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Marking time

Marking time in January 2003

Wednesday 29 January 2003

An Act to Protect Motor Vehicles from Dangerous Pedestrians

From the annals of wrong thinking​—​an American politician has tried to solve a problem by introducing a bill:
[Democrat Representative Christopher O’Neil] is sponsoring a bill to repeal Maine’s law that says a motorist must yield the right of way to a pedestrian who is crossing within a marked crosswalk.

The very title of his bill, “An Act to Protect Motor Vehicles From Dangerous Pedestrians,” has generated a round of chuckles and wisecracks in the State House among those who are convinced that O’Neil can’t be serious. But the Saco Democrat has news for them.

“It’s not a joke bill,” said O’Neil, who has no co-sponsors on the measure before the Transportation Committee.

O’Neil said it’s time for Maine to rethink a law that he believes has put too many people at risk of injury or death on the state’s streets, particularly in congested downtown shopping areas.

Rise up, you pedestrians, and Be Dangerous!

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Monday 27 January 2003

Straddie

Just back from North Stradbroke Island.

The path down to Deadman's Beach

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Thursday 23 January 2003

Hurley at the National Library

The National Library of Australia has digitised its fabulous collection of Frank Hurley negatives and made the images available on the web. Bravo!

'Aerial view of a meandering river' -- nla.pic-an23565869

Frank Hurley has been a hero for me, since I read Shackleton’s argonauts at the age of 12.

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Monday 20 January 2003

Fire at Mount Stromlo

The ABC website has a story about the tragic fires around Canberra. Four people dead, at least 368 houses destroyed, and the historic Mount Stromlo Observatory in ruins.

Burnt out telescope [image from the ABC website]

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Thursday 16 January 2003

Everything Bucky knew

Everything I know is a complete video, audio and text record of a Richard Buckminster Fuller talkathon:

Photo of Bucky from the Buckminister Fuller Institute

During the last two weeks of January 1975 Buckminster Fuller gave an extraordinary series of lectures concerning his entire life’s work. These thinking out loud lectures span 42 hours and examine in depth all of Fuller’s major in­ven­tions and discoveries from the 1927 Dymaxion house, car and bathroom, through the Wichita House, geodesic domes, and tensegrity structures, as well as the contents of Syner­getics. Autobiographical in parts, Fuller recounts his own personal history in the context of the history of science and industrialization. The stories behind his Dymaxion car, geodesic domes, World Game and integration of science and humanism are lucidly communicated with continuous reference to his synergetic geometry. Permeating the entire series is his unique comprehensive design approach to solving the problems of the world. Some of the topics Fuller covered in this wide ranging discourse include: archi­tec­ture, design, philosophy, education, mathematics, ge­om­e­try, cartography, economics, history, structure, industry, housing and engineering.

I saw Buckminster Fuller once​—​in 1970 at a conference of ar­chi­tec­ture students in a crowded lecture room in the Law School in Sydney. That was the longest lecture I ever heard. The con­fer­ence organisers planned to sell film of the lecture to offset the costs of the conference. I was sitting behind the camera man, his 16mm Eclair, and a stack of 400 foot magazines. Bucky talked. From time to time the camera man put on a fresh magazine. Bucky kept talking. The camera man started signalling to his offsiders, pointing to his watch, holding up fingers to show how many magazines were left. Bucky kept talking. I found myself thinking: where would they get more 400 foot rolls of film in a hurry?, did they have a black bag for loading?, did the sound re­cord­ist have enough tape?. As I left to get coffee, the last mag­a­zine was on the camera. And Bucky was still talking.

I also remember Bucky talking about cultural forms and social customs​—​how some got in the way of problem solving, and some were benign. Like clothes, he said. The suit and tie were just con­ven­tions, without particular design merit, but not worth bucking against. He pulled the end of his tie, revealing that it was one of those ones with a pre-tied knot attached to an elastic loop under the collar. He said that everyone expected him to wear a suit and tie, he had better things to do than argue about that, so he found the most convenient way to comply. Then he let it go​—​snap​—​and went on to the next thing.

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Wednesday 15 January 2003

Blogging Australian historiography

My thanks to Dr Cathie Clements for pointing out her post on the Australian Council of Professional Historians Forum (14 January 2003). She starts with an annotated list of blog entries, sign­posting recent arguments about The Truth of what happened between Aborigines and Europeans.

She continues with a commentary on the nature of historical enquiry, evidence and history writing. She writes…

The current clash between historians and their supporters is a by-product of people viewing the world and sources of information from different positions. To some extent, I can empathise with both sides. Perhaps that is because I have never had much time for either ideology or theory. I recall trying to explain that outlook to someone and being told that, if you sit on the fence, you get shot at by both sides. I would argue, however, that sitting on the fence is quite different to occupying the middle ground. I would also argue that the fence that runs through the middle ground in the current debate is the key to understanding it.

Altogether, it’s a great set of links, a cogent explanation, and an invitation to further discussion (though only Professional Historians can join in).

Your comments are welcome here, whatever your credentials.

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Thursday 9 January 2003

Signs of discrimination

The US Library of Congress houses the work created in the 1930s by Farm Security Administration photographers​—​Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and others. On the library website is a col­lec­tion of photographs of signs enforcing racial discrimination. From the web page intro:

Photographers working for the Farm Security Ad­min­is­tra­tion Historical Section (later transferred to the Office of War Information) were encouraged to document continuity and change in many aspects of life in America during the years the unit was in operation. They were particularly encouraged to photograph billboards and signs as one indicator of such developments. Although no doc­u­men­ta­tion has been found to indicate that photographers were explicitly encouraged to photograph racial discrimination signs, the collection includes a significant number of this type of image, which is rarely found in other Prints and Photographs Division collections.

This reference aid includes all the known images of dis­crim­i­na­tion signs found in the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information file of photographic prints. This list was compiled in response to frequent patron requests for such images. The list is updated as additional images are discovered.

Negro man entering movie theater by 'colored' entrance

Negro man entering movie theater by ‘colored’ entrance, Belzoni, Mis­sis­sip­pi, October 1939. Marion Post Wolcott, photographer.

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Wednesday 8 January 2003

The weblog of Samuel Pepys

Last year I pointed out Michael Stillwell’s website containing excerpts from Samuel Pepys’s diary. I called it a proto-blog.

Now Phil Gyford is publishing Pepys’s diary, day by day, in true weblog form. He has signed up to a job that will run to the end the diary — nine years. Much of the heavy work has already been done by the remarkable David Widger, who produced the digital text from the 1893 edition of the diaries.

Phil Gyford has used movable type to publish the diaries. The usual blog comments become annotations to the text, allowing readers to ask and answer questions and otherwise add value to the text. I’ll show you an example. The diary starts on 1 January 1660 with this entry:

This morning (we living lately in the garret,) I rose, put on my suit with great skirts, having not lately worn any other clothes but them. Went to Mr Gunning’s chapel at Exeter House, where he made a very good sermon upon these words: — “That in the fulness of time God sent his Son, made of a woman,” &c.; showing that, by “made under the law,” is meant his circumcision, which is solemnized this day. Dined at home in the garret, where my wife dressed the remains of a turkey, and in the doing of it she burned her hand. I staid at home all the afternoon, looking over my accounts; then went with my wife to my father’s, and in going observed the great posts which the City have set up at the Conduit in Fleet-street. Supt at my father’s, where in came Mrs Turner and Madam Morrice, and supt with us. After that my wife and I went home with them, and so to our own home.

Among the annotations — some academic, some adulatory — a reader noted:

I love the reference to eating left-over turkey - I�m doing the same myself today. How popular was turkey at that time, it must have been a fairly recent introduction?

A few annotations (and five hours) later, another reader gave this delightful answer:

Turkeys were introduced into England about 90 years before the date of this first entry in the diary. In later years they became popular enough for large flocks of them to be raised in East Anglia. These flocks were herded, on foot, to London in the weeks before Christmas, their feet being protected in small, leather boots that were made expressly for the purpose.
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Tuesday 7 January 2003

Rewriting Australian history

Gary Sauer-Thompson’s public opinion weblog carries a piece by Dr Cathie Clement — here’s an excerpt:

Australia’s past is under the microscope. Allegations are flying thick and fast as scholars endeavour to defend “orthodox” history against the tabloid version preferred by Keith Windschuttle and his supporters. The term “orthodox”, as it is being used in the press, is misleading because, until the battle over Aboriginal history began, the historiography now targeted by conservative commentators was generally viewed as left-wing rather than orthodox.
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Sunday 5 January 2003

With friends like these…

US Congressman Tom DeLay:

John, we’re no longer a superpower. We’re a super-duperpower. We are the leader in the world. We are the leader that defends freedom and democracy around the world. We are the leader in the war on terrorism. When we lead, others will follow. For us to fight this war by consensus is a prescription for defeat. It has been a prescription for defeat in the past, and it would be in the future.

Thank goodness we have such a strong leader in George W. Bush that understands that when confronted with evil, you have to root it out. And that’s what he is attempting to do. These apologists for idleness are doing nothing that is constructive in the war on terrorism. We have to go after it, we have to fight it differently than we fought wars in the past, and the president has the right doctrine to do so. It’s called the preemptive doctrine.

See this quote in context on FOXNews.com

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Wednesday 1 January 2003

New year’s resolution

To really understand how the T90 and 300TL interact in all their modes.

Canon T90 camera

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On this page
An Act to Protect Motor Vehicles from Dangerous Pedestrians
Straddie
Hurley at the National Library
Fire at Mount Stromlo
Everything Bucky knew
Blogging Australian historiography
Signs of discrimination
The weblog of Samuel Pepys
Rewriting Australian history
With friends like these...
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