Friday, February 09, 2007

The Federalist Papers

I found a good primary history on the Web that has full coverage of the Federalist Papers. I like this site for two reasons:

1. The domain name is great! It is federali.st. The .st is the domain extension assigned to the African country of Sao Tome and Principe. What a wonderful use for an obscure domain extension.

2. The text of the Federalist Papers (and The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and The Constitution of the United States of America) are cleanly laid out. The pages are easy to navigate. And the biggest shocker of all, there are no ads! Most cut and paste sites using public domain text are loaded with Google AdSense ads. There is nothing wrong with this when it is done to be non-intrusive but I find it refreshing to see a private site like this without the ads.

The site creator is Edward O’Connor. In a blog post he described why he created the site:

"Libertarian law bloggers are often originalists, and The Federalist Papers are a wonderful resource for people interested in the original meaning of the Constitution. So, just as you might expect, such bloggers are prone to quoting chunks from them. (For example, here's a case of Randy Barnett quoting from № 78 over at The Volokh Conspiracy. Readers of Professor Barnett's post can't click through to the specific part of Federalist 78 he quotes, and so are deprived of easily learning the wider context of the quote.) Of course, there are various webbed versions of the Federalist Papers on the Internet already. Professor Barnett could have linked into one of them. Unfortunately, I haven't been able find one that was simultaneously nice-looking and useful (useful insofar as pinpoint linkability is concerned, at least). There are some that provide fine-grained linking, but frankly they look like Fisher-Price My First Website. So I went ahead and made federali.st, an online edition of the Federalist Papers which is pleasant to look at and provides paragraph-level permalinking."

Thanks Edward!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Indian Council of Historical Research

Indian Council of Historical Research. This is the official site promoting the study and scientific writing of history in India. It features research projects, seminars and symposia, and journals published. Located in New Delhi with regional centers in Guwahati and Bangalore, India.

The site is relatively new even if the organization behind is not. The domain was registered only a year and a half ago. The Wayback Machine does not show any copies of older versions of the site.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of full-text journals or books here. However, the site does have an index of several of the journals as well as a listing of books and conference proceedings from the organization. As such, this may prove to be a good starting point for researching Indian history.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A History of Canning

Unbeknownst to me until later, Miland was considering changing the channel earlier this week when I suddenly said “I don’t know why I am interested in this, but I am.” The topic that caught my attention was canning. Sound dull? Miland thought so. I realize the subject is not nearly as fascinating as the topic in Sex with the Queen, but the show kept my interest for the whole hour. It reminded of a segment of Mr. Fred Rogers children’s show where he’d pop a tape into “picture, picture.” These segments would reveal how everything from crayons to toilet bowls is made.

Growing up, I’d often get a front row seat (helping, actually) in seeing how food was preserved. My mom avidly canned and froze food in the summer and fall. Back in the eighties she called home canning “a lost art.” She felt like one of a few who kept rows of Mason and Ball Jars containing green and yellow beans, peaches, pears, beets, whole tomatoes, tomato juice, apple butter and several kinds of pickles (butter, sweet, and dill) on old wooden shelves in the basement. My favorite, though, was canned beef (which needed to be processed in a pressure cooker). I’ve never seen anything like my mom’s canned beef at a store. Mixed with milk and spread on toast or served with mashed potatoes and noodles, the beef was divine.

I know how to can, but I don’t do it. There is a reason home canning is becoming a rare phenomenon. It’s hard, hot work. There is also the slight risk of serious food poisoning (botulism) caused by improperly preserved food which has discouraged me from my late mom’s hobby.

However, Modern Marvels on the History Channel, the show I watched, did not focus so much on home canning as canning for the masses. The image that first caught my attention was rows of shiny metal cans whizzing along conveyor belts in a factory. In a factory, canned goods are produced with a lot less effort and in a lot less time than at home.I never thought of canning as a modern marvel, but come to think of it, it is. Knowing Miland, he would probably point out that Roman emperors did not have access to canned peas, green beans and spaghetti sauce like we do. All we have to do is go to a grocery store and pick up a can of say veggies costing at times as little as a quarter (when on sale).

According to Modern Marvels, we can thank Napoleon Bonaparte for the privilege of having access to canned foods like peaches and peas during the off-season. He wanted well-preserved food of a higher quality for his army and offered a monetary prize to whoever could come up with a method of preservation. Nicolas F. Appert won in 1809 for developing a method of vacuum-sealing food inside glass jars. It was soon discovered, however, that glass jars were not suitable containers in terms of transporting the goods to battlefields.

In 1810 Peter Durand patented a process for preserving foods in wrought-iron (must have been really heavy) cans. Later, tin cans became the preferred container. Ezra Warner, of Waterbury Connecticut patented the can opener until 1858. Until then, the ends of bayonets, knives, chisels or even rocks were used to open the tinned goods. I’m not sure what Warner’s version looked like, but now we are fortunate to have numerous ways to open cans from pull tabs to electric can openers to those incorporated into pocket knives.

New inventions such as the can opener helped to keep preserved goods in the civilian market. Further, Soldiers, (many from the working class) from major wars like the Crimean War, American Civil War, and Franco-Prussian War helped to create a demand for canned items after the wars were over. Fast forward to the early twentieth century and one can find items such as spaghetti sauce (often in glass jars), canned pineapple, chili beans and all sorts of safely-preserved food in the typical contemporary kitchen cupboard or pantry. In the end, I understood why I was so fascinated with that show. It helped me to realize how much I take factory-produced canned goods for granted. Mr. Rogers would approve.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Which Science Fiction Writer are you?

I am:
E.E. "Doc" Smith
The inventor of space opera. His purple space war tales remain well-read generations later.


Which science fiction writer are you?

Hat tip to Grant Jones. Thanks.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Planet of the Apes on the History Channel?

I turned on the History Channel last night to see what was on and maybe get a good dose of history. However, I was immediately confused. I found myself watching a show about an astronaut who crashed on a planet populated by human fearing talking apes.

I thought perhaps I had accidentally turned it to the SciFi Channel. I double checked the channel. It was indeed the History Channel. Further, that big H was on the bottom right of the screen.

Wow, I started to think! This is a part of human history I have completely missed! Is this a dramatization of a newly declassified NASA report that the History Channel is revealing? I was getting excited.

After about ten minutes of this, my wife Kate came into the room and asks, "Oh, you are watching the Planet of the Apes movie." I was stunned. The History Channel had mislead me and put a fictional movie on the air?

Now, I am used to the History Channel having programming on Bigfoot, UFOs, Nazis and the occult, and the wonders of New Zealand bridges. However, there is always the pretense of history going on. But an old science fiction movie?

When I was a teenager two decades ago, MTV (Music Television Network) used to actually play music videos. Now you will be hard pressed to find any music on the channel. Is the History Channel about to abandon history? I shudder at the thought.