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 but are much less common than in the past. 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.
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.
This is a really nice visualization:
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.
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 religiousresources.org 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:
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.
I am currently listening to the audio version of World War Z. I’m really enjoying it, but one thing about it bugs me. None of the interviewees uses the word ‘zombie.’ I have to assume that the author made the same decision as the creators of other zombie stories: to place their story in a universe that is pretty much exactly like our own, but with one difference: the cultural concept of zombies does not exist in the story’s universe. I understand the narrative need for this choice, but still, it nags at me.
Update: OK, the? narrator and several interviewees have used the word ‘zombie,’ but there is still no indication that the concept existed before the war.
As a kid, I wasn’t very intentionally athletic; I didn’t take part in sports leagues (mostly because I lived in the middle of nowhere) and my interest in school athletics died out after middle school when it got competitive. In high school, I fulfilled my PE credits with marching band.
Despite my lack of interest in physical fitness, when I was 16 or 17 I started jogging, and I’ve been at it since pretty regularly since. The other day, I decided to total up the number of miles I’ve probably run in my life. I’m currently running 12-20 miles per week, but there were periods–especially when the kids were young and we lived in a colder climate–where I ran a lot less. So, I figure 10 miles per week or 500 miles per year is a safe average. At that rate, I’ve run around 16,500 miles in 33 years. Again, let’s round that down to a nice 15K miles for good measure. I find that amazing!
I recently had a short conversation with a coworker about poverty and providing social services. My coworker expressed the opinion that he’s reluctant to provide social services to poor people since he has observed poor people spending money on luxury items. I told him that I disagreed, but unfortunately we were interrupted by work and never got to finish the conversation.
I’ve been thinking about this conversation since then, and while I have some very firm opinions on this matter, it dawned on me that I may not be able to communicate them very coherently. So, I took this issue to Facebook to get input from friends.
One friend pointed me to research on the psychology of poverty. In summary, the additional cognitive load of being poor directly contributes to poor people making poor decisions. With a little searching, I found this paper (PDF) which offers a good analogy of how one aspect of this works:
Imagine packing for a trip, using either a small or large suitcase. If you have a large suitcase, it is an easy task to pack everything important with room to spare. You may even choose not to completely fill the suitcase. With a small suitcase, however, the task becomes much more complex. If not all important items will fit, you must consider trade-offs, such as what to take out if one more item is added. The suitcase can represent any resource, such as money. In that case, someone with ample resources can easily purchase all needed items with money left over. They may consider the wisdom and value of a particular small purchase, but are not likely to explicitly consider what other item must be given up in its place. In contrast, someone with limited funds must spend a lot of time and mental energy thinking about what to purchase, as each item chosen means some other item or items is foregone. In other words, having fewer resources makes decision-making much more complex. Complex problems draw on limited cognitive resources, which in turn means that there are fewer resources available for self-control.