(Roughly) Daily

“I don’t flip. I don’t even dive into a pool – straight cannonball for me”*…

 

These pretty diagrams of types of high dives performed in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm are from the official report summarizing the events of the games, published in 1913. (The book has been digitized by the University of Toronto and is available in full on the Internet Archive.)

At the time of this Olympics, diving was a young sport. Its history was rooted in 19th-century Sweden and Germany, where gymnasts experimented with tumbling routines that ended in the water. Swedish divers traveled to Great Britain in the late 1890s and made exhibition dives, which prompted British enthusiasts to found an Amateur Diving Association in 1901. In 1912, which was the first year that women’s diving was included in the Games, Swedish athletes won gold in men’s and women’s 10-meter platform diving, as well as men’s plain high diving.

The handbook summarizes the degree of difficulty for the dives depicted here, with the hardest being the flying somersault forwards and Isander’s dive. (The Isander and Mollberg dives were both named after the Swedish divers who invented them.)

More in the remarkable Rebecca Onion‘s “Graceful Minimalist Diagrams of Early-20th-Century Olympic High Dives.”

* Rob Lowe

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As we tuck and roll, we might send mellifluous baritone birthday greetings to Christopher Eugene “Chris” Schenkel; he was born on this date in 1923.  A career sportscaster perhaps best remembered as the voice (for almost 40 years) of professional bowling, he was a regular announcer on ABC’s Olympics broadcasts.  Indeed, contrary to current popular belief, Schenkel, not Jim McKay, anchored ABC’s prime time coverage of the ill-fated 1972 Summer Olympics: when the terrorist attacks (otherwise known as the Munich Massacre) occurred, Schenkel was asleep after hosting the previous night’s coverage live from Munich from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. local time.  McKay, who was on his way to the Stadium for track and field coverage, was told to return to the ABC studio to report on the situation unfolding at the Olympic Village.  Schenkel returned to anchor Olympic coverage after the Games resumed.

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Written by LW

August 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever”*…

 

Hand-wringing over the state of journalism– especially the state of print journalism– is a feature of our times. As Will Mari reminds us, the profession has been here before…

In the late 1950s, TV news was on the rise, as more and more Americans (nearly 90 percent of them, in fact) were buying sets. As broadcasters competed with print journalists for breaking news, writers for newspapers and magazines were rethinking their role as storytellers and interpreters.

Sigma Delta Chi, later known as the Society of Professional Journalists, recognized this. The Quill, its magazine for reporters and editors, confronted the occupation’s many challenges. From embracing discussions of technological change, to discussing journalistic failings (like how to handle the next Sen. Joe McCarthy) and encouraging its members to mentor younger journalists, the organization and others like it played a big part in the professionalization of the field.

Cartoons in The Quill poked fun at newsroom life. Occupational humor, often of the gallows variety, was (and remains) a critical way for journalists to think about their profession. Cartoons also appeared in abundance in other trade publications, such as in the American Newspaper Guild’s Guild Reporter and Editor & Publisher. The former championed labor, and the latter presented publishers’ point of view.

The Quill walked a middle path. Its cartoons, some unsigned and others bylined, depict the inhabitants of the newsroom going about their daily business. The humor had a light, earnestly innocent feel. Sigma Delta Chi’s members also included broadcast journalists, but the cartoons were drawn mostly from the perspective of print reporters…

* Oscar Wilde

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As we parse the new(s) paradigms, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005, in Woody Creek, Colorado, that the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson were “blasted into the sky over his farm [there], carried by red, blue and silver fireworks in front of a 153-foot monument that Mr. Thompson, the writer and avatar of “gonzo” journalism, designed himself almost 30 years ago.”

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Written by LW

August 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Every technology, every science that tells us more about ourselves, is scary at the time”*…

 

Further to last weekend’s visit with Silicon Valley’s security robots...

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have built a mother robot that can independently build its own children and test which one does best; and then use the results to inform the design of the next generation, so that preferential traits are passed down from one generation to the next.

Without any human intervention or computer simulation beyond the initial command to build a robot capable of movement, the mother created children constructed of between one and five plastic cubes with a small motor inside.

In each of five separate experiments, the mother designed, built and tested generations of ten children, using the information gathered from one generation to inform the design of the next. The results, reported in the open access journal PLOS One, found that preferential traits were passed down through generations, so that the ‘fittest’ individuals in the last generation performed a set task twice as quickly as the fittest individuals in the first generation…

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“Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on,” said lead researcher Dr Fumiya Iida of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who worked in collaboration with researchers at ETH Zurich. “That’s essentially what this robot is doing – we can actually watch the improvement and diversification of the species… We want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity…”

See and read more here (and here).

* Rodney Brooks

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As we select naturally, we might spare a thought for Blaise Pascal; he died on this date in 1662.  A French mathematician, physicist, theologian, and inventor (e.g.,the first digital calculator, the barometer, the hydraulic press, and the syringe), his commitment to empiricism (“experiments are the true teachers which one must follow in physics”) pitted him against his contemporary René “cogito, ergo sum” Descartes…

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Written by LW

August 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”*…

 

Raphaelle Peale, Melons and Morning Glories, 1813

Molasses made from heirloom watermelons, Chez Panisse’s “Masumoto peach,” acorn-fed pork charcuterie: rescuing the lost ingredients and flavors that animated the world’s cuisines, and their culinary masterpieces– an argument for adding food to the cultural canon.

* George Bernard Shaw

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As we go loco for locavore, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that a 350 pound black bear served himself at a Duluth, Minnesota coffee shop…

Arvid Peterson was driving down London road at 26th Avenue East when he noticed a large black bear sauntering along behind his vehicle. Arvid was on his way to deliver fresh North Shore fish to a Duluth warehouse. The bear was obviously impressed with the smells coming from the back of his truck. Assuming the bear would tire soon leave and not follow, Arvid paid no more attention to the him until he arrived at the corner of Superior Street and Third Avenue East when he turned up the hill next to the Hotel Duluth, and realized that  the bear had followed him over a mile.

When the animal smelled the wonderful odors coming from the coffee shop in the Hotel Duluth Coffee Shop, he rose up on his hind feet and looked around as if greatly confused.  He then walked over to the coffee shop and with one mighty blow of its paw, it smashed a fifteen foot tall plate glass window. Glass flew in every direction. The bear dropped to all fours and rushed through the window to the center of the coffee shop. A local drunk, wandering the streets in a stupor, saw the whole episode. For some unknown reason he had a hammer with him and he leaped through the broken window after the bear. Screaming and waving the hammer he first chased the bear, then stood there in a Mexican standoff with this monster of the big game.

Upon hearing the shattering glass, and the drunk’s shouting, the night watchman, Albert Nelson, went to see what had happened. At first he guessed that an automobile had crashed through a window, or perhaps that there had been a kitchen explosion but when he arrived he was amazed at the sight of the huge black bear standing in the middle of the floor. He then ran to get the night clerk and the assistant manager, who called the police.The coffee shop had an upper level which Nelson entered by a side door. Taking note of the two short stairways leading to the mezzanine from the main floor, he realized that he had to protect himself in some way so he set to piling tables and chairs at the top of the stairs as barricades.

The bear was not idle during this time. Pursued by the drunk waving the hammer, he first attacked one stairway and then the other but Nelson beat him off each time by throwing chairs and tables down each stairway adding to the bearicades.This battle went on for some time, during which the guests of the hotel, aroused by the commotion, congregated in the lobby and passersby on the streets started to gather at the windows. Soon there were large crowds watching the action both from the lobby of the hotel and from the street.The crowd that grew larger and larger, pressing in on the coffee shop was estimated to be up to 300 curious people. With each new charge of the bear the onlookers surged back a few steps, only to press in again when the bear retreated. All the while the madman with the hammer continued his relentless pursuit.

At this point Sergeant Eli Le Beau and Patrolman John Hagen arrived. In an effort to capture the wild beast they obtained a length of rope which they made into a noose. Entering the coffee shop they began pushing tables and chairs towards the bear in an ever tightening circle. After several attempts to lasso the animal, they moved the circle closer until they were certain to succeed. One has to ask just how smart it is to corner a hungry bear?  Just as they were ready to throw the rope around his head, the bear lunged backward attacking the stairway once more. Smashing chairs and tables he appeared to be breaking his way toward Nelson when Sergeant Le Beau hoisted his rifle to his shoulder and fired a well placed round into the animal’s head.In mortal agony the bear raised up on its hind legs, stood wobbly for a moment, then fell down the stairs to the floor below. The crowd moved in closer, surrounding the dead bear. Silence reigned. The magnificent animal was later sent to a local taxidermist and for many years was displayed in the front window of the “Black Bear Lounge” in the hotel. Presently it is on display in the main dining room of the original Grandma’s Saloon & Grill in Canal Park, Duluth.  [source]

Written by LW

August 18, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon”*…

 

 

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U.S. coffee consumption peaked around 1950, then declined dramatically– displaced, largely, by soft drinks, 8 of the top ten selling of which are loaded with caffeine…

With protagonists like Monsanto and Coca Cola, it’s a tale with which to conjure.

Read more at “The buzz(kill) about caffeine.”

* Ronald Reagan

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As we top up our cups, we might recall that it was in this date in 1896 that the first pedestrian was killed by a motor car in Great Britain.  A Benz automobile, being demonstrated on the grounds of the Crystal Place, struck Mrs. Bridgette Driscoll, who died minutes later of head injuries.  Though the driver, Arthur James Edsall, was accused of tampering with the governor (which was meant to hold the car’s top speed to 4 miles per hour) and of being distracted as he drove by conversation with the young woman who was his passenger, a Coroner’s Inquest return a verdict of accidental death.

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Written by LW

August 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans”*…

 

It patrols your grounds continuously, no need for sitting down or going outside to smoke. It’s a “physically commanding presence,” warding off intruders and no-gooders. And, most importantly, it’s relatively cheap. At $6.25 an hour, it costs about one quarter of what mall-owners might normally pay for a human patrol.

That, at least, is the pitch from Stacy Stephens, VP of marketing for Knightscope, the California startup behind the machine. He says there are now two dozen K5s in operation in the Silicon Valley area, including on corporate campuses, shopping malls, and data centers. He also, apparently, doesn’t think human workers are very good at their jobs. “We’re the opposite of the mall cop,” he says. “They sit around for 45 minutes to an hour, then they get up and walk around five minutes. The robot is going to patrol for 45 minutes to an hour, then it’s going to seek out its charge-pad for five minutes.”…

Capable of object- and pattern-recognition, pathogen-detection, and “audio event detection,” it is not (yet) armed.

Readers– who will be forgiven for observing an eerie similarity to the Daleks— can learn more at “Meet The Scary Little Security Robot That’s Patrolling Silicon Valley.”

Claude Shannon (the “Father of Information Theory”)

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As we hope that resistance is not, in fact, futile, we might send fantastically far-sighted birthday greetings to Hugo Gernsback, a Luxemborgian-American inventor, broadcast pioneer, writer, and publisher; he was born on this date in 1884.

Gernsback held 80 patents at the time of his death; he founded radio station WRNY, was involved in the first television broadcasts, and is considered a pioneer in amateur radio.  But it was as a writer and publisher that he probably left his most lasting mark:  In 1926, as owner/publisher of the magazine Modern Electrics, he filled a blank spot in his publication by dashing off the first chapter of a series called “Ralph 124C 41+.” The twelve installments of “Ralph” were filled with inventions unknown in 1926, including “television” (Gernsback is credited with introducing the word), fluorescent lighting, juke boxes, solar energy, television, microfilm, vending machines, and the device we now call radar.

The “Ralph” series was an astounding success with readers; and later that year Gernsback founded the first magazine devoted to science fiction, Amazing Stories.  Believing that the perfect sci-fi story is “75 percent literature interwoven with 25 percent science,” he coined the term “science fiction.”

Gernsback was a “careful” businessman, who was tight with the fees that he paid his writers– so tight that H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith referred to him as “Hugo the Rat.”

Still, his contributions to the genre as publisher were so significant that, along with H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, he is sometimes called “The Father of Science Fiction”; in his honor, the annual Science Fiction Achievement awards are called the “Hugos.”

(Coincidentally, today is also the birthday– in 1906– of Philo T. Farnsworth, the man who actually did invent television… and was thus the inspiration for the name “Philco.”)

Gernsback, wearing one of his inventions, TV Glasses

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Written by LW

August 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

“‘Tis not alone my inky cloak… Nor customary suits of solemn black”*…

 

Michelangelo Merisi
da Caravaggio used ivory black to convey asceticism, piety, and inspiration in his 1605-6 painting, St Jerome Writing.

Suddenly, black was everywhere. It caked the flesh of miners and ironworkers; it streaked the walls and windows of industrial towns; it thickened the smoky air above. Proprietors donned black clothing to indicate their status and respectability. New black dyes and pigments created in factories and chemical laboratories entered painters’ studios, enabling a new expression for the new themes of the industrial age: factory work and revolt, technology and warfare, urbanity and pollution, and a rejection of the old status quo. A new class of citizen, later to be dubbed the “proletariat,” began to appear in illustrations under darkened smokestacks. The industrial revolution had found its color.

Black is technically an absence: the visual experience of a lack of light. A perfect black dye absorbs all of the light that impinges on it, leaving nothing behind. This ideal is remarkably difficult to manufacture. The industrialization of the 18th and 19th centuries made it easier, providing chemists and paint-makers with a growing palette of black—and altering the subjects that the color would come to represent. “These things are intimately connected,” says science writer Philip Ball, author of Bright Earth: The Invention of Color. The reinvention of black, in other words, went far beyond the color…

As the means of producing the color black changed, so did the subjects that it was used to evoke/represent. Get the basics at “The Reinvention of Black.”

* Shakespeare, Hamlet

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As we paint it black, we might we might retreat to the colorful, remembering that it was on this date in 1969 that “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” opened in the Catskills in New York State.  The organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair– or Woodstock, as it is remembered– had hoped to sell 50,000 tickets; but by the week before the event, had moved 186,000.  A last-minute change of venue presented them with a hard choice: hastily erect more/stronger fences and install additional security on the new site (the now-famous Yasgur’s Farm) or offer the event for free.  The night before the event, with attendees already arriving in huge numbers, the promoters cut the fence.  Ultimately an estimated 400,000 people enjoyed a (somewhat rainy) weekend of performances from 32 acts.  It was, as Rolling Stone opined, a defining moment in Rock and Roll.

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Written by LW

August 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

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