Sunday, March 31, 2019

Something to worry about

Sometimes, I worry that I don't worry enough.  I have friends that get in much more worry than I do.  Besides, I get the impression that they can worry more intensely than I can.  It can be worrying to suspect oneself to be an inadequate worrier.


I also worry that I allocate my scarce worry time poorly.  How can I tell what is most important to worry about? It seems that many people, especially among those who are aware of things today, are worried about climate change, the environment and keeping this planet liveable.  So, shouldn't I keep my eye on other things, things that might get skipped or not even be recognized as something to worry about?


I realize that there are professional journalists all over who stay alert for problems.  There are scientists who study water quality and sources of disease. I don't know much about that and I don't have the time or interest to study such subjects.  Maybe it is best if I worry about things that probably are beneath the radar of much of the worrying world. Things like deteriorating shoes, house plants that are over-watered, and counties in my state that are not visited often enough.


I put "effective worrying" into Google but all I found were articles and books on how to worry less.  I worry that this under-concentration on inadequate worrying leaves the door open for a giant worry deficit, maybe even of international proportions.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Contagious

I hear a lot about human language.  But along with language, I am impressed with human sharing.  I have a shirt that you like. I give it to you or we wear it at different times.  I loan you a book and you loan me a CD.


But not just material sharing.  How about "forwarding"? I know that you are interested in baseball.  That new feature on the New Page of Firefox shows things that people might be interested in.  There is a story about baseball and I forward it to you. I realize there is a good chance that you are busy and don't appreciate getting things from me that you didn't ask for. But sometimes, what is forwarded is just the thing.  My eyes and ears are on the lookout for things you appreciate. It is quick and costs nothing and this business of passing things on can be overdone. But it can be cool how one pair of eyes and ears can become many pairs.


We can share purposes, too.  I learn from you that stamps are fun to collect.  Pretty soon, I am into stamp collecting, photography, keto diets, too.  Your taste in music, in foods, in organizing the house or papers effects mine and suddenly I am alphabetizing our spices just like you do yours.  I wasn't impressed by Nissan cars but after I heard you explaining their value, I changed.

Friday, March 29, 2019

She (or He) made history

We all realize that we are limited.  Maybe we don't realize it right away but as the years go by, we get a firmer grasp of mortality, death, no longer chatting and guzzling or even existing (in this form).  True, molecules of us will still be around but it is so hard to find them and identify them. Besides, what good is a molecule of Grandma? What we want is the living, breathing woman who looked good, said good things, and was good.  


Sometimes, the next best thing is something of that person's story.  When a person is being celebrated or remembered, we often focus on that person's special achievements.  Here in the US, we tend to overly concentrate on being #1, the first, the head of the group, etc. So, we remember that Grandma was the first in her neighborhood to use size 15 needles.  It can be said that Grandma made history by using those needles. Of course, many things can be said.


I attended a convention of historians once.  They emphasized that history was a story that someone wrote.  Of course, it should be about something and/or someone in the past.  I could write about events or impressions that happened this afternoon and title the writing "History of an afternoon".  You could, too. If I do and you do, will the two writings agree word for word? Of course not! You and I know nothing about each other's experience of this afternoon.  


As people get older, they sometimes wonder how they will be remembered.  Will I be remembered as the kid who returned from lunch at home to enter the kindergarten wearing a pre-tied necktie atop a t-shirt?  I may be, if you would kindly write about the momentous event. I made history when I decided to be a little more formal, a little more highly dressed when I returned that afternoon.  I know I did because I have just told what happened in writing, writing that will last ever so long in this blog.


Don't be too shocked when your own beloved greatgrandchild learns about my sartorial success in his junior high history class.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Limbs of joy

From my window, I can see two little kids waiting for the school bus.  One runs to the corner and immediately starts balancing on the lawn rocks there.  The other has a mom who drives him to the corner. She sits in the car while waiting but he gets out and also begins climbing and balancing.  


When I watch little kids, and see how they spend their time, what they choose to focus on, I get some chuckles.  A six or seven year old boy was conceived not all that long ago. Then, he was born, naked, squawky and quite tiny.  That sequence and state of affairs is a model of humanity. Everyone I see was conceived, born and played with toys, rattles, balls, grew older.  


One often hears about the value of living, reveling even, in the moment.  The joy of being at the bus stop - it's so HERE! It's just like it was!

Of having rocks to balance on - true it's a little demanding but I can DO it!

Of seeing what others are doing and copying them - Oh, that's a good idea!

Of seeing them copy your own excellent idea -  I am great, see me copied!


I thought it would be easy to find three or so kids, maybe five years old, playing together on a playground on YouTube.  We have several playgrounds in our town and I enjoy the pep, the exuberance, the joy of motion I see on them. What I found on YouTube seemed rather sparse, too full of ads, toys, single mishaps and animations.  


It's actual little kids that make me appreciate human abilities, perception, ideas, reactions.  It is fun to see the wheels of mind turning, accepting, rejecting, copying, considering, all the while those little limbs pumping.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Still she persisted

The title does not refer to Senator Elizabeth Warren but to a different persistess altogether.  She and the birthday girl's younger brother were playing hide and seek. When she went home, she thought she had all the pieces they had been hiding but she was wrong.  She had just gotten that set of Lego pieces and she already lost one! To replace a missing piece was almost as expensive as buying the whole set. If she was older, she might have muttered some naughty words.  She was downhearted and upset.


Both of her greatgrandparents looked carefully to see if they could find the missing piece.  Everyone agreed that it was somewhere in that room. How about under the piano? How about in the trash can?  Grandad went outside with a flashlight to see if it had been dropped on the way to the car. Nope. Not there and not there, either.


Could she come over and search the room for herself?  Yes. Her mother and father drove her back to the room.  Grandad was confident she would not find anything that parents and greatgrandparents hadn't.  He bet her one American greenback that the missing piece would not be found. How could a ten year old find something that experienced searchers many times her age couldn't find?  Not only couldn't find, but also doubted it existed.


Well, you know what happened?  The searchers had not thought of expanding the collapsible plastic sphere to see if the missing piece had be put into its center.  But the little hider thought of where she had hidden the piece, expanded the sphere, and as the French say:"Voila!" Grandad is now out one genuine American greenback and the little hider has proved her persistence, her ingenuity and her memory.


https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=expandible+plastic+sphere

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

What I learned from the writers of Friends

I imagine part of the credit also belongs to Alec Baldwin.  We meet a boyfriend of Phoebe's, Parker (Baldwin). Not only is this large and energetic man positive and enthusiastic about everything, he is complimentary about everything.  Evidently, one of the show's writers had a boyfriend at one point with similar tendencies.


I think it is normally possible to choose one's emotions, at least up to a point.  If you are seriously hurt or a loved one is, you are going to react. But much of the time, you can use your mind and your memory to see upsides to life. That is good but like many things, it can be overdone.


When I visit your house, I may be impressed with the excellent Norwegian recliners you have. The painting by your daughter is very nice and the photo of your whole family stands out.  But when I go on to rave about the excellence of each house plant, maybe even waxing poetic about separate leaves on that one plant, it may get to be too much. I may get to be too much.  I am not ignorant nor indifferent. I can see that the fabric on the lampshade is beautiful and I wouldn't mind if I had a lamp like that. But too much expression of admiration, appreciation, of deep impressions and maybe gratitude that I have gotten a chance to see your lovely, lovely things will probably get me stricken from your list of who to invite over.


It is even more likely that I will lose ranks on your friendship roll if I repeat that sort of behavior if you give me a second chance.  Some definite positives, some authentic appreciation - sure. That is good and helps others as well as the offerer. But then, put a sock in it.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Fwd: The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes



---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: This week on TED.com <no_reply@ted.com>
Date: Sun, Mar 24, 2019 at 9:20 AM
Subject: The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes
To: <olderkirby@gmail.com>


"The price of doing science is admitting when you're wrong" Read online
TED
This week on TED.com
March 24, 2019

Phil Plait: The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes

11:08 minutes · Filmed Jun 2018 · Posted Mar 2019 · TEDxBoulder

Phil Plait was on a Hubble Space Telescope team of astronomers who thought they may have captured the first direct photo of an exoplanet ever taken. But did the evidence actually support that? Follow along as Plait shows how science progresses -- through a robust amount of making and correcting errors. "The price of doing science is admitting when you're wrong, but the payoff is the best there is: knowledge and understanding," he says.

Playlist of the week

All about the weather

Storms, clouds, wildfires, ice and sunshine -- these talks explore the science and art of our weather systems. Watch »

12 TED Talks to explore • Total run time 2:16:47

This week's new TED Talks

The sun delivers more energy to earth in one hour than all of humanity uses in an entire year. How can we make this power accessible to everyone, everywhere? In this imaginative talk, solar designer Marjan van Aubel shows how she's turning everyday objects like tabletops and stained glass windows into elegant solar cells -- and shares her vision to make every surface a power station. Watch »

To help young kids thrive in school, we need to do more than teach them how to read and write -- we need to teach them how to manage their emotions, says educator Olympia Della Flora. In this practical, budget-minded talk, she shares creative tactics she has used to help struggling, disruptive students get their feelings in check -- and put the focus back on learning. Watch »

Visual artist Amanda Williams shares her lifelong fascination with the complexity of color, from her experiences with race and redlining to her discovery of color theory. Journey with Williams to Chicago's South Side and explore "Color(ed) Theory," a two-year art project in which she painted houses in bold colors infused with local meaning -- catalyzing conversations and making the hidden visible. Watch »

Bees are dying off in record numbers, but ecologist Noah Wilson-Rich is interested in something else: Where are bees healthy and thriving? To find out, he recruited citizen scientists across the US to set up beehives in their backyards, gardens and rooftops. Learn how these little data factories are changing what we know about the habitats bees need to thrive -- and keep our future food systems stable. Watch »

Read more on ideas.ted.com

How to brainstorm like The Onion does. How do you stay funny for 25 years? Learn the crucial step that leads to better ideas. Read more »

A poet redefines what it means to be strong. Let's celebrate boys for their abilities, values and passions -- not just their height. Read more »

How to read the news like a scientist. Overwhelmed by your news feed? Use tools from science to evaluate what's true and what's fake. Read more »

What would you do with a day off just for yourself? If your answer is: "I have no idea," try this quick quiz -- then go play hooky. Read more »

JOIN US IN the comments!

"

For those who are curious, I wrote a behind the scenes article about some of the mistakes I made *in this talk*, if you like getting a bit meta."

Commenter: Phil Plait
Talk: Phil Plait
The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes

New podcast episode: WorkLife with Adam Grant

Networking for People Who Hate Networking: Hear from professionals who have zig-zagged their way up the corporate ladder using some unconventional ways of making professional connections. Subscribe to WorkLife with Adam Grant for free on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. 

 
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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Webpage manners

We are still in the beginning of the web.  Yes, DARPA and communicating scientists were using computers to communicate and cooperate quite a while back.  Lynn and I used the worldwide web in 1990's but it was still just beginning, at least in my world. These days, I use two indicators, websites that businesses depend on that are hosted by Facebook and the existence of personal websites.  If a writer or professor or teacher has a website that is under their control and they have published information on it, that person seems well situated for modern communications to me.


But in this country and some others, enough people are browsing the web and shopping from the web and using it for their personal business that many groups are getting interested in selling their products and promoting their ideas with it.  So, we have the current experiences of doing a search for, say, the boyhood conditions of Christopher Columbus. We can find a website or document with interesting information on what we want. We can start reading the document but we get interrupted.  


Imagine someone sitting on the bus or train with you.  That person is reading a magazine or newspaper but you want to sell him a nice knit hat that you made.  You pull the hat from your bag and slide it across the magazine he is looking at. Beside the audio experience of hearing him utter some ugly words, what else is a likely reaction?  What are the odds that he will say,"What a nice hat! How much to buy it?" I advise you to find a different approach.


The problem of getting your knitting bought ("marketing") by a web browsing person is similar the problem of robocalling.  I am not an experienced caller but I have experience as the callee. Most calls to my phone disconnect when they or their equipment can detect the call has gone to voicemail.  On the web, there doesn't seem to an effective mechanism to stop pushing their ad across my reading.


I get the feeling that more and more sellers and promoters try to have their webpages coded aggressively.  If you suddenly insert an ad across the page, and if you lock up the machine so I can't easily get around your insert, do you figure I am going to like your product, your company and your manners?  In many cases, the reader view in Firefox with strip off distractions and show me the main page I want to read. When I am using a different browser or otherwise don't have reader view to work with, I will say goodbye to you and your stuff.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

One word or another

I wanted something different to listen to. I just reached into the shelf and pulled out a CD.  It was Verdi's choruses. I have head several of them multiple times and I thought it might be good to listen to this version one I rarely play.  Some of his strike me as my experience with Wagner has: loud, booming and incoherent. But what is sometimes called the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" is lovely.  It is sometimes referred to as "Va, Pensiero".


Long ago, I thought I might try someday to master Italian, Finnish and Japanese since the spotty knowledge I have of those countries, those people and their history intrigues me.  I did study Latin for two years in high school. I thought "Va, Pensiero" might mean "Go, Thinker" but Google Translate said it means "go, thought". That didn't tell me much so I searched for a translation of the piece.  The first translation said the words are part of a phrase that means "Fly, thoughts on golden wings". While searching, I found this page at the New York Metropolitan Opera

https://www.metopera.org/discover/video/?videoName=nabucco-va-pensiero&videoId=808137918001


The video shows an impressive set on the Met stage.  Hebrew slaves, held captive in Babylon, sing their longing for their homeland, in the Verdi opera "Nabucco", whom we sometimes call Nebuchadnezzar, (605 BC to 562 BC).  


I was struck by the emotional difference between "go, thoughts" and "fly, thoughts, on golden wings".  Sometimes, it is not the thought that counts but the words chosen.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Same old thing

Let's start with a math-ish fact.  It is the same one that Heraclitus referred

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=heraclitus

to when he made his famous remark that "You can't step into the same river twice."  You know what he meant: the river now is not the river then. The waters are different waters.  I bet you wish you had said that.


Ok, in a way, he wasn't alone.  He said that around 500 BC but the Buddha was onto the same thing.  We sometimes hear that the Buddha said, "Everything changes." Or, we hear "Nothing lasts" or we hear "This, too, shall pass."  But this means what you always thought: Each morning is a brand new day. You may seem the same as you were yesterday but you are a little different.


We can actually go beyond mornings: each moment is a new one.  You are a bit different that when you began reading this post. Now, we start getting into judgments.  You and the river and the morning are a little different, ok, BUT there are only little differences and they aren't important.  Well, maybe. Maybe this is the morning you agreed to meet for breakfast. Maybe the river is a little cleaner or maybe a little higher, what with spring melt and all.  What is important, like everything else, can change. The day doesn't seem important but then, later, you realize this was the first day you tried out that new app, the one that led to your new friendship.


You may feel that this day, your stuff, your life is the same old thing.  Feel again. Think again. Look again. There are things happening that are exciting, fun, scary, one of a kind.  Aren't those books due? Is today payday? Does the car need an oil change?


As I wrote back in 2016,

Our friends have a plaque on their door that says on this spot in 1864, nothing happened.  Today might be the anniversary of nothing happening. Can you remember that day when nothing happened?  No, of course not. Something happened every day, every morning, every evening, every night.


Whew! Just thinking about all that can be tiring.  Maybe you need to sit down. Just sit and savor this special moment: it's new, it's unique and it isn't going to last.  Grab it now and taste it.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Others among us

I was driving along a pond this morning when I had the impression something was quite near beside me.  I turned my head and there was a full-sized heron just taking off.



When you are so close to that bird in the midst of its takeoff, the sensation is like being near an airplane that is just getting airborne.  So big, so complex, so quiet, so confident.


There is a museum in Alabama that shows a heron and a dolphin side by side.  Both animals are six feet tall but the bird weighs 6 lbs. while the dolphin weighs 600 lbs.  Google says that the heron usually lives about 5 years while some dolphins live 55 years.


Something that big and that impressive gets me thinking about the wildlife around us.  We sometimes have deer in our yard. Around us, there have been bears but not in our neighborhood.  We get all sorts of small birds and sometimes, an eagle. It is not all big animals, either. As the snow melts, impressive tunnels are revealed, made by voles. Their tunnels are deep impressions in the grass bed but are open on the top.  They run around under the snow cover. The voles are quite secretive and rarely seen but their nibbles of our squash or tomatoes are easy to see and irritating.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Walking

We took our first walk outside in a long time today.  Of course, as it gets warmer, doing that will be less of a novelty, but today's walk was the first in a month or more.  We walked about a mile and a half. The temperature is in the low 40's but there is a bright blue sky and nice sunshine.  The snow is quite bright in the sun but has melted in large spaces. The landscape is dotted like a Holstein cow.


There were some places where snow melt covers the roadbed with water but it is quite shallow.  We walked right through it.


The neighborhood is notably spotted with downed pine tree branches.  Strong winds, heavy wet snow and low temperatures combined to put big weight on branches and keep it there.  Many branches gave way under the strain. The branches lie on the ground around the trunks and look like the result of tree trimmers but it is just Nature at work.


Walking, good air, sunshine combine to put a smile on Lynn's face.  You can see her getting energy and spiritual lift from being outside and in motion.  Good for her husband, too.



Monday, March 18, 2019

Can you tell one from the other?

About ten years ago, I wrote about the Lady Tasting Tea test

https://fearfunandfiloz.blogspot.com/2009/06/lady-tasting-tea-test.html


It is a detection test. Can the customer tell if he is tasting trout or tilapia? If not, maybe we can substitute one for the other.  It is similar to the Turing test, named after the British mathematician who said if humans can't distinguish the output of a computer from the output of a human, the machine is as good as the human.  The Loebner Prize is a contest to see if various computer programs can be judged to be humans by human judges. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loebner_Prize (I guess there has been at least one instance where a human was judged to be a computer, because the judges thought no human could know that much.)


I think the subject of what can be distinguished from what matters in many areas.  A basic subject these days is human consciousness. What human consciousness is and what it isn't is itself a difficult and debated question.  It is roughly the human ability to imagine and to be aware that what is in the mind is an imagination. Susanne Langer said decades ago the mentioning a man's name to a dog causes the dog to become alert and wag its tail while mentioning it to a person causes the person to ask "What about him?"


We say a person is unconscious if he seems "unresponsive", if he seems inert, doesn't speak. We ourselves can imagine, remember, describe in spoken or written words thoughts, formulate questions, show a personality, that is, a perceived continuity of tastes, emotion, quirks.  Some people are worried that we will find at the innermost point of human brains, nothing but chemicals. We can be afraid that we will lose our "soul", our humanness, our essence. The book "Incognito" by Eagleman impressed me with how much of our body and our life is not accessible to our mind.  Our brain, yes, but not the "conscious" mind.


Deepak Chopra went out of his way to explain that the heart is not a pump because it responds to emotion.  Great fear, beat faster. But I suspect that at some level at some time, we are going to find that we are very, very, very advanced automatons.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What are we?

Some thinkers have try to figure out what we are.  Maybe we are creations of God, on our way to Heaven if we behave ourselves properly.  Maybe we are part of the chain of Life, started eons ago because of exact chemical and physical properties and substances.  The first group is 'religious' and the second might be called 'materialists', since they tend to focus on the materials in and around us and the interaction between different chemicals and processes.  


I think many people live loving, joyful lives without worrying about the issues involved.  Others are fascinated with investigation and questioning and wonder if all the questions might be answered someday.  Human imagination, the ability and use of mental images, consciousness are the sorts of processes that go on in humans but seem impossible to explain with materials.  One aspect of the issue that seems, in my cursory explorations, that gets too little consideration is complexity.


It is not difficult to find amazed expression at the number of neurons in our brains.  Sometimes it is said that the neurons and the even greater number of possible connections between them is greater than the number of stars in the universe. When I saw the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin, what I saw took my breath away.  Think of the words humans put together in this one library, then in all the libraries. We aren't built to be aware of all that complexity at one time. But we can work in teams and we can build machines that can handle more relations and connections than we can.


Someday, we will have better ideas of what we are and what  we can be.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Politics of __________________________

Professor Katherine Cramer, Political Science, UW-Madison, wrote "The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker". Until I met that book on the New Books shelf, I rarely thought about the word, the idea or the reality of resentment.  I guess that practicing meditation and much good fortune, maybe along with family traditions and ideas, has steered me away from spending time and energy on resenting others.  It also seems possible that being small has helped me grasp that my strengths and talents are limited as are everyone's. So what I can do and what I have accomplished are not what others can do or have accomplished.  Put the other way, I am not Levon James or Aaron Rogers because my genes, my body, my chemistry, my neurology don't permit me to be. Same thing with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.


I haven't read Cramer's book (Pace, Dr. Shaw!) but the title alone has carried me quite a way.  The title has put "resentment" on a front burner of my brain stove. In grad school, I read the book "Individuals" by P.W. Strawson.  So, when I got an email from Amazon about his "Freedom and Resentment", I was interested. The price of twenty seven dollars turned me toward the library.  I got the book and started the title essay. Yikes! Such language, such weasel words, such conditions and cautions! I couldn't stand it. I couldn't sit it.  I lacked confidence that time spend teasing out what the heck the gentleman has to say is time well spent. I mean: didn't like it.


I looked up the Cramer book in Amazon and found several related books about resentment. I gained new appreciation of the meaning of "Politics of…"  It is rather like the use of the hashtag in Twitter. I don't need to understand resentment or other people or anything. Once I am attracted to the resentment group or the anti-resentment group, because of their motto, their background, their beauty, their accent, their anything at all, I might start attending their meetings, voting their way, partying with them, etc.  


In Twitter, the # mark can be used to signal an theme.  #MeToo is a group that discusses being sexually harassed.  I could start a hashtag 'resentment' but I don't know enough and I don't care enough.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Other notes of possible interest

    Watching politics and related today, it can help to picture bands of chimps (male, then) raiding and fighting neighboring bands.  Mostly, moderns use words and pictures instead of teeth and clubs.

    The investigation of bribery and such in college entrance exams and admissions seems to show one track of unfairness and inequality and one that matters.

    Long ago, in The House of Intellect, Jacques Barzun noted how the word "plastic" came to mean both flexible and inflexible, due, in his opinion to stresses on language and vocabulary invention and dispersion. There is more now than in the 60's.  Diana Winston asks if I have heard of "extreme ironing." It is not essential to know about but it can be eye-opening.

    Among many sources of new things and new thinking, I believe the greater participation of women writers, observers, thinkers, investigators, etc. is one prod toward the new. I just mentioned Diana Winston but also see Amanda Mull and Lily Hay Newman.  They see and feel things that men tend to dismiss.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Fwd: Greetings from the Homestead! (March 2019 Newsletter)



---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Homestead National Monument of America <jonathan_fairchild@nps.gov>
Date: Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 4:42 PM
Subject: Greetings from the Homestead! (March 2019 Newsletter)
To: <olderkirby@gmail.com>



Homestead National Monument of America
National Park Service Arrowhead Emblem


March Newsletter
News from the Homestead
  _Find Your Park_ Logo
Greetings!
 

This month, we celebrate the beginning of another year. We are excited for the school groups and upcoming special programming for the year.

All through March, in celebration of Women's History Month, you can learn about the unique link between the Homestead Act of 1862, Suffragettes, and the Nineteenth Amendment at Homestead National Monument of America. Featured in this newsletter, you'll find articles on this link, the works of Willa Cather, and ongoing research into African-American Homesteaders across the Great Plains, to name just a few!

Don't miss the weekend screening events this month celebrating Willa Cather and her tremendous impact in U.S. history: a film adaptation of her classic My Antonia, and a documentary produced by NET on her life, Willa Cather: The Road is All.

  
We hope that all of our visitors, colleagues, and friends will enjoy this upcoming Spring season!

Sincerely,
Mark Engler, Superintendent

Women, Homesteading, and Suffrage


The Homestead Act of 1862 was an almost unprecedented piece of legislation in terms of its democratic approach. All citizens were welcome to claim land under the act, regardless of gender. With the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1866, Homesteading was opened to all African-Americans as well. Immigrants were also able to claim land under the Homestead Act - they had the  five year period during which they "proved up" their claim to become naturalized citizens in order to meet the citizenship requirement.

It is no coincidence that the "gender-neutral Homestead Act of 1862 was part of a contemporary movement toward recognition and acceptance of increased rights for women, including the right to own land." In the eyes of the Homestead Act, any single individual, man or woman (in addition to both male and female heads of household), was eligible.



Homesteading and women's suffrage went hand in hand - Wyoming's territorial legislature was the first to enfranchise American women in 1869. Homesteading the Plains, a recent study by Richard Edwards, Jacob K. Friefeld, and Rebecca S. Wingo, found that women's claims represented approximately 10% of all homesteaders - a fact that has gone underappreciated in previous scholarship, which viewed women as reluctant secondary characters, lacking agency in their lives on the plains. The economic power of property ownership was a major factor in this transition, and the Homestead Act of 1862 and the land available in the West allowed women to access that power in a way that many women in the eastern states were not able to. 

Major American "firsts" were achieved in the 1880s and 1890s in the homesteading states: Susanna Salter, who would later homestead in Oklahoma, was the first woman elected mayor (Argonia, Kansas). In 1894 Clara Cressingham, Carrie Holly, and Frances Klock were all elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, the first women elected to a state legislature. Two years later, Martha Cannon became the first state senator (Utah).   


While 30 states were part of the Homestead Act, the states of the Great Plains and the West were most heavily homesteaded. It is no coincidence that of the states which gave women full voting rights before the 19th Amendment guaranteed these rights, all but one (New York) were homesteading states. Jeannette Rankin, whose parents homesteaded in Montana, was the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, and was the only woman able to vote in Congress when the resolution that would become the Nineteenth Amendment was introduced in 1919.

Come visit Homestead National Monument of America, and learn more about the crucial link between the Homestead Act of 1862 and Women's Suffrage in the United States!




Welcome to Homestead's
Newest staff members:
Eric Karges and Jonathan Fairchild

 
Eric Karges began working at Homestead National Monument of America in mid-February, joining the Maintenance Division as a Maintenance Worker. Eric joined the National Park Service to travel the country and experience a wide variety of locations - since 2005 he has worked in 13 states! His stops have included the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forestry Service, United States Fish and Wildlife, and of course the National Park Service. He has worked at Badlands National Park and Blueridge Parkway before coming to Homestead National Monument of America. 

Since starting, he has been learning his daily routines and the equipment - we have Eric to thank for helping to keep the snow at bay in this historically snowy winter! The 23 inches of February 2019 represent the highest monthly total in nearly ten years. He's pictured here in the park's RTV X1100C utility vehicle plowing the snow at the Heritage Center.

Eric is originally from Millbank in eastern South Dakota, and has a personal connection to homesteading - he is a sixth-generation descendant! His great-great-great-grandfather Nicholas Altman proved up 160 acres in South Dakota in the 1880s. 



Jonathan Fairchild also began working at Homestead National Monument of America in mid-February, joining the Ranger Division. He started his career with the National Park Service in the summer of 2016, as an Pathways - Archives Technician at Keweenaw National Historical Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is the park's new Historian.

Jon is originally from Houston, Texas, where he attended the University of Houston and received a M.A. in United States History. He is currently completing his Ph.D. from the same university. 

"I'm thrilled to have this wonderful opportunity to share the history of the Homestead Act of 1862 and its tremendous and far-reaching impact on United States history! Without homesteaders, the United States as we know it today wouldn't exist - the Great American Desert became the Great American Breadbasket!"

A Winter for the Recordbooks!




Has it felt like a particularly cold, snowy winter to you? Well, you're not wrong! Southeast Nebraska has been blanketed with an unusually heavy amount of snow in the 2018-2019 Winter season. So far the monthly totals have been:

October: 3.5 in., November: 7.2 in., December: 5.6 in., January: February, 23.2 in., and as of early March: 2.3 in.

The 51.5 inches of snowfall on the record already places this as the fourth snowiest season on record in 119 years measured, and the most snow in nearly sixty years! The only three winters which top this one are 1959-1960 (54.3 in.), 1947-1948 (54.7 in.), and the record set in 1914-1915 at 59.4 inches. A few more heavy snowfalls in March and April and that record is well within reach!



Take advantage of the weather here at Homestead National Monument - take to the trails with skis and snowshoes! The three miles of trails through restored tallgrass prairie are prime cross-country skiing spots! Just remember, while winter activities such as skiing and snowshoeing are allowed and encouraged at Homestead National Monument of America, please do not leave the designated trails so as not to disturb the flora or fauna.

Bookstore Highlight:
Willa Cather's Great Plains Trilogy: 
O Pioneers, Song of the Lark, and My ├üntonia 

 

In celebration of Women's History month, Homestead National Monument of America's bookstore highlights this trilogy written by Willa Cather about life on the Great Plains. The strong, capable women in her works, including the titular character Antonia, challenged the conventional idea of gender roles at the time. Cather's family migrated to Nebraska to homestead in 1883 when she was nine. She later attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 1895, one of the first women to graduate from a university in a field outside of education.

Her formative years in Nebraska were deeply influential on her life, as seen in O Pioneers (1913), Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918). The latter two novels honored the heroic efforts of women settling the prairie. My Antonia especially was well received, being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and immediately altering public perceptions of women on the Great Plains for generations to  come. The titular character, the strong-willed daughter of Bohemian immigrants, is idealized by the male protagonist, both as an individual, and as a symbol for the land he loves. 

Don't miss the film events honoring Willa Cather this month at Homestead National Monument of America! There will be screenings of a film adaptation of My Antonia on Sunday, March 24 at 2:00 p.m. and then a screening of NET's documentary Willa Cather: The Road is all on Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, 31 at 2:00 p.m.




March 2019 Artist-in-Residence: Theresa Hottel


Theresa Hottel joined Homestead National Monument as the artist-in-residence in the month of March 2019. Theresa is an writer from New York City, who was born and raised in Davis, Oklahoma. She did her undergraduate work at Oklahoma City University and earned her Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University. Hottel has had her short stories published in SmokeLong Quarterly (Haunt) and Vol.One Brooklyn (Vaults).

She draws upon her upbringing in a small south-central Oklahoma town for inspiration in her work. She is currently writing a novel - a ghost story set in a homesteading community in the Oklahoma Panhandle during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. This ghost story blends the ecological and physical disturbances of the Dust Bowl into a haunting experience where the "ghosts" are spirits of the ravaged land.

Hottel has long been interested in a National Park Residency - when she discovered the artist-in-residence program at Homestead National Monument of America she knew it would be a great fit. Growing up in an agriculturally centered town, Hottel has always been interested in how people relate to the land. She shared that the concept of owning land as a means of potential economic mobility and success, as seen here at the Homestead National Monument of America through the Homestead Act of 1862, has long been deeply rooted in popular consciousness as a way to achieve the "American Dream." 

Hottel's work takes an ecofeminist perspective, and she cited Willa Cather's Great Plains trilogy as a reference for her own work, with the significance of how Cather has influenced the literary field of women on the plains. Hottel had the opportunity to visit Red Cloud, the town where Cather grew up, and drew inspiration from the author's childhood home. 

Theresa Hottel will be with us between March 5 and March 18. Stay posted for future artists-in-residence, including authors, painters, composers, and more!


Contact Us
Homestead National Monument of America
402-223-3514
Upcoming Events
Special Exhibits at the Homestead Education Center:

January- March: Empire, Wyoming African-American Homesteading Community Exhibit (Education Center)

January - May: Promontory Point Exhibit (Education Center)

February 28th - March 2: RootsTech 2019 @ Salt Lake City, Utah

March 2 & 3, 2:00 p.m. - Homestead National Monument of America Film Festival: In the Shadow of the Moon

March 23 & 24, 2:00 p.m. - Film - My Antonia

March 30 & 31, 2:00 p.m. - Film - Willa Cather: The Road Is All


To learn more about events visit: www.nps.gov/home.

Visit the Empire, Wyoming and African-American 
Homestead Community Exhibit and learn about the Black Homesteader Project
at Homestead National Monument of America

 

On temporary exhibit through March 2019 from the Wyoming State Museum, this exhibit tells the story of African-American homesteaders in the settlement of Empire. 



Empire was the first and only attempt by African-Americans to build an entirely Black agrarian community in Wyoming. It was settled in between 1908 and 1920 under the Enlarged Homestead Act. The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 modified the original Homestead Act of 1862 by allowing individuals to claim up to 320 acres, doubling the original allotment of 160. Homesteaders who had already claimed 160 were eligible to increase their claims to this new maximum. Several extended families migrated from Nebraska to take advantage of this new legislation and hoping to escape from racial prejudice they had experienced elsewhere. Reverend Russell Taylor arrived in 1912 to teach at the independent school, to provide the children with an African-American teacher and role model. He actively spoke out against racism and oppression. 

This exhibit is closely related to a project in partnership with the Center for Great Plains Studies and Nicodemus National Historical Site - the Black Homesteaders in the Great Plains Project. Empire, Wyoming was one of six major historical settlements from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries founded by black homesteaders. These include Nicodemus, Kansas; DeWitty, Nebraska; Dearfield, Colorado; Empire, Wyoming; Sully County, South Dakota; and Blackdom, New Mexico.

This project has found that Black Homesteaders were active in all Great Plains states, where thousands successfully proved up and claimed hundreds of thousands of acres of land in mostly rural communities closely linked by kinship and marriage ties - these African-American homesteaders often moved from one of the six major settlements to another based on family networks.
While Nicodemus, Kansas is the only of these six sites still occupied today, Black homesteaders measured their success in very different ways. These communities were transitional places meant as refuge from the bitter past of slavery only a generation previously. More importantly, they served as a staging ground for a brighter future, especially for their children. Their descendants measure in the hundreds of thousands today.


Homestead National Monument of America goes to RootsTech2019!


Homestead National Monument of America staff made the trek to Salt Lake City to exhibit the Homestead Land Entry Case Files at RootsTech2019. 

RootsTech is an annual genealogical convention held in Salt Lake City. This year's RootsTech featured over 300 classes and workshops taught by historians, archivists, genealogists, journalists, storytellers, and other industry experts. l. Additionally, the Exposition Hall had hundreds of exhibits. The conference ran between February 27 and March 2, with an estimated 25,000 attendees total. With generous contributions from the Friends of Homestead and from Eastern National, Homestead National Monument of America was able to send a team of staff members to exhibit at and participate in the convention.



Homestead National Monument of America staff partnered with the Bureau of Land Management - Eastern States to provide visitors with access to the Homestead Land Entry Case Files of the 10 states with fully digitized records, and to utilize the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) and General Land Office (GLO) Records to illustrate and map out where their ancestors' homesteads were located.



Those fully digitized Homestead Land Entry Case Files are available for visitors to access on computer kiosks in the Heritage Center - stop by and learn about homesteaders in your family tree! Want to determine exactly where the family homestead was located? Or are you from one of the 20 states which aren't yet digitized? Ask a Ranger to show you how to utilize the GLO Records and the PLSS to learn more!
Weather alerts:
Flooding on Cub Creek



Cub Creek During the Week of March 10. 


As temperatures warm up and the snow melts, rivers and creeks in the area are flooding. Cub Creek, near the Education Center, is no exception. On Saturday, March 9th, the creek was frozen over almost completely at 4.61 feet. By March 14th  the creek rose more than 14 feet (reaching 18.66 feet), placing the park on flood alert! The water level has slowly been receding since that peak.


As a result of the flooding conditions, all trails at Homestead National Monument of America are currently closed. Please check social media at https://www.facebook.com/HomesteadNM for updates on the status of the trails!


2019 Events Calendar Published

A close-up photograph on the wall of windows at the Homestead Heritage Center

Homestead  National Monument of America's 2019 Events Calendar has been published! If you're looking for something to do, look no further! The calendar, published below, can be accessed at any time from the park website, here. Be sure to check it out from time to time for updates!

2019 Schedule of Events

Special Exhibits at the Education Center

January-March: Empire, Wyoming African-American Homesteading Community
January-May: Promontory Point Exhibit 
April-June: "Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry"
July-November: "Smoke Over Oklahoma: The Railroad Photographs of Preston George"
September-December: "Patchwork of the Prairie" Homesteader Quilts (auditorium)
November 23 - December 31: Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures



 
MARCH

 24 Sun 2:00 p.m. Film: My Antonia
30 & 31 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. Film: Willa Cather: The Road Is All

APRIL

 14 Sun 2:00 p.m. Brian Cannon, Author: "Reopening the Frontier: Homesteading in the Modern West"
19-20 Fri-Sun 10 - 4 p.m. Junior Ranger Weekend
20 Sat 7-3 p.m. American Spring LIVE!!! Bioblitz
20-28 Sat-Sun 2:00 p.m. National Park Week 
29-30 Sun-Mon 10-3 p.m. Archeological Dig by Midwest Archeological Center

MAY

 1-10 10-3 p.m. Archeological Dig by Midwest Archeological Center
3 & 4 Fri-Sat 7:00 a.m. Birds & Bagels
25 Sat 10:00 a.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Free Workshop
25 Sat 12:00 p.m. Tallgrass Prairie Fiddle Festival - Competition 
30 Thurs 7:00 p.m. Musical Quilters Play in Partnership with Area Arts Groups


Homestead Creature Corner:
2019 Sandhill Crane Migration






Keep your eyes on the sky! The 2019 Sandhill Crane migration is ongoing! The Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis) derives its name from the Nebraska Sandhills region. These large cranes are a very social bird, forming flocks of thousands when they migrate seasonally. 

Nebraska's Platte River Valley is a major stop during their annual northward migration in the Spring, between late February and April - this year's migration is somewhat delayed with the extreme winter weather. An 80-mile stretch of the Platte sees hundreds of thousands of cranes each year, between Grand Island and Kearney, Nebraska. 



One of earth's greatest migrations, the spectacle is something to behold. The National Audubon Society operates the Rowe Sanctuary along the Platte, with crane-viewing blinds available daily during the Spring migration (overnight photography blinds are also available).


Just like the Sandhill Crane stops off at at the Platte on its long journey across the country to rest and recuperate, don't forget to visit Homestead National Monument of America on your journeys across Nebraska for a little R&R!

You don't have to feel as disconnected as the first homesteaders did.

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