Category Archives: raw material

July 1, 2009, 10:02 am

More powerful than memory alone.


Ars Technica has a post summarizing Kodak’s decision to end sales of Kodachrome after 74 years because, basically, “not enough people are shooting KODACHROME for us to continue offering it.” In 1935 the film offered casual photographers the ability to take snapshots in color—to indulge that “twinge in your heart more powerful than memory alone,” as Don Draper says; it “takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”

May 4, 2009, 12:30 pm

“Now, I want some California wine….”

It’s a great irony (perhaps sufficiently remarked on by historians, perhaps not) that one of the principal architects of the American West was a Vermonter—Justin Smith Morrill. I just came across a Morrill item that—unusually, as I do not think he was much for humor—made me smile, just a little.

Perkins, Stern sent Morrill “by Express … four cases of our wines, which we beg you to accept”—why? Because they had “noticed the very sensible and praiseworthy position, which you have taken upon the taxation of American wines.”

Morrill replied, “Now, I want some California wine, though not quite so much as 4 cases just now, but I am quite able to pay for all I need and I cannot accept of any [sic] wine from you in view of your interests and the positions I hold. If, however, you will send me a bill of the wine forwarded, at your usual prices, I will take it, and at once remit…

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April 10, 2009, 7:08 pm


Tone matrix. (Sound; NSFW.)

February 7, 2009, 9:20 am

Boxers: Christian Forgiveness

From W.A.P. Martin, a minister and participant in the siege of Beijing:

“On reaching New York in the actual costume which I wore during the siege, I called a boy to carry my packages, my son Newell having gone to the wrong station to meet me.

As I was carrying a gun, the lad remarked: ‘You must have been hunting somewhere?’

‘Yes,’ said I, “in Asia, beyond the sea.’

‘What kind of game?’ he inquired.


January 29, 2009, 4:58 pm

Mr. Darwin, Come Here, I Need You.

Simply too good not to share:

Let those who are inclined to cavil at the new role of the country in the world’s affairs remember that the moment is rapidly approaching, if it has not already arrvied, when the future of the world’s civilization will be at stake. Will it be a world in which the English-speaking, with its high standard of life and liberty, will prevail; or a world in which the despot and the slave–shall we leave out the ‘e’ and call it Slav?–will dictate the future of the spheres?

From Leslie’s Weekly, August 11, 1900. Quoted in William Duiker, Cultures in Collision: The Boxer Rebellion (San Rafael, Calif. Presidio, 1978): 92.

January 28, 2009, 4:03 pm

A bad word.

I still like this one. This is Dorothy McKay, in Esquire, November 1938.

January 18, 2009, 11:49 am

WPA spending as a function of population, 2.

Two different ways of going at the problem. We want to see the relationship of spending to population, and both regional and individual variations in it.



I think there’s more information in the second graph, but maybe people’s aesthetic sensibilities are too offended by the overplotting.

January 9, 2009, 8:30 pm

diamond-ringed finger

January 2, 2009, 8:18 pm

More presents!

Kieran weighs in on the question of how to present the WPA data, following up on Duncan.

In effect, what I’ve done here is choose to break a different rule from Duncan. Instead of putting two scales on the same axis, I have made one axis discontinuous between panels, skipping values in order to compress the horizontal size. Hence the reminder at the top of each panel that you’re shifting up an order of magnitude each time. Despite the rulebreaking, there’s still some principle at work because instead of just putting a discontinuity right at the end (to incorporate the largest value) the panels are split consistently by powers of ten, and it makes sense to think of WPA expenditures as falling into groups like “stuff they spent billions on” versus “stuff they spent tens of millions on” or “stuff they only spent a few million dollars on” and so on.

I like this, too. I…

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December 31, 2008, 5:30 pm


Duncan Agnew, a professor in a university at the very edge of the American West, sends along this solution to the “Tufte I ain’t” problem. I like it. Thanks!

He says anyone can feel “free to use, reproduce, and display this figure in any way you wish, with or without attribution.” Happy new year!

December 30, 2008, 11:25 am

Tufte I ain’t.

But I’m willing to learn. Properly rebuked for slapdash graphing, I’ve tried to improve the representation of WPA expenditures that appeared in this post, using the Greensboro font from

I’d be delighted to hear further suggestions and critiques. One thing I want to do, but can’t figure out how for a graph like this one, is to figure out how to make the biggest line discontinuous—that way I could change the scale so you could make more meaningful distinctions among the other numbers, while still appreciating that the top expenditure goes way off the scale.

UPDATED: Here it is with a scale in billions, per suggestions.

December 19, 2008, 12:03 pm

Fit to print.

See update, below.

Because Matt W. asked, and we don’t diss Matt W. here, if we can help it.

A quick effort at determining the incidence of “God” in the New York Times from 1/1/1901-12/31/2005. (Couldn’t think of a way to limit it just to the editorial page.) I searched ProQuest’s NYT historical database for the word “God” and recorded the number of articles in which it occurred for each calendar year. Then to control for maybe different sizes of NYT over time, I did the same for the word “January”, and created a ratio of number of articles containing “God” to number of articles containing “January”. (I got this method from this paper.)

Here you go; click on it to see it bigger.


Well, Vance made me doubt the suitability of “January” as a denominator, so I went back and tried two others: no search term, which should capture all articles in the database, and “the”….

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December 18, 2008, 3:54 pm

Next to Godliness.

Ari’s fulmination over Rick Warren reminded me, awhile back Elvin Lim did a neat bit of scholarship on presidential rhetoric. Here’s the graph for “God” as a percentage of words in the annual messages and inaugural addresses, charted over time.

Lim, Elvin T. “Five Trends in Presidential Rhetoric: An Analysis of Rhetoric from George Washington to Bill Clinton.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 32, no. 2 (June 2002): 328-348. Graph on p. 336.

November 18, 2008, 4:16 pm


Discussion of cabinet-staffing yields:

You don’t want the camel pissing in the tent.

True, but not unproblematic. There are of course two tent metaphors: better inside pissing out than outside pissing in, and the problem with letting the camel get his nose in the tent is, pretty soon you get the rest of the camel, too.

And these metaphors have, it seems to me, opposite implications for cabinet-staffing.

October 19, 2008, 10:27 am

What’s the Spanish for “Tooly McTool”?

Noted without (explicit) comment:

Across from the School of Business stands a burrito cart which makes outstanding burritos. The affluent MBA-seekers often go there to get lunch, and many of them, to prove that they are down with the gente, will place their orders in halting Spanish to the young lady who runs the cart. Like ordering in French at a French restaurant, but real.

Recently, a friend decided to get a burrito and stood in line behind one of these hotshots, who fumbled the Spanish for one of the toppings and then asked the burrito lady what the correct word was.

“I don’t know,” she says in English, “I’m from Malaysia, and I’ve only learned Spanish because people keep coming up and assuming I’m Mexican.”