Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hard drive crash: 1660

Primerose got an order from the king to put up all the public registers of Scotland...

...They were now put up in fifty hogsheads: and a ship was ready to carry them down...

...But so much time was lost, that the summer was spent: so they were sent down in winter: and by some easterly gusts the ship was cast away near Berwick. So we lost all our records.
--From History of his own Times--

Fortunately, with modern technology and the ease of copying electronic records, we NEVER have this problem anymore.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photoshop: 1794

I've seen lots of older paintings in museums and am always amazed at how beautiful the people in them look, but also skeptical. Forget about smallpox scars, this was a time before Clearasil with very little bathing; there's no way the painters painted exactly what they saw.

Bonus music selection:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cell phone towers: 1794

The original telegraph was a series of towers built across France (see map). The aerials on top of the towers could be used to make shapes. Each shape could be looked up in a code book and deciphered into letters, words, or numbers.

Messages could be sent across vast distances in this manner, passed from operators in one tower to the next. Reception was limited to line of site, but this system had obvious advantages in detecting and responding to foreign military operations.

More information is available here and here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

- . -..- - -- . ... ... .- --. .. -. --. .---- ---.. -.... .....

... --- -- . - .. -- . ... .. - ... . . -- ... .-.. .. -.- . .- -. .. -. -.-. --- -- .--. .-. . .... . -. ... .. -... .-.. . .-.. .- -. --. ..- .- --. . -... ..- - .. ..-. -.-- --- ..- -.- -. --- .-- .... --- .-- - --- - .-. .- -. ... .-.. .- - . .. - .--. .-. . - - -.-- ... --- --- -. .. - .. ... .-.. .. -.- . -.-- --- ..- .-- . .-. . -... --- .-. -. ..- ... .. -. --. .. -

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The religion of kings: 1660

But when he talked freely, he could not help letting himself out against the liberty that under the reformation all men took of inquiring into matters of religion: for from their inquiring into matters of religion, they carried the humour farther, to inquire into matters of state. He said often, he thought government was a much safer and easier thing where the authority was believed infallible, and the faith and submission of the people was implicit...
--From History of his own Times--

Friday, January 22, 2010

Math: 1835

A great variety of multiplication tables were mentioned, extending, in some cases, as far as 1,000 times 1,000: these were computed and printed at enormous expense and labour by the English Board of Longitude, the French Board of Longitude, and by the Prussian Government.
Since there weren't calculating machines, doing repetitive or complex numerical calculations was extremely time consuming. To make things faster, people would use mass-produced, printed mathematical tables. But there were problems, especially with tables that were new, or had to be updated often:
The lecturer next proceeded to furnish proofs of the extensive errors by which all existing tables were at present vitiated, and observed, that from the chances against an error being detected, it might reasonably be assumed, that for every error actually detected, a multitude of undetected ones must exist. In a single page of one set of nautical tables, he showed about fifty errors: in other sets of tables, a single individual had detected in some five hundred, and in others one thousand errors.
 Imagine a world where even math was iffy!

--From Arcana of science and art--

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Car reviews: 1835

They performed a road test:
I find on this hard road the wheels are severely tried; but this road, hard as it is, has been of inestimable value to me in regard to experience, pointing out, with unerring certainty, where more strength is wanting.
Reported on reliability:
The crank shaft severed at a bad part of the bad pavement in Finsbury-square a day or two after she commenced running; but this was replaced, and the carriage started the next morning at the usual hour, and has ever since continued at work, with the omission of only one journey...
On mileage:
The consumption of coke has hitherto been from 8 to 12 lbs. a mile, and about 100 lbs. of water for the same distance.
And safety:
We have, up to this time, carried nearly 4,000 passengers in perfect safety.
--From Arcana of science and art--

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Travel books: 1836

--From The friend of Australia: or, a plan for exploring the interior--

Going on vacation to the type of places we go today would be grounds for writing a book in 1836. But this book isn't even about that; it's someone theorizing about how people might be able to explore the places we go on vacation!

Monday, January 18, 2010

World opinion: circa 1680

I answered, that foreigners were no other way concerned in the quarrels of their neighbours, than to see who could or would assist them...
--From History of his own Times--

Listen to it at your own peril.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bromance: 1609

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
From Shakespeare's Sonnets--

Oh, the things one man writes to another man, and then publishes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Symmetry: 1794

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
--From Songs of Innocence and of Experience--

There's something about symmetry that can make even mundane things seem extraordinary.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hacked emails: 1659

...observed where the secretary laid some letters of advice, on which he saw he relied most, and getting the key of that cabinet in his hand to seal a letter with a seal that hung to it, he took the impression of it in wax, and got a key to be made from it, by which he opened the cabinet, and sent over some of the most important of those letters.
--From History of his own Times--

Should have used encryption technology, like a cipher.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nuclear deterrent: 1651

As to the cavalier party, he was afraid both of assassination and other plottings from them. As to the former of these, he took a method that proved very effectual: he said often and openly, that in a war it was necessary to return upon any side all the violent things that any of the one side did to the other. This was done for preventing greater mischief, and for bringing men to fair war: therefore, he said, assassinations were such detestable things, that he would never begin them: but if any of the king's party should endeavour to assassinate him, and fail in it, he would make an assassinating war of it, and destroy the whole family: and he pretended he had instruments to execute it, whensoever he should give order for it. The terror of this was a better security to him than his guards.
--From History of his own Times--

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pleasing things on a cold day

Watching birds with puffed up feathers.
Staying under the covers.
A pot full of hot tea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Harry Reid: 1858

I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say, in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
--From Political debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas--

Of course Abraham Lincoln wanted to make sure everyone knew he was racist.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Post-modernism: 1651

The protestors urged for themselves, that, since all protestants rejected the pretence of infallibility, the major part of the church might fall into errors, in which case the lesser number could not be bound to submit to them...
--From History of his own Times--

 It's like there are multiple view-points and no one can be sure which one is correct, or if any of them are.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Poetry: 1656


READER, I was borne and cryed
Crackt so, smelt so, and so dyed.
Like to Caesars was my death,
He in senat lost his breath;
And alike inter'd doth lye,
The famous Romulus and I.
And, at last, like
Floria faire,
I left the common wealth mine aire
--From The muses recreation--

I think the popularity of poetry had declined in direct proportion with the ability of poets to publish fart jokes.

Of course in the future, no one will understand our biting political humor; all they'll find find funny is our fart jokes and the like.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chevy Volt: 1640

This painting is supposedly illustrating Tulip Mania. I guess financial bubbles make people dream of alternative energy vehicles; everything is possible when money isn't an issue.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

War for oil: 1640

This struck many of the enthusiasts of the king's side, as much as it exalted the Scots; who were next day possessed of Newcastle, and so were masters, not only of Northumberland and the bishopric of Duresme, but of the coalries; by which, if they had not been in a good understanding with the city of London, they could have distressed them extremely: but all the use the city made of this was, to raise a great outcry, and to complain of the war, since it was now in the power of the Scots to starve them.
--From History of his own Times--

 They had a high percentage of wind and water power, but were still dependent on fossil fuels.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Eminent domain: 1628

In the third year of his reign the earl of Nithisdale... ...was sent down with a power to take the surrender of all church lands, and to assure all who did readily surrender, that the king would take it kindly, and use them all very well, but that he would proceed with all rigour against those who would not submit their rights to his disposal. Upon his coming down, those who were most concerned in those grants met at Edinburgh, and agreed, that when they were called together, if no other argument did prevail to make the earl of Nithisdale desist, they would fall upon him and all his party in the old Scotish manner, and knock them on the head.
--From History of his own Times--

 And that is how democracy works.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

All the news that's fit to print: 1705

My chief design in writing was to give a true view of men and of counsels, leaving public transactions to gazettes and the public historians of the times
--From History of his own Times--

Because you'd never expect to find the true views of politicians in newspapers. With our spin doctors and our classified information it's hard to believe we are any different today, even with our much vaunted "transparency". Who are the ones always saying how transparent things are anyway? Politicians!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Information overload: 1773

There came on a dreadful storm of wind and rain, which continued all day, and rather increased at night. The wind was directly against our getting to Mull. We were in a strange state of abstraction from the world: we could neither hear from our friends, nor write to them. Col had brought Daille on the Fathers, Lucas on Happiness, and More's Dialogues, from the Reverend Mr. M'Lean's, and Burnet's History of his own Times, from Captain M'Lean's; and he had of his own some books of farming, and Gregory's Geometry. Dr. Johnson read a good deal of Burnet, and of Gregory, and I observed he made some geometrical notes in the end of his pocket-book. I read a little of Young's Six Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties; and Ovid's Epistles, which I had bought at Inverness, and which helped to solace many a weary hour.
--From Boswell's Life of Johnson--

It's like Twitter went down and they spent the day watching DVD's borrowed from friends.

What is so bad about being consumed by media? Seems like very intelligent people of the past lived and breathed media. Even when they weren't using media they were talking about or making illusions to things they had been exposed to.

I propose that it is the quality of media that matters, not quantity, and hereby resolves to try and immerse myself as much as possible in the world of thoughts and ideas.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Time for reflection

Do cats care when a new decade arises? No, and why should they. Every day is the beginning of a new ten year period. But human minds seem to find some special fascination with the end of each year, decade, or century. Not that this is wrong, per se. What bothers me, is that people wait until the end of these periods to reflect on the past, when they should be reflecting on the past every day of their lives.

Evidence of cause and effect doesn't just make itself shown at the end of years or decades, it's much more elusive than that; sometimes easily visible, and sometimes popping up at odd intervals. Look for it at only certain times, and you may never see a thing, or lack the abilities to see anything useful.