Happy birthday, Carl!

May 23, 2007

Carl Linne, b. May 23, 1707

Today is the 300th birthday of Linnaeus, aka Carl Linnaeus, Carolus Linnaeus, Carl von Linné, Carl Linné, etc. etc. Oh, heck, just call him Carl. Happy birthday, Carl!

At Panda’s Thumb.


Fire on the Cutty Sark, to Mary Tyler Moore

May 23, 2007

Everything is connected.

Unaware that the Cutty Sark still existed, the news of the fire on the most famous of the clipper ships caught me by surprise.

Fire on the Cutty Sark

Our U.S. history texts these days mention the clippers, but little more. This wonderful chunk of history, showing great invention in the capture of wind power, and great romance of the sea, falls by the wayside.

Were a teacher so inclined, she might introduce some of that romance and admiration of invention with a bit more than two minutes spent on clipper ships.

For starters, what does “cutty sark” mean? Antiquarian’s Attic provides links to the news of the fire and enough background to make any teacher sound like an aficianado in just a few minutes. “Cutty sark” means a short shift, a very short skirt or dress — it’s from a poem, “Tam O’Shanter” by Robert Burns.

Her cutty sark, o’ Paisley harn,
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho’ sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie.

Hey, who knew there was a poem that gave the name to the hat favored by U.S. Sen. Sam Hayakawa, and the hat which played such a prominent role in the opening sequence of The Mary Tyler Moore Show?

Tam O'Shanter in opening sequence of Mary Tyler Moore showConnections can get a bit out of hand, no?

I digress. Back to Cutty Sark.

Progress in transportation, particularly in speed, makes a solid unit of study in 8th and 11th grade history in Texas, fitting neatly in the advances in technology and how such advances push history along. Particularly with the defense of the America‘s Cup this year putting a spotlight on speed sailing and sailing history, there should be a lot of supplemental material to provide good lesson plan hooks to make a day’s diversion into clipper ships well worth the time.

Perhaps your class would like to contribute to the restoration of the Cutty Sark? Remember it was pennies from U.S. school kids that saved Old Ironsides, after Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., wrote a poem in tribute to her. See also the Ballad of Mad Jack.

Did you hear how Mad Jack saved “Old Ironsides” too,
From the scrapheap of flagships too old to renew,
At sixty-five years he inspected each shroud,
And promised the Navy he’d make her stand proud.
He collected the finest ship-riggers around,
From Boston, New Bedford, and Old Portsmouth Town,
He rigged her and jigged her and made her stand tall,
Then he sailed her around the world once and for all.

  • Ballad of Mad Jack by Steve Romanoff, performed by Schooner Fare, 1981

Carny barking today: Education, git yer education here!

May 23, 2007

Another of my favorite blogs, I Thought A Think, hosts the 120th Carnival of Education this week. Graciously, ITAT included Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub — part of the sideshow or part of the midway, I’m not sure. But I’m grateful. The link is to my post on the Internet Archive features on tobacco, and the Flintstones promoting Winston cigarettes.

Interesting that the Carnival of Education cites the post on tobacco in the Internet Archive, and not the post on education reform in the same archive.

Sketch of Flintstone School, Flintstone, Maryland

Sketch of the Flintstone Elementary School, Flintstone, Maryland (Allegany County Public Schools)


Lincoln quote sourced: Calf’s tail, not dog’s tail

May 23, 2007

It’s a delightful story I’ve heard dozens of times, and retold a few times myself: Abraham Lincoln faced with some thorny issue that could be settled by a twist of language, or a slight abuse of power, asks his questioner how many legs would a dog have, if we called the dog’s tail, a leg. “Five,” the questioner responds confident in his mathematical ability to do simple addition.

Lincoln Memorial statue, profile view

Sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial. National Park Service photo.

“No,” Lincoln says. “Calling a dog’s tail a leg, doesn’t make it a leg.”

But there is always the doubt: Is the story accurate? Is this just another of the dozens of quotes that are misattributed to Lincoln in order to lend credence to them?

I have a source for the quote: Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time / collected and edited by Allen Thorndike Rice (1853-1889). New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1909. This story is found on page 242. Remarkably, the book is still available in an edition from the University of Michigan Press. More convenient for us, the University of Michigan has the entire text on-line, in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, an on-line source whose whole text is searchable.

However, Lincoln does not tell the story about a dog — he uses a calf. Read the rest of this entry »


The Bathtub is famous!

May 23, 2007

One Blog a Day features Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub today.

One Blog a Day logoOne Blog a Day probably qualifies as a sort of internet navel gazing — each day it highlights one blog of some interest. Generally it just points the way, but on a couple of occasions it has generated controversies, or at least discussions, in the comments (see the 726-comment entanglement on the original posting of Pharyngula’s feature).

Where else do you see history, exotic travel, biology and cream puffs clumped together like that?  Eclecticism has its place, and One Blog a Day appears to be it.

Tip of the old scrub brush and thanks to One Blog a Day.


American Civil War in 4 minutes

May 23, 2007

Citations get lost on the internet. Not only do people send copies of e-mails to everyone on their list, not only is there spam beyond all measure, but good stuff gets stripped of attribution. Someone sends you a good poem, or a genuinely funny story — and if you want more of the same, you’re completely at sea about where to look. Author? That information got stripped away several forwardings earlier.

“Must be Lincoln, Einstein, or Jefferson,” some wag says, and the piece is misattributed ever after.

A fellow posted this interesting film on YouTube — The Civil War in Four Minutes. One second of the film equals one week of the war. It’s a fascinating pictorial map presentation, with a lot of information packed into 240 seconds.

Who did it? Are there others like it? How do we get the rights for classroom use?

YouTube can be likened to grave robbers who invade Egyptian royal tombs — they bring important material to light, but the context is lost, and perhaps the meaning.

Can you help track down the creator of this film? This film was created for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. (Now — how can we get legal copies?)

Update, June 15, 2007: Every YouTube version of the video has been pulled — probably a copyright thing. In the interim, I’ve checked with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to see if it is available. One person said there is discussion for making it available in the next two years. Ain’t that the way? Why not strike while the iron is hot and sell it now? Somebody, please wake me if it’s ever released.

Update, October 4, 2007: ABLPLM explains the creation of the movie. Nice shot of the screen, still not available for classrooms. Alas.

Update December 20, 2007: If that one doesn’t work, try this one for a while:

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.idkwtf.com posted with vodpod


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