There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Create your own legendary character!

George Washington. Major Tom. Chuck Norris. Louis Gray. Steeelrod.

Five people whose stories have been embellished over the years.

People may not believe this, but George Washington was a man who put his pants on one leg at a time. But by the time Parson Weems was done with him, Washington was a saintly figure. Well, not entirely saintly – he did chop down that cherry tree, but he owned up to it. According to Weems.

Major Tom, unlike the others in this list, is a fictional character, originally created by David Bowie for the song “Space Oddity.” His story could have ended there, but Peter Schilling continued the story, and Shiny Toy Guns added a Lincoln automobile to the legend. Bowie himself elaborated on Major Tom’s story, adding twists worthy of Parson Weems. The man who once said “Planet earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do” eventually became a junkie of whom people said, “to get things done, you’d better not mess with Major Tom.”

And you’d better not mess with Chuck Norris. A number of “facts” have emerged about the action star. Sample: “If two trains leave Chicago, one travelling at 70 mph and the other travelling at 90 mph, Chuck Norris will beat them both.” The “facts” concept has been extended to others – there is a FriendFeed room devoted to “facts” about blogger/product marketer Louis Gray. Here’s one: “Louis Gray: I started posting to FriendFeed on January 1st, 1 A.D. (733,651 days ago).”

Most of you have not heard of Steeelrod (with three e’s), and probably didn’t see my previous post about him. Rod Jeffries is (or was) a network center technician for Southwestern Bell who builds custom computers on the side. Some time ago he posted his own computer set-up (presumably he’s using a different setup today).

When Steeelrod isn’t making your phones work or building your computers, he’s been known to engage in an online game or two. I ran across him when he was actively playing Starfleet Commander. Steeelrod was much more powerful than any one member of our alliance, but we would occasionally coordinate an attack on him with some effect. At one point we found something Steeelrod had written for one of his other games – some type of memorable quote on war or something like that – and one of our alliance members threw it right back at him.

Ah, Steeelrod’s quotes. Steeelrod is long since gone from Starfleet Commander, but his quotes – or faux versions of his quotes – live on. I used a faux Steeelrod quote in a message to an opponent just recently. (Note: in this quote, I am giving away a Starfleet Commander tactical secret of my own. When communicating with foes in Starfleet Commander, I rarely use proper American English, because if I do, my opponent will figure out – well, the opponent will figure out that I’m American, and can use this knowledge to his/her advantage and attack me at 4:00 in the morning.) Anyway, here’s my latest contribution to the Steeelrod legend (in which I question why an opponent launched a slew of missiles at me, but didn’t launch enough to wipe me out):

Now that your collar is loosened, really over 50? For two?

But only 50, and not 100?

We think everyone in the galaxy 13 know the wise sayings of Steeelrod when he said that. “If you are going to drop nuclear bombs on twenty on the Alamo, and Alamo still live, either drop forty for the defeat or only the zero and not waste resource.”

Then Steeelrod say something about gnats in Texas.

But young kids today come to galaxy 13 and ignore Steeelrod all the time.

Have a good afternoon.

OK, it’s not on the same level with Parson Weems’ fabrications, but it will do.

P.S. Don’t forget about Dre.

Clouds, netbooks, and form factors

Because I am familiar with the ways of the pendulum, I am searching for a growing anti-cloud movement. Why? Because I know that when everyone and their grandmother is talking about the cloud today, there will soon come a time when everyone and their grandmother will stop talking about the cloud. And all of these tech publications that are telling you to learn about the cloud will soon devote tons of ink (or its digital equipment) to tell you why cloud solutions are terrible.

I’m still searching for the emerging anti-cloud movement, but I have found some evidence of old anti-cloud sentiment from a few years ago. One article that acknowledged this anti-cloud sentiment (while not buying into it) was this Mashable article from 2008.

However, this particular article mentions netbooks. Allow me to ask a question:

Q: What is the difference between admitting that you own a netbook and admitting that you murdered someone?

A: Murderers receive sympathy in some circles.

Yes, in 2012 you don’t want to be caught uttering the word “netbook” in public. Even I, an admitted fan of the netbook who is willing to live with its memory and screen limitations, have found at least one instance in which the netbook was found wanting. But I’ll get to that later.

Let’s go back to the 2008 Mashable article, which argued that the netbook would be the device that would convert anti-cloud people to cloud proponents. Why? Because mobile devices are so limited:

But to think we can rely on our iPhones and T-Mobile G1s and BlackBerry Bolds and Storms and whathaveyou to fully engage with office and social media applications seems a tad impractical. Mobile software designs are good and are getting better by the month, but the kind of pixelated real estate you can comfortably stuff in your pant pocket can only provide for so much interactivity. Of course, the outlook for power for the mobile phone market is as rosy as can be right now. But for the foreseeable future, there remains a place for bigger things.

Not so much bigger, though. We recently shared a few notes on the netbook space and how things are progressing in the field, both in hardware and software. It’s safe to say that in recent months, apart from the requisite dotage on Apple’s lineup of philosophically conventional MacBook and MacBook Pro products, the market of netbooks has transferred to a semi-front burner position in terms of attention grabbed and attention earned.

And its quite clear why that is. The class of gadgets led by the Asus EEE PC has performed in ways that would not be the case two or three years ago, and it’s mark as something of a phenomenon largely comes down to price.

However, since that article was written in 2008, the tablet market finally got around to taking off. While iPads are still much more expensive than small laptop computers (I’m not even sure if they’re called netbooks any more), there is a whole new category of tablets – the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the like – which are less expensive than small laptop computers.

And the Kindles et al lean heavily on the cloud. While off-line copies can be cached on your device, everything is managed in the cloud.

Oddly enough, while I have bought a book from the Amazon Kindle store, I do not own a Kindle. Instead, I have installed Kindle software on two non-Kindle devices – my netbook, and my smartphone.

And speaking of my netbook and smartphone, remember that one phrase from the 2008 Mashable article?

Mobile software designs are good and are getting better by the month, but the kind of pixelated real estate you can comfortably stuff in your pant pocket can only provide for so much interactivity.

However, it all depends upon design. The Communist Alec Baldwin has duped me into playing the Zynga game Words with Friends. I can play this game on both my smartphone and on my netbook.

The smartphone version of Words with Friends was specifically designed for the smartphone environment, and has been adapted to smartphone-sized screens.

The version of Words with Friends that I play on my netbook has NOT been adapted for netbook-sized screens, and I am unable to see the entire Words with Friends board when playing on my netbook. I guess Zynga is assuming that I have a 1900 x 1200 screen or something like that.

So, at least in this case, my smaller screen smartphone provides a richer experience than my larger screen netbook.

Starfleet Commander, however, is still better on the netbook, so I won’t be ditching the netbook any time soon.

Next, I will research Woodrow Wilson’s Twelve Points (or, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet)

Recently I’ve been reading about some of the changes that have taken place over the last several decades in the U.S. political landscape – for example, how the state of California – a shoo-in for Obama this year – was a Republican bastion just a few decades ago. And it wasn’t just because we were nominating Californians for President – during the period from Eisenhower’s election to George H.W. Bush’s election, the only time a Democratic won California’s Presidential electoral votes was in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson crushed Barry Goldwater.

I eventually began reading about a related topic – how did the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, shift from one that received nearly unanimous black support to one that receives very little black support today?

While researching this, I ran across this post by Timothy Sexton. Sexton advanced various reasons for the shift in support, naming some specific things that happened during the Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft administrations. I never got around to independently corroborating these items, however, because I got to Sexton’s statements about Taft’s successor, Woodrow Wilson.

It was the last great white hope of leading African-Americans of the day that Woodrow Wilson would put an end to the racist policies of Roosevelt and Taft. Wilson was seen as a highly educated, very intelligent and progressive man and such leading African-America lights of the day such W.E.B. DuBois strongly supported Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Unfortunately, what DuBois and others failed to appreciate is that despite his having been President of an Ivy League college, Woodrow Wilson’s heart belonged to Dixie.

Sexton is correct here. Wilson, who came to national fame as President of Princeton and Governor of New Jersey, was not a native of New Jersey.

Sexton continues:

Wilson had been born and raised in the heart of the slave-owning, rebel-flag waving, KKK-electing south: South Carolina.

Uh, no.

Wilson did spend a significant portion of his childhood in South Carolina, but as this biography, and others, indicate, he also spent a great deal of time in Georgia, and also spent a year of his childhood in Virginia. The biography above is from the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, which is located in Staunton, Virginia – Wilson’s birthplace. Having been raised in Virginia myself, and having made many trips to the Boy Scout summer camp at Goshen, I am well aware of this fact, even if Sexton isn’t.

OK, one can argue that this does not negate Sexton’s main point – Wilson did spend his entire childhood in the South, even if it wasn’t all spent in South Carolina. But Sexton then makes a more serious error.

During Woodrow Wilson’s term, all agencies of the federal government as well the buildings in which they were housed were fully segregated. When confronted on this issue by black delegations Wilson confirmed the worst fears that African-Americans had about the new Republican Party.

Um, how could Wilson confirm the worst fears that African-Americans had about the new Republican Party?

Perhaps Sexton was not aware that in 1912, the three people that he named – Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson – all ran against each other for President. Yes, all three of them – and the Republican in that election, William Howard Taft, actually received fewer popular and electoral votes than the other two. Roosevelt ran, not as a Republican, but as a Progressive. And Wilson ran, not as a Republican as Sexton indicates, but as a Democrat. (Think about it – if Wilson were raised in the South in the late 19th century, and if his father served the Confederacy, it would be very unlikely that Wilson would become a Republican.)

Basically, if you’re going to argue why blacks turned to the Democratic Party in the early 20th century, you shouldn’t be listing Wilson as one of the reasons why.

This is still a fascinating subject, and one I plan to investigate – at soon as I can find some reliable sources.

P.S. I may also want to research why Daniel Tompkins doesn’t think Timothy Sexton is a good movie reviewer either. Apparently his movie reviews somewhat parallel his historical articles.

The American perspective on May Day – or, I am not a Commie

Each of us is undoubtedly influenced by the environment that we encounter throughout our lives. Which is why I, as an American, have a different attitude on May 1 than the attitude held by much of the world.

Many people throughout the world celebrate May Day in different ways. Some attend military parades. Some dance around poles in post-pagan rituals. Some throw sailor hats into the air – well, at least I call them sailor hats.

I do not do any of these things.

For the modern outlook on May Day, we need to travel to Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 1886. Here’s one account of what happened that spring:

On May 1, 1886, Chicago unionists, reformers, socialists, anarchists, and ordinary workers combined to make the city the center of the national movement for an eight-hour day. Between April 25 and May 4, workers attended scores of meetings and paraded through the streets at least 19 times. On Saturday, May 1, 35,000 workers walked off their jobs. Tens of thousands more, both skilled and unskilled, joined them on May 3 and 4. Crowds traveled from workplace to workplace urging fellow workers to strike. Many now adopted the radical demand of eight hours’ work for ten hours’ pay. Police clashed with strikers at least a dozen times, three with shootings.

At the McCormick reaper plant, a long-simmering strike erupted in violence on May 3, and police fired at strikers, killing at least two. Anarchists called a protest meeting at the West Randolph Street Haymarket, advertising it in inflammatory leaflets, one of which called for “Revenge!”

The crowd gathered on the evening of May 4 on Des Plaines Street, just north of Randolph, was peaceful, and Mayor Carter H. Harrison, who attended, instructed police not to disturb the meeting. But when one speaker urged the dwindling crowd to “throttle” the law, 176 officers under Inspector John Bonfield marched to the meeting and ordered it to disperse.

Then someone hurled a bomb at the police, killing one officer instantly. Police drew guns, firing wildly. Sixty officers were injured, and eight died; an undetermined number of the crowd were killed or wounded.

Recently some Americans have been looking back at the original Rodney King verdicts as a tragic miscarriage of justice. A similar event happened after the Haymarket riots – several people were sentenced to death despite no real evidence that any of them were involved in the bombing.

After 1886, many countries celebrated May Day as a workers’ holiday, remembering the events of 1886. The 1890 celebration was heard around the world:

The first international May Day was a spectacular success. The front page of the New York World on May 2, 1890, was devoted to coverage of the event. Two of its headlines were “Parade of Jubilant Workingmen in All the Trade Centers of the Civilized World” and “Everywhere the Workmen Join in Demands for a Normal Day.” The Times of London listed two dozen European cities in which demonstrations had taken place, noting there had been rallies in Cuba, Peru and Chile. Commemoration of May Day became an annual event the following year.

But by the time I was born in the late 20th century, “May Day” was primarily viewed by Americans as the day that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics held big military parades. We certainly didn’t go around celebrating that Commie holiday. What happened?

Grover Cleveland happened. Here’s how Alternet describes what happened:

Yet in the United States, with some exception, the workers’ tradition of May 1 died out. Partially this was because the Knights of Labor had already established a labor day in September. Opportunistic politicians, most notably Grover Cleveland, glommed onto the Knights’ holiday in order to diminish the symbolic power of May 1….Like International Women’s Day (March 8), which also originated in the U.S., International Workers’ Day became a holiday the rest of the world celebrates while Americans look on in confusion, if they notice at all.

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO, however, casts the competing holidays in a different light:

There were many different incarnations of what we now observe as Labor Day, long before President Cleveland signed legislation making it a national day of recognition for labor. The first Labor Day observance occurred in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. On this day, 20,000 working people marched in New York City to demand an eight-hour work day and other important labor law reforms. With a quarter-million New Yorkers watching, the marchers paraded up Broadway, carrying signs reading, “Labor Creates All Wealth” and “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for Recreation.” The event was organized by the Central Labor Union of New York, and the idea can be traced to either Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew McGuire, a machinist who later became the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey….

Despite the popularity of May Day and the appeal of an international holiday, the American Federation of Labor pushed to secure Labor Day as America’s primary celebration of its workers. This was due to the more radical tone that May Day had taken. Especially after the 1886 Haymarket riot, where several police officers and union members were killed in Chicago, May Day had become a day to protest the arrests of anarchists, socialists, and unionists, as well as an opportunity to push for better working conditions. Samuel Gompers and the AFL saw that the presence of more extreme elements of the Labor Movement would be detrimental to perception of the festival. To solve this, the AFL worked to elevate Labor Day over May Day, and also made an effort to bring a more moderate attitude to the Labor Day festivities. The AFL, whose city labor councils sponsored many of the Labor Day celebrations, banned radical speakers, red flags, internationalist slogans, and anything else that could shed an unfavorable light upon Labor Day or organized labor.

These efforts were successful, and Labor Day eventually became a federal holiday, signed into law by Grover Cleveland in 1894.

And this is why the United States differs from the rest of the world on this day. “Anarchy in the USA” wasn’t a popular song in the 1890s, or in the 1970s, or today.

Post Navigation