June 27, 2006

Oxygen debt? At work?

More "great" quotes from the 1930s.

Women have obviously a great need for rest pauses during the work spell so that the oxygen debt will not accumulate and decrease their productivity. Special provision needs to be made for a comfortable restroom for women workers, a room fitted with couches and chairs in which they can really relax. Merely providing a rest period is not adequate, and by far the majority of provisions that are made are as unattractive as they are essential. A matron or nurse in the restroom in larger places is a wise investment. Women shoppers, too, need provision for comfortable places where they can rest for a few minutes to overcome growing fatigue and get back into a comfortable humor. That is why escalators make money for a store. In assigning women to work, and in their supervision, it must be remembered that, comparatively speaking, women are born anemic.
More Upholstery
Woman’s body is soft and attractively curved because as a species she has more fat to upholster her muscles and bones ...

Laird, Donald A. "Women Are Weaker." Factory Management and Maintenance, June 1937, 61.

I have read more material from before World War II on where and why to place chairs in department stores than may be advisable for a young man, but I don't recall seeing this argument made so explicitly that women were weaker. In the retailing literature it's all about giving people a chance to be comfortable and to linger and shop more. Moreover, some of the chairs were for those poor husbands who had to accompany their wives to the store.

Posted by eroberts at 8:21 AM

June 26, 2006

The future of aviation

Visions of a future that did not come. The pictures that accompany this article illustrate some of what we would now see as far-fetched.

From present indications planes of the future will be mostly tri-motored machines, carrying from 20 to 25 passengers. This means ample room must be provided for landing and takeoff. Airports must be designed with a view to future expansion as well as to present needs. As I visualize the future airport terminal, say for a city like New York, I can envision a Grand Central Station of air traffic, with hundreds of planes carrying commuters from their homes 100 to 200 miles away. I can see provision made for the safe landing of these planes every few seconds, just as subway trains pull into Times Square every few seconds without incident. Passengers will be taken directly into the air terminal by plane. From there they will be discharged into automobiles, subways or railroad trains The future airport that seems most logical to me at this time is of the beehive type ... A dome-shaped hotel 850 feet high—higher than New York's tallest skyscraper—on a plateau 1500 feet across dominates the circular field, 7500 feet in diameter. Below the surface of the field tunnels will provide direct access for automobiles, subways and railroad trains. The landing field will have runways of 3,000 feet, with a two and one-half per cent grade towad the center to slow up incoming planes and give additional speed to machines taking off. On these runways 44 planes can land or take off simultaneously. Regardless of the wind's direction, air traffic can start from and stop at the pivotal group of buildings. The hotel will be constructed in the outer crust of the dome, and will have several hundred rooms, each with bath. Every fifth story will have a terrace from which guests can watch the planes. On top of the hotel will be a mooring mast for dirigibles and a weather station .... Provision will be made for two-story hangars holding several thousand planes. Parking space for automobiles will be provided near the hangars.

Francis Keally, "Tomorrow's Airports: A prophetic view of the Grand Central Station of the air," Nation's Business April 1929, p.32.

Posted by eroberts at 4:48 PM

June 23, 2006

What about electricity?

The new Minneapolis public library deserves all the plaudits it has been getting. Open stacks to browse, plenty of room to add new collections, a comfortable feeling of both light and scholarship, and a cafe in the building ... what more could you want?

Working electrical outlets would be nice ... After a happy afternoon reading the Gas Age, the Coal Age, Electrical World, and other sirens of industrial triumphalism from the early twentieth century, and being able to connect to the magic internet via wireless that the power points aren't working! It seems I was just reading in a 1918 issue of Electrical World (while looking for an article about employing women as heavy coil winders) that the marvellous thing about electricity was its reliability ...

Rob MacDougall had a good post a year or so ago that drew some artful comparisons between early twentieth century telephone triumphalism and our latter-day turn of the century enthusiasm for the internet. Even the Coal Age (in 1918, when really, coal was not the coming technology) has that business press enthusiasm for the possibilities of human advancement you just don't get in other media.

Electricity. The marvel of the age.

Posted by eroberts at 3:21 PM

June 21, 2006

Random reading recommendations

Josh Marshall on public support for WWII during the Battle of the Bulge and public support for Iraq now. Historical research in action.

Minntelect's analysis of Minnesota state House races
. If you're really interested in politics.

Runner's World interview with Kenny Moore, author of the recent Bowerman and the Men of Oregon.

Posted by eroberts at 1:38 PM

June 14, 2006

It means something else too

Good article in Runner's World about nutrition for runners. Why is Runner's World on the web so much better than Runner's World in print?

Of course I titter whenever I hear the word bonking.

Posted by eroberts at 4:53 PM

June 13, 2006

The alleged Northern Hemisphere

From an otherwise great interview with Nick Willis on Runners World.

"Northern Hemisphere"? What are the quote marks for? Is the idea of the Northern Hemisphere so contested that it has to be in quotation marks? Maybe I just find this funny because I regularly have to qualify summer with the appropriate hemisphere to make it clear which approximate months I'm talking about.

Posted by eroberts at 11:50 AM

June 12, 2006

Finding Mackenzie King

Is anyone else interested in running through cemeteries, demographic history, and Commonwealth political history?

I thought Toronto was not a great running city, but today I had one of the best surprise discoveries of any run ever. There's no network of cross-city asphalt paths, so you find yourself running on the sidewalk a lot. Not that this is all bad, there is a great diversity of street life in Toronto that is worth seeing.

The best unpaved trail close to the city appeared to be the Belt Line trail on the north-eastern edge of downtown, so I ambled over there early on Sunday morning before my flight home. The trail takes you along the path of an old railway, up through a ravine, and to the entrance of Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The gates to the cemetery were closed though it was past the appointed opening hours, so I jumped the fence, following the lead of two women running slightly ahead of me.

A digression. Trust me, if you're waiting for Mackenzie King we'll get there ... Not to sound kooky, but running in cemeteries is one of life's little delights for the running historian. Not to mention the demographic historian. You can see the demographic history of the west as you run past graves. Infant mortality, and industrial accidents, and their twentieth century decline. The influenza pandemic of 1918. Drowning: "the New Zealand disease." Though no doubt others who crossed frontier rivers and lakes had high rates of death by drowning too. The remarkably high toll of the early railroad. They're all there. Infant mortality tells its simple tale just in the tiny gap between birth and death dates. Industrial accidents are less often marked on the graves, but the painful shock of death in a mine, or on the waterfront can be told in the space available on a gravestone. The rise in living standards that allowed even the working class to afford a small plot in the graveyard. North American and Australasian cemeteries are much less crowded than European ones. Sometimes the names, rather than the age and cause of death are interesting too. Local elite. Politicans. Industrial barons. Names you've also seen on storefronts.

It's almost always so peaceful in cemeteries. I grew up near Wellington's large, hilly, trail-covered Karori cemetery which was a popular place for walking and running and biking on its network of paved and unpaved paths. Some of the unpaved paths were originally paved, but like the bodies around them were reverting to a more primoridal form. And I've happily run through cemeteries in Melbourne, Hobart, Auckland, London, Bath, and Montreal. Americans, and I generalize here on the basis of Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge (MA) are more apt to restrict recreation in cemeteries. Though I should mention that I've run undisturbed through Hillside Cemetery in Minneapolis, and the Mount Moriah cemetery in Deadwood (SD) (resting place of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock. Anyway, the good managers of Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto have signs up encouraging you to walk, run, or bike through there.

Mount Pleasant, like a lot of New World cemeteries, has its Chinese immigrant section. The Chinese always appear to have gotten a spot far from the entrance, out of the way of the Catholics and the Protestants. I have no doubt this was deliberate; giving the Chinese the most marginal spot in the graveyard. But in both Karori and Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montréal the Chinese section for all its remoteness from the gates, were actually now in some of the prettiest spots of all.

Following the trail through Mount Pleasant on this unusually cool summer morning I was surprised to see a modern sign with a 100 word biography of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the longest serving Prime Minister in Commonwealth history. I stopped. Was his grave around here somewhere? I saw no large monument. Surely the great Grit was buried in something quite imposing. Mackenzie King is, after all, the Canadian equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt, Michael Joseph Savage, Peter Fraser, orJohn Curtin; leading his country through depression or war, or both. The Roosevelt and Savage memorials, at least, are sprawling.

But there it was, Mackenzie King's grave. A plain slab, with the simple words "Mackenzie King". Every grave around it was more assuming and imposing. There was a small, weather beaten Canadian flag on the grave, weighed down by a small stone. The grass around the grave was ragged. So there he was. Mackenzie King. Buried in a modest plot in a beautiful cemetery in Toronto, his grave distinguished from the others only by the small sign with his biography that you could easily miss.

There is, I find, a somewhat more substantial statue to the man in Ottawa (follow this link to see Lester Pearson speaking at its unveiling). But his grave was remarkable in its modesty and simplicity, and anonymity. Just there on the side of the path on my morning run. And that is why running through cemeteries is such a glorious thing.

(The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has a good list of the graves of Canadian prime ministers. People really do study demographic history using the data from headstones)

Posted by eroberts at 8:14 AM

June 5, 2006


This article in the Star Tribune about opposition to the International Baccalaureate was interesting and frustrating. It was interesting because the opponents of the IB are right in a limited, general way; that the IB's externally graded examinations are a somewhat different approach to instruction and assessment than American education typically takes. But it was frustrating that the article sets up this even-handed conflict between opponents of IB and supporters.

When you read on, you find that the only people opposing it are some fruit loops in suburban Republican conventions, and that those notorious anti-American pinko terrorists Tim Pawlenty and major business leaders support it. This is the kind of faux-balance that gives American journalism a bad name. It would be fairer and more accurate to write that the opposition to IB is marginal.

Curious to find out more about the group opposing the IB, EdWatch, I checked out their website. You'd think if you were going to bemoan the faltering standards of American education as it falls prey to the centralizing grasp of the "Nanny State" you would want to give at least the appearance of competence with the English language. Apparently not ... Here on just one page I found the following spelling and grammatical errors in a minute's reading:

  • "This bill resurrects the Education Departments totally bogus ..." Notice anything missing here? Like an apostrophe in the first sentence?
  • "Nanny State backers like Art Rolnik ..." Wouldn't that actually be Art Rolnick
  • "against which Dr. Effrem testified ..." Perhaps split infinitives are back in fashion in conservative circles?
  • "untrained in mental health, to assess childrens socioemotional performance". Again, the apostrophe, the apostrophe!!
  • "This Governors Nanny State bill" Again!

It's hard to take people like this seriously when they can't even write proper English.

Posted by eroberts at 12:48 PM

F. Scott Fitzgerald lives (and runs)

Noticed in race results.

Not bad for a guy who's really 109.

Posted by eroberts at 8:48 AM

June 3, 2006

Strom Thurmond's money

Patti Ryan "Esq." apparently writes on behalf of the late Strom Thurmond.

We act as solicitors and our services have been retained by late Sen. Strom Thurmond, here in after referred to as our client. On behalf of late Sen. Strom Thurmond, We write to notify you that my late client made you a beneficiary to the bequest sum of Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars in the codicil to his will and last testament. He died at the age of 100. This bequest is to support your activities, humanitarian services, help to the less-privileged and research work.

I have many questions for Patti Ryan, not least of which is: If she claims to be a British lawyer (her contact telephone number is British) shouldn't she know that "Esq." denotes a gentleman, and not a lawyer of either gender like in America.

Posted by eroberts at 1:06 PM

June 1, 2006

Recent economic history in graphs

Google Gapminder shows recent (last thirty years) economic and demographic statistics on cool graphs.

Posted by eroberts at 9:02 AM