Category Archives: looking back

Oddities in the news 100 years ago

Here are some oddities from the Wisconsin State Journal 100 years ago today (September 29, 1913):

Oddities in the News of a Day

Cincinnati, O.—A male passenger on a street car narrowly escaped a mobbing by fellow passengers because he cut a feather off a woman’s hat when it tickled him.

Northfield, N.J.—After he turned a deer loose that had trapped itself in his barn, Jacob Hildebrandt was offered $100 by a wealthy neighbor who wanted it for his game preserve.

Baltimore, Md.—Having completed a scientific expedition in South America, Dr. Andrew W. Sellards returned with eighty billion germs; among them are those of leprosy, yellow fever and pellagra

New York—The little one-day-old sone of Mr. and Mrs. George Rucklin missed being an American by three hours. He was born on the steamer Verdi while fifty miles away from port.

Oregon’s output of gold, silver, copper and lead increased from $668,016 in 1911 to $849,896 in 1912 according to today’s bulletin of the S. S. geological survey. Two thirds of this increase was in gold, which amounted to $770,041 of the year’s output.

Paris.—Mlle. Francoise Prudent, who was erroneously registered as a boy and summoned for military service, said she would serve in the army if given the ballot.

The Bradley Lumber Co. of St. Paul, has filed with the interstate commerce commission claims against nearly 100 railroads to recover $20,000 in freight charges which the company alleges were excessive under the new lumber rates put in effect May 1 last.

World's Greatest Vessel Sinks on Maiden Voyage

[Here’s a news article from almost 100 years ago today that details an interesting event. Note that the $10 million mentioned in the story would represent over $225 million today]

Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, (Waterloo, ON, Canada), April 18, 1912, page 1

World’s Greatest Vessel Sinks on Maiden Voyage

Women and Children Constitute the Majority of those Saved While it is Believed That First Class Cabin Passengers are Probably Among Rescued

New York, April 15.—A message from the steamer Olympic reporting the sinking of the Titanic and the rescue of 675 survivors, which reached here late to-night, expressed the opinion that 1,800 lives were lost.

“Loss likely to total 1,800 souls,” the despatch read in its concluding sentence.

It is hoped and believed here that this is an error, unless the Titanic had more passengers on board than were reported. The list as given out showed 1,310 passengers and a crew of 860, or 2,170 persons in all. Deducting 675, the known saved, would indicate a loss of 1,495 persons.

The Olympic’s despatch follows—

“Carpathia reached Totanic position at daybreak. Found boats and wreckage only. Titanic sank about 2.20 a.m., in 41.16 N., 50.14 W. All her boats accounted for, containing about 675 souls saved, crew and passengers included. Nearly all saved were women and children. Leyland liner California remained and searching exact location of disaster. Loss likely to total 1,800 souls.”

Earlier Story Said 1,500 Lost.

More than 1,500 persons, it is feared, sank to their death yesterday, when within four hours after she crashed into an iceburg the mammoth White Star Liner Titanic, bound from Southampton to New York on her maiden voyage, foundered off the Newfoundland Banks. Of the approximately 2,200 persons on board the giant liner, some of them of world-wide prominence, only 675 are known to have been saved. The White Star Line offices in New York, while keeping up hope to the last, were free to admit that there had been “horrible loss of life.”

Greatest Marine Disaster.

Accepting the early estimates of the fatality list as accurate, the disaster is the greatest in the marine history of the world. Nearest approaching it in magnitude where the disasters to the steamer Atlantic in 1873, when 574 lives were lost, and to the Burgogne, in 1898, with a fatality list of 517. Should it prove that other liners, notably the Allan liners, Parisian and Virginian, known to have been in the vicinity of the Titanic, early yesterday, had picked up others of her passengers, the extent of the calamity would fortunately be greatly reduced. This hope still remains.

News of the sinking of the liner and the terrible loss of life in consequence came early last evening with all the greater shock because hope had been buoyed up all day by reports that the steamship, although badly damaged, was not in a sinking condition, and that all her passengers had been safely taken off. The messages were mostly unofficial, however, and none came direct from the liner, so that a lurking fear remained of bad news to come.

The First Bad News.

Shortly after 7 o’clock last night there came flashing over the wires from Cape Race, within 400 miles of which the liner, in the treacherous Newfoundland Banks region, had struck the berg which brought her to grief, that at 2.20 o’clock Monday morning, three hours and fifty-five minutes after receiving her death blow, the Titanic had sunk.

Arrived Too Late.

The news came from the steamer Carpathia, relayed by the White Star liner Olympic, and revealed that by the time the Carpathia, outward bound from New York, and racing for the Titanic on a wireless call, reached the scene, the doomed vessel had sunk.

Left on the surface, however, were lifeboats from the Titanic, and in them, as appears from the meagre reports received up to a late hour, were some 675 survivors of the disaster. These, according to advices, the Carpathia picked up, and is now in her way with them to New York.

For the rest, the scene as the Carpathia came up was one of desolation. All that remained of the $10,000,000 floating palace, on which nearly 1,400 passengers had been voyaging luxuriously to this side off the Atlantic, were some bits of wreckage. The biggest ship in the world had gone down, snuffing out in her downward plunge, it appeared, hundreds of human lives.

Doom Of Men On Board.

A significant line in the Cape Race despatch was the announcement that of those saved by the Carpathia nearly all were women and children. Should it prove that no other vessel picked up any passengers of the sinking liner this might mean that few of the men on board had been saved ,as the proportion of women and children among the passengers was large. The same facts would likewise spell the doom of practically the entire crew of 860.

In the cabins were 260 women and children, but it is not known how many there were among the 740 third-class passengers.

In the first cabin there were 128 women and 15 children, and in the second cabin 70 women and 8 children.

A Faint Ray Of Hope.

A ray of hope appeared shortly before 11 o’clock last night in a message to New York from the operator at the Marconi wireless station at Sable Island, near the scene of the disaster. Answering an inquiry regarding the delivery of wireless messages to the passengers of the Titanic, the operator reported that it was difficult to deliver them, “as the passengers are believed to be dispersed among several vessels.” Even this faint indication that other vessels than the Carpathia had picked up survivors of the Titanic was eagerly seized upon by thousands of relatives and friends of those who had set sail.

Dennis Ritchie 1941–2011

Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie, the creator of UNIX and C, died last week at age 70. This follows only a few weeks after the death of Steve Jobs. I found it quite curious, however, that Jobs’ death was front-page news in most newspapers, while so far I’ve waited six days to see if I could see it in any of the newspapers I tend to read, without success. Did anyone happen to see this in their local newspaper?

It’s very curious why the mainstream media pounced over one death but were silent on the other. Ritchie has a much more significant impact on modern computing than Jobs does. UNIX is the direct descendent of almost every modern non-Microsoft OS. These descendents can be found in routers and servers all across the Internet, in Android phones, Mac computers, even in your TiVo. C is one of the widest-used programming languages ever. So why not pay more attention to Ritchie? One could argue that, if he hadn’t invented C and UNIX, someone else would have come and invented, say, PL/2 and MULTOS and the world would be more or less like it is now. Probably true, but on the other hand I’m sure someone would have invented something similar to the iPod and iPhone and iPad even without Jobs.

So maybe it’s just the “cool” factor and it has nothing to do with substance. It’s interesting where the priorities of the mainstream media are.

Daylight Savings Time

Looks like we’re changing over to daylight savings time tonight.
I didn’t get around to setting some of the clocks in my house to standard time in the first place, so I don’t have to reset those, yay!  But, there’s still several I do have to reset, plus, there’s an hour less sleep tonight, boo.

With the changes that took place a few years ago, “Daylight Savings Time” now takes up nearly 8 months of the year, so it’s really more “standard” than standard time is now.  So, that raises an interesting question:  Why are our days so asymmetrical around noonday?

If you work from 9:00 to 5:00, the midpoint of your workday is 1:00, not noon (so, once we shift to DST, your workday will be symmetrical around the middle of the day).  If we look at the rest of the things that people do during the day, the asymmetry really displays itself.  For example, if you get up at 6:00 and go to bed at 10:00, the midpoint of your day would be 2:00 pm.  If you get up later and go to bed later, the midpoint of your day would get later and later.

Has this always been the case?  I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.  Back before electricity and before gas lighting, the only particularly efficient lighting that we had was from the sun.  I assume that this would cause humans to be awake when the sun was up and go to bed when the sun was down, since there wouldn’t be too much else to do.  This would result in the middle of the day being high noon (give or take a few minutes), not 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm or something later.

So, with the advent of artificial light, why has our day elongated itself in the evening rather than the early morning?  I would suggest that it’s because humans are, well, lazy.  It’s easy to just stay up a little later, which in turn results in sleeping in.  It takes discipline to get up a little earlier, which in turn would require going to bed earlier.  And that is why we turn the clocks forward in the spring (actually, it’s still winter) and not back.

Anyway, some food for thought.  I hope you enjoyed…


Looking back, part 1

As we’re approaching the end of a year, I thought I’d celebrate it on the blog by looking back… 100 years ago!  I decided to look at several editions of the Renfrew Journal and the Renfew Mercury for 1910 (one might, nowadays, think it to be curious that a small town like Renfew would have two newspapers).  Anyway, here are some little tidbits:

One of the topics that graced the newspapers on a regular basis was that of local option, evidently a very hot topic back then but sufficiently unfamiliar to most people nowadays that I’ve provided a link to the Wikipedia article.  I’ll just share one small article that I think illustrates well the futility of local option (from the Renfrew Journal, January 10, 1910, page 10):

The Eganville Star-Enterprise last week has the following: “The value of the hotel properties at Portage du Fort and Osceola will be considerably enhanced for a time at least by the passing of local option by-laws in Renfrew and Cobden. In the latter instance the hotel is located but three miles from Cobden and young men and others desiring to go “out for a time” will be able to drive in a few minutes from Cobden to Osceola and there partake freely of the inebriating fluid—more freely perhaps than they would were they able to buy a drink at home at will. The situation at Cobden emphasizes the soundness of the position of those who held that all rural bars should be abolished before attempting local option in the larger centres.”

Another common theme, at least between January and March, was hockey.  This was the first year of the National Hockey Association (NHA), the forerunner of the NHL.  Renfrew, a place that would never be a candidate for expansion nowadays, had a team, as well as the towns of Cobalt and Haileybury.

One story from the Renfrew Mercury (January 21, 1910, page 6) seems as if it is from a lot more than 100 years ago:

Agriculture is the milch cow of the United States as it also is in Canada. The value of farm products this year is $8,760,000,000.00 being $869,000,000 in excess of 1908. The putput of all the mills and factories in that country does not equal the products of the farms. Shortage in labor has been the farmers’ handicap but labor saving machinery has enabled them to greatly increase farm output. Special education in schools and colleges, by farm bulletins, farmers’ institutes and in other ways has given farmers a scientific knowledge of soils, of the crops best suited to their different kinds and of the seasons and methods of plowing, seeding and harvesting. Improved methods have doubled in 11 years farm products so that in corn and wheat growing states farmers are enjoying unparalleled prosperity—mortages have been raised, banks have been established, homesteads have been greatly improved, modern conveniences—telephone, telegraph, electric roads, railroads, good country roads—have brought farmers in touch with cities and towns, so that more than ever are farmers the backbone of the nation in its larger financial and political interests…

One interesting thing that I saw was an article about the deleterious effects of cigarette smoking and how many employers refuse to hire smokers.  Plus ca change

Another thing not seen much in modern papers is the degree of personal items.  We would never see on the front page of the paper nowadays  the news that Mr. J. A. Jameson has left on a business trip for Regina, for example.

Another thing that we don’t see much in newspapers is a large volume of patent medicine ads, such as those for “Dr. Morse’s Indian Root Pills” and “Psychine” and many others.

All in all, a very interesting exercise.  There’ll definitely be another installment of “looking back” later…