November 15, 2014 archive

On This Day In History November 15

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

November 15 is the 319th day of the year (320th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 46 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1867, On this day in 1867, the first stock ticker is unveiled in New York City. The advent of the ticker ultimately revolutionized the stock market by making up-to-the-minute prices available to investors around the country. Prior to this development, information from the New York Stock Exchange, which has been around since 1792, traveled by mail or messenger.

The ticker was the brainchild of Edward Calahan, who configured a telegraph machine to print stock quotes on streams of paper tape (the same paper tape later used in ticker-tape parades). The ticker, which caught on quickly with investors, got its name from the sound its type wheel made.

Calahan worked for the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, which rented its tickers to brokerage houses and regional exchanges for a fee and then transmitted the latest gold and stock prices to all its machines at the same time. In 1869, Thomas Edison, a former telegraph operator, patented an improved, easier-to-use version of Calahan’s ticker. Edison’s ticker was his first lucrative invention and, through the manufacture and sale of stock tickers and other telegraphic devices, he made enough money to open his own lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he developed the light bulb and phonograph, among other transformative inventions.

Stock tickers in various buildings were connected using technology based on the then-recently invented telegraph machines, with the advantage that the output was readable text, instead of the dots and dashes of Morse code. The machines printed a series of ticker symbols (usually shortened forms of a company’s name), followed by brief information about the price of that company’s stock; the thin strip of paper they were printed on was called ticker tape. As with all these terms, the word ticker comes from the distinct tapping (or ticking) noise the machines made while printing. Pulses on the telegraph line made a letter wheel turn step by step until the right letter or symbol was reached and then printed. A typical 32 symbol letter wheel had to turn on average 15 steps until the next letter could be printed resulting in a very slow printing speed of 1 letter per second. In 1883, ticker transmitter keyboards resembled the keyboard of a piano with black keys indicating letters and the white keys indicating numbers and fractions, corresponding to two rotating type wheels in the connected ticker tape printers.

Newer and more efficient tickers became available in the 1930s and 1960s but the physical ticker tape phase was quickly coming to a close being followed by the electronic phase. These newer and better tickers still had an approximate 15 to 20 minute delay. Stock ticker machines became obsolete in the 1960s, replaced by computer networks; none have been manufactured for use for decades. However, working reproductions of at least one model are now being manufactured for museums and collectors. It was not until 1996 that a ticker type electronic device was produced that could operate in true real time.

Simulated ticker displays, named after the original machines, still exist as part of the display of television news channels and on some World Wide Web pages-see news ticker. One of the most famous displays is the simulated ticker located at One Times Square in New York City.

Ticker tapes then and now contain generally the same information. The ticker symbol is a unique set of characters used to identify the company. The shares traded is the volume for the trade being quoted. Price traded refers to the price per share of a particular trade. Change direction is a visual cue showing whether the stock is trading higher or lower than the previous trade, hence the terms downtick and uptick. Change amount refers to the difference in price from the previous day’s closing. These are reflected in the modern style tickers that we see every day. Many today include color to indicate whether a stock is trading higher than the previous day’s (green), lower than previous (red), or has remained unchanged (blue or white).

Instruments of Social Control

I know people don’t think of it that way, but sometimes technological innovations have profound sociological effects.  I invite your attention to the Cotton Engine (invented by Connecticut’s very own Eli Whitney) which totally changed the economics of Cotton cultivation in favor of Race Slavery and Air Conditioning which made large areas of the United States that were previously uninhabitable (Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada), habitable.

Also this-

The sci-fi future of lamp-posts

Rory Hyde, The Guardian

Thursday 13 November 2014 08.02 EST

In 1697, a few short years after street lighting made its London debut, one commentator remarked on how this new technology was affecting the nightlife:

“The scatt’ring light gilt all the gaudy way, Some people rose and thought it day. The plying punks crept into holes, Who walk’d the streets before by sholes.”

The night had once been a time of transgression, where “plying punks” (prostitutes) could walk the streets freely “by sholes” (as in a school of fish), but street lighting had changed all that. These dark hours of rebellion were now claimed for the world of public appearances. Street lighting sought to impose discipline on the unruly city streets, opening it up as a safe time for the upper classes to socialise and conduct business, pushing out the punks.

The earliest recorded forms of public street lighting existed in Italy in the 16th century. Ropes soaked in pitch oil were ignited in iron baskets known as cressets, usually outside palaces. The breakthrough that led to our modern street lights was made in the 1660s in Amsterdam by the painter and inventor Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712), who designed a lantern that drew air through it to keep soot from accumulating on the glass. His design was much imitated, so that after centuries of darkness, the installation of oil lanterns in European cities happened very rapidly. As Craig Koslofsky outlines in his terrific history of the night, Evening’s Empire: “In 1660, no European city had permanently illuminated its streets, but by 1700 consistent and reliable street lighting had been established in Amsterdam, Paris, Turin, London, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Vienna.”

The use of street lighting as a form of control can be seen most clearly in Lille, one of the first cities to have lighting installed, only months after Paris and Amsterdam. Here, public lighting was imposed by the French military, who had recently captured the city. Lighting was deployed to pacify the unruly locals and provide greater security at night. It was only decades later that city correspondence referred to the lighting as a “public convenience”. But just as the invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck, this attempt to reduce criminal activity through street lighting inadvertently created a new crime: smashing lanterns. Penalties were severe. In Leipzig, lantern-smashers were deterred by the threat of cutting off one’s right hand.

While the activities of the traditional owners of the night – the young and the restless – may have been marginalised by street lighting, many others stood to benefit from it. In Koslofsky’s book, an etching of Leipzig from 1702 illustrates the social effects. A man points to something in the distance, in arm with his well-dressed female partner; two men doff their hats, where before they wouldn’t have recognised each other; another man reads a book under the glow of the public lantern. As light extends into the night, so do the day’s activities. All of this appears positive and useful – but for whom? This depiction of a well-heeled class engaged in genteel activities suggests it was the bourgeoisie who benefitted, as street lighting made it safe enough for them to brave the evenings.

The longer day was not universally welcomed. The editor of Tatler wrote in 1710 that the lighting of London had “thrown business and pleasure into the hours of rest, and by that means made the natural night by half as long as it should be”. Our complaints today of the “always on” lifestyle dictated by the mobile phone find an interesting precedent here. Just as the phone allows you to be reached at any hour, street lighting destroyed the anonymity of the night, when people bearing lanterns could move about unrecognised. One now had to be dressed up for the street, further eroding the boundary between work and rest.

Into The Woods

You know, it ain’t all happily ever after.

Grimm brothers’ fairytales have blood and horror restored in new translation

Alison Flood, The Guardian

Wednesday 12 November 2014 06.09 EST

Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so “unhinged and desperate” that she tells her daughters: “I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.” Never before published in English, the first edition of the Brothers Grimms’ tales reveals an unsanitised version of the stories that have been told at bedtime for more than 200 years.

The Grimms – Jacob and Wilhelm – published their first take on the tales for which they would become known around the world in December 1812, a second volume following in 1815. They would go on to publish six more editions, polishing the stories, making them more child-friendly, adding in Christian references and removing mentions of fairies before releasing the seventh edition – the one best known today – in 1857.

How the Children Played at Slaughtering, for example, stays true to its title, seeing a group of children playing at being a butcher and a pig. It ends direly: a boy cuts the throat of his little brother, only to be stabbed in the heart by his enraged mother. Unfortunately, the stabbing meant she left her other child alone in the bath, where he drowned. Unable to be cheered up by the neighbours, she hangs herself; when her husband gets home, “he became so despondent that he died soon thereafter”. The Children of Famine is just as disturbing: a mother threatens to kill her daughters because there is nothing else to eat. They offer her slices of bread, but can’t stave off her hunger: “You’ve got to die or else we’ll waste away,” she tells them. Their solution: “We’ll lie down and sleep, and we won’t get up again until the Judgement Day arrives.” They do; “no one could wake them from it. Meanwhile, their mother departed, and nobody knows where she went.”

Rapunzel, meanwhile, gives herself away to her captor when – after having a “merry time” in the tower with her prince – she asks: “Tell me, Mother Gothel, why are my clothes becoming too tight? They don’t fit me any more.” And the stepmothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel were, originally, their mothers, Zipes believing that the Grimms made the change in later editions because they “held motherhood sacred”. So it is Snow White’s own mother who orders the huntsman to “stab her to death and bring me back her lungs and liver as proof of your deed. After that I’ll cook them with salt and eat them”, and Hansel and Gretel’s biological mother who abandons them in the forest.

The original stories, according to the academic, are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.

But they are still, he believes, suitable bedtime stories. “It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children,” Zipes told the Guardian. The Grimms, he added, “believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”


Late Night Karaoke

The Breakfast Club (Poppies!)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgI must have space on my mind this week, as well as Remembrance Day.

The Planets (Op. 32) is a 7 movement suite for a large orchestra.  How large?  Two Piccolos, 4 Flutes, an Alto Flute, 3 Oboes, a Bass Oboe, an English Horn, 3 Clarinets, a Bass Clarinet, 3 Bassoons, and a Contrabassoon.  Six French Horns, 4 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, a Bass Trombone, a Euphonium, and a Tuba.  Six Timpani, a Bass Drum, a Snare Drum, Cymbals, a Triangle, a Tam-Tam, a Tamborine, a Xylophone, a Glockenspiel, and Tubular Bells.  A Celesta and an Organ.  Two Harps.  Your usual compliment of 1st and 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Double Basses.

Oh and two (count ’em) two Three Part Women’s Choruses (two Sopranos and an Alto), located in an adjoining room thank goodness because there’s hardly any place to put them on stage.

The 7 movements are supposed to be evocative of, what else, the planets.  Can you spot the ones that are missing?

  1. 00:00 Mars, the Bringer of War
  2. 07:21 Venus, the Bringer of Peace
  3. 15:58 Mercury, the Winged Messenger
  4. 20:14 Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
  5. 27:50 Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
  6. 37:12 Uranus, the Magician
  7. 43:15 Neptune, the Mystic

Why Earth silly, and also Pluto which wasn’t discovered until March 13, 1930.

Now Holst despite his German sounding name (Gustav) was actually 2nd generation British, his Grandfather Gustavus having emigrated from Latvia in 1802.  As an early 20th century composer he’s perhaps best described as post-Romantic of the Folk Music vein.  He actually admired Wagner (idiot) and would have done much better sticking to his earlier Idol, Arthur Sullivan.  As is typical of the 20th century school he could and did write in many of the established musical forms (Symphonies for instance), but didn’t feel bound by them.  He was a big fan of Henry Purcell and was frequently inspired by poetry rather than nature, a post-Romantic trend, and by Folk Music (a late Romantic trend), a sublimation of the jingoistic nationalism of much Romantic Music.  He was also impressed with Hindu mysticism and did several of his own translations from Sanskrit and wrote a few pieces based on the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, a more 20th century sort of thing.  Perhaps his best musical friend was Vaughan Williams who was arguably the most influential British composer of the 20th century.  Holst was “traditional” in that he was not nearly as interested as some of his contemporaries in flouting convention just for the sake of it.

The Planets, his most successful work, was written between 1914 and 1916, and received it’s first performance in 1918, just before he left for Salonica to work with British veterans waiting to be demobilized.  He had frequently volunteered for military service but was rejected because of his chronic asthma.  Several of his relatives, friends, and musical acquaintances did serve and a few of them died.

When I listen to this piece, especially the movements related to the Inner Planets (Mars, Venus, and Mercury), I often think of the Great War and speculate about whether the music was effected by contemporary events.  Traditional music history though suggests that the motivation was astrological and the movements reflective of the influence of the planets on the psyche.

This particular recording is the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Karajan and has some nice pictures from NASA.

As for astrology?

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Random Japan

 photo infojar_zps4682ad45.jpg

Parody news announces “smart rice cooker” by KDDI, KDDI goes ahead and begins designing it

Master Blaster

On 13 November, a tweet went out from Kyoko Shimbun which read “AAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Generally, such single-letter interjections don’t yield much of a response, but in this case they got over 400 retweets.

That’s because on this day, Kyoko Shimbun which translates to “Fabricated News” learnt that their fictional Infojar, a next-gen rice cooker with several smartphone capabilities, was in the research and development phase by the very company they were spoofing at the time, KDDI.

■ Fake Infojar

In the fake announcement published back in January of this year, Kyoko Shimbun explained that due to each of Japan’s major mobile providers now carrying the iPhone, KDDI’s brand au would have to find another niche to fill. So, they decided to enter the rice cooker market.

The battle for equality

In times of trouble federally and at the state level, the battle for equal treatment and access moves to the local level.

In recent times I have written about current attempts to move us forward in South Florida and Northeast Ohio.

Miami-Dade commissioners unanimous in support of transgender protections (preliminary vote)

Transgender Awareness