20th century sailing ships

January 12, 2008

There’s a fun blog, Tugster: A Waterblog, that usually features photos of tugs that ply the waters around New York City. Good to wonderful photos; and I’ve been hoping for a reason to mention the blog.

Here’s one: What do you see peeking through the trees and wires?

Sailing vessel Peking's masts, peeking through the trees of the neighborhood around the drydock, January 2008.

It’s the masts of the barque Peking, a sailing ship built for a German shipping company in 1911 — the same year the Titanic was built. This was a freight hauler, used originally to take nitrates mined in South America to Europe.

After a relatively long sailing career, the ship has been retired as a museum ship at the South Street Seaport Museum (a great place to visit when you get to New York). It’s in dry dock right now, which is where these photos were taken.

Stern of Peking in dry dock, 2008

Tugster points to a lot of details, with several photos. It’s interesting to see a ship of the vintage of the Titanic, out of water. It’s interesting to see one of the faster sailing ships, especially one built for use in the 20th century. You can see how the technology of ships and shipbuilding allowed for faster sail vessels; this is part of the story of how technologies get eclipsed, too — when sailing could no longer keep up with steam, advances in sailing ships slowed to a stop.

This was one of the last, fast sailing vessels built — one of a chain of “flying P-liners.”

Get on over to Tugster and see what you can do with the photos, and the history.

4-masted barque Peking under sail, in the River Thames, unknown year. Wikimedia photo

4-masted barque Peking under sail, in the River Thames, unknown year.  The ship was originally named Arethusa.  Wikimedia photo

What’s in a name? A Texas town by any other name . . .

January 12, 2008

. . . would still be a Texas town.

But Texas towns have some of the best names of towns in the U.S. Plus, there are a lot of Texas towns, plus 254 Texas counties.

Freckles Cassie at Political Teen Tidbits has a great list:


Need to be cheered up?

Happy, Texas 79042
Pep, Texas 79353
Smiley, Texas 78159
Paradise, Texas 76073
Rainbow, Texas 76077
Sweet Home, Texas 77987
Comfort, Texas 78013
Friendship, Texas 76530

Go see the entire list — and maybe add a few of your favorites in the comments. An ambitious geography teacher could make a couple of great exercises out of those lists. “What’s the shortest distance one would have to drive to visit Paris, Italy, Athens and Santa Fe? How many could you visit in the shortest time?”

See updated version, here, with more links.

208-year-old candidate

January 12, 2008

The East Aurora (New York) Advertiser brings news that Millard Fillmore has offered himself as a candidate for president in 2008.

No flip-flops — as he points out, he has not changed any position in more than 100 years.

Perhaps surprisingly, he has remarkably progressive views on issues of 2008.
Millard Fillmore (actor) announces his candidacy for president, January 7, 2008

Second Reporter:
Mr. President, there’s nothing in your record on your views on same sex marriage. Will you comment?

I was married twice, both times to a person of the same sex… a female…. and it seemed appropriate to me….

Millard Fillmore: A man unconcerned about his place in history. Millard Fillmore: The only candidate to have reduced the cost of postage.

He might have a chance.

Designers correct: Font choice affects grades

January 12, 2008

Put your paper into Georgia, a serif font, and your grades may rise.

Some enterprising fellow at Fadtastic did the research (now available here in archives), and discovered Georgia-fonted papers tend to get A grades, Times Roman-fonted papers get A- grades, and Trebuchet-fonted papers get B grades (“The Secret Lives of Fonts).

Of course, that’s what the type designers, book designers and web designers have been telling us for 20 years — a serif font is easier to read, and makes the reader feel more at ease. When graders feel good, the paper gets a good grade. That’s logical.

Georgia Font examples, from Wikipedia

Georgia Font examples, from Wikipedia

I also discovered that when faxed to news editors, sans serif fonts get better play. If the press release is legible, it goes farther.

And, when I was taking broadcast courses, my grades rose significantly when my IBM Correcting Selectric II arrived, and I started doing all my scripts in Orator font. The teacher, an active newsman at the time, graded higher when he recognized the font more — it was roughly the same font on the teleprompter at his station.

Pick your font and your transmission method accordingly.

The author of this non-scientific study is a web designer, of course.

I’ll bet you’ll find that conclusion, backed with some sort of research, in the book design and web design texts.

Remember when we all used typewriters, and such choices were not options at all?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Graceful Flavor.

Texas State Historical Association moves; new home at the University of North Texas

January 12, 2008

110 years was enough.

The Texas State Historical Association will move to Denton, Texas, and a new association with the powerful history department at the University of North Texas, after 110 years in Austin in a home on the campus of the University of Texas.

Holly K. Hacker wrote the details for a story in The Dallas Morning News for January 12, 2008:

The association’s president said UNT is a logical choice. Among its selling points, UNT has the state’s biggest program in Texas history and a university press that publishes many books on Texas subjects. The association also has four fellows and a former president from UNT.

“We felt that UNT not only made the best offer in terms of what it could give us, but it was also the best fit on a day-in, day-out basis,” said Frank de la Teja, president of the association.

The group publishes a scholarly journal called Southwestern Historical Quarterly. And anyone who’s ever Googled the Battle of the Alamo, Juneteenth or some other Texas subject is probably familiar with the association’s Handbook of Texas Online, a comprehensive encyclopedia that averages 4 million page views a month.

Details are still being worked out, but UNT hopes the association will move to campus in the fall, said Michael Monticino, associate dean of UNT’s College of Arts and Sciences. He said the university is poised to pay for renovations, worth about half a million dollars, and to contribute about $200,000 a year for other expenses.

The move may be good news for history teachers closer to Denton, including those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving, Tyler and Abilene. Chiefly the move indicates how Texas’s higher education quality has spread out well beyond Austin and College Station, homes of the first branches of the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, respectively.

Full story below the fold (as insurance against the whims of electronic archivists at the Dallas Morning News).

TSHA’s annual meeting will be in Corpus Christi, March 5 through 8, 2008. Educators can register for as little as $35.00.

Read the rest of this entry »

Park your camel, the music’s begun

January 12, 2008

As long as we’re in Mali anyway, why not arrive a couple of days early for this other music festival? Michael Kessler writes about the Festival du Chameau in the Sydney Morning Herald, “The sound of the desert blues”:

A week ago, when the doctor was jabbing me with yellow fever, polio and hepatitis shots and supplying malaria tablets, I’d tried imagining what a camel festival would look like. The Festival du Chameau [in its third year in 2008] is the brainchild of Tinariwen, the international darlings of world music – a group of Touareg nomadic musicians, purveyors of the desert blues, whose political past combined with their hypnotic electric guitars make them local heroes in this, the Adrar des Iforas region of Mali.

Toronto Globe and Mail reporter Stephanie Nolen accompanied a group of Inuit musicians to Mali, documented in a blog for the newspaper, Trail to Timbuktu; from her reports, we know the festival is underway, music is on the dunes:

There’s no down-in-front with a camel, really.

The 8th Festival in the Desert began a couple of hours ago, with several thousand people sitting and standing in the cool, white sand at the edge of the oasis at Essekane. The sun set just as the event kicked off, silhouetting robed men, veiled women and camels on all the surrounding ridges. On the small, raised stage there were speeches by notables including the local governor and Mali’s Minister of Culture.

Then the music began, with the opening provided by Tamnana, a traditional ensemble of men and women from Essekane who drum, chant, clap and ululate. They’re a big hit with the locals, and it turns out that demonstrations of musical appreciation hereabouts take the form of camel tricks. When the spirit moves them, nomads on camelback suddenly charge down from the dunes to the front of the stage, where they coax their camels down to “walk” on their front knees a much-admired feat. Or they dismount and launch sudden sword fights with phantom opponents, before swinging back up and charging the camel back and forth in front of the stage a few times. It’s the Tuareg version of the mosh pit, and it’s magical to watch, but it does tend to blot out the action on the stage.

Inuit performers in the sand at Essakane Festival, Mali, 2008 - photo by Stephanie Nolen, Toronto Globe and Mail

Inuit performers from Canada, in the sands at the Essakane Festival, Mali, 2008; photo by Stephanie Nolen, Toronto Globe and Mail.

News still travels slowly out of Mali’s desert, though. Most of the news about the Mali Festival in the Desert comes in the form of festival veterans spreading the music, in other, far-flung venuues.

Influences of the Essakane Festival of the Desert reach Salina, Kansas, where the Salina Journal talks about the music of Toubab Crewe, a group of North Caronlians who have performed at the big Mali festival in the past.

Oregon feels it, too: MacArthur Foundation grant recipient Corey Harris, a veteran bluesman whose work was featured in the PBS series on the blues, especially his work in Mali with the late Ali Farka Toure, performs at the Rogue Valley Blues Festival in Ashland, Oregon, on January 18 (that’s the Southern Oregon Mail Tribune, not Mali Tribune).

Mali, and Africa, have much more than just these few festivals. Why should we concern ourselves with the Essakane festival at all? Africa. PopMatters carries a column by journalist Mark Reynolds, reviewing events and arts in Africa in 2007, with a look to 2008. It’s a survey of events and publications, but it’s a good backgrounder for a high school student in Africa concerns, an article that should suggest connections to be made in geography, history, government and economics courses.

Thanks to Ann at Peoples Geography for the correction — Sydney Morning Herald.

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