history


28
Oct 20

Here’s something I’d completely forgotten

I am judging high school and junior high news programs this week. There are some really talented young people out there. But we could always say that. Golly gee, kids these days!

Also, I have about 60 of these to work through, so I could say the same thing for the next few days.

Other kids these days:

After work I stopped in at the library to pick up a book I had on hold. It’s just two blocks from the office. I walked in, strolled through the alphabetized hold shelves until I found the S area, considering the sign that said “Respect other users privacy, no browsing” until I found my name. And, being careful to not notice anyone else’s titles, I picked up my hardcover book. Oh, the joys of reading fiction. I don’t a lot, but I will over the next few days. Well, once I’m satisfied there are no cooties on the dust jacket.

There’s a self checkout. You scan your library card and input your password on the touchscreen three times. Because the first time you mess it up so convincingly you wonder if your password is, in fact, something else. Once you get that right, you just hold the book under the scanner. There’s no barcode, it just knows what book you have based on some RFID tag or a near field communication trick.

So now I’m done. Two minutes, maybe three. I did nod to someone, but didn’t have to speak to a soul. I left via the nearest door. I was on a different floor from the one where I entered. I knew that, because there was a stairwell at the beginning of this adventure. I exited on a different side of the building than where I entered. Spatially, I was aware that I would be facing a different direction from where I went in, because I’d traversed most of the place and turned left to leave. So walked around the building was no surprise, but I was, of course, still on the ground, even after that long staircase when I entered. That amused me.

Architects must delight in confusing people who aren’t paying perfect attention.

Got home, cleaned off the day, and had a nice long chat with my mom. She’s fine. Everyone’s fine. (If the extended family would take this more seriously, that would be better, but I can’t convince people of the obvious.)

We’re talking about how we can do Christmas, because Thanksgiving is basically off. Maybe we’ll Zoom over turkey leftovers. We’re going to concentrate on the small joys. Visiting is a gift, and everyone is fine and healthy.

So much Covid data to report on our campus. The weekly numbers came out today, and they ticked up ever so slightly, but they remain impressively low, especially considering the county, and particularly in comparison to the state, which is surging ahead with no headlights, brakes or seatbelts.

Also, you’ll learn in the A-block there about how IU’s testing labs are now open. They’re going to be doing something like 8,500 tests a week here now. It’s an extensive, impressive undertaking. The university has really pulled out all of the stops to look after its campus communities and help the cities they all live in. Remember, this is 100,000 students in nine campuses across the state. And while, ultimately, this is not the fall or spring semester any student — or anyone else wanted — the lengths the university is going to during a pandemic are commendable.

They did a costume feature on the pop culture show and I can’t get over how awesome minimalist M&Ms are.

If you didn’t watch that, you should. They did blindfolds and had to guess what their reporters were dressed up as. So now you’ve got gloved, masked, blindfolded hosts. It was pretty silly.

Do you ever do that thing where you start a project on your website and work on it for a while and collect all the parts the project will need and continue to work on it and then think you’re finished with it? And then come back three years later and realize you weren’t finished?

Oh, that’s just me, huh?

Well OK, then.

Guess why this building is important:

It is important because it means we must return to the historic markers section of the site. This is where I where my bicycle all over the county to find the historic signs and take pictures of them, and the place they’re highlighting. I did this one years ago, but realized only this evening, while I was cleaning some old photos from my phone, that I’d never published them.

So go check out The Gables, which is a building that now holds a restaurant, and has some important local history in it. Also, the guy that owns it is a joy, and his food is pretty good, too. It’s just up the street from my office.

Hoagy Carmichael, who is the focus of this particular historic marker, has a statue on campus, and if I had a statue project on the site it would be one of the feature attractions, because it’s an amazing statue.

And the really good news is that we can get four or five more days worth of content out of old pictures and places I’d already thought I’d addressed! So look for another historic marker update next week.

More tomorrow. Until then, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account. And don’t forget my Instagram. Also, keep up with me on Twitter.


19
Oct 20

The heights of things

This was the sky on Saturday. We were at the post office and I shot this through the sunroof.

Some days you feel like you can reach the clouds, and some days you feel like you need a great big ladder.

Some days you feel like you can reach the clouds, and some days you feel like you need a great big ladder. After lunch we went for a bike ride. I include this picture because I love this face. It’s her mean face, and it’s so stinking cute. Also, it means she’s going to ride fast; that’s a very aero mean face.

It was hard and windy and would have been fast, except it was hard, and windy. I was grateful for the turnaround spot, because we stopped to take a picture, and I could briefly catch my breath.

On the back half of the ride the air started to feel a bit cooler. No weather monitoring station reported it. All the numbers I could consult stayed at a steady 62 degrees, but I was out in it; I could tell the change. I got to the house and was happy to get inside, which was instantly when the bronchoconstriction began.

It was painful to breathe for a few minutes. The worst of it was “Would getting on the ground be better for this?” and “How can I tell if this is getting worse?” But it did not get worse. It hurt to breathe fully in, but I could get air. My heart rate was fine, considering the bike ride. I did not have any muscular or cognitive problems. I had a shock to the system, which began improving by the time I made it to the shower.

By last night it just hurt a bit to breathe all the way in, your classic this-was-irritated-yesterday feeling.

Watched this, with some interest, today. It’s New York, 1896. And not all of this is gone.

The upload and upscale is using a software treatment called neural networking. Mathematical functions, artificial neurons, are transforming the lower sourced input values into a higher quality output. The parameters can be altered because the networks are trained with high-res images that are down-sampled. Eventually, photo pairs, thousands of them, get analyzed and the process helps restore lost details. The information is filled in from what the network has learned. The network sees a face because it has been taught “that’s a face!” and it can flesh it out. A low-res building can show off individual bricks. Definition and depth comes with experience and exposure, just like the rest of us.

Then you speed it up, add some sound for ambiance and give it a little post-concussion color and you’re suddenly back in time. Sorta. Almost. It’s tantalizingly close to close.

Here’s a digitized version of “the original footage.” That’s Trinity Church in the background. By 1896 it was the second tallest building in New York City. It was built in 1846 and held the top spot for the best part of five decades. It gave up tallest building honors just before this footage was made to the New York World Building. (The World Building would come down in the 1950s for better car access to the Brooklyn Bridge.)

You can’t even see Trinity Church from that location today.

If you back up, down Broadway, you can guesstimate where, apparently, Alexandre Promio himself was standing when he filmed that.

Now, this footage was shot in New York City just five years later, in 1901. I think all of this is gone. But as interesting as the buildings and the signs and the carriages can be, the people — the guy that walks into, and then out of, the shot, the kid who isn’t yet sure if you’re supposed to mug for the camera, and then the couple at the end — they are what you’re here for.

… Someone will dig up some social media company’s servers in 2140 or so and figure out how to hook up real technology with this stuff we’re working with and then pioneer a way to extrapolate holograms from 1080 and 4K phone video. Won’t that be revealing …

Probably we’ll never know for sure, but I’m going to assume this camera was set up just to the left, on the sidewalk here. There’s a subway stop at this intersection, but just to the left are a series of those air grates there.

If the date on YouTube is correct, New Yorkers are between the first and second American car show right about there. The New York baseball Giants were bad. That September, William McKinley was shot in Buffalo, New York, and Theodore Roosevelt would become president. The subways were coming along nicely. Everything was beginning to really surge. This is what Manhattan looked like from out in the Hudson about that time. A few blocks back downtown you’d find the city’s tallest building in 1901, the Park Row Building, a proud 391-feet tall, is still with us.

Today, 391-feet puts you … nowhere near New York’s top 100 buildings, of course. Some days you feel like you can reach up and touch 391-feet, and some days you realize you’d need that ladder. Harry Gardiner, the human fly, needed no such help to climb the Park Row Building in 1918. He did it in a suit, too.


29
Sep 20

Two campus notes, just before the full moon

Checked my mailbox on campus today and there was a little poster tube there. It was from the Office of the Bicentennial. The university, early this year, celebrated its 200th anniversary and, while it was a bit abbreviated because of the coronavirus shutdown, we’d been marking the event for a few years.

From time to time I had the good fortune to help them with this or that, and someone there was kind enough to send me a little thank you. I got a nice poster and some cool lapel pins:

So my question is, can I wear those in 2021?

Meanwhile, there’s baseball going on. And today I used my awesome powers to put three simultaneous playoff games on the big screen:

No one was there to watch them, because few people come into the building these days under the university’s wise safety precautions. But just as it is weird to consider 16 teams in baseball’s post season, it seemed normal to put sports on the big screen.

I wonder what they showed on that screen 200 years ago.

Ha! That’s a trick question! That building is only 103 years old! Back in 1917 you would have watched the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants in the World Series. The Sox, who won the series, were managed by a man named Pants Rowland. The Giants were managed by John McGraw, he of the bony old fingers.

Did you know there was a real Moonlight Graham? Burt Lancaster put poetry to the thing, but his is a beautiful and common tale, even without the book or the film. (The one inning the real Graham played in was a bit earlier than the film, in 1905. He passed away in 1965.)

There’s a book about him. Let me know if he ever made it down this way.


9
Sep 20

Back in time

Today’s a good day to go back in time … beeeeeecause I don’t have anything else of note to offer you today. So let’s look at the local newspaper from this same week 103 years ago, in 1917. And the headline writers didn’t really have any idea about that little thing in Russia, did they?

There were a lot of small local sadnesses taking place about this time. Seems odd to see the “final summons” formulation twice on the same front page. Some local soldiers were shipping out, and some nurses, too. There was a war on, remember. A local boy got admitted to the local bar. The judge that swore him in presided over the guy’s father’s admission to the bar a quarter century earlier. Family practice.

There’s an optician advertising on the front page. The last line says “Artificial eyes furnished.” The location today is a commercial business building. It’s the old Masonic Temple, which was still a few years in the future of this newspaper. Notably, there’s a fake radio station in that spot note. From artificial eyes to fake broadcasting.

Anyway, inside the paper … This sounds tasty!

And, in 1917, you would see some national propaganda ads like this. Need work? Move to Canada and help bring in the crops! I wonder how many people signed on for this, and what it meant to their lives.

Yeah … about that macaroni. I think I’ve lost my appetite. Thanks.

There are the usual sorts of short stories in the paper. A lot of society stuff, weddings and vacations and family visits. There’s a brief from New York about a man who’d never before spoken, but then he fell while chasing some punks and suddenly discovered the powers of speech. I googled him, but that story is the only thing about him the Internet knows. Traffic accidents and fatalities were markedly up, nationally, and people were starting to notice. A woman in Colorado had nine grandchildren in the British army. There was a mini-photo essay about treating sheep ticks.

It reminds me that there’s never a local photograph in this paper. They could print them with the technology of the day, and considering I’m looking at scans of ancient newspapers the quality is pretty good. But they didn’t publish their own. I assume this means they were a newspaper without a camera. At one of the local theaters you could see Bawbs O’ Blue Ridge:

Just before mountain girl Barbara “Bawbs” Colby’s aunt dies, she reveals that Bawbs’ deceased father had left her $5,000, but to watch out for men because they would only be interested in her for her money. Her aunt’s warning is tested when Bawbs falls for a new arrival in the mountains named Ralph Gunther, who says he is an author who’s there for the peace and quiet he needs to write.

Also, $5,000 in 1917 would be just over $100,000 today. I imagine every early 20th century matinee reads about like that.

Doesn’t everyone feel this way?

I’m happy to report my kidneys feel fine, thanks.

The circus is coming to town!

Two years prior Buffalo Bill Cody toured with this troupe. He died a few months before this paper was published. Kidney failure at 70. Anyway, the Floto Dog & Pony Show and the Sells Brothers Circus joined something called the American Circus Corporation by 1929 or so. John Ringling bought that group about the same time, and that, friends, created the great circus monopoly.


3
Aug 20

Day hiking in the Deam

Welcome to August, the time when we all try to remind ourselves that days are inconsequential, but months matter, somehow. How are things going where you are? That sounds rhetorical, but I mean it. How are things? Parents are trying to figure out how school will work. Fans are wondering if they’ll see their sports this fall? People are trying to figure out if they can just get their mortgage or rent in on time. Some people are working through a lot, and isn’t it funny how inconsequential some of those things can seem if the big ones are up in the air?

So I hope you’ve been taking a little time for yourself here and there. Mediation. Coffee. Walks. Reading something fun. Dancing sillily to music. Exercise. Whatever it is you do, do a little more of it. You probably deserve it. And if you think you don’t, you definitely do. This is August.

And since it is also Monday, we check in on the cats. The cats are good!

Phoebe literally can’t even. Did we do this one right?

Poseidon, in a rare moment of cuteness takes his break from being a little pill.

I’m kidding. He’s about 50/50. Or 40/60. Definitely he’s 30/70, cute.

We went for a walk in the wilderness yesterday. We saw one family on the trail. They were hiking back up out of the ravine as we were just beginning to work our way down into it. We each stopped, and the mom and the dad and all of their kids put on masks. We put on our masks. And then we all made a wide berth for one another. I waved at one of the kids, and it is obviously too early for all of that for her. Maybe I should have complimented her mask.

The mother and I both worked on smiling with our eyes. It’s probably past due on that, at least for me.

We were in the Charles Deam Wilderness, which gives you 36 miles of trails for hiking, backpacking, and horse riding. I took pictures of some of the humble undergrowths.

It’s a scenic hardwood forest, and the up-and-down terrain is probably beautiful to explore in the autumn. If you’re on the right part of it you can get some really nice views of the nearby lake. We happily crossed a few streams in our four-mile hike.

This was declared a wilderness in 1982 based on some legislation from the 1960s and today makes up 12,000-plus acres of the Hoosier National Forest.

It’s yet another one of those places where we say “Native Americans lived here” and, also, “It was originally settled in 1826.” Clearly people had been there before. It’s got good game, even today, but the agriculture was a bit hardscrabble.

Finally, when the Great Depression hit and the economy turned in this area people were forced out. The government bought up the abandoned land and the Civilian Conservation Corps moved in to return it to a wilderness, control erosion and make it a recreation area.

You can still see some of the old home structures in the wilderness, though we didn’t run across any yesterday. As noted, it’s a big area, which will be nice for return visits and new discoveries.

We did see a few horseshoe prints, even on the trails were horses aren’t allowed. Silly horses, they should know better and read the signs. We only heard and saw a few other people the whole time we were out, and most of them at our turnaround point, at a little cave on the top of the ridgeline. It was a bit underwhelming, as caves go, but I’ve been spoiled by some large examples over the years.

We found this tree on our way back out.

Let’s take a closer look at that tree.

I got photobombed.

There are six other trails to try out, as well, and I’m sure they all feel different in the passing seasons.

The cleanup has been an impressive one. There were 81 farms out here, and corn and hay on the ridges. Given the topography and crops it was probably a terrific example of ten-year land.

Because of today’s special rules of the wilderness act, the only work done today is trail maintenance. So if you know what you’re looking at, it’s an interesting place to see nature making it’s slow and sudden comeback.

In some areas the growth is thicker than others. It’s a space rehabilitating itself.

The Deam Wilderness, I’ve just learned, is the biggest wilderness in the lower Great Lakes region with almost 13,000 acres. For comparison, Illinois has eight wilderness areas but they’re mostly a few thousand acres each.

And, finally, a tree we found in one of the creek beds.

When you’re down in that area with the creek beds, and the hills on either side of you, you have a great sense of being alone. Even in a socially distanced world it felt like a fine dose of quietude.