Encore post: Jefferson on religious freedom, “infidels of every denomination”

July 31, 2008

Jefferson on religious freedom

Thomas Jefferson

August 1, 2006


In his Autobiography Jefferson recounted the 1786 passage of the law he proposed in 1779 to secure religious freedom in Virginia, the Statute for Religious Freedom:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and the Infidel of every denomination.

Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Modern Library 1993 edition, pp. 45 and 46.

* Image is a photo of detail from a painting of Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, courtesy of the New York Historical Society by way of the Library of Congress.

[Encore post from August 1, 2006]

An encore post; fighting ignorance takes repetition.



Carnival of Education 182 – Gossip edition

July 30, 2008

At the culture change project at AMR Corp., Committing to Leadership, we had this wonderful computer-based business simulation. It was programmed to simulate the operation of a real workplace, with crises facing the executive every day, serious budget issues, information coming from many quarters, partial information, and tough decisions.

One way to “win” the simulation every time was for the executive to take a spin around the organization every morning and collect all the gossip — at the big presses, at the coffee bar, at the water fountain, in the stairwells, in the restrooms. Inaccurate gossip always stuck out and could be dismissed; accurate gossip always was more accurate than other sources. I pulled out my old business communication text we taught from at the University of Arizona (back in the early Cretaceous) which stressed the use of “informal communication channels,” and found the exercise fun and stimulating. Those who genuinely listen to to news from the unofficial channels stand a better chance of getting things right. (We switched to a different business simulation more suited to group cooperation, The Flying Starship Factory, which I highly recommend).

The Chancellor’s New Clothes hosts the Carnival of Education 182 as a gossip session, “Heard Around the Building During Beginning School Year PD.

It’s a great carnival, not only because a post from the Bathtub is featured. As we head back to school over the next four weeks, stopping to peruse this particular Carnival of Education would be a good idea.

Four Stone Hearth 45 and 46

July 30, 2008

Summer travel has me farther behind than I imagined!

Two editions of Four Stone Hearth whizzed by in the past three weeks. Number 45 was hosted by Remote Central, “Caves, Graves and Audio Files Edition (with a tip to a post from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub); Number 46 is out today at Testimony of the Spade.

In #45: Open Anthropology notes concerns about archaeological digs in Iraq during the U.S. military operations; you’ll need to follow threads around, since some of the sources referred to were deleted after the post appeared. This is the 100th anniversary of the finding of a famous Neandertal specimen which has fueled all sorts of misconceptions about Neandertal and evolution; Writer’s Daily Grind has a remembrance, “Happy 100th, La Chapelle aux Saintes!” Some people even worry about how we will structure our societies when we take to touring the stars. There’s a lot more, at Remote Central.

Check out these things in #46: Texas history teachers, and U.S. history teachers will want to look at the “dig” in the Gulf of Mexico from Remote Central; also, check out the post at Hot Cup of Joe on the Serpent Mound in Ohio (pre-history should come fairly quickly in August or September, no?). Be sure to check out this post at John Hawks’ Weblog on teaching science, and teaching humanities.

Particle physics rap: Making the Large Hadron Collider sing

July 30, 2008

In the tradition of Richard Feynman’s ode to orange juice, but spiced with actual information: Tommaso Dorigo at A Quantum Diaries Survivor found a video on YouTube showing a rap about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Katie McAlpine, on temporary assignment to CERN, put the rap and video together in her spare time. (CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research)

The video fills an educational need. It explains some of the work in high-energy particle physics going on there on the border between France and Switzerland.

Will it quiet the internet worries about whether the creation of tiny, disappearing black holes might accidentally lead to the end of the planet? Don’t bet on it.

This video could make a key part of a geography warm-up, noting research in the European Union. CERN’s premier position in nuclear particle research is due to the cancellation in 1993 of the Superconducting Super Collider, which was then under construction near Waxahatchie, Texas. A little bit of digging could produce a lesson plan on government funding of research, especially in nuclear physics, or on geography of such massive cyclotrons, or on the history of particle physics, black holes, or uses for atom splitting.

Other resources:

Typewriter of the moment: Ian Fleming, the man with the golden typewriter

July 30, 2008

Ian Fleming at his typewriter

Ian Fleming at his typewriter

[Apologies.  Several of the links in this post simply don’t work any more.  I’ve tried to make sure the photos are there. Watch for an updated post — and be sure to read the comments.]

Ian Fleming, the creator of secret agent James Bond, at his typewriter, the gold-plated one:

Gold-plated?  According to IanFlemingCentre.com:

Ian Fleming’s first biographer, John Pearson, has identified 15 January 1952 as the “birth date” of James Bond and reports that CASINO ROYALE was finished on 18 March. Andrew Lycett’s IAN FLEMING points out that Ian “may have completed the job in an even shorter time”.

Ian Fleming married Ann Rothermere on Monday 24 March in that same year and often joked that he wrote CASINO ROYALE to take his mind off the forthcoming wedding. Whatever the timing, he had left his time working in naval intelligence with the determination to write “the spy story to end all spy stories”. He was forty three, about to marry and have his first child; his ambition and his experience came together at this moment in the creation of James Bond. He rewarded himself by buying a custom-made typewriter – plated in gold.

There you have it.

Is this a close-up of that typewriter? From AtomicMartinis.com:

Ian Flemings gold-plated typewriter

Ian Fleming’s gold-plated typewriter (Formerly at Atomic Martini; James Bond Shop)

I first saw a James Bond movie in 1964, “Goldfinger.”  I spent the rest of the summer reading all the James Bond books then in paperback.  Bond adventures reflected the attitudes, tone and tension of the Cold War.  They also provided great escape for a teenager with a summer of little else to do in central Utah.

The books proved much better than the movies.  While I’ve seen most of the movies as they’ve come along, I encourage people to read the books.  The stories are different from the movies, especially the movies coming after “Goldfinger.”  The gadgets are less spectacular, but the characters and travelogues are more spectacular.

Mostly the stuff is just fun.  Bond was sort of a Harry Potter for slightly older kids, and still can be.

I have not read any of the post-Fleming Bond novels.  Does anyone recommend them?

Other Resources:

Uganda and malaria, from the inside

July 30, 2008

This is probably as close to we can come to know what’s going on inside Uganda, especially with regard to malaria and efforts to fight it there.  Go see Mars and Aesculapius, “World Malaria Day.

As you can see, simply pumping DDT into the countryside is unlikely to solve the problems.

Tricks to deal with dementia: Give them a clue – lie if necessary

July 29, 2008

If your family has not been touched by a member with Alzheimer’s Disease, senile dementia, or some other form of memory-killing disease, you’re in a lucky minority.

A good friend told how her brother-in-law eased the pain of her mother’s slide into dementia, with little lies. The mother developed an invisible friend who had to accompany her on most outings. The problem was that the invisible friend was also invisible to the mother. The brother-in-law, frustrated at the mother’s refusal leave her room for an outing because the friend was not apparent to accompany them, finally told the mother that the friend was already in the car. Mom happily scooted to the car and forgot about the friend completely by the time they got to the car.

The friend was “already there” for much of the rest of the mother’s life. It was a lie, a falsehood, but it made things so much easier.

CBS Evening News tonight featured a story on a potential new treatment for dementia. In one segment, a husband was quizzing his dementia-affected wife, and she could not recall what he had told her just a few minutes before, how many years they had been married. Frustrating for the victim as well as the family.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “CBS report on Alzheimers“, posted with vodpod

A British psychologist, Oliver James, has a new book out that suggests such quizzes do more damage, and are unnecessary. Help the victim along with cues, he says. It’s a trick he got from his own mother-in-law, Penny Garner, from her experience working with her mother.

In Dorothy’s case, Garner found that while she [Dorothy] had no idea what she had done moments before, she automatically tried to make sense of her situation by matching it to past experiences. Dorothy had always enjoyed travelling, and so if she was asked to sit with other people for any length of time, she assumed she was in the Heathrow departure lounge. By not challenging this assumption, Garner found that her mother would sit peacefully for long periods. If she did wander off, Garner found she could encourage her to return by reminding her of her former skill as a bridge-player, telling her that the other players were waiting for her. “Given a properly set up bridge table, my mother would spend hours happily looking at her cards and waiting to play,” she says.

People with dementia are often exhausting to care for because they forget what they are doing during routine activities. Garner found that she could enable her mother to remain relatively independent by providing cues. “If while getting ready for bed, I noticed she had lost track of whether she was buttoning up the cardigan ready to go out or taking it off to go to bed, I would fiddle with my buttons alongside her and say ‘Oh good! No more travelling for us today! Glad we’ve got a bed for the night!’ I found that this simple cue was all she needed. Without it, she was inclined to get half-way through undressing and then start getting dressed again.”

We all look for such cues in everyday life, and we use them to remind us of what we are doing, where we are going, and why. Why not make it easier for victims of dementia?

Who is president of the United States? Half the time I’d prefer to forget it’s George W. Bush. Don’t quiz me on it. Ask me if it isn’t great that we’re electing someone to replace him, this fall.

Smart human tricks.


Happy conception, NASA! 50 years

July 29, 2008

Happy 50th birthday, NASA!

President Eisenhower signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act - U.S. Naval Photographic Center

President Eisenhower signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act – U.S. Naval Photographic Center

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created by legislation signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 29, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act. The agency was formally inaugurated on October 1, 1958 — NASA dates its birth from that day.

But, what the heck! There’s enough cool history for two celebrations every year!

Teachers might take this opportunity to stock up on photos and information for bell-ringer quizzes and other presentations on October 1, 2008, when NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of NASA’s opening its doors, and school is actually in session.

Photos from NASA on the 47th birthday, in 2005

Photos from NASA on the 47th birthday, in 2005 Image Details:
First row, from left:
A 1931 photo shows the original hangar at NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The first American satellite in orbit, Explorer 1, launches in January 1958. The “Original Seven” Mercury astronauts were selected in 1959. The experimental Echo project used large metallic balloons to bounce signals from one point on Earth to another.Second row, from left:
The X-15 hypersonic research aircraft flew for nearly 10 years, from June 1959 to October 1968. Apollo 11 astronauts left the first bootprints on the moon in July 1969. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, seen from one of the twin Voyager spacecraft that launched in 1977. NASA satellites helped create the “blue marble,” a detailed image of Earth.

Third row, from left:
Columbia launches on the first shuttle mission in April 1981. Image of the Eagle Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Mars rover Opportunity looks back at its tracks on the red planet. The international space station is humanity’s first permanent orbital outpost.

Fourth row, from left:
The Cassini spacecraft has been sending back images of Saturn, it’s rings and moons since July 2004. Discovery returns the space shuttle fleet to flight in July 2005. NASA satellites help scientists and forecasters watch powerful hurricanes. Artist’s concept of NASA’s next spaceship, the crew exploration vehicle, docked with a lander in lunar orbit.

Photo credit: NASA

Congress created a civilian agency to honcho space exploration as part of the body of reform actions after the Soviet Union beat the U.S. with orbiting an artificial satellite, in 1957.

Google has another of its arty Google Logos in honor of the day:

NASA has its own logo for the 50th anniversary:

NASA’s 50th anniversary logo

Exciting times dept.: New inflation control – no paper to print money

July 29, 2008

This year is an exciting time to be teaching history, government or civics, or economics. So many events in national politics and in the world expose the workings of government, politics and history, that teachers should have smoking scissors by the time they finish the morning newspaper.

From Agence France Presse - A Zimbabwean $50 million note in April, not enough to buy a banana

Image from The Guardian/EPA - A Zimbabwean $50 million note in April, not enough to buy a banana; worth less than $0.01 US now

Zimbabwe’s unbelievable inflation rates are textbook cases for economics and government teachers, aren’t they? Inflation has been running more than 1 million percent for some time. Reports I saw a few days ago said inflation is now at something like 2 million percent — in a story about a new currency being printed there, the Zimbabwean $100 billion note.

Authorities last week released a new $100 billion bank note. By Sunday it was not enough even to buy a scarce loaf of bread in what has become one of the world’s most expensive — and impoverished — countries.

Is that a cruel enough example to get the attention of high school economics students?

But the story has gotten even more bizarre. Even with a government making absolutely no effort to control inflation, supply and demand can put a crunch on affairs.

Zimbabwe has run out of paper upon which to print the money to pay government workers.

So the elaborate work by the despotic Robert Mugabe to keep his hold on the reins of power, the carefully planned murders of opposition political workers, the threats of violence if the vote didn’t go his way — all of that may come crashing down. Mugabe can’t print money to pay the thugs to terrorize the people. The thugs may turn on Mugabe.

The government is reported to have run out of paper to print money and is believed to be panicking over how to pay salaries for civil servants, especially soldiers and police who are the backbone of the Mugabe dictatorship. From AllAfrica.com, a report from SW Radio Africa:

Giesecke & Devrient, the European company that was providing the paper, was last month pressured to cut supplies by the German government, after protests were threatened. In addition, a company that provides the software licences for the design and printing of the banknotes, is reported to be considering withdrawing their contract.

The military has helped run the country for some years now and the Mugabe regime needs to sustain military and police operations in order to maintain political control. There is much consensus among observers that Mugabe’s recent decision to sign the Memorandum of Agreement with the two MDC formations was clearly based on increased economic pressure. One English pound this week is trading at Z$1.3 trillion.

Earlier in the week, Mugabe was out of the country trying to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with his opposition, Morgan Tsvangarai. What power will be left to share?

The software for the notes, which is supplied by a Hungarian-Austrian company called Jura JSP, is reportedly very technical. The UK Guardian newspaper quoted a ‘knowledgeable source’ at the Zimbabwe government’s Fidelity Printers, who said the software issue was a major problem and had created an air of panic. “They are in a panic because without the software they can’t print anything,” the source added.

Helmoed-Romer Heitman, the South Africa correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly (a global military security publication) said the situation faced by the regime is quite typical of many African countries that are falling apart. He said the result tends to be at least violent demonstrations, if not a mutiny by the military.

“Given the current situation in Zimbabwe, I am inclined to think that a lot of the military, certainly middle ranking officers and some seniors, are not all that enamoured of the party that is running the show”, said Heitman.

Oh, and that 2 million percent inflation?

With experts estimating that the inflation rate is currently at 15 million per cent, and pressure on those doing business with the Mugabe regime increasing, the economy has proved to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

Today comes word that the government plans to revalue Zimbabwean money, lopping a few zeroes off, to make it sound more rational.

Observations: First, these are great examples to use in classes, stark contrasts of inflation out of control. Second, Mugabe is riding a tiger, finally, after holding power for several decades. He should study the words of Winston Churchill. Churchill wrote, in While England Slept:

“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.”

If you read this blog regularly, you may wonder with me, is there a malaria problem in Zimbabwe? If so, how will the wackoes blame all of this on Rachel Carson?


Less than a month to a million

July 29, 2008

About midnight Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub got its 875,000th click.  We should make a million by September.

Maybe viewership would be higher if I retitled the blog, “I CAN HAS CHEESE HISTORY,” or if I changed the format to “Strange History.”

Eh, we’ll stick to the knitting we know.  Thanks to the many readers.

Rape: A weapon of war

July 28, 2008

With very little fanfare U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice used her time at the UN recently to get a resolution through the Security Council that recognizes rape as an instrument of war (report from Global Sociology Blog).

UN Security Council (UN photo)

UN Security Council (UN photo)

Unfortunately the act got very little coverage in the U.S. press, so far as I can tell. (Please feel free to post links to articles you know about in comments.)

Mark this carefully, you’ll not read it often here: Kudos and thank you to Rice and the Bush Administration.

The UN News Centre reported:

In a resolution adopted unanimously after a day-long debate on women, peace and security, Council members said women and girls are consistently targeted during conflicts “as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.”

The effect is to also prolong or deepen conflicts and to exacerbate already dire security and humanitarian conditions, particularly when the perpetrators of violent crimes against women go unpunished for their actions.

The resolution demands that all parties immediate stop sexual violence against civilians and begin taking measures, from the training of troops and upholding of military discipline procedures, to protect women and girls.

Sexual violence crimes should be excluded from amnesties reached at the end of conflicts, the 15-member Council added, calling on States to also strengthen their judicial and health-care systems to provide better assistance to victims of violence.

The resolution was adopted after dozens of speakers told the Council about the appalling effects of sexual violence during armed conflicts, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying the problem had reached “unspeakable and pandemic proportions” in some countries.

Mr. Ban announced he will soon appoint a UN envoy tasked entirely with advocating for an end to violence against women.

Opening today’s meeting, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the truest test of the will of the international community was the protection it gave to the most vulnerable.

“When women and girls are raped, we cannot be silent… we must be their advocates,” Ms. Rice said.

See a second report here. Security Council report and resolution text here. The text of Resolution 1820 (2008) is listed below the fold.

International law develops quickly, but often out of sight of most people. This action is another in a long string of international agreements that build on the laws of war, and the laws of human rights. As part of the string of treaties including the Geneva Conventions on war, this offers a 21st century turn on the laws that gave rise to the International Red Cross, the rules of war, the war crimes trials following World War II, the drive for NATO and the UN to intervene in Bosnia, and it provides commentary on events and genocides in Turkey, World War II China and Europe, Cambodia, Guatemala, San Salvador, Rwanda, Congo and Darfur — and other places we don’t even know about yet. Each class will differ; these materials suggest topics for in-class debates about current issues seen through a lens of the experience of history.

The resolution and debates offer opportunities for Document Based Questions for AP and pre-AP course practice.

A look at some of the events in a reverse chronology of the issue, from the archives of the New York Times, reveals both the difficulty of getting this simple acknowledgement made, and the horrors of rape as a tactic or weapon.

Other Resources:

Read the rest of this entry »

Teach evolution at your peril

July 27, 2008

Untamed Teacher carries one more story about the dangers of trying to teach evolution to students who are not particularly interested, in a school where administrators don’t know much about science. Cynics will write it off as an inexperienced teacher in a difficult school — but that’s precisely where we need to be teaching the most serious material most often. (Tip of the old scrub brush to Education Notes Online.)

The Balloon Man notes a story in the Los Angeles Times about a much more experienced, and patient, teacher, whose lesson biology is heckled by religious students bent on disrupting the instruction.

How would Jesus heckle a teacher? Which parable covers being obnoxious?

Update: Open Parachute ponders whether the behaviors exhibited by the churchy adults in the news report below, constitute child abuse:

Can you imagine the reaction were a group of scientists to arrive at Ken Ham’s creation museum and lead a “science tour” of the place? Dollars to doughnuts Ham would come out looking a lot like Joe Stalin on the issue of allowing free discussion in his place.

Resource:  Why study evolution?  Read the benefits of such study in one of the permanent posts of this blog.

400 years of river history: NY celebrates Hudson, Champlain and Fulton in 2009

July 26, 2008

Okay, it’s the 202nd anniversary of Robert Fulton’s historic, 32-hour steamboat trip from New York City to Albany, demonstrating the viability of steamboat travel for commerce on the Hudson.  But for such a historic river, why not delay that fete for a couple of years and roll it into the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s exploration of the lake that now bears his name, and Henry Hudson’s discover of the mouth of the river to the south, the Hudson, whose mouth is home to New York City.

400 years of Hudson River history in 2009 - Hudson, Champlain, Fulton

400 years of Hudson River history in 2009 - Hudson, Champlain, Fulton

And so 2009 marks the Quadricentennial Celebration on the Hudson, honoring Hudson, Fulton and Champlain.

Alas, the committee to coordinate the celebration along the length of the river was not put in place until February, so there is a scramble.  Local celebrations will proceed, but the overall effort may fall short of the 1909 tricentennial, with replicas of Hudson’s ship, Half Moon, and Champlain’s boats, and Fulton’s steamer, and parades, and festivals, and . . .

Still, the history is notable, and the stories worth telling.

Most of my students in U.S. and world history over the past five years have been almost completely unaware of any of these stories.  One kid was familiar with the Sons of Champlin, the rock band of Bill Champlin, because his father played the old vinyl records.  Most students know nothing of the lore of Hudson, the mutiny and the old Dutch stories that have thunder caused by Hudson and his loyal crewman bowling in the clouds over the Catskills.  They don’t even know the story of Rip van Winkle, since it’s not in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) list and so gets left out of even elementary school curricula.  Is this an essential piece of culture that American children should know?  American adults won’t know it, if we don’t teach it.

Henry Hudson, from a woodcut

Henry Hudson, from a woodcut

Explorations and settlement of Quebec by Samuel de Champlain get overlooked in post-NCLB texts.  Texts tend to make mention of the French settlement of Canada, but placing these explorations in the larger frame of the drive to find a route through or around North America to get to China, or the often-bitter contests between French, English, Spanish, Dutch and other European explorers and settlers gets lost.  French-speaking Cajuns just show up in histories of Texas and the Southwest, with little acknowledgment given to the once-great French holdings in North America, nor the incredible migration of French from Acadia to Louisiana that gives the State of Louisiana such a distinctive culture today.

French explorer and settler Samuel de Champlain

French explorer and settler Samuel de Champlain

Champlain’s explorations and settlement set up the conflict between England and France that would result in the French and Indian War in the U.S., and would not play out completely until after the Louisiana Purchase and War of 1812.

Fulton’s steamboat success ushered in the age of the modern, non-sail powered navies, and also highlights the role geography plays in the development of technology. The Hudson River is ideally suited for navigation from its mouth, north to present-day Albany.  This is such a distance over essentially calm waters that sail would have been preferred, except that the winds on the Hudson were not so reliable as ocean winds.  Steam solved the problem.  Few other rivers in America would have offered such an opportunity for commercial development — so the Hudson River helped drive the age of steam.

New York City remains an economic powerhouse.  New York Harbor remains one of the most active trading areas in the world.  Robert Fulton helped propel New York ahead of Charleston, Baltimore and Boston — a role in New York history that earned him a place in for New York in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.  The steamboat monopoly Fulton helped establish was a key player in Gibbons v. Ogden, the landmark Supreme Court case in which the Court held that Congress has the power to regulate commerce between states — an upholding of the Commerce Clause against the old structures created under colonial rule and the Articles of Confederation.

Robert Fultons statute in the U.S. Capitol - photo by Robert Lienhard

Robert Fulton's statute in the U.S. Capitol - photo by Robert Lienhard

400 years of history along the Hudson, a river of great prominence in world history.  History teachers should watch those festivities for new sources of information, new ideas for classroom exercises.


Rachel Carson: Nice lady scientist, no mass murderer

July 26, 2008

Aaron Swartz has the summary.  Start with the introduction here, and see the full text with links here.

He goes easy on the hoaxers, those who cast stones at Ms. Carson, but you still get the idea if you read the article.

Typewriter of the moment: Douglas Adams

July 26, 2008

Here’s a typewriter you can buy. NV Books in Great Wolford, Warwickshire, offers a first edition copy of Douglas Adams’ masterpiece, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, together with the autographed typewriter upon which he wrote it:

Douglas Adams's typewriter, a Hermes Standard 8, used to write the novel, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams’s typewriter, a Hermes Standard 8, used to write the novel, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

It’s yours, for just $25,112.92 (Today. Exchange rates may make the price wobble a bit). Abe Books in Denver lists the advertisement in the U.S.

THE HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, First Edition in FINE Condition. Sold together with DOUGLAS ADAMS’ TYPEWRITER owned by Adams (whilst writing ‘Hitch Hikers’) and SIGNED IN THICK FELT PEN BY THE AUTHOR across the original casing

Description: First Edition Hardback. A mouthwatering copy of this modern classic, the dustwrapper retains all of the notoriously fugitive blue and is wholly unfaded. The front image and lettering are bright and sharp and the book overall is in exceptional condition. Sold together with A UNIQUE ARTEFACT owned by Douglas Adams in the late 1970s, his Hermes Standard 8 typewriter. This is a thrilling object to possess with a fascinating history. It is as certain as can be that Adams wrote his most famous work ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy’ on this Hermes Standard 8. Aside from the supporting provenance, it still contains much evidence of his ownership and regular use. It bears an anti-apartheid sticker on one side of the object and is boldly signed across the front casing by Adams in his unmistakeable hand. It comes housed in its cardboard box which Adams used to transport it, namely packaging from Simon and Schuster, originally containing copies of Adams and Terry Jones’ collaboration ‘Starship Titanic’. An address label to Adams’ office at the Digital Village, London, remains stuck on the box too. The typewriter itself is in attractive condition to display, but is entirely unrestored and as precisely as it was when it was owned by Adams. It is frequently mentioned by all who knew him that writing was often a torment for him and as such his lateness was legendary. He once said ‘I love deadlines. I love the whoosing sound they make as they fly by’, and such was his difficulty in producing work on time that in a well-documented act of desperation his publishers once locked him in a hotel room until he typed enough pages to be let out! The keys of his typewriter all still bear the marks of Adams’ tortured labour. Significantly, the ‘x’ key is particularly discoloured. A unique piece of literary history then and a fabulous talking point, and simply the ultimate possession for a Douglas Adams fan. It is almost superfluous to mention that it is also a very secure investment for the future. A little bit about its subsequent history: Adams signed and donated the typewriter to a wildlife charity auction in 1998, and it was then kept in private hands for several years before being sold on. Adams was passionate about wildlife and in keeping with his memory (and his original intention for this item), a donation will be made to Rhino Recovery with this sale. ABOUT US: It is our philosophy at N V to provide the astute collector with high quality books for pleasure and investment, whilst offering a service that is always friendly and helpful. EVERY listing has a sharp digital image of the EXACT item(s) that you are perusing – with more photographs available on request. The accompanying description is meticulous and we guarantee that all items are authentic. Nevertheless, you are welcome to call us FREE on (0800) 083 0281 with any queries, or on +44 (1608) 674181 from overseas. In the meantime we wish you every success with your collecting. Bookseller Inventory # 000002

I can’t improve on Boing Boing’s commentary. Steampunk beat me to the story, too. (The typewriter was sold as a benefit for RHINO by Christie’s on November 30, 2005, for £2,400, about $4,100.)

Your students may not know who Douglas Adams was — Adams died prematurely in 2001, at 49, of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. He was working on the movie adaptation for Hitch Hiker’s Guide.

Douglas Adams, photo by Chris Ogle; DouglasAdams.com

Douglas Adams, photo by Chris Ogle; DouglasAdams.com

Hitch Hiker’s Guide started out as a BBC4 radio series, airing in 1978. The book version appeared shortly after that — I think I first read it in 1979, an interim year when I really lit up small corners of Utah. The book was immensely funny, very witty, and self-conscious in a way that most pure humor writing isn’t. Adams appeared to be familiar with science deeply. The jokes work on several levels. The book was popular with friends in public broadcasting who had heard the BBC4 series, and with scientists in laboratories.

One of the NPR stations in Washington, D.C., ran the series shortly after I moved there (WAMU? WETA? I forget which). Use of an Eagles instrumental for the theme caught my ear. Eagles? This series seemed blessed with the best wit, best writing, and best music.

Not so with special effects in the television series. The script was inspired, the narrative effects were fine, but special effects were of the cheesy, early-Dr. Who variety — which was okay, because it put the focus on the script and the story. And the story was the thing.

Through much of that time I was deeply involved in land management issues. We worked on wilderness, the old RARE II wilderness designation process, and segued into the Sagebrush Rebellion, where I found myself deep into rebel territory when the fighting broke out (think of Jackie Vernon’s story of being in Japan when World War II broke out; saying he didn’t really know what to do, he “became a kamikaze copilot”). Hitch Hiker’s Guide opens with Arthur Dent protesting the demolition of his house to make a path for a new thruway, with the authorities telling Dent that he had plenty of time to protest since the notice of demolition was posted in a town only a few miles away, and since he missed the protest period, he shouldn’t complain. He is “rescued” from this situation by a friend named Ford Prefect — like the little European Ford auto — who tells Arthur not to worry about the house; Ford turns out to be an alien, and he knows the Earth is about to be destroyed to make way for an inter-galactic thruway. The destruction crew notes with no irony to the Earthlings that the notice of destruction was posted on a nearby planet, and Earth simply missed the protest period. Ah. A good summary of many land management decisions.

We found comradeship with people who understood that, once a decision had been made, often the best thing to do was remember not to panic, pick up one’s towel and hitch a ride to the next venue. I would not have been much surprised to turn to the appendices of an official BLM report and see that BLM had determined the answer to be “42,” and that a study group had been appointed for further study.

42. 42 is the answer.

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is numeric in Douglas Adams‘ series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, a “simple answer” to The Ultimate Question is requested from the computer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Unfortunately, The Ultimate Question itself is unknown, suggesting on an allegorical level that it is more important to ask the right questions than to seek definite answers.

Others have wondered about the number.

In the original series, Arthur Dent has a Scrabble™ game with him. At some point it mystically spells out, “What do you get if you multiply six by nine? Forty-two.”

6 times 9 is 42 — except in base-13. But as Adams himself said, he did not write jokes in base-13

I have not seen the movie.

Douglas Adams, perhaps pondering the meaning of life, and everything

Douglas Adams, perhaps pondering the meaning of life, and everything

“So long, and thanks for the fish.”

Big tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Pamela Bumsted, who pointed this out to me.

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