Jobs that no longer exist?

2014/02/28 at 15:56

Today, I saw a Reddit thread about jobs that no longer exist. Of course, the entire discussion thread consisted of people naming instances where the jobs do still exist. One of the jobs on the list was: bowling pin setter. Well, this job does indeed still exist among the nine-pin bowling league of central Texas. One of my first jobs as a kid was setting pins at the Spring Branch Bowling Club. It was a rough job, and I didn’t last long at it. And it is also dangerous. The pin setter sits up in the superstructure above the pins, and when someone bowls, the pins can go flying pretty far and fast. In fact, certain bowlers threw the ball so hard that the pin setters watched for them and the pin setter for that bowler’s lane and the surrounding couple of lanes moved away from the lane altogether so as not to get hit by flying pins.

Ruth Wiley, Polio Nurse

2014/01/07 at 12:03
Ruth Wiley, Polio Nurse

Ruth Wiley, Polio Nurse

Katie and Hannah have been sorting and scanning a huge box of photos and other memorabilia that Katie got from her mother, including photos from her mother, Ruth Wiley. During the early 1950s, Ruth Wiley was a supervising nurse in the children’s polio ward at Burge Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. We have scanned and uploaded a bunch of photos that she kept from that time.

Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe

2014/01/06 at 10:17

This is a really nice visualization:

Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe

Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe

Per the accompanying article:

This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

The size of each circle represents the number of speakers for that language. Circles of the same color belong to the same language group. All the groups except for Finno-Ugric (in yellow) are in turn members of the Indo-European language family.


End of an era

2013/12/17 at 09:35

I first got on the internet in 1995. I spent my evenings on my new Windows 95 PC exploring this new wonder via 28.8 kbps modem. I had been working with the SGML document format at work, so the HTML of the web came easily to me. Like many people at that time, I had my own web site on GeoCities.

I decided to create a web site for the church that Katie was serving as a minister at the time. While working on the site, I came across a set of web pages that listed, in categories, pretty much all religious-related web sites existing at that time–the web was still small enough that such an endeavor was possible. For some reason, I emailed the site’s creator, Susan Brumbaugh, and we became email friends.

Susan was working on her Ph.D. In sociology at the time and spent her days at a Sun workstation at the university, which meant that she was one of the very first people to get internet access. Like me, Susan was learning to author web pages and had decided to create a web site for the church she was attending. But Susan was (still is?) a collector, and as she explored the web, she created a catalog of the sites she ran across. So was born her site ‘Religious Resources on the Net.’

By 1996 or so, I had moved on from learning HTML to web programming in Perl. Susan’s directory of religious web sites was an obvious choice for converting from a set of static web pages to a database-driven web site. So, I converted it to Perl CGI and a flat-file database. Susan could add, edit, and delete sites by editing the text file. At some point, we acquired the domain and moved the site there.

In about 2002 or so, I was learning the LAMP technology stack, so again I migrated the site to PHP and a MySQL database with a full-fledged administrative interface for Susan to review submitted sites and manage the site. I also redesigned the site at that time, and I have to say that, in my biased opinion, at least, the design has held up pretty well for a decade: home page home page

Through all of this, Susan maintained the list of sites as a labor of love. Eventually, she went from finding sites herself to taking submissions. But she still reviewed each submission for suitability to her standards for the site, appropriate description and inclusion in the appropriate category. As the web grew, this became a big job.

Throughout the early years, we explored options for making at least enough money from the site to pay for its hosting. We considered and rejected banner ads back when they were popular. We found them too distracting, and the potential for ad revenue didn’t seem very good. However, when targeted Google AdWords ads came along, we found something that would earn us some money and would actually be an improvement to the site’s visitors.  Since the purpose of our site was to help its visitors find resources elsewhere, relevant ads actually added options for our site’s visitors.

Eventually, Susan’s and my interests changed: we had families, changed jobs and cities, etc. Combined with the ever increasing number of submissions for inclusion in the directory, we eventually got hopelessly behind in reviewing submissions. Eventually, we quit taking new submissions since we were not dealing with the existing ones.

After several years of neglect, as the sites in our directory got older and more irrelevant, we have finally made the tough decision to shut down the site. Susan and I have done other interesting web work over the years and formed an enduring friendship and business partnership . It’s been a good run, but it’s time for this chapter to come to an end.

Tie-dye party

2013/07/13 at 14:27

A couple of months ago, a very creative friend of ours hosted a tie-dye party. It’s actually quite an involved process. You have to soak the shirts for 15 minutes in advance, then tie and dye them, and then 24 hours later, you have to rinse them thoroughly, apply a fixative and then wash them with a fixative detergent.

She purchased the dyes and other chemicals (about $160 worth, I think she said) and then invited several families over to do the tie-dying in her front yard. The following evening, I spent several hours rinsing our clothing on the deck and washing them. We had a lot of fun, and I made the shirt below, as well as a couple of T-shirts. I’m afraid my attention to detail wasn’t very good, but every time I wear this shirt, I get compliments, so I guess I did well enough.

Stan's fetching swimming attire

The mystery poster

2013/03/18 at 12:57

In 1982-83, I was a high school exchange student in Austria. A few months after I returned home, my friend Jim sent me the political poster below that he had found in Graz. He identified the blond guy on the left with the bandaged head as me. It sure looks like me, and it was–and still is–very common to find me with a bumped head, but I had  no recollection of this photo being taken. So, either I attended a political event that I don’t remember or my Austrian doppelgänger did.

A visit to Pfluger Park

2012/11/26 at 09:17

Last Friday, we took Katie’s niece and her family to Pfluger Park where her boys played in the creek and on the playground. Here’s my favorite photo (which I took while he was swinging!)

Scotty on the swings

New web site

2012/11/02 at 14:00

My personal web site had long passed its expiration date since most of the content is now hosted in content-specific places: photos on Flickr, my thoughts in my blog, etc. So, I’ve put it all in WordPress and integrated the blog directly into the personal web site. I’m in the process of (finally) uploading all the old photos that I originally published here into Flickr.

Exchange student starved?

2008/02/29 at 13:18

I have no opinion on the foreign exchange student who lost massive amounts of weight while on his exchange program. However, I would like to relate my own exchange weight loss story as a data point:
I was an AFS student (from the US) to Austria in 1982-83. I lived with a family that owned a pastry (Konditorei) and bread (Baeckerei) bakery and two cafes (with the bakery and one cafe in the house), and I managed to lose 40-50 pounds in the 10 months I lived there (from a somewhat overweight 205 lbs to a very fit 160 lbs).
Torture? Starvation? No, I simply went from a typical sedentary, junk-food-filled American lifestyle to an active Austrian lifestyle. In the US, I drove everywhere, and I consumed an entire box of Fig Newtons when I got home from school in the afternoon (while watching Gilligan’s Isle).
In contrast, in Austria I walked and rode the bus everywhere, and had three meals a day plus maybe one piece of cake or other pastry. I can only imagine what it would have been like if the family had served vegan, not fat-filled meat-heavy Austrian, food.

My new T-shirt

2007/09/19 at 08:49

Scope creep

I made it myself at SpreadShirt.