Friday, January 21, 2011

For The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Bob Dylan

In 1975 I brought a Texas Instruments SR-22 calculator to my high school chemistry class to use during a test. My fellow students were none too pleased when our teacher, Mr. Maskalenko, said I could use it. Holding up a slide rule; which he had spent weeks teaching us how to use, he pronounced in an assured, and rather loud voice to be heard over the din, that there was no difference between my SR-22 and the side rule the other students had.

Not that the SR-22 really did me much good. I got a B in chemistry only after promising Mr. Maskalenko that I would take as few science and math classes as possible in college. I kept the promise taking only math 101 (beginning with long division and sets) and statistics (lost 10 points on a test when I wrote sadistics on the top of the page). But I digress.

The point is, I didn't realize it at the moment, and for years to come, thanks to a whole lot of college parties, getting married, trying to find a job, raising children, a dog, three cats......., that day in 1975 marked the end of the slide rule and the beginnings of a technological revolution. The times they were a-changin.

My youngest, Joshua (still annoys him when I use him in a post. For new parents fear not! Your opportunity to drive your kids nuts will come. Suggestion-- bringing crayons or markers when you visit the grandchildren-- they will know what to do.), who is now where I was in 1975(to his credit with better grades), wouldn't recognize a slide rule, or eight-track tape, LPs, cassette tape, floppy disc, moon pies, typewriter, Cherry Smash, dial-up phones, etc. etc....if his life depended on it.

Our knowledge of the world around us and the resulting advancements in technology is growing exponentially. It was noted in a recent article that, " It is estimated that a week’s worth of New York Time’s contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century. It is estimated that 40 exabytes (4.0 X 10 to the 19th power) of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year. That is more than in the previous 5,000 years." I can't imagine what my grandchildren will have to know when they go to high school.

I have a set of encyclopedias published in 1916. There are almost 5-pages dedicated to the steam engine with diagrams. On any page I can learn about someone, something, or some event which is not even a footnote today. Knowing that we cannot be expected to keep up with the growth of knowledge it will be interesting to see what we as a society decide is important to know and what is not. That is something scary to contemplate. So we won't., Instead of looking forward let's take a look back . I thought it would be interesting to pull off the road of knowledge and take a peek in the rear view mirror to see how far we have come...........................

For The Times They Are A-Changin'

I never pass up an opportunity to inspect an abandoned gas station. Love to check to see what the gas price was when the station sold its last gallon of gas. This particular station is in King George. This pump could not register a price per gallon higher than .99 9/10. The cost per gallon shown is 36 cents. The last time the price of a gallon of gas was at this level was 1970. So lets throw out a few fun facts about 1970--

Avg cost of home-- $23,400.00
Avg. income-- $ 9,350.00
Avg. Cost for car-- $ 3,900.00
Top Movie --M*A*S*H
Top Song-- Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Painful Reminder
One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis who said, "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

Case in point. In the 50s we all (those of us around then anyway) marveled at the interstate highway system that stretched across this great land. The automobile was king and passenger rail became thing of the past. Rail was relegated to moving freight. Now lets jump ahead 50 years. Our highways are parking lots, in disrepair, and becoming more expensive to build and maintain. So we make our about-turn and see the advantages of rail in moving large numbers of people....again. But now the railroads, mostly in private hands, are doing quite well in the freight business in part because of government subsidies. So well that they would rather not take up valuable time and track space with passenger trains.

If I am not mistaken this is a railroad bridge, located just off of Rt. 3 in King George,built for the Central Virginia Railroad. This section of the line was not completed because the company went belly up.
So What Does This Have To Do With Knowledge And Technology?
To be truthful I took this shot because I liked the setting and the colors. Having said that there is a tie in to the subject at hand. And in this case it proves that a little knowledge is not always a good thing. This house has a stucco finish. Another reason for the photo is that you don't see too many of these type of buildings anymore. However, a decade or so back there was a demand for this type of exterior finish and the Exterior Insulation and Finishing System (EFIS) was born. When installed all connection points were caulked to ensure its insulation value. However, moisture will finds its way in. Especially during very humid Virginia Summers. With EFIS once the moisture got in it could not find it's way out. The result was mold and rotten framing. Actually inspected a house where the only thing holding it up was the exterior EFIS boards. The moral of the story is that technology can still bite you in the (expletive deleted).
OK, OK It Doesn't Fit So Sue Me.
I had to cross over barbwire, dodge cow pies, slide down a ravine, push aside thorn bushes and trudge through a stream to get this shot so I'm going to use it Damn it! No I can't tie this into our search for knowledge or the marvels of technology I just thought it would be a good shot. So shut up and enjoy it.
What A Difference a Century Can Make
This tractor in Culpeper County had its heyday in the late teens early 20s of the last century. In 1900 the average yield for corn per acre was 29 bushels. In the year 2000 the average had risen to 145 bushels an acre. And as the world population continues to rise so will the need to continue to increase yields. Thus one of the dilemmas of our age--things like pesticides, fertilizers and erosion from farming are causing one set of problems yet we need them to keep everyone fed. Where do we go from here? Guess we have some more learning to do? Do hope an exabyte or two this year will get us moving in the right direction.
Where Will We Be A Hundred Years From Now?
Today religion is seen as superstitious, archaic and the cause of suffering, bigotry, and hate. Yet in the past it was these same teachings, be it the Bible, the Koran, or the Torah that taught us that compassion, not might, should be the basis of civilization. Teachings that have inspired us and gives purpose to our lives. The teachings have not changed we have. We, not religion, are the architects of our problems. It seems the more we learn the more we question our faith, turning to ourselves for answers, and the message of our faith fades from memory. We are fixated on knowing and seem to have little patience for believing. Wonder where that is going to get us?
There will Always Be Constants in the Universe.
While our knowledge may increase by leaps and bounds, and we marvel almost everyday at the latest technological advancements, it is still a given that some things will never change. One of the constants of the universe is that bureaucracy is the enemy of progress. And in the great Commonwealth of Virginia there is no greater example of this than the Virginia Department of Transportation. We may expand our minds, devise new cures, defeat hunger, and spread knowledge to the smallest corners of the world: but we are still going to to be sitting in traffic. A one-lane bridge in Hanover County.
Robbie(?) Stubbs, Born Oct. 4, 1907; Died July 7, 1955
An unusual headstone in that it is made of poured cement. It was sitting in the back of a small church cemetery in Spotsylvania. I know there is a story here but it will have to wait for another day. What we can do is take a look at what was going on in 1955-

--1st presidential news conference filmed for TV (Eisenhower).
--The minimum wage is raised from 75 cents to $1 an hour.
--Tappan sells 1st microwave oven.
--1st World Series color TV broadcast on NBC-TV (New York Yankees beat Dodgers).
--Marian Anderson becomes 1st black singer to perform at Met (New York City)
An Interesting Discovery in Madison County.
Another opportunity for me to enlighten you with another fun fact that will make you the life of the cocktail party! Did you know that British inventor, James Sharp patented a gas oven in 1826? The first semi-successful gas oven to appear on the market. Pictured here rusting away in an old barn was state of the art in the 20s and 30s. It's a Wincroft combination wood/gas stove. You can still see some of the porcelain finish which was a big technological leap forward making the stove easier for the little lady to clean.