Archive for August, 2011

College Professor Suggests A Cure For Lying

From September 3, 1911

COLLEGE PROFESSOR SUGGESTS A CURE FOR LYING

COLLEGE PROFESSOR SUGGESTS A CURE FOR LYING: Rev. Robert Schwikeratch, Who Holds the Chair of History and Pedagogy at Holy Cross, Says the So-Called Confirmed Liar Can Be Cured by Patience and Sympathetic Interest. (PDF)

Eh, I don’t know how much credit I give to this cure. His first proposed solution to cure lying is to simply stop lying. He’s talking specifically about lying in front of your kids. If they don’t see you lie, they will be less likely to lie themselves. So that’s more prevention than cure. But what about people who are already liars? The reverend suggests remedies like treating liars with kindness, or reminding them to think before they speak, depending on the nature of the lie.

A more scientific approach to the problem of liars will be in next week’s issue.

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Written by David

August 30th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life

Who Was The First Man — Or Woman — To Make A Joke?

From September 3, 1911

WHO WAS THE FIRST MAN -- OR WOMAN -- TO MAKE A JOKE?

WHO WAS THE FIRST MAN — OR WOMAN — TO MAKE A JOKE? Some Familiar Specimens of Modern Humor Traced to Classic Greek and Roman Sources (PDF)

This article has some great 2500 year old jokes. Like this one:

Archelaus, asked by a talkative barber how he would like to be shaved, replied: “In silence.”

Oooh! Snap! Here’s another:

One day Aristippus asked Dionysius for money. “But,” said Dionysius, “I’ve always heard it said that a philosopher never has need of anything.” “We will discuss that point, Sire, but first give me some money,” Aristippus said. The request acceded to, the philosopher immediately ejaculated: “Now you see, Sire, I have need of nothing.”

A couple more:

There was a stranger in Sparta who prided himself on his skill in standing for a long time on one leg. One day when he was showing off his little trick, he called to a Spartan: “Hey! You can’t do this.” “No, but every goose can,” was the quick rejoinder.

Diogenes, when asked what was the most suitable hour for dining, said: “If you are rich, when you please; if you are poor, when you can.”

Oh, that Diogenes. He also had a routine he called “Seven dirty words you can’t say at the Parthenon,” but it’s been lost to the ages.

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Written by David

August 29th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Humor

The Neglected Possibilities Of City Roofs

From August 27, 1911

THE NEGLECTED POSSIBILITIES OF CITY ROOFS

THE NEGLECTED POSSIBILITIES OF CITY ROOFS: Making the Best of Out-of-Door Life Is Slowly Being Learned — Comparatively Easy to Turn Roofs Into GArdens, Playgrounds and Concert Rooms. (PDF)

There have been a lot of articles about roof gardens in the New York Times over the last few years as the trend has finally caught on. But my favorite by far has to be a 2006 article about a Greenwich Village resident who built a whole front porch on his roof. Go check out the photos. Pretty nice.

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Written by David

August 26th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Martians Build Two Immense Canals In Two Years

From August 27, 1911

MARTIANS BUILD TWO IMMENSE CANALS IN TWO YEARS

MARTIANS BUILD TWO IMMENSE CANALS IN TWO YEARS: Vast Engineering Works Accomplished in an Incredibly Short Time by Our Planetary Neighbors — Wonders of the September Sky. (PDF)

Percival Lowell was a smart astronomer. He was the first person to build his observatory in a remote location away from city lights, at the top of a high mountain. Lowell picked Flagstaff, Arizona as the location for his observatory. I lived in Flagstaff for four years in college and the observatory is one of Flagstaff’s really big claims to fame because Pluto was discovered there in 1930 (14 years after Lowell’s death).

Anyway, Lowell was a smart guy. He also believed there was life on Mars. He was convinced that lines on the planet’s surface were canals, and when he observed some changes in the appearance of these canals, he concluded that somehow the martians had quickly built these enormous canals 20 miles wide and a thousand miles long.

Mary Proctor wrote this article summarizing Lowell’s findings, and also describing some of the planets people might see in the sky in September.

I love that this stuff appeared in the New York Times Magazine.

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Written by David

August 25th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Nature,Science

Pasteur Expert Sounds Warning Against Pet Dogs

From August 27, 1911

PASTEUR EXPERT SOUNDS WARNING AGAINST PET DOGS

PASTEUR EXPERT SOUNDS WARNING AGAINST PET DOGS: Woman and Children Especially in Danger of Possible Hydrophobia Through Carelessly Fondling Household Pets — Tuberculosis, Scarlet Feber, and Other Diseases May Be Transmitted. (PDF)

Well, that’s a pretty scary headline. Turns out that the expert is pretty much just concerned about rabies (referred to as “hydrophobia” because one symptom of rabies is a fear of water). He does mention those other diseases, but, well, just read it yourself:

“Almost any of the contagious diseases may be conveyed by either dogs or cats, although dogs, because of their peculiar habits and their tendency to caress with their affectionate tongues the persons whom they love are much more dangerous than cats. Tuberculosis, scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria — all of these and many more diseases may be conveyed from dogs to humans in this way. I don’t wish to go on record as pronouncing that they are, to any large extent, but I do say that such transfer is a possibility…”

The Centers for Disease Control has a list of diseases you can get from dogs. But they also point out that pet ownership has health benefits.

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Written by David

August 24th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Life,Nature

Government Is Investigating Fake Universities

From August 27, 1911

GOVERNMENT IS INVESTIGATING FAKE UNIVERSITIES

GOVERNMENT IS INVESTIGATING FAKE UNIVERSITIES: Degrees Given Practically for a Few Dollars — Institutions That Sound Big on Paper but Shrink on Investigation — The Oriental University’s Odd Curriculum. (PDF)

These fake universities, sometimes called diploma mills, or degree mills, are still around and are still a problem. I occasionally see people in the news who have been exposed for their fake diplomas, like this guy in Philadelphia who used a fake degree to commit fraud. There’s even a blog about diploma mills in the news.

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Written by David

August 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Education,True Crime

Famous Works Of Art That Have Been Stolen

From August 27, 1911

FAMOUS WORKS OF ART THAT HAVE BEEN STOLEN

FAMOUS WORKS OF ART THAT HAVE BEEN STOLEN: Disappearance of the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre Climax of Long Series of Thefts. Priceless Picture Mystified and Inspired Lovers of Art Sine da Vinci Painted It. (PDF)

On August 21, 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre.

Whoever it was who stole Leonardo da Vinci’s “Gioconda” or “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre is sure of a place in history when his name comes out. He is sure of an extraordinary place, too. It is not possible to locate the General who fought the greatest battle since the world was made, or the statesman who framed the greatest law, or the author who wrote the greatest book; but it will always be possible henceforth to locate the thief who committed the greatest theft.

Okay, then. Do you know his name?

I won’t give you the answer here. Instead, read this article from the Financial Times published earlier this month that tells the whole story of the Mona Lisa’s theft and recovery.

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Written by David

August 22nd, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Art,True Crime

Uncle Sam’s Patents Reach The Million Mark

From August 20, 1911

UNCLE SAM'S PATENTS REACH THE MILLION MARK

UNCLE SAM’S PATENTS REACH THE MILLION MARK: Francis H. Holton of Ohio Granted the Coveted Patent No. 1,000,000 for a Tack-Proof Pneumatic Automobile Tire — The First Patent Issued Was Also for an Improvement to the Wheel of a Moving Vehicle. (PDF)

The public radio program This American Life did a fantastic episode a few weeks ago about how the patent system is deeply flawed, at least where software patents are concerned. The episode aired almost exactly 100 years after the millionth patent was issued.

You can read Patent #1,000,000 here.

The first patent was issued in 1790. It took 121 years to get to patent number 1,000,000. It took just 24 more years to reach patent 2,000,000. And then 26 years to reach patent 3,000,000. Patent 4,000,000 was reached just 15 years later. And patents 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 took 15 years and then 8 years to reach. Patent 7,000,000 was reached 7 years later in 2006. We’re still waiting to reach patent 8,000,000. We just reached patent 8,000,000 three days ago, as noted in the comments by Raghav.

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Written by David

August 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am

How We Look To The Young Woman Back Of The Desk In The Library

From August 20, 1911

HOW WE LOOK TO THE YOUNG WOMAN BACK OF THE DESK IN THE LIBRARY

HOW WE LOOK TO THE YOUNG WOMAN BACK OF THE DESK IN THE LIBRARY: She Tells of the Queer Things We Do and the Queer Things We Say When We Go There to Get a Book. (PDF)

Ah, the librarian. In 2007 the Times noted that librarians are much hipper today than they used to be. Here’s a look at what the job was like for librarians in 1911.

She must have a sense of humor — it is absolutely necessary. She must not only see herself as others see her, she must see themselves as others see themselves.

She must be gently needleworkish with the old lady who wants a new pattern in drawn-work. She must be militantly suffragettish with the sister who wants to go to prison for the cause. She must be humble with the man who considers her a menial. She must try to act the part, since she cannot look it, when appealed to as a twenty-volume encyclopedia. She must feel a warm sympathy for all isms, she must of a working knowledge of all ologies.

She must never resent rudeness. Her prejudices, her personal tastes, her feelings must be hidden away. She must remember, always smilingly, that she is a servant of the public.

[…]

One of the most difficult demands to satisfy is the frequent request fo “a funny book.”

Now, if you have ever thought about it you know that there is no standard of funniness. Vague though it may be, we have a line above or below which a thing is god or bad as to plot, construction, style; but when it comes to the quality called humor, every man is a law unto himself. The book that one person says is “roaringly funny” another calls “deadly dull.”

A very nice person returns a book saying, “This is so funny we read it aloud, and I left the family still laughing.” Another man slams the same book down on your desk an hour after he has taken it home and cries in fiery tones, “Do you call this funny?” or “Don’t you know the difference between vulgarity and wit?” and goes out murmuring bits of the letter he is going to write the newspapers about gross misuse of the city’s money.”

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Written by David

August 18th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Are We All Going Crazy Because Of The City’s Noises?

From August 20, 1911

ARE WE ALL GOING CRAZY BECAUSE OF THE CITY NOISES?

ARE WE ALL GOING CRAZY BECAUSE OF THE CITY’S NOISES? Doctor’s Include This Among Causes of Insanity — This City Said to be the Noisiest in the World — Most of the RAcket Is Needless and, All of It Is Injurious to Health. (PDF)

“In our railroad trains, for instance, we permit youths to pass backward and forward through the cars vociferously attracting attention to the wares they have for sale… Automobiles dash through our streets sounding their horns when there is no reason whatever for their doing so, while the machiens are permitted to disturb the public through the failure on the part of chauffeurs to silence the ‘mufflers.’ Church bells are rung without real need, street car gongs are sounded incessantly without occasion…”

Add to that milkmen and their noisy clanky bottles, kids playing in public, and bells on business doors. Is it the noise that makes people crazy? Or is it crazy to let every little noise get on your nerves?

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Written by David

August 16th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Life