maps


16
Jul 21

Rocks and washing machines

I was gripped, a few years ago, by an article that made the case for the washing machine as the most important invention of the 20th century. Sure, you say, there’s also the refrigerator and the computer and/or the microchip. Penicillin, a discovery rather than an invention, doesn’t count.

The argument has been spelled out in many other newspaper opinion columns, in historical research and even in one of the 20th century’s oddest inventions, TED Talks. Simply put, doing the laundry was once an all day exercise. It was hard, backbreaking labor. It was almost exclusively ‘a woman’s job.’ And when the first powered washing machines came along, they freed up people, almost all of them women, to do other things. Probably it helped with their hand care, too.

I asked my grandmother about this article at some point. She always called it The Wash. If you heard her say it, you heard the capital T and capital W. The Wash. Do you remember, I said, a time before you had a washer and dryer?

“Of course,” she said, in that not-dismissive-but-entirely-obvious way that your elders can use on you.

I asked her when she got her first washer. It was when they’d built and moved into that very house, the only one I’d ever known my grandparents in. It was the 1950s. She was a young woman still starting a new family. The washer and dryer lived on the covered back porch. (Where the laundry connections are is almost a tell. Back porch, that’s hedging your bets on this technology at best, an afterthought at worst. In the two houses I grew up in the connections were in the basement. Out of the way, but inherently inconvenient. In our house today the laundry is upstairs, very near the bedrooms.)

I asked how she did The Wash before she had a washer and dryer. She took it down to the creek. Soap, boards, stones, the old antiquated thing. That’s just what you did. This is the middle of the 20th century.

Which is where my story gets a little foggy. My grandparents’ house was surrounded by a creek. It’s just a small bit of water that breaks off a larger waterway which is itself a slough of a tributary of the Tennessee River — and we talked about that yesterday. If you saw it on a map, my grandparents’ road and the creek almost make a four-way intersection. I started wandering through their woods at a young and early age, when some of those creeks looked like wild, untamable testaments of God and nature. And to my young mind that water was everywhere.

The water was nice. It was always cool, and it always looked clean. But it was never the water that interested me the most, it was the rocks.

Where I grew up was far enough away from my grandparents that the soil was, in places, noticeably different. All of my family lived in this area, a place around a massive river, where the water was a dominant element of everyday life. Having different topographical features where I grew up meant I spent a lot of time playing in the little streams and on the rocky shores.

On a physiographic map this is on something called the Highland Rim, the southernmost section of the Interior Low Plateaus of the Appalachian Highlands Region. By name and almost everything else, it’s a series of contradictions. It’s messy and beautiful.

How the underlying rocks erode in different ways define the area. The rocks formed during the Mississippian period (353 to 323 million ago. Explain that to a kid taken in by the many colors and the smooth polished feel that ages in the water have created.

I lived in a different physiographic region, a bit to the south, in the Valley and Ridge province. Our soil was exclusively clay and, to me, the rocks didn’t have the same sort of interesting character. Has to be that river, I always thought when I was young. I told you yesterday, the river figures into everything, so why not the rocks?

It actually has to do with the mountains.

Kaiser Science tells us:

The mountains of the British Isles and Scandinavia turn out to be made of the same kind of rock, and formed in the same historical era.

Evidence shows that in the past all of these were one mountain system, torn by the moving of the tectonic plates – continental drift.

Put another way, if you like the hypothesis of continental drift, you look at this as a broken mountain range, making these mountains older than the Atlantic Ocean.

A few years ago, longer after the Atlantic Ocean was formed, we visited London and caught a changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

There’s a lot of standing around and waiting and jockeying for position and wondering who you’ll see and what the bands will play. It’s good fun if you are patient, and you don’t mind crowds.

We walked to the palace, from wherever we’d been before, through Green Park, and we returned that same way. At one point there in the park I looked down and picked up this rock. It looked familiar. Looked like home.

I brought it back with me, and later took it to my grandmother.

The queen has the same rocks you do!

As ever, my enthusiasm was what amused her most.

If you look at that map, you can see it. The rocks you saw when you were doing chores are the same sort of rocks the queen of the United Kingdom was used to. Their rocks, your rocks, same kinds of rocks.

I wonder when the queen got her first washing machine.


29
Jun 21

The lighthouses

Why, yes, we are on day four of milking our four-day trip that took place a full week ago. You’d rather I try to make office things interesting or something?

We romanticize lighthouses these days. They were critically important tools, and unique features of rugged and beautiful landscapes. Running them was often a solitary and always demanding life. Everything was regimented and the drudgery was vital to the mission. And, when we’re away from them it’s easy to idealize lighthouses.

When you get there, it can be a little different. They’re built where they are needed. That’s often far away from everyone else. And the entire effort toward making them operational was beholden to the keeper’s job and the purpose of the place. The creature comforts are sparse to say the least.

Here’s the North Head Lighthouse, which were were able to get right next to. They do tours in a non-Covid time. It’s a small lighthouse, the tours probably don’t take long.

In May of 1898, the North Head Lighthouse went into service as the primary navigation aid at the mouth of the Columbia River. It remains in operation today, but the system is automated, and augmented by GPS and other modern technologies.

The lighthouse offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach Peninsula, Columbia River Bar, and the northern Oregon Coast.

We could not get that close to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. It went into service in October of 1856, but it didn’t solve the problem. Ships continued to run aground, often with fatal consequence. The “Graveyard of the Pacific” makes for some tricky and violent waters. The largest ocean and the region’s largest river come together, and so here we are, Cape Disappointment.

As the crow flies, they are just two miles apart; apparently the closest two lighthouses on the Pacific coast.

Where we are at in that Cape Disappointment photograph figures into the sum total of American history. The Chinook tribe are the longest standing residents of which we know. They called Cape Disappointment Kah’eese. A few other names came and went, but the Disappointment name comes from a Western explorer, of course. He named it that because he thought there was no river there. Some explorer. Another, more successful, exploration wound up here. Lewis and Clark stood on these very rocks. The Corps of Discovery came right here, to the very edge of the continent.

Here’s a bit of video, just to give you a bit of a mental vacation, if you will. This is a shot of the North Head Lighthouse.

And here’s a quick video of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, and we’ve arranged for a freighter to turn into the Columbia River to add a bit of realism. (We pull out all the stops for you, dear reader.)

Tomorrow: more vacation highlights. We’re going to the beach.


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.


20
Mar 20

We go back in time

I didn’t go out to see this, because we shouldn’t be going out anywhere right now, but this is really lovely.

If you unpack that tweet as a thread, you’ll see a collection of marquees around the country. The Buskirk-Chumley’s signage is pretty terrific, and that is a wonderful quote.

Fun fact of trivia: I walked in there Thursday of last week to pick up some Will Call tickets for a show last Friday night as the show was being postponed. Sometimes you can only smile, and so that’s what I did. The woman working there at the moment didn’t know anything yet. She said they hoped to know something soon about make up dates. I said that’d be nice, and hopefully so, but I think we both knew it wouldn’t be tomorrow or the next day, like she said. I wished her well, and good luck with all of the other customers I was sure they’d hear from, and gave her a smile as I walked back outside.

That’s not being a helper in the sense that Mr. Rogers taught us about, but I’d like to be a person who doesn’t cause other problems, which is one of his less well-known quotes, I’m sure.

At the moment, their website says they plan to reopen on May 11th. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe the first movie in May, or whenever they get back, will be Home Alone.

If I may sum up a convoluted website I just read about the place, it was originally built as the Indiana Theater and used for vaudeville entertainment and silent movies, in the 1920s. It lived on as a movie theater until 1995, when it became a performing arts center, so a little bit of everything these days. (We were supposed to see Guster last week.) It is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Let’s fall back in time and look a little more at this place. May as well, we’re homebound anyway, right?

The time was 1917, the paper was the Bloomington Evening World, a paper that dates back to 1892, and ran under this name until 1943, when it merged with the coolest paper name in town, the Bloomington Telephone. A few mergers and name changes later, and it’s lineage is loosely still found in the modern Herald-Times, which is being almost stripped for parts today.

I’m looking at this issue for the first time as I create the screen captures, so I’ve no idea where this is going or what we’ll find … but on this day in 1917 …

The Campbell’s ad, which is so scandalously run on the front page — it isn’t a scandal, and it wasn’t a few years ago when some papers returned to that historic trend — invites you to come into their shop on the west side of the courthouse. Actually, the ad doesn’t say where it is. Everyone just knew. A man named Noble Campbell ran that concern. He was an IU graduate, sat on the library board, married well and eventually retired to Florida, where he died in the 1950s. I see on one site that he “was also connected with the motion picture business.” Whether that means he made wardrobe or just liked movies, we don’t know.

It’s fun to imagine though. I’m going with the silent, silent investor type. The guy the organized guys were afraid of.

They just put all your news in the old papers:

Another front page ad, where most assuredly people gathered for batteries and to gossip about that front page brief:

The Willard franchise was about 20 years old, but already a national concern. I’m not sure why the character is shooting his own sign there. Anyway, by the 1930s there were more than 5,000 shops under their banner. They’d eventually buy a radio station, built batteries that powered submarines and some of the sort you could hold in your hand. Things dried up in the 1950s and 1960s. A few years after this ad J.W. Farris also got into plumbing, heating and air. That was probably a booming series of career choices for a man in the 19-teens. Where it led him next, we don’t know.

Where that store was then? Condos today, just a few blocks from the theater, above.

There are four pages of the paper, and a lot of it points to the agricultural audience of the time, and some what we would today call syndicated content, or sponsored content, or “there weren’t a lot of people involved in writing this thing, perhaps.” You’ll be happy to hear there’s advice for how women can remove any corn, and a “Write Now” to receive the secret to masking gray hair. It’s not a new concern.

There’s also this, just hanging out on the bottom of the third page:

It’s just a hundred years ago, but they were still looking for people to settle land. In that time the building they wanted you to write to, the Traction-Terminal Building in Indy, came and went. It was the train station, and then a bus station. They razed it in the 1970s. Today there’s a Hilton on that spot.

At the student building on campus you could settle in for a play with a legitimate silent film star:

She was about to turn 21, so her audience looked a lot like her. She’d been in 125 movies and shorts by then, too. She acted regularly until 1930. This was one of her last films.

She got married, got divorced, different than the one above, and then the talkies came. She only appeared in three of them before moving to radio and Broadway. She worked in retail and then showed up in two television shows and one movie from 1958-1960. This was her last appearance, on The Many Loves of Doobie Gillis.

Arrivederci, Mrs. Dowell! It’s a quick part, and how it came to her is probably one of those small non-mysteries from 70 years ago we’ll never know, meaning a quick glance of the Internet didn’t have an essay or comment from a great-niece. In the late 1960s film scholars and, eventually, documentarians, rediscovered her career. She lived long enough to see all of that and died, at 90, in 1986.

The society notes tell of us a student recovering from appendicitis, a man who had lung fever, various family visits, and the return home of Howard M. Tourner, a jeweler. He had been out of town in Washington D.C., where he saw the second inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. He had a shop downtown, though it might not have been downtown back then. He played and taught the flute. He passed away in 1941.

On the front page there’s a paragraph about the signs of spring. The university’s baseball team had taken the field for practice, and boys could be seen playing marbles in the streets. On the back page there was the weather forecast: “Generally fair tonight.”


11
Dec 19

nasses Nickerchen

I saw this word used a few years back and immediately fell in love with it: administrivia. It is an American thing, of course, and apparently came out of the 1930s. Can’t imagine why. And it became popular in education circles in the 1960s. Can’t imagine why.

Which is not to say that we’re the only ones burdened with the thing. Administrivia is everywhere. But the way it’s used is delightful. Even summoning up the word is a judgement: This isn’t cool, I know, but I also know it is necessary, and know you know, by my using this word, that I know it isn’t cool. And maybe it isn’t even necessary, but that’s bureaucratic inertia, kid.

Even saying the word is a bit of a challenge the first few hundred times you do it. It makes you sympathetic to the German speaker’s use of komposita.

The first time I saw this word, administrivia, it was on a syllabus. Which was perfect. It was in a bold font. Which seemed useless.

Anyway, that was my day, dealing with the details that must be dealt with in order to do more interesting work.

There was the approval of travel funds, the approval of payroll and the sending out a contract which had most assuredly been sent before. Arrangements had to be made for an office key to be turned in, and the first question about the next term rolled in about that same time. Somehow, another approval was required for the same upcoming travel funds. This prompted a great many notes. There are always programming notes to consider, both looking back and looking forward. And then there were the emails, always there are the emails, and the brief doorway meetings and so on.

The Germans don’t seem to have a word for administrivia, which seems like it would be an embarrassing oversight on their part.

I did learn a fine German proverb looking for it though. Wer den Acker nicht will graben, der wird nicht als Unkraut haben.

Speaking of komposita …

Hey, it was either that or going long on this little news note today: Wet-Nap maker planning to build area production facility, add 90 jobs

Nice-Pak Products, a manufacturer of wet wipes for consumers, health care, food service and other commercial markets, announced plans Wednesday to build a 760,000-square-foot production and warehousing facility in Mooresville, creating 90 jobs.

The Orangeburg, New York-based company already employs 413 people at its existing administrative and production facility at 1 Nice Park Road in Mooresville. The company, which has 2,500 employees worldwide, has operated in Mooresville for 45 years.

A man named Julius had an idea and started it all. He and his son got in bed with Colonel Sanders, and then things really took off. It’s an industry that is projected to have compound annual growth of about seven percent over much of the next decade. Everyone needs clean skin, after all, and some of that growth is going to come from just up the road. And that’s 90 new jobs rolled into what is already that county’s biggest employer.

The company makes products as varied as Wet-Nap, Nice n Clean Wipes and Grime Boss. What, you didn’t think you’d diversify in the wet napkin game? There are all sorts of pre-loaded moisture needs out there, friend, and businesses have to meet those needs.

It isn’t clear from that brief story if this means an additional facility, or a full upgrade and replacement project. Here’s what they have now. The exterior looks as clean as you would expect of such an enterprise.

The new place will be about five miles down the road from the old place, which is opposite a concrete mix supplier. Adjacent to the new locale are a small car dealership and a gutter cleaning service. It just seems a logical place, said a guy who was counting on those civic tax breaks to build the new facility.

They’ll start moving dirt late next year. It’ll be a project where no one goes home with grime under their nails.