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Posts Tagged ‘Technology

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore always carry a small snake”*…

 

During the 1820s, thousands of folks along the Erie Canal corri­dor were … succumbing to the mind-blasting effects of raw alcohol. America was reeling through the most phenomenal drinking binge in its history. Hordes of citizens were living their lives in the woozy, dislocated haze of permanent inebriation.

Western farmers who grew barley, corn, and rye found it more profitable to ferment and distill their crops into strong liquor than to ship the grain to market. Whiskey was plentiful and cheap. Each man older than fifteen was drinking on average fourteen gallons of hundred-proof whiskey every year. By the middle of the decade, more than a thousand distillers were operating in New York State. Whis­key was cheaper than wine or beer, more readily available than im­ported luxuries like tea and coffee, safer to drink than water.

Whiskey was considered ‘so conducive to health,’ a journalist wrote in 1830, ‘that no sex, and scarcely any age, were deemed ex­empt from its application.’ Children drank. Adults deemed it more patriotic to drink whiskey than French wine or Dutch gin. Liquor filled the role that coffee would later assume as a morning bracer. A glass of whiskey with breakfast was commonplace.

A man need not go to a tavern: he could stop for a glass of whiskey at a grocery or candy store. He could down a shot at a barber shop. Theaters served strong drink. Millers provided the refreshment to waiting farmers. Militia musters always ended with heroic drinking. Casual sellers of grog set up bars in their basements.

Men during this period habitually drank at work. Before the spread of factories, artisans typically operated workshops that em­ployed a dozen or so journeymen and apprentices. The master was expected to provide ale or whiskey for his employees’ dinner and breaks. He often drank with them. He tolerated a degree of absen­teeism on what was known as Saint Monday, as workers recovered from Sunday binges…

– From Jack Kelly’s Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal, excerpted in the ever-illuminating Delancey Place.

More at “The peak of American intoxication.”

* W.C. Fields

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As we head down the hatch, we might recall that it was on this date in 1844 that Captain J.N. Taylor of the Royal Navy first demonstrated the fog horn.  At the time, it was called a telephone (to mean a far-signaling instrument to be used on ships, railway trains, etc.).

 source (and background)

 Happy National Pecan Pie Day

Written by LW

July 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Nothing can better cure the anthropocentrism that is the author of all our ills than to cast ourselves into the physics of the infinitely large (or the infinitely small)”*…

 

From illustrator John Hendrix, a series of graphics (based on an essay by Gregory Laughlin)–  see them all (and in larger sizes) at “How Big Can Life Get?

* Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

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As we step on the scales, we might send fiendishly ingenious birthday greetings to Rube Goldberg; he was born on this date in 1883.  A cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, he is best remembered as a satirist of the American obsession with technology for his series of “Invention” cartoons which used a string of outlandish tools, people, plants, and steps to accomplish simple, everyday tasks in the most complicated possible way. (His work has inspired a number of “Rube Goldberg competitions,” the best-known of which, readers may recall, has been profilled here.)

Goldberg was a founder and the first president of the National Cartoonists Society, and he is the namesake of the Reuben Award, which the organization awards to the Cartoonist of the Year.

 source

Written by LW

July 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Say it ain’t so, Joe”*…

 

Technology is killing off independent pizzerias in the United States at the rate of roughly 2,549 locations per year (in 2015 alone). The pizza category is being reshaped by both big new tech deployed by chains and fresh threats from sophisticated emerging brands that are taking slices of the pie from tens of thousands of ill-equipped and low-tech independent pizzerias…

The whole sad story at “How Tech is Killing Off Independent Pizzerias.”

* (probably apochrophal) plea from a young boy to “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, as Jackson left Cook County Courthouse where Jackson was testifying in the Chicago “Black Sox” scandal

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As we ask for extra pepperoni, we might recall that it was on this date in 1841 that Orlando Jones received a U.S. patent for making cornstarch.  Derived by grinding the white heart of a corn kernel, and primarily used as a thickener, cornstarch is also used to keep pizzas from sticking to the ovens, pans, or stones on which they are cooked.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”*…

 

The Wizard of Oz, alphabetized.

* The Wizard of Oz

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As we strive for order in all things, we might recall that it was on this date in 1714 that English inventor Henry Mill was granted a patent (UK #395) for an apparatus “for impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another, so neat and exact as not to be distinguished from print, very useful in settlements and public records”– generally agreed to be the first description of a typewriter, the device that revolutionized the ability of creative minds worldwide to put their thoughts into print.  Mill never actually manufactured a typewriter for sale; in fact, it took many years to develop a truly functional prototype– the first of which was probably built by the Italian Pellegrino Turri in 1808 for his blind friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono.  Indeed, most early typewriters were aimed at giving the blind a means of communicating in print.  It wasn’t until the late 19th century (and the introduction of a QWERTY keyboard design as a standard) that typewriting became a wide-spread practice.

 source

 

 

 

Written by LW

January 7, 2016 at 1:01 am

“… you just can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans”*…

 

… least of all when it comes to amusing Twitter feeds:

To improve your experience on Twitter next year, try following fewer humans and more bots. Automated accounts add whimsy, serendipity, and occasional inspiration to an otherwise drab timeline of tweets.

Bots get a bad rap, in part because they are often confused with spam and aren’t particularly attractive to advertisers seeking human customers. Twitter, perhaps sensing those mixed feelings, also hasn’t done much to encourage or highlight bots on its platform. That’s a shame because bot makers, particularly the #botALLY community, are responsible for some of the most creative work on Twitter right now…

Check ’em out for yourself at “The best Twitter bots of 2015.”

* Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

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As we unrestrainedly retweet, we might spare a thought for Stephen Day; he died on this date in 1668.  An indebted locksmith in London, Day was brought to America 1939 by a John Glover, a clergyman who had purchased Day’s indenture.  On the same crossing, Glover imported the New World’s first printing press, which Day was to operate.  Glover died on the voyage, but his widow and Day established the Cambridge Press on Holyoke Street and produced the first book printed in America, the Bay Psalm Book (1640).

Stephen Day’s press

source

 

Written by LW

December 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“We face neither East nor West; we face forward”*…

 

To the Western mind, “African Electronics,” the theme of this year’s annual Chale Wote street art festival in Ghana’s capital, might conjure up images of social media revolutions, telecommunications giants, farmers using smartphones, or other “tech solutions” to development. Not for artist Serge Attukwei Clottey.

Serge, like most artists participating at Chale Wote, views African Electronics as a call for African empowerment, and celebration of the innovation and energy which has been flowing through the continent for centuries. This was ever present throughout a festival that saw examples of both traditional and contemporary art forms: from colorful wall murals to performance art, interactive installations to stand alone sculptures, traditional drummers to electronic music DJs…

More at “‘African Electronics’ Takes a Spiritual Approach to Individual Power.” (Serge Attukwei Clottey will exhibit his performance installation, The Displaced, at Feuer Mesler gallery in Manhattan in October 2015.)

* Kwame Nkrumah

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As we agree with Jaron Lanier that “You Are Not A Gadget,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Granville Tailer Woods– the first African-American electrical engineer working n the U.S. after the Civil War, whose many inventions (and 50 patents) earned him the moniker “the Black Edison”– patented the Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sent messages between train stations and moving trains, thus assuring a safer, better public transportation system.

 source

 

Written by LW

August 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

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