March 31, 2005

Slow train coming ...

Why can't New Zealand and the United States have a decent rail network?

If you think Amtrak is a joke, it's not like it's unique. Taking the Overlander between Wellington and Auckland a few times was great preparation for yesterday's journey on the Empire Builder from St. Paul to Chicago.

I just knew that the train would be delayed, and that the right mental attitude was to assume that the journey would take about 2-3 hours more than scheduled. Then if it was just 90 minutes late it would be a bonus. Was I ever right!

We were half an hour late leaving St. Paul, and mysteriously stopped in the middle of Wisconsin for 40 minutes. From my Overlander experience, where the train would stop in the middle of the Waikato ("New Zealand's dairyland"!) it all felt so familiar. On the Overlander they would mumble "there's a freight train ahead of us," and give you a wildly inaccurate estimate/guess of when we'd be moving again. Amtrak didn't even bother to get our hopes up about when we'd resume our journey ... We just sat there looking at the cows.

Chicago, at least, has a nice station. It wouldn't be hard to improve on the Minneapolis/St. Paul station. Again, this was all familiar from the Overlander journey, which took you from the impressive, well-maintained Wellington station to the shed beside the tracks one mile from the city-center that has been Auckland's inter-city rail station for years.

Having safely (slowly) arrived in Chicago we then waited 40 minutes for the baggage to arrive. At least they have decent baggage service on Amtrak. They even check you aren't stealing someone else's bags when you leave the baggage claim! Retrieving your bags on TranzScenic in New Zealand meant wandering down to the baggage car and waiting until they chucked yours out onto the platform ...

I'd be tempted to make this a generalization about trains in English-speaking countries. But that would be a little unfair ... While the trains in England are a national joke for being late, I actually had a pretty good experience on them last year. In a week I took 5 inter-city trains, none of which were more than 5 minutes late. They also drop you off pretty much in the center of town, making connections to buses and subways easy.

It wouldn't be easy to get a functioning passenger rail network in the United States. It would just take political will. Building a network of interstate highways wasn't easy either, but it got done.

But that train too might be slow coming, coming round the bend ...

Posted by robe0419 at 1:53 PM

March 28, 2005

Cottle on Schaivo

Michelle Cottle on the Terri Schaivo case:

Regardless of what the polls show, Terri Schiavo is a no-win issue for Democrats, and their best course of action is to lie low and wait for the media storm to pass .... Democrats, unlike Republicans, have much to lose and little to gain by jumping into this fray, they would be politically wise to simply leave Terri Schiavo, and this entire drama, alone.

Quite right.

Posted by robe0419 at 11:33 AM

March 27, 2005

Fluffy's Law

Or, we know when to pull the plug on our pets.

The post earlier in the week about the Schaivo case generated a number of comments (genuine ones, not spam!) including Jim's suggestion that a symbolic "Terri's law" was where this was all headed. Possibly.

What about Fluffy's Law. Pets are "put down" just about every day of the year. Pets with--and I'm not trying to be flippant here--with more expressive ability than Terri Schaivo currently has. Yet after considering the veterinary evidence we're allowed to put Fluffy the Bunny (gratuitious Easter reference) out of her misery without the law, let alone Congress, getting involved.

Obviously [most] people don't form the same bonds with their pets as they do with their spouses and human relatives. But people do form emotional bonds with their pets that extend over many years. (It's for another day to discuss whether Kitty has an emotional bond to us, or just knows where the next meal is coming from).

And when Kitty, Fluffy, and Spot get kidney failure (or whatever) it is an emotional wrench to decide that they're not going to enjoy a life with an incurable disease and little hope of palliative care. People don't put their pets down lightly. We trust them to do it, and we trust them to get it about right. Most of the time people don't prolong their pets suffering. We know when to pull the plug.

But with humans incapable of expressing their opinions we probably err on the side of prolonging life too long. We should treat people more like cats at the end of their lives.

Posted by robe0419 at 7:11 PM

March 26, 2005

Easter is all about the chocolate


Posted by robe0419 at 10:59 AM

March 25, 2005

Two cheers for Yasso 800s

Regular non-running readers will be bored ... Runners, my two cents on the famous Yasso 800s are below the fold!

The problem with Yasso 800s is that either the recoveries are too long, or the repeats are too short. With a little tweaking -- that would make them less easy to convey in a magazine article -- they'd be a good workout.

If you've come this far you probably know what Yasso 800s are. They're a marathon-oriented speed workout where you work up to running 10 x 800 in as many minutes and seconds as your goal marathon time in hours and minutes.

[So, if you want to run a 3:10 marathon you should be able to do 10 800m repeats in 3:10 with 3:10 jogging between]

I can see the appeal of this workout -- it's easy to remember, easy to set the countdown for on your watch. If you do it on the track you can just roll though the recovery, and start the next two lap effort when your time is up at any point on the track.

If you do a couple of miles warmup and a couple warmdown, and get at least 400m jogging in between you'll get a good 11-14 mile run in for the day. The volume of speedwork (8000m or 5 miles) is good. The pace is good, you should be running round about your 5k-4 mile pace in the repeats.

Yet there's some acceptance that the Yasso 800s aren't quite accurate. Greg McMillan reports that many people end up running about 5-7 minutes slower than their Yasso times.

And it's not like they're totally useless, but with a little extra effort you can get a lot more from the workout.

To step back for a moment, Yasso 800s are a V02 max workout. That is, they improve your ability to consume oxygen. To improve your V02 max you have to be working in oxygen debt at a high heart rate for between 3.5 to 5 minutes. Then you recover, then you do it again.

You can make the repeats shorter, if you also keep the recoveries shorter.

If you're doing your 800s in 4:00 or over then the 800s are probably OK for you. You'll be working on your oxygen uptake abilities for about the right amount of time.

But anyone below 3:30 and certainly those close to and under 3:00, should make their Yasso 800 workouts 1000m, 1200m, 1400m or even 1600m workouts, at the same pace as the Yasso workouts (so long as the total workbout is less than five minutes. Anyone running 2:30 800s or 5:02 miles probably knows something about what they're doing). The recovery can be about equal to the repeat.

Indeed, if you look at Jack Daniels' Running Formula you'll notice that his Interval pace for 1000m-1600m intervals is pretty much the Yasso pace for 800s. But you just keep going ...

Alternatives to the Yasso 800s
Do the 800s, with a 400m jog in between. The 400m should take about 45-60 seconds less than your 800 time. The shorter recovery will mean that you hit oxygen debt a little earlier in the 800 repeats and have the right amount of time sucking wind and improving your oxygen consumption abilities ... This is less than optimal for a couple of reasons. (1) If you really are training for a marathon the longer repeats are probably better, and (2) If you're aiming to race 5Ks and 10Ks along the way, doing 1000-1600m at 5k pace is good for that aim too.

Do 1000m-1600m repeats at the Yasso pace, with equal time recoveries (or slightly under equal recoveries). My own experience is that even with equal time recoveries this is a harder workout. You're working in oxygen debt for quite a while in each repeat.

When I was younger I used to avoid doing workouts where it was easy to think "I'm halfway now." So I'd do odd numbers of repeats or ladders to make the workout mentally easier. Perhaps oddly, now that I'm older I find the 8 x 1000m or 6 x 1200m easier, partly because I do more varied workouts week-to-week.

Whatever your situation, ladders are an excellent way of breaking up the monotony. A ladder of 800-1000-1200-1400-1400-1200-1000-800 adds up to the same distance as the Yasso 10 x 800.

There's no law that says you have to do repeats that are an even number when divided by 100. A session of 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1000, 1000 has some variety, and you can look forward to shorter repeats after your 1400m effort.

My final piece of advice is that the value of any of these workouts is enhanced by running them at an even pace. As you are running around your 5k pace, these workouts are an excellent opportunity to practice running evenly at that pace. Most watches these days come with a countdown or lap/split counter. If you set these to beep at you every 100m or 200m and try to hit each 100m-200m in an even pace throughout the workout it will be a much, much better session.

Running a 90 second lap followed by a 100 second lap is pointless. If you hit an even pace, the first few repeats will feel relatively easy. That's OK. You should still be working hard in the last couple of hundred metres of each repeat. Since the first repeats are easier, starting with the longer repeats and working down to 1000m can be productive. A session of 1400, 1300, 1200, 1100, 3 x 1000m has 8000m of repeats and coming down in distance feels mentally easier while still working the right systems at an even pace.

Good luck!

Posted by robe0419 at 1:39 PM

Hong Kong is only part of China

A map of all the places I've been in the world. I've only been to Hong Kong, not any of the rest of China. I did catch the train to the last station you can get to without an actual visa for China. If they had a separate option for Hong Kong it would make my travels look somewhat less impressive. It's hard to tell, but I have been to the Cook Islands.

You can make your own.

Posted by robe0419 at 10:02 AM

March 24, 2005

Farewell to the crown?

Questions for discussion ...

Did the NZ Herald look for the worst possible picture of Camilla Parker Bowles it could find? Or does she always look like she's telling you to sod off?

Aren't you glad you don't have the New Zealand government as your relatives? Not sending a gift because it's the second marriage! And after the poor man's first wife died so tragically ...

Posted by robe0419 at 5:58 PM

March 23, 2005

Metreers to go

Why are there American spellings of metric measures like litre/liter and metre/meter?

Posted by robe0419 at 1:40 PM

Bad jobs

Channel 4 (that would be the British Channel 4, not WCCO ...) has a series on the worst jobs in history.

It covers the Roman to Victorian periods based, it seems, on when the jobs first appeared. They list fullers (wool treaters) and lime burners as medieval jobs, but those jobs were still around in 1881. You can see for yourself.

(Via A Journey Through Time)

Posted by robe0419 at 1:36 PM

Slow on the uptake ...

If Patty Wetterling is asking for money, she must be running for Senate more seriously than she says.

My dissertating mornings at home have been interrupted briefly the last few days with the cheery ring of people soliciting campaign contributions. As a non-citizen I have the perfect excuse for politely declining first R.T. Rybak's requests ... and now several days in a row Patty Wetterling's. (Not them personally calling, of course ...)

It took a while for the penny to drop. Wetterling's campaign called both Monday and Tuesday, and I think all they said was that they were calling from "Patty Wetterling's office." Today when I asked if I could take a message [for the U.S. citizen in the house] the woman replied "It's Patty Wetterling for Senate. We'll call back." I bet you will, I thought.

My anecdotal take on this is that you don't do three call backs if you're not running for office.

Posted by robe0419 at 10:38 AM

March 22, 2005

the politics of small numbers

The Republican antics over Terri Schiavo will make great campaign commercials next year. For the Republicans, that is. (A neutral blog about the case can be found here)

It won't surprise regular readers that I think the DeLay/Frist/Bush actions in this matter cynical and damaging.

At this point they're in so deep with the mess they've made that they're really obliged to keep going, even if polls show that most Americans oppose what they're doing.

But in a fortnight--at most--Terri Schiavo will be dead or forgotten. Until October 2006.

Then woe betide any Democrat who actually voted against the Schiavo bill. Sure, the abstract ideas of separation of powers and federalism are important to defend.

But the first the marginally interested voter will hear of Democratic opposition to the Schiavo bill in 2006 is from a Republican ad bombarding the district with the message that the Democratic candidate voted against keeping a woman alive.

And while a close examination of the ethical issues leads one to believe that Congress should not interfere in this decision, that is not how a superficial reading of the case in 18 months will make it sound.

And its true that Bush's concern for thousands of tsunami victims and possibly innocent victims of U.S. military torture stand in stark contrast with his rush to sign this legislation about one woman. The "culture of life" is selective and limited. But the tsunami and the torture happened to large numbers of distant people. The electoral impact of life and death decisions is typically realized in individual stories, not larger tragedies.

The Republicans -- if they are united -- can do what they wish with this issue. It seems strange that they are so united--surely there must be some for whom over-riding the careful deliberations of a state court is a step too far--but if there are doubters they haven't raised their voices. In the wider scheme of things Democrats would do well to realize that they can't win this fight, and just let it blow over without actively opposing it. The Democrats have forced a wedge between Bush and congressional Republicans on Social Security.

The sooner Terri Schiavo's life returns to its proper, relatively private, domain, the better for the Democrats and the country.

Posted by robe0419 at 5:47 PM

Queen's English

He's joking, right? Or is it really a problem that the LA Times wrote "went missing" (British, apparently) instead of "disappeared (American, apparently) 17 times in 2004.

Of course, when Camilla Parker Bowles becomes Queen the Queen's English won't have quite the cachet it used to ...

Posted by robe0419 at 11:54 AM

March 21, 2005

News across the world

These events are sad and tragic.

What was personally strange was that I first heard about it when I went to the New Zealand Herald to find out the cricket scores. (Rain in Wellington had stopped play ... New Zealand's only hope for not losing)

Posted by robe0419 at 9:30 PM

The Office

The original BBC version of The Office is hilarious. And now an Americanized version is starting on NBC this Thursday.

I hope the NBC version will be good. Perhaps the BBC thinks it will make more money showing the original on BBC America.

But really, the show is in English. It's set in an office. There's a guy who is the boss who provides unintentional humo[u]r, there's sexually charged interaction between the staff. It's a sitcom, so the humor is mostly self-contained. It's not as if it's political comedy, and they're sitting round cracking jokes about Ken Livingstone and George Galloway.

Nor does it require knowledge of the sweep of English history, as some shows did for best effect.

But I'll watch The Office, and perhaps it will be good. I think the reasons these remakes often fail to have the charm of the original is that the adapters think that all they need to do is make the bare minimum of changes needed to make the show comprehensible to people of bare minimum intelligence. I think they're underestimating their audience's intelligence and ability to read subtitles and listen to British accents.

Posted by robe0419 at 1:03 PM

March 19, 2005

Compare and contrast

The World Cross Country Championships are the most prestigious races in athletics after the Olympics and World Championships. The US 8km road champs are a 2nd tier national championship race.

So if you were interviewing people running both, which do you think would be the most anticipated event. If you're from fast-women.com, it's not the World Cross Country, it's the 8km champs, because it's in New York and fast-women.com is hosted by the NY Road Runners Club.

Contrast with the local Twin Cities running site, which has a sense of humor about Minneapolis athletes passing up a local race for the World Cross.

Fast-women.com and its sibling site, MensRacing are pretty good, but sometimes their northeastern provincialism is a little tiring.

Posted by robe0419 at 8:47 PM

What about Midwestern cuisine?

Foraging on the Cooking Light website for the week's recipes I noticed that amongst all the national cuisine options you can search for, there is just one regional option: Pacific Northwest.

What about Midwestern cuisine? Can the good people at Cooking Light really not make light and healthy versions of such regional, no national, treasures as Grandma's Glutinous Cream of Mushroom Soup Casserole, the Jello Salad, and tuna fish casserole?

(To say nothing of the Midwestern sheet cake ... which surely cannot be made healthy or tasty in my lifetime)

Posted by robe0419 at 1:17 PM

March 18, 2005

Notes from small far-away islands

The New Zealand Herald sets the antipodean discussion off with its moaning about how [some] expatriates think the country is going to hell in a socialist handbasket. Others think they're being a little precious.

In the past clever young things like Ernest Rutherford, Katherine Mansfield and Jack Lovelock left and never really returned. Now many of them go away and come back again, and the ones that stay away can sort of keep in touch with what's happening via the magic internet.

It's just damned difficult to keep in touch with what is happening in another country, even your home country, if you're not there. Some people react by finding much fault with whence they came from, others by making it out to be some sort of sunny, happy little paradise with few problems.

There's a way in which expatriates are like lapsed Catholics, never quite acknowledging the complexity of their upbringing -- the good and the bad, and that other people might have had different experiences -- yet feeling a kind of guilt about their fall from grace or trans-oceanic journey.

Posted by robe0419 at 3:57 PM

not as badly read as I thought

Normally reading The Little Professor's list of weekly book acquisitions makes me feel slightly ignorant and uncultured for never having heard of the authors or the books, let alone having read them! But this week, I've heard of all but one of the authors, have read Kate Atkinson's Human Croquet (great book, great author ...), and Middlesex is on the bookclub list for summer.

Not as much of a dolt as I thought I was ...

Posted by robe0419 at 2:29 PM

Riding the rails bus

Rep. Phil Krinkie (R - Useful Idiot & Shoreview) has distinguished himself made his name with obsessive opposition to light rail. However, at the end of a long rant about light rail he actually has a sensible idea or two:

Krinkie would propose redesigning the routes so the system no longer looks like a wheel, with all the routes passing through the hubs of downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Under his vision, the buses would run on dedicated lanes on the freeways, with other buses or circulating vans picking up people to get them to the major lines. Many of the bus stops would have platforms, just like light rail, so people and wheelchairs could slide right in. They would also have heat in the winter, air conditioning in summer and feel safe, Krinkie said. Riders could buy coffee or a newspaper, and it should be legal to eat and drink beverages on the bus, he said.

The bus and train stops in the Twin Cities seem as if they have been imported from coastal California or Seattle, or somewhere temperate where you might have to worry about rain, but rarely worry about temperatures below 0, and rarely worry about 90° with mosquitoes.

I can understand why people take their cars when waiting for the bus is uncomfortably hot or cold 8 months of the year.

Of course, of course, the devil is in the details with an idea like this. I'm sure Krinkie wants to reduce the bus services inside the city so people in the suburbs can have better bus service. But as an addition to the bus system, a good idea.

Posted by robe0419 at 2:00 PM

Something he couldn't do as mayor

Back in the day when Norm Coleman was the mayor of St. Paul one of his responsibilites -- aside from grinning like an idiot -- was to balance the budget each year. Then he got himself that job in Washington promising to be "Minnesota's mayor in Washington," where he can pull gimmicks like this: voting against cuts in the Medicaid budget and against paying for tax cuts with offsetting spending cuts or tax increases elswhere.

No doubt Coleman is hoping to get admiration at home for bringing home both Medicare dollars and tax cuts. Don't let him get away with it. Neither the Strib nor the Pioneer Press call him on it.

Posted by robe0419 at 1:52 PM

March 17, 2005

The wind it was howlin' and the snow was outrageous

It might not be the 5th of May, but right on schedule we're going to have a big snow storm here, or so they say. Given the winter we've had, I'll believe the snow when I see it. But it's the Minnesota boys state basketball tournament weekend. It always snows this weekend, right?

Actually, not really. But it's a good myth.

Posted by robe0419 at 7:13 PM

March 16, 2005

March 14, 2005

Tales from a small country

Good insight into the current social and economic milieu in New Zealand.

Nice place. Don't expect to get rich too quickly.

Posted by robe0419 at 5:39 PM

Making connections

It's all about making connections. People just do it in different ways in different places. Since you read this rather than hear it, you don't know that five years in the Midwest have modified my New Zealand accent only enough to be understood by the locals. There's enough of that vowels-swallowing-the-consonants New Zealand accent to let people know I'm "not from round here." (No, and neither were your ancestors, originally ...).

The accent precipitates regular conversations along one of the following lines
them: Where are you from?
me: New Zealand [if I'm out of Minneapolis, it gets funky ... I instinctively say "Minneapolis," and they look confused like you would if someone with what you think is a "British" accent says they are from Minneapolis.]
them, version 1: Oh, New Zealand, I hear it's beautiful there.
them, version 2: Oh, New Zealand, my girlfriend's sister's cousin was in Australia two years ago on Study Abroad and went to New Zealand.
me, version 1: Yes, I suppose so. [Isn't Minneapolis beautiful in March?]
me, version 2: [thinking WTF!!??] That's cool, where did they go?
them, version 2: Umm, I don't know. South Island. [sound of cash registers operating]
me: version 1 and 2: Thanks for the [groceries/coffee/gas/stamps]

I hoped that after five years of living here I'd be able to handle these conversations with more articulate responses than I do. When people say, "I'm thinking of going to New Zealand," that's easy -- I say that now is the time to go because the exchange rates has never been better (this worked about 2-4 years ago), or now I say "you should go before the U.S. dollar crashes."

But the "it's beautiful" and the "someone I know was once there" conversations exemplify both differences and similarities in the way we converse. It's not like I wasn't warned. Along with the top four things you need to know about America, we were also informed of how American casual conversation is often about searching for connections, even if they are really tenuous. By way of example, the American-born advisor related the story of going to dinner with someone who responded
"Oh, New Zealand, we were going to go there on vacation once, but we went to Rio instead." Great. Hope you liked Rio.

One of the first conversations I had with a fellow graduate student went like this
them: Did you say you were from New Zealand?
me: Yes
them: I have a friend who was with the Peace Corps in Tonga, and she was going to go to New Zealand for New Years, but she couldn't get a ticket
me: Oh, that's no good. [Elevator door mercifully opens for someone else's floor] See you in class next week! [thinking "they weren't joking about the tenuous connections conversation ..."]

How would you respond?! Consider that Tonga is about as far from New Zealand as Yellowstone is from Minneapolis, and here's your analogous conversation
them: Did you say you were from Minneapolis?
you: Yep.
them: I have a friend who worked for a summer at Yellowstone, and she was going to drive to Minneapolis for the Aquatennial, but her car broke down ...
you: ....
See what I mean!

So this discussion doesn't rely on New Zealand as the great, remote place people don't know about it. Minnesota will do just as well. In fact, out on the east coast I've had non-trivial numbers of people say things along the lines of "oh, Minnesota, I was in Milwaukee a few years ago" because that's the closest they can come to some connection with where you're from (whatever "from" means).

In New Zealand there is a distinct, but related, version of the drive to make a connection with newly met people. People from the Upper Midwest will be familiar with the genre. Since there are 4 million people in a small area, and [until recently] a relatively low rate of in-migration when people learn they hail from the same place the search for people known in common begins. (I'm told that in Iceland people discuss who they are commonly related to. It takes an island of 270,000 people for that to be worthwhile)

The search for connections is the same, but it doesn't work out quite as comically when it begins with the premise that you both grew up in the same place, and might plausibly have known people through school, work, sport or whatever social life you had.

But when you start from the position that you've never been somewhere and you don't know much about it, it's just silly. It's well meant and friendly, but it's still silly. (Not stupid, not idiotic. Silly. Comical. Amusing.) It would be better for the sake of the conversation to admit [implicitly] you don't know much and ask an open-ended question if you really are curious.

In fact that perennial proud, yet insecure, question of outsiders you hear in Minnesota and New Zealand, "Do you like it here?" is a far better conversation mover. (I do)

The difference, I think, is that the same motivation plays out quite differently once you get away from small populations and small areas. We're not all connected. America is a big country. Some well-traveled famous-on-the-internet people have scarcely visited the Midwest. Michael Froomkin managed to live in Illinois, and never visit Ohio. It's a big world out there, and since Johnny Cash died no one has been everywhere. (Here's a NZ adaptation of the song. I haven't been to half those places ...)

Posted by robe0419 at 11:51 AM

March 11, 2005

Historical census trivia of the day

Harriet Beecher Stowe reported her occupation to the 1880 census enumerators as "Authoress of Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Click on image for larger image

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau and everyone else classifying occupations will lump her in with thousands of less famous authors who didn't tell us what books they had written ...

Posted by robe0419 at 10:55 AM

Once more and it's a trend

In just the past fortnight I've read two complaints about the whining dressed us as an essay that makes up the Chronicle of Higher Education's First Person section.

It's true. The academic job market has some interesting features. But really, is it any worse than what doctors or other young professionals go through? The "match" process that doctors go through seems cruel and capricious. At least young academics get some choice in where they end up!

That said, in the humanities especially, there is a perception that supply of new PhDs is perpetually ahead of demand for assistant professors. Given that
(1) the lag between graduate school admission and job search is at least 5 years, and
(2) that demand and supply are subject to periodic booms and busts instigated by state government funding decisions
the job market for assistant professors actually seems reasonably functional.

But I'll know more in a few years ...

Posted by robe0419 at 10:02 AM

March 10, 2005

Weren't you always worried this could happen?

What I'd like to know is what happened to the cat ...

Perhaps it was unintentional, but the ABC News ad beside this story suggested the police response might have been a little over the top ...

Posted by robe0419 at 1:13 PM


This story, about a man sexually assaulting sheep (via Eschaton), is sad and bizarre.

In the same way that Americans make jokes about Canadians being lumberjacks and hockey players, New Zealanders and Australians are accustomed to making jokes that buggery of sheep is prevalent in the other country. (Search for 'sheep' on any of the linked pages to find them).

Other than that very sophisticated, cosmopolitan countries ...

Posted by robe0419 at 10:27 AM

March 8, 2005

Hidden costs of the iPod

The iPod is a beautiful thing, but what Apple doesn't tell you is how long you'll spend inserting CDs into your computer, ripping them, and then updating the iPod.

It seems that you can pay people to do this, for at least $1 per CD. Oh to be a Fortune magazine reader, and not wince at spending an extra $200 or more after the iPod itself ...

My approach has been to rip CDs while doing "busy work" at the computer. Entering references into EndNote, reading email, and other easily interrupted tasks are ideal for doing at the same time as ripping CDs. That said, I still have over 100 CDs to go, and it will take me a while to finish this project ...

Posted by robe0419 at 8:07 PM

The industrial age (again)

Apropos of yesterday's post about how the "Industrial Age" to "Information Age" transition was somewhat overblown. There have been changes in the length of time people spend with any one employer, in the way that employment contracts protect people from the risks of unemployment and ill-health (on this see Krugman's column today), and in the way that employers support retirement savings.

One reason that manufacturing jobs were associated with long job tenure, good health benefits, and pensions was that unions bargained for those benefits.

Perhaps I've missed it, but it seems odd that the union movement has not been more visible in the opposition to Social Security phase-out.

Posted by robe0419 at 11:12 AM

March 7, 2005

Bad economic history watch

Matthew Yglesias, Josh Marshall (twice), and Digby all wonder about Joe Klein's statement that:

I agree with Paul in that private accounts have nothing to do with solvency and solvency is the issue. I disagree with Paul [Krugman] because I think private accounts a terrific policy and that in the information age, you're going to need different kinds of structures in the entitlement area than you had in the industrial age. (emphasis added)

Ah, no. Most of the change in the industrial composition of the American labor force has come from declines in the share of the agricultural sector. Between 1940 and 2000, the share of the labor force in trade, services and government--which you might equate with the information sector--grew from 40 per cent of the labor force to 70 per cent.

More than half of this change was from agriculture's share declining from 17 per cent to around 2 per cent. Declines in the share of the workforce in manufacturing only accounted for a quarter of the shift into trade, service and government.

The industrial composition of the labor force has little to do with the arrangements we make for retirement income.

What is important is life cycle labor force participation--how much people work over their lifetimes--and the length of employment contracts and spells with the same employer. These things are somewhat related to the industrial make-up of the workforce, but not that closely.

(Click on image for larger view)
Data from the IPUMS.

Posted by robe0419 at 8:40 PM

March 4, 2005

Santa comes early for the DFL

Gil Gutknecht decides not to run for Senate.

ah well, at least I was sorta prescient that he should consider running.

Posted by robe0419 at 5:21 PM

March 3, 2005

Back to the nineteenth century (again)

Matthew Yglesias makes an effort at taking David Brooks' column seriously, and surprise! Brooks' argument is shot through with logical problems ... Who would have thought?

Posted by robe0419 at 2:18 PM

March 2, 2005

Whatever happened to Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins

Some regular readers will have missed it (others won't), but literary and historical types have been debating whether an obscure [and apparently tedious] writer called Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins was not African-American as has been argued, but actually white. The discovery was made by a Brandeis English lit graduate student, Holly Jackson.

In the interests of comprehensiveness (and trackback links) the issue is covered by Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed, Caleb McDaniel, The Reading Experience, Begging to Differ, Ralph Luker, and Timothy Burke.

I will mostly leave the issues of literary-historicism, identity, and whether this is another strike against Henry Louis-Gates, and comment on issues I have some professional expertise in.

I will say that in the end it's all English literature. It's written in English. What matters for literary history is not the demographic characteristics of the writer, but the language it's written in. It's a lot harder to find out what authors read, but it's a more accurate way of finding literary antecedents than external characteristics of the authors.

Caleb writes:

it's interesting to me that almost all of the evidence for her "whiteness" hinges on nineteenth-century census records .... Jackson considers this possibility -- that the family was "passing" -- but rejects it on the slender hypothesis that they could not have fooled the census-takers in a small Massachusetts town, where Kelly-Hawkins' family had lived for more than one generation when she was born .... Before accepting this hypothesis, I'd like to know more about the way the census was taken in Massachusetts at the time. In Maryland, for instance, my understanding is that the census was usually recorded in the antebellum period by hired census-takers, who went (more or less) from door to door, asking for names and ages. Presumably, they sometimes also asked for "race," since there was a column on the census for recording this, usually "W" for white, "B" for black, and "M" for "mulatto." But the column was usually labelled "color," not "race," and it's highly probable that white census-takers often simply identified a person's "color" with their own eyes. That is, if a person looked white, the census taker could mark down his "W" and move on, regardless of the person's own identification of himself or herself. Again, I don't know whether this was the way the census was taken in Kelly-Hawkins' case, but it's a question worth raising. I also don't know whether census takers necessarily knew the locals, as Jackson seems to assume.

Instructions to enumerators, and a procedural history of these censuses can be found here. What's important to know for the question at hand is that in small towns the census enumerator was often a local official, selected because he knew a lot of people. The 'people skills' to be a selectman had some overlap with those required to be an enumerator.

The postbellum censuses also conflated "color" and "race." You can see enumeration forms for all these censuses here. It's not until 1900 that the wording becomes "Color or race."

All of the pre-1950 censuses relied on an enumerator visiting the household, and asking questions of a respondent person. Because of this practice, mis-reporting and vague reporting of ages, occupations, birthplaces and the like is common in the 19th century census. If you weren't there, and someone answered for you, your information was more likely to be wrong. For the ten percent of the population that was boarding or lodging, this was more of a problem. (UPDATE, 5 March. Added "more" to penultimate sentence of this para, making it "was more likely to be wrong." I don't think the census was thatinaccurate.)

The enumerator instructions for the 1850-1890 censuses all stressed that an accurate 'register' of the color of the population was desired. Enumerators shouldn't leave the column blank for whites, and they should enquire about the proportion of black blood for those being marked as mulatto or black. Indeed in 1890 (for which most of the returns burned) they say:

The word "black" should be used to describe those persons who have three-fourths or more black blood; "mulatto," those persons who have from three-eighths to five-eighths black blood; "quadroon," those persons who have one-fourth black blood; and "octoroon," those persons who have one-eighth or any trace of black blood.

How this all played out in small Massachussetts towns in the late nineteenth century it's hard to know.

What I think is significant is that Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins and her ancestors are always described as white. That is firmer evidence of being white, whatever "being" and "white" mean.

In any case, whatever happened to Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins? Jackson's article locates her grandparents in the 1840-1860 censuses, and Kelley-Hawkins herself in the 1900-1930 censuses in Rhode Island.

What happened to Kelley-Hawkins between her birth and 1900? Jackson says:

Moving backward, I found the record of her parents' 1859 marriage, which provided all four of her grandparents' names. I located them (along with a sizable extended family) in the censuses from 1840 to 1860. Moving forward, I followed Kelley-Hawkins in Rhode Island in the first three decades of the 20th century. The last documents I uncovered were the obituary marking her death at home in Rumford on Oct. 22, 1938 ...

There are indexes (or indices?) to the 1870 and 1880 censuses.

But there appears to be no potential match for an Emma D. Kelley in the 1870 census. There is an "Emma D Kelly" living in New York born around 1863, but her birthplace is New York. And there are no "Emma Kelley"s or "Emma Dunham"s who have Massachusetts birthplaces.

What about 1880? 1880 is a little easier to search, as there is a machine readable database of the complete census (a little plug for my day job), that is available for non-genealogical research. If you search the genealogical indexes there is no "Emma Kelley," "Emma Kelly" or "Emma Dunham," born around 1863 in Massachusetts.

In June 1880, Emma Dunham Kelley would have been 16. So, there's a good chance she might have left home and was working somewhere. People who were out working were more likely to have their ages misreported than those who actually spoke to the enumerator.

I searched the 1880 data for anyone with a first name of "Emma," born in Massachusetts, and aged between 15 and 19 (inclusive). That returned 1520 young women.

Just two of them appear like they could be Emma Dunham Kelley. One is an Emma Dunham, born in MA with both parents born in MA, but living in Illinois on a farm with an aunt who was running a farm.

The other candidate is an Emma Kelly, born in MA with both parents born in MA, living in Quincy (MA) with her grandparents, Ephraim and Priscilla Deane. Ephraim Deane is listed as a "Superintendent," but no industry is reported. When you look at an image of the enumeration the context becomes clearer. (large file)

Ephraim Deane was the Superintendent of the Sailors Snug Harbor in Quincy, an old home for sailors. His wife, Priscilla, was the matron in 1880. They are listed as having a daughter, Minna Deane aged 16. The next listed person is an Emma Kelly, aged 18, and employed as a servant.

Is this Emma Dunham Kelley? Possibly. The sailors home makes sense, when you consider that she grew up in a seafaring community. Possibly not ...

UPDATE: And it turns out, NOT, as this was not her grandfather. So, what did happen to Dunham Kelley between 1870 and 1900?

Posted by robe0419 at 2:48 PM

March 1, 2005

Don't leave 'til you see the country

The marathon in all 50 states ambition has always seemed a little crazy, but the kind of crazy I might be susceptible to in my dotage (Please don't stop reading now ...)

There is a guy from Georgia who is close to running a sub-3 hour marathon in every state, and D.C. That is quite an achievement in just five years.

Posted by robe0419 at 5:27 PM

Back to the nineteenth century

David Brooks has been given a new gig at the New York Times: writing the "Revisiting the 19th Century" column.

Posted by robe0419 at 11:51 AM