31 January 2009

Post 182

So I decided a while ago that I was sick of having a link to a profile at the top of my blog (you'll notice that I didn't bother with it on my newer blog), but I like that butterfly so much that I just couldn't part with it. Today I decided it was time for it to go, but I made the butterfly into a banner to put with my blog's title and description so it could stick around. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the B/W-ness of the picture, it looked really goofy on my old template, so I put it on this white background where it's more at home.

And now my blog looks really bland and boring.

But that's okay. I mean, you come here for the words, not the look, right?

I dunno.... I hope this is temporary, but I don't feel like putting any serious effort into making it look nicer, so it may not be.

22 January 2009

Post 181

This is pretty much the coolest thing I've ever encountered. It gives me so much hope for me and my future endeavors. I give you "How Ballad Writing Affects Our Seniors" by the late, great Ernest Hemingway, age 19:

Oh, I've never writ a ballad
And I'd rather eat shrimp salad,
(Tho' the Lord knows how I hate the
Pink and scrunchy little beasts),
But Miss Dixon says I gotto-
(And I pretty near forgotto)
But I'm sitting at my table
And my feet are pointing east.

Now one stanza, it is over-
Oh! Heck, what rhymes with "Over"?
Ah! yes; "I'm now in clover,"
But when I've got that over
I don't yet know what to write.
I might write of young Lloyd Boyle,
Sturdy son of Irish soil,
But to write of youthful Boyle
Would involve increasing toil,
For there is so much material
I'd never get it done.

Somewhere in this blessed metre
There's a crook. The stanzas peter
Out before I get them started
Just like that one did, just then.
But I'll keep a-writing on
Just in hope some thought will strike me.
When it does, I'll let it run
Just in splashes off my pen.

(Wish that blamed idea would come.)
I've been writing for two pages,
But it seems like countless ages,
For I've scribbled and I've scribbled,
But I haven't said a thing.
This is getting worse each minute,
For whatever I put in it
I shall have to read before the English class.

'Know where I would like to be-
Just a-lyin' 'neath a tree.
Watchin' clouds up in the sky-
Fleecy clouds a-sailin' by
And we'd look up in the blue-
Only me, an' maybe you.
I could write a ballad then
That would drip right off my pen.
(Aw shucks)

For the future I shall promise
(IF you let me live this time),
I'll ne'er write another ballad-
Never venture into rhyme.

13 January 2009

Post 180

This comes at you from an article called "A Public Servant of the Northwest: The Fruitful Career of the Late Governor John S. Pillsbury, of Minnesota" in the December 1901 issue of The American Monthly Review of Reviews:

his impulse always was : " Act ; act now ; act effectively ; act for the greatest good." He belonged to the type of man who "does things."

11 January 2009

Post 179

From Hong's translation of Kierkegaard's Works of Love, pg 20:

But you shall love God in unconditional obedience, even if what he requires of you might seem to you to be to your own harm, indeed, harmful to his cause; for God's wisdom is beyond all comparison with yours, and God's governance has no obligation of responsibility in relation to your sagacity. All you have to do is to obey in love.

08 January 2009

Post 178

I love--love!--my job. And my life. And Outlook magazine. Love! Love I say!

Last post, I gave you a little tidbit. This time, I can't resist--I'm giving you almost an entire article. I'm not really sure what this means as far as copyright laws, but Outlook is, I assume, defunct (near as I can tell, Wikipedia hasn't even heard of it: it has several Outlook magazines in its Outlook disambiguation page, but the one I'm making copies of was a weekly magazine published somewhere in the US on a weekly basis, and that doesn't match any of Wikipedia's descriptions, so I can only assume that the Outlook I know and love doesn't exist anymore), so I can't really ask permission. See, the last one was over 100 years old, so it's probably public domain, but this is coming at you from June 1913, so I'm not sure what that means--and don't really care enough to look.


Anyway, this is excerpts from "Aircraft and the Future" by Waldemar Kaempffert (see? given the date, the title is exciting, and you've gotta love a name like Waldemar Kaempffert, so I hope you're as intrigued as I was):


An aeroplane is like any soaring bird of prey in this: It cannot leap into the air straight from the ground. A cage completely open at the top will serve to confine a vulture. Before he can fly he must be in motion. In other words, he must run along the ground at constantly increasing speed until the pressure of the air beneath his wings becomes great enough to support him. He is in no better position than a boy's kite, which can be raised on a calm day only by much assiduous running against the breeze. Consider the aeroplane as a motor-driven kite, in which the pull or the thrust of a screw takes the place of the string, or consider it as a mechanical vulture, and it becomes apparent that it cannot leap straight up into the air, that it must first be propelled along the ground at automobile speed. Add to the necessity of acquiring rapid preliminary motion not only the disadvantage of size—most flying-machines have a spread of about thirty to forty feet—but also the enormous difficulty of rising above tall buildings in the teeth of the inevitable eddies and maelstroms of air, which, could we but see them, would seem fearfully like the torrents that boil and rage in the Whirlpool Rapids of Niagara, and even the man who has never ridden on the atmosphere, and who has only a vague notion of the incessant vigilance and the acrobatic skill required to keep a machine on an even keel, will realize that municipalities must adapt themselves to the limitations of the aeroplane, if we are to fly from the heart of one city to that of another. Even were it possible to utilize the broadest avenues, the hurricane set up by a propeller that whirls around at a speed of twelve hundred revolutions a minute, so that it seems like a solid glittering disk, would be intolerable. You ask, Why not turn to the lawns of our public parks? Because the few green open spaces provided for a population of a million or more, even if they could be encroached upon without encountering stubborn resistance, would be neither numerous nor large enough to meet the requirements of hundreds of aviators waiting for an opportunity to vault into the air, or, wheeling in wide circles, ready to snatch the first chance to alight. If streets cannot be used because the aviator may be buffeted by treacherous currents against stone walls, and if park lawns are too few, obviously only the roof is left. Housetops, then, must be adapted to the needs of aerial navigation. That end will be achieved far more easily than may be supposed.


In the first place, the chasms that separate buildings on the opposite sides of streets and yards will be bridged by gratings, which will cut off but little light and air; and, in the second place, the chimney-pots and ventilating-pipes that now adorn housetops, designed before the aeroplane arrived, will be surmounted by wooden platforms, each carried on a light steel framework. New buildings will be constructed to meet the special requirements of the aviator. In the metropolis of the future, therefore, those quarters in which structures are of approximately equal height will be covered by single roofs, each perhaps a square mile in area and more. Equally simple of solution is the problem of housing the thousands of flying-machines that will throng the air. Some of the many-floored automobile garages of the present city could be employed for the storing of flying-machines. If a military machine of our own day can be taken apart and packed in a motor van in less than ten minutes, no remarkable prophetic gift is required to foresee a machine which, when collapsed, will occupy less room than a seven-passenger touring car of 1913, and which can be lifted to the roof by an elevator of the type now to be found in every city garage.


The railway created the modern suburb—made it a residential part of the city on the outskirts of which it is built. Similarly, the flying-machine will bring the city and country measurably nearer each other. Let us not forget that even in our own time, with machines that will seem childishly crude a century hence, speeds of more than one hundred miles an hour have been attained. It is not too daring to predict that farm-houses will become suburban cottages; that the scattered population of rural districts will become direct customers of the city merchant ; that the lecturer, the virtuoso, the lawyer, the banker, will all be able to increase their clientele. Because of its great speed and its radius of action, the future aeroplane will be able to cover the distance between and Chicago in a few hours. It is not inconceivable that a man may breakfast in New York or London and dine the same evening in St. Louis or Rome. The inhabitants of towns far inland will spend their summer holidays at the seashore. Florida will become a kind of winter Coney Island for New York. When the age of the aeroplane and the air-ship really comes, new political problems will arise. What, for example, will become of our present tariff laws ? Can we prevent smuggling in a machine that travels in three dimensions ? When Selmet flew from London to Paris, some months ago, he entered the French capital above the clouds and saw only a sea of mist with no sign of a spire or roof. When he landed at Issy-les-Moulineaux, on the outskirts of the city, he had to explain at length who he was. Even in this twentieth century, when flying-machines are still novelties, he was mistaken for the pilot of an ordinary school aeroplane returning from a short outing. En route he had made two landings. No one had noticed them. Nor was his course through the air more narrowly observed, simply because he was hidden by clouds. When the atmosphere becomes in truth a highway, and the whirring of an aeroplane's propellers as common as the chugging of an automobile motor, will it be possible to prevent the smuggling of jewels, laces, and silks, and those smaller, easily carried articles of luxury, now subject to an import tax by many countries? Or will it be possible, by policing the atmosphere above the border line, to prevent violation of the customs laws?


Policing of some kind will surely be necessary above European fortifications, now jealously guarded from the eyes of the military spy. It is not likely that the long line of fortresses on either side of the boundary that separates France from Germany may be sailed over without calling forth a warning signal from a sentinel wheeling with clock-like regularity over that region, which a hostile eye may not study. Over cities, too, the aerial sentry or policeman will be found. A thousand aeroplanes flying to the opera must be kept in line and each allowed to alight upon the roof of the auditorium in its proper turn. In giant circles you can imagine them soaring in a huge flock. Signals will be made by a policeman in a swift monoplane (on his arm he wears the orange wings of the aerial traffic squad), and one by one the machines of the boxholders will separate from the great spinning cluster and glide down. A liveried attendant will assist the passengers as they clamber out. So every hotel, office building, and drygoods store must see to it that its roof is utilized in an orderly way by the flocks of aerial taxicabs and private machines. If a faulty motor compels an immediate descent, an emergency signal will be given; by day, a rocket that leaves a trail of black smoke; by night, a flash of light conspicuous in color. How can the man in the air pick out the roof for which he is bound? A dozen ways of disentangling roof from roof immediately suggest themselves. Colors and numbers will probably be employed in some distinctive way, and perhaps painted geometrical designs (squares, circles, and triangles) will serve to distinguish public aerial garages, hotels, and theaters from one another. The elevator platforms on which machines will be lifted will surely be painted a vivid color, contrasting with that of the roof itself, and an attendant will be constantly on duty to signal to those in the air when they may descend and use the elevator. Quick to awaken to the possibilities of the roof will be the advertiser. He will plaster it, whenever he can do so without misleading the airman, with pictures and legends, proclaiming the virtues of his pills and soaps, his breakfast foods and his safety razors. The signs which now flank every railway, and which inform the passenger that the particular marsh at which he is languidly gazing is “ten miles from Bloomer's Emporium," will find their counterparts in huge advertisements that lie flat on their backs and stare up at the population of the atmosphere. In their horizontal position they will be as useful as the vertical sign erected for the benefit of the railway traveler, for they, too, will indicate the proximity of a town, and serve as guideposts for the aerial navigator.


Indeed, the guiding of the airman will become so highly important that governments will set about the task of mapping the ocean of air as carefully as ever the waters about a rocky coast have been charted. With the aid of a compass and an official map (a band, perhaps a hundred feet long, which can be unrolled from one cylinder upon another beneath a sheet of transparent celluloid, and which will clearly indicate the position of church spires, telegraph and telephone wires, forests, railways, and tall factory chimneys) the aerial navigator will pick his way through the blue. But suppose that it is night, or that a dense fog veils the terrain below? Is he helpless? Not when a really efficient set of wireless instruments has been invented for the use of aviators. He will clap his wireless receiver to his head and listen for the guiding signals of the nearest government transmitter of aerial waves. Every little village will have its wireless station, electrically controlled from a central weather bureau or geographical office hundreds of miles away. Only in the droning central station will operators be found, for automatic instruments will send out the signals from the smaller stations, instruments that are mechanically or electrically controlled, just as United States Naval Observatory time is now transmitted from a master clock to hundreds of timepieces. All this applies to the air-ship as well as to the flying-machine. For, although the giant Zeppelins of our time were destroyed with disheartening regularity, it must not be supposed that the aeroplane will completely displace the dirigible. Count von Zeppelin's leviathans have come to grief, not in the air, but when anchored near the ground in a gale. A stranded schooner, battered by huge waves against a reef, is in a predicament only a shade worse than that of a Zeppelin anchored in a hurricane. The Zeppelin is not simply hammered and twisted, but is also exposed to the dangers of static electricity generated by friction. A single electric spark has been known to ignite the highly explosive buoyant gas with which the envelope compartments of a Zeppelin are filled, and to reduce a vessel costing one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to a chaos of twisted metal.


To guard against such accidents, steel towers have been latterly proposed (a small one has even been erected in), from the tops of which the ships may swing with the wind like so many weather-vanes. High above the roofs of the future city, higher even than the tallest office buildings of the present, these towers are destined to loom—Eiffel towers padded at the top to prevent injury to the ships in possible collisions. They will not be erected haphazard, with no regard to their location in the city, but, lest they interfere with aerial traffic, they will fringe the city like the steamship wharves of the present. In your mind's eye can't you see the elevators conveying passengers upward through the maze of steel girders to the great ships tethered above, casting enormously long shadows on the roofs and streets below? Can't you see a transatlantic air-liner starting on its voyage simply by floating off with the wind or by backing off with reversed propellers? Can't you see another approaching a tower very closely against the wind? Can't you see the first thin rope cast from the ship uncoiling like a long serpent? Can't you see the hawser tied to that rope hauled in? Can't you hear the gong that tells the engineer to reverse his propellers, so that the ship may be stopped almost instantly and made fast? Surely the mooring of a future air-liner will be fully as impressive, fully as spectacular, fully as ceremonious as the mooring of a Lusitania. It will even be exciting in a gale; for, if the wind is blowing with a velocity greater than the maximum speed of the ship, it is not difficult to imagine the captain approaching the tower stern first on the windward side, slowly drifting back with the gale, against which he is running with the propellers revolving at full speed. As they disembark the passengers will all pass up into the tapering nose of the envelope, out through a door, and step upon a platform which swings with the ship in the wind. All the experience of the present justifies the assumption that both aeroplanes and airships will cleave the air. How big will they be? To the size of the air-ship there is no theoretical limit. Indeed, the bigger it is the more economically can it be operated. If there were any good reason for doing so, and if the passenger demands of the present were great enough, Count von Zeppelin could no doubt design a dirigible longer than any transatlantic liner, and drive it from Sicily to Liverpool and back on a schedule that could be maintained with fair regularity, even with the imperfect meteorological data at present supplied by weather bureaus. But the aeroplane, on the other hand, is not capable of unlimited magnification. It is not likely that it will ever carry more than five or seven passengers. High-speed monoplanes will carry even less. Compared with them biplanes and triplanes—both good weight lifters and carriers—will seem as lumberingly slow as a sightseeing automobile.

06 January 2009

Post 177

I got a job as a research assistant this semester. I'm helping to create a 100-million-word corpus of historical American English--which means I get to spend 10 hours a week pulling old magazines off of the periodicals and then digitizing them.

Today I was working with century-old collections of Outlook Magazine. Interesting stuff being published back in 1900 and 1901. Take, for example, this bit of news from 16 March 1901:

"Next to primary election bills and tax bills, measures directed against the sale of cigarettes have occupied the most prominent place before the Legislatures that have been in session this winter. Last week the House of Representatives in New Hampshire passed one of these measures, providing that hereafter no person, firm, or corporation shall make, sell, or keep for sale 'any form of cigarette.'"

Huh. Way to go New Hampshire.

Wonder how long it lasted....

02 January 2009

Post 176

So, have you heard about Erin McKean? "Dictionary Evangelist" has been in my side column thing for quite a while now. Unfortunately, she posts very irregularly on that blog, but she's still awesome. If you're in the mood to read something, read this; if you're in the mood to watch something, watch this. They're each a rollicking good time.