.

More at NPR.org:

http://n.npr.org/NPRI/jN375186981_1570913_1570912_Z.htm

What an incredible melange of history in that photo!  You can read about Mrs. Phillips at the NPR site, but consider just this photograph:

  1. “Dear Abby” which used to be regular reading in most households in the morning — literally millions of American households.  She and her chief competition, “Ann Landers,” could each by herself move the nation, to change habits, to question manners, to change behaviors with vaccinations or new medical procedures, and in a few cases, move legislation through Congress.  No one in newspapering or broadcast today has the clout this woman had, but rarely used.  Not even Rupert Murdoch with his empire, had so much clout as Dear Abby.  (Many of us were surprised to learn later that the women who wrote Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers were twin sisters — another one of those twists in real history that no one would believe in fiction.)
  2. Isn’t that an early IBM electric typewriter? Our local Fry’s doesn’t stock even electric typewriters anymore, nor could I find one in my last run through Staples and Office Depot (catalog sales, perhaps). IBM probably hasn’t made one 20 years, and not one like that one in at least 40 years — that is not a Selectric.
  3. Dial telephone.  Not just a land-line, but an actual, analog, dial telephone.  Without seeing any identifying characteristics, we can assume that her telephone provider was the AT&T regional company — unlikely that it was Continental, the only other major provider in the U.S. at the time.
  4. The Yellow Pages telephone book under the phone.  I think even Yellow Pages stopped printing those things; we haven’t had a good update on our white pages in years.
  5. Newspaper syndication meant EVERYONE had access to her columns — no internet.  A dime for the local paper, and you had Dear Abby.
  6. The fountain pen in her hand, perhaps for more than just signing letters (what do you say, Office Supply Geek?).
  7. No computer, which in addition to replacing the typewriter, would probably also replace the four-drawer file cabinet in back of her (a locking cabinet, perhaps a HON?)
  8. Is that flowered pattern the wallpaper in the place? They don’t make orchid wallpaper like that any more.
  9. Look at that stack of mail.  Each came in an envelope, stamped, for less than 8¢ (1st class rates topped a dime for the first time in 1974).  No e-mail; no electronic version to cut and paste from.  Each letter to appear in the column had to be retyped on that IBM typewriter.  Most high school students today have probably never sent a letter through the mail, and many have never received one, either.

The Newseum didn’t credit the photo, nor say when or where it was taken; I’ve not found more details yet. At the Newseum site, the photo is credited to Phillips-Van Buren, Inc., the company that runs the column.  I’m guessing 1970 at the latest, and this may be in the 1960s or even 1950s.

Some of us old timers get future shock just looking at that photo.  Can your students date that photo with the clues in it, history teachers?  Journalism teachers?  (Photos at OzTypewriters suggest this photo could have been made in the 1960s.)

More:

Heck, it may be a 1950s typewriter (do you read German?):

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus d...

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus den 1950er Jahren Lizenz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  (Translated roughly, “IBM electric typewriter from the 1950 license.”)


December 31, 2012: Bright Idea Day, anniversary of Edison’s light bulb

December 31, 2012

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub we celebrate a variety of historically holy days.  December 31, by tradition, is Bright Idea Day, the anniversary of the day Thomas Edison demonstrated for the public a working light bulb in 1879.

100,000 people gather in Times Square, New York City, tonight, and millions more around the world, in festivities for the new year made possible by the work of Thomas Alva Edison.

Here it is, the invention that stole sleep from our grasp, made clubbing possible, and launched 50,000 cartoons about ideas:

The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey - Wikimedia image

The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey – Wikimedia image (GFDL)

The light bulb. It’s an incandescent bulb.

It wasn’t the first bulb. Edison a few months earlier devised a bulb that worked with a platinum filament. Platinum was too expensive for mass production, though — and Edison wanted mass production. So, with the cadre of great assistants at his Menlo Park laboratories, he struggled to find a good, inexpensive filament that would provide adequate life for the bulb. By late December 1879 they had settled on carbon filament.

Edison invited investors and the public to see the bulb demonstrated, on December 31, 1879.

Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb.  Library of Congress image

Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb. CREDIT: Thomas Edison, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-98067

Edison’s successful bulb indicated changes in science, technology, invention, intellectual property and finance well beyond its use of electricity. For example:

  • Edison’s Menlo Park, New Jersey, offices and laboratory were financed with earlier successful inventions. It was a hive of inventive activity aimed to make practical inventions from advances in science. Edison was all about selling inventions and rights to manufacture devices. He always had an eye on the profit potential. His improvements on the telegraph would found his laboratory he thought, and he expected to sell the device to Western Union for $5,000 to $7,000. Instead of offering it to them at a price, however, he asked Western Union to bid on it. They bid $10,000, which Edison gratefully accepted, along with the lesson that he might do better letting the marketplace establish the price for his inventions. Other inventive labs followed Edison’s example, such as the famous Bell Labs, but few equalled his success, or had as much fun doing it.  (Economics teachers:  Need an example of the marketplace in action?)
  • While Edison had some financial weight to invest in the quest for a workable electric light, he also got financial support, $30,000 worth, from some of the finance giants of the day, including J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts who established the Edison Light Company.
  • Edison didn’t invent the light bulb — but his improvements on it made it commercial. “In addressing the question ‘Who invented the incandescent lamp?’ historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison’s version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.”
  • Edison’s financial and business leadership acumen is partly attested to by the continuance of his organizations, today — General Electric, one of the world’s most successful companies over the past 40 years, traces its origins to Edison.

Look around yourself this evening, and you can find a score of ways that Edison’s invention and its descendants affect your life. One of the more musing effects is in cartooning, however. Today a glowing lightbulb is universally accepted as a nonverbal symbol for ideas and inventions. (See Mark Parisi’s series of lightbulb cartoons, “Off the Mark.”)

Even with modern, electricity-saving bulbs, the cartoon shorthand hangs on, as in this Mitra Farmand cartoon.

Fusilli has an idea, Mitra Farmand, Fuffernutter

Brilliant cartoon from Mitra Farmand, Fuffernutter

Or see this wonderful animation, a video advertisement for United Airlines, by Joanna Quinn for Fallon — almost every frame has the symbolic lightbulb in it.

Other resources:

Patent drawing for Thomas Edison's successful electric lamp.  Library of Congress

Thomas Edison’s electric lamp patent drawing and claim for the incandescent light bulb CREDIT: “New Jersey–The Wizard of Electricity–Thomas A. Edison’s System of Electric Illumination,” 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-97960.

Yeah, this is mostly an encore post.

Even More, in 2012:


Typewriters of the moment: Isaac Asimov’s astonishingly prolific career

December 22, 2012

Isaac Asimov remains one of my favorite writers.  He wrote well enough, and his curiosity took him to topics I often find interesting.  At one time having published more books than anyone else in history on a wide variety of topics from quantum mechanics to trivia in the books of the Bible (does he still hold that record?), it was a sure bet one could find at least one book in one’s area of interest penned by Asimov.

When I started the spasmodic feature, “Typewriter of the Moment,” years ago I did a search for Asimov with a typewriter.  I didn’t find an image I thought suitable back when the internet was still operated by steam, and somehow I just never got back to that.

The other night this image popped up on one of my Facebook feeds, from “the Other 98%”:

Isaac Asimov at a typewriter creating, with pithy quote

Painting of Isaac Asimov creating at a typewriter, an early IBM Selectric. Who did the painting?

I appreciate the sentiment in the quote.  Asimov noted the Dunning-Kruger Effect, even if he didn’t have the advantage of Dunning and Kruger having named it yet, and he lamented the powerful undertone of anti-intellectualism that victims of the syndrome exhibit:

Anti- intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. (Asimov in an essay for Newsweek: “A Cult of Ignorance,” January 21, 1980, p. 19)

It’s an arresting image, a heckuva a quote, and it would make a good poster.  Plus, it’s an early IBM Selectric typewriter, marrying Asimov’s creativity with a great technological advancement in writing tools.

One boggles at the idea of Asimov with a great word processing program, a fast computer with great memory, and the internet at his disposal.  If Asimov were alive and creating today, we’d think Moore’s Law a great hindrance to the advancement of knowledge.

The painting delights me.  It’s almost photographic, and I like paintings that take great care to get small details right, photographically.  No dig at more spare or even abstract art, but this sort of painting takes great skill and great creativity.  Rising spirit-like from the typewriter’s platen we see a satellite (manned spacecraft, perhaps?), a flask of chemicals, and a leather-bound book, essential components in science fiction, and science.

So, who did the painting?  Was it done solely for that Facebook poster?

English: An IBM Selectric typewriter, model 71...

This is what that typewriter in the painting looks like, from the author’s angle. An IBM Selectric typewriter, model 713 (Selectric I with 11″ writing line), circa 1970. Wikipedia image

I’ve searched on TinEye, and Bing and Google, without success to identify the painter.

One version of the painting, before text was added, showed up at IO9, a site dedicated to science fiction, in an article discussing the writing habits of famous writers.

This does not appear to me to be the original, simply because data on the artist is not contained in the information section of the image.  The artist who did this illustration would be proud of it, and want to advertise her or his work.

This version has a slightly higher resolution; click on the image and note the reflections of lights in Asimov’s glasses, the reflections on the desk, and even the dings on the edge of the desk facing the viewer — this is great stuff!

But still I wonder:  Who was the original artist?

Any ideas, Dear Reader?

Painting of Asimov at work, at his typewriter

The painting of Asimov at his typewriter, before posterization with a quote over his head. Found at IO9

Did Asimov write on a Selectric?  Did he switch to the newer version, with a wider carriage, or stick with the old original?  Is there a photo upon which this painting is based?

Almost immediate update:  This site claims the artist is the same as the one at the bottom of the post, Rowena Morrill.  That’s a start.  Here’s more:  At Rowenaart, both pictures appear credited to Rowena.  Mystery solved?  Go buy a poster from her; this is great stuff.

More:

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

Hello! Could this be by the same artist? Caption from Wikipedia: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: Wright Bros. National Memorial

December 17, 2012

Kill Devil Hills monument to theWright Brothers

Wikipedia description: Standing sixty feet (18.3 meters) tall and perched atop a ninety foot (27.4 meters) stabilized sand dune known as Kill Devil Hill, this monument towers over Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The park commemorates and preserves the site where the Wright brothers launched the world’s first successful sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. The inscription that wraps around the base of the monument states “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Photo by Ken Thomas, taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Dare County, NC, USA.

At this site, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright first achieved flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

 


December 17, history written in the wind

December 17, 2012

Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

Few witnesses observed the flight.  Though the brothers Wright fully understood the potential of the machine they had created, even they waited before revealing to their supporters, and then the world, what they had accomplished.

From the Library of Congress:

On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.

No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.  No ATC (Air Traffic Control) delays.  Neither brother endured a TSA screening.

Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:

(I almost always forget the big dates until the end of the day.  This is mostly an encore post.)


Longevity of DDT, in pictures

December 16, 2012

One of the key problems with DDT is its persistence.  That was a selling point early on — one application would last for six months to a year.  In the wild or in a city, DDT can breakdown in about a year, but it breaks down into DDE which is pretty deadly itself and can cause a raft of other trouble while it hangs around.  While DDT will kill young birds and even adult songbirds outright, its most pernicious workings come in the breakdowns.  DDE insinuates itself in the reproductive organs of animals, causing birds to be unable to lay eggs with properly calcified eggshells.  Even if the DDT doesn’t kill the chicks, the DDE gets next year’s generation, making sure the egg cannot protect the chick to hatching.

A treaty adhered to by most of the world’s nations targets DDT specifically, you can tell by the name if you don’t know the content:  The Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs), also known as the Stockholm Convention after the city where it was finally negotiated under the direction of the United Nations’ health care arm, the World Health Organization (WHO).

40 years after DDT use essentially ended in the U.S., traces of it still show up in the tissues of creatures in the wild, in plants, in crops, and in human tissue.

Where does it come from?

Most of what shows up is just circulating in the air, soil, water and living things.  There could be other sources.

I doubt this is a significant source, but a lot of DDT remains stored in barns and sheds on farms and in gardens across North America.  Over at a blog operated by an exterminator in Charlotte, North Carolina, we get a glimpse of history and potential disaster all at once.

Today, I traveled up to a Lincolnton, North Carolina Farm house to give a gentleman a price on Termite Protection for his home. After I performed an inspection, he took me out to his barn to show off a couple of old tractors. Immediately catching my eye on an old work bench was anachronistic blast from the past.

There it was, an unopened bottle of DDT. (See images below)  DDT  was Banned in the United States more than 30 years ago, and  it remains America’s best known toxic substance. Like some sort of rap star, it’s known just by its initials; it’s the Notorious B.I.G. of pesticides. And much like the Notorious B.I.G., it has been put to rest.

Electrolux Insecticide with DDT, Charlotte Pest Control Image

Electrolux Insecticide featuring DDT in the formulation, on a barn workbench in 2012, near Charlotte North Carolina – Charlotte Pest Control image

Did it really have DDT?  Look at the next photo.  It’s badly focused, but you can probably make it out, that line at the bottom of the can.

Contents label of Electrolux Insecticide, showing DDT

Label of Electrolux Insecticide can, showing DDT as the contents. Charlottepestcontrol.me image

DDT put to rest?  If only it were that easy. Not only is the stuff in that can still deadly, it’ll hang around for decades if released from the can.

You’re wondering, of course, just what in the world was Electrolux doing selling DDT?  Look at the label: See that woman using the vacuum rather like a spray device?

Cannister vacuums of the 1950s and 1960s were advertised as universal tools.  Not only would they suck up dirt from a floor, but they could also be used as blowers, simply by reversing the hole into which the hose was plugged.  Manufacturers provided attachments to make vacuums into paint blowers, powdered plant fertilizer spreaders, and liquid or powder pesticide sprayers.  See for example this page from a 1960s-era Universal canister vacuum:

Instruction manual for Universal vacuum, showing use as a sprayer of DDT or wax.  VacuumLand image

Instruction booklet for a Universal-brand cannister vacuum, showing the attachments used to turn it into a sprayer — and on page 28, a sprayer of DDT insecticide. Image courtesy of VacuumLand (go to that site to see the entire instruction manual).

The greatest dangers of DDT came from broadcast use outdoors.  These pictures show indoor use, but in application by an untrained, poorly-equipped amateur.  If your exterminator shows up in heels and pearls, fire that company and hire someone else!

In any case, vacuum manufacturers and resellers would often provide virtually every product that could be added to or used with a machine, often at very high markup.  In this case, Electrolux had some other company package DDT in a can with the Electrolux label.  That can must have been sold before 1972 when over-the-counter sales of DDT ended; it probably was before 1970, when most in-home uses of DDT were ordered to stop.   In the photos I have not detected anything to date it, but it must be at least 42 years old.

What a different time it was, when housewives used their vacuums to thoroughly spray their own homes with DDT!

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