Sunday, April 14, 2019

Read all about it! The day the earth died!

This article by Douglas Preston in April 8 The New Yorker, alternating between hilarity and horror, shows how a paleontologist can reconstruct, almost moment by moment, the greatest disaster in the planet's history. (I found it at the aggregator site 3 Quarks Daily.) For those of us puzzling over preserving our work, and whether to publish on paper or on line, it rather puts things in perspective.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Criticizing constructively

Four steps, from social psychologist Anatol Rapaport via philosopher Daniel Dennett.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Erased from history -- but not quite

Back in the day (when there had been only thirty-four presidents), I memorized all the presidents and their dates when they were featured with pictures on a full page of my grandparents' Chicago Tribune. I may have known the vice-presidents too, but I don't recall Richard M. Johnson (1837-1841). Even if I had known all the "First Ladies" I would have had trouble finding his wife Julia Chinn.

Much more recently, a friend drew my attention to a blog post at the Association of Black Women Historians. "The Erasure and Resurrection of Julia Chinn, U.S. Vice President Richard M. Johnson's Black Wife" will be the subject of a forthcoming book by Indiana University Bloomington professor Amrita Chakrabarty Myers. The post also references her earlier book, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston, 1790-1860. I look forward to reading both.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Life in front of the bulldozer

I have thought of professional genealogists as an island surrounded by amateurs, but it had not occurred to me that the same might be said of historic preservationists until I read this article by
Kate Wagner: "The Archivists of Extinction," 19 October 2018, in The Baffler:

"What if I told you one of the largest ever undertakings in American historic preservation was happening not through the graces of any large institution, but through the autonomous participation of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals across the country, who are collectively stitching together their own narrative of architectural history? The 'Kmart' group on the photo-sharing website Flickr has amassed a staggering twenty-five thousand photos of its subject, a struggling American discount store. . . .

"This is the ice-cold reality of the retail death spiral. It’s why people feel the need to collect motel postcards, share old photos of their hometowns, and document the finale of Kmart. The end time is always lurking; the only thing you can do is take pictures and post stories before it happens. . . ."

Much more here.

Her blog is McMansion Hell.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Shocks of War

 Three economists -- Dora Costa, Noelle Yetter, and Heather DeSomer -- have investigated "when and how health shocks reverberate across the life cycle and down to descendants." They examined "the impact of war wounds on the socioeconomic status and older age mortality of US Civil War (1861-5) veterans and of their adult children." Among other things they found that "fathers' severe wartime wounds affected daughters', but not sons', socioeconomic status."

Even though every family is different, knowing the general trends can help us understand those trying to find their way through the postwar "Gilded Age." And, in another frame, it can remind us that no decision to go to war should ever be taken lightly.

"The Impact of a Wartime Health Shock on the Postwar Socioeconomic Status and Mortality of Union Army Veterans and their Children," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 25480, Jan. 2019 (