Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

All three children plus Congcong were here for Christmas this year. Brian got a pair of snowshoes which he seems pretty excited about!

Pager came over for supper. Nancy had purchased two gifts for him — Canada Mints from Chutters and Sailing on the Ice: And Other Stories from the Old Squire's Farm by C.A. Stephens:

Pager keeps a supply of Canada Mints for visitors. And C.A. Stephens is an author Pager has liked since boyhood. He has recently been enjoying Stories from the Old Squire's Farm by C.A. Stephens.

Pager and me with our matching Yankee Farm Credit jackets and caps:

See also this post from last year.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Congcong Visits a Farm

I learned last weekend that Congcong had never visited a farm. So we made arrangements for her to visit the Gingue Brothers Farm. Congcong liked to pet the calves:

But not so much the cows:

Dan Gingue did a great job explaining dairy farming to Congcong:

It was a cold day but we had a beautiful sunset!

New York City

Nancy and I were privileged to visit New York City earlier this month at the invitation of CoBank. It was a business trip for me, but we found time for sightseeing. It was the first time we had been in New York City together since our trip in April 2002, mentioned in this post.

We stayed at the Palace Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Sunrise from our room on the 53rd floor:

Northwest of the hotel lies St. Patrick's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. Here is a view of the Cathedral from Rockefeller Center, looking through the Atlas statue:

The Christmas tree (with its Swarovsky Star) and skating rink at Rockefeller Center are guarded by the gilded statue of Prometheus bringing fire to humans:

The main purpose of our trip in 2002 was to visit the World Trade Center site. Here's how it looks eight years after September 11, 2001:

We were fortunate to have an opportunity to see the Rockettes perform their Radio City Christmas Spectacular:

We also were fortunate to see the Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre (no photos). It is the longest running show on Broadway with over 9,000 performances.

Ender's Game and Blogs

When did blogs get started? In an earlier post I mentioned that I discovered blogs in April 2002. The World Wide Web was invented in 1990. According to Wikipedia, the term "weblog" was coined in 1997 and "blog" in 1999. Personal blogs began to be popular around 1999, and political blogs gained popularity after September 11, 2001.

Before all of that, the 1985 book Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, included something very much like today's political blogs.

Ender's Game is about Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and his older siblings Peter and Valentine. Ender, who is at Battle School, and Peter and Valentine, who are at home, use "desks"—which sound just like today's notebook PCs. Peter and Valentine communicate via something that sounds exactly like today's e-mail.

(My earliest use of anything like today's e-mail was in 1994 when Brian's Cub Scout Den exchanged e-mails with my cousin David Porter at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and we all thought that was pretty novel and cool. We were using the Compuserve internet service at the time. My e-mail address was It wasn't until later that we could use names before the @ symbol.)

More significantly, Peter and Valentine use their "desks" to post anonymous articles on "nets," in an attempt to influence world opinion. Sounds just like today's political blogs!

Valentine wrote under the name "Demosthenes" while Peter wrote as "Locke." The earliest blog that I encountered, in April 2002, was the blog of Megan McArdle, then blogging under the name of "Jane Galt." Interestingly, in August 2002 she wrote about the downside of blogging anonymously, and referred to an anonymous blogger named Demosthenes. I don't think Ms. McArdle knew about the connection to Ender's Game, but Demosthenes did.

Ender's Game is an excellent book and I recommend it. It is about a lot more than "nets."

UPDATE 9/26/10: From xkcd:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Megan McArdle Quotes Feynman

Megan McArdle has blogged several times about ClimateGate. It's been interesting to watch the progression of her thinking, from sympathetic to one side of the issue to sympathetic to the other side.

It isn't something that immediately grabbed her attention (she blogs mostly about economics). She didn't blog about ClimateGate until 11/23, the day after I blogged about it, and then only in response to questions from her readers ("ClimateGate"). At this point she sees nothing to make her question the science of climate change.

In her second post on 11/25 ("The Real Problem With the Climate Science Emails") she begins to see the issue.

On 11/27 ("More on ClimateGate") she links to a hilarious video—a spoof on the scientific peer review process. Highly recommended.

Her skepticism grows with a post on 12/1 ("Climategate III: The Mystery of the Missing Data").

On 12/2 she links to a number of other online discussions ("ClimateGate Link Farm") and another hilarious video, this one by Jon Stewart ("Mental Health Break").

Finally on 12/9 she gets it ("ClimateGate: Was Data Faked?"). In this post Ms. McArdle quotes extensively from Feynman's "Cargo Cult Science" speech to show why she is concerned.

I think Ms. McArdle gets it exactly right in this post. The concern is not that the establishment scientists deliberately set out to deceive the rest of the world in a grand conspiracy. The concern is a "subtler kind of bias that we indisputably know has led to scientific errors in the past." The concern is that the establishment scientists ignored Feynman's first rule of science: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool." Did they fool first themselves, and then the public, into believing a bunch of hooey?

Megan McArdle

Megan McArdle is one of the bloggers I occasionally read online. I'm going to introduce her in this post, because in the next post I want to talk about something she recently wrote. Megan McArdle was the first blogger I ever encountered.

The first time I ever visited New York City was in April 2002 with the family (except Brian). One highlight of the trip was the play QED at the Lincoln Center starring Alan Alda as Richard Feynman. Another highlight of the trip was a visit to Ground Zero.

What does this trip to NYC have to do with Megan McArdle? Following is a quote from an e-mail that I wrote to Geoff on 4/27/02 after returning home from that trip:

"I discovered something new yesterday—blogs. Have you heard of blogs before? It's short for weblog, basically an online journal. Anyway I discovered yesterday a blog by a 20-something woman who has worked for the past seven months with the cleanup crews at the WTC. Here's what she wrote about Ground Zero:

"Here's how it starts:

So I've been sitting on the WTC site for seven months now, and it occurred to me today that it no longer looks like a grave. And though I know that there is, as the book says, a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up, it still makes me sad that it now looks like nothing more than the largest construction site in the world.

Every so often those of us who came in that first week play a game of "Do you remember?"

"And it goes on from there at length. Having just been there two days before this blog was posted, and having seen basically a big hole in the ground surrounded by construction trailers, it was quite moving to read this."

I recommend reading the whole post (link above). Do you remember?

That blog post was written by Megan McArdle, then blogging under the pen name of Jane Galt. Ms. McArdle now blogs under her own name for The Atlantic, mostly about economic issues.

Another blogger that I sometimes read online is Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds). An interesting and easy way to become better acquainted with both bloggers is to watch this interview of Megan McArdle by Glenn Reynolds. They start out talking about managing personal finances and then extend the discussion into managing the finances of the federal government. Good stuff.

Next post — Megan McArdle Quotes Feynman.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dan Brown and Galileo

Like many other people, I enjoyed Dan Brown's bestselling novels Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code (the latter has sold 80 million copies so far). They are a fun read, but my advice is to be cautious about thinking that they accurately present historical facts. Here are two examples from Angels & Demons.

A secret society known as the "Illuminati" figures prominently in Angels & Demons. In the book, the Illuminati started in Rome in the 1500s as a group of scientists and others who were opposed to the teachings of the church, and one of their most prominent founding members was Galileo. Well, that's according to the book. According to Wikipedia, the Illuminati had nothing to do with either the church or Galileo, was founded in Bavaria (Germany) not Rome, and was founded in 1776 — 134 years after Galileo died. [But, of course, the Illuminati would have taken care to make sure that the Wikipedia article is misleading, right? Silly me.]

The second example takes more explaining, but is I think more interesting.

In Angels & Demons, the protagonist, symbologist Robert Langdon, finds an important clue in a fictitious text by Galileo which is kept in the library at the Vatican. While reading this fictitious text looking for the clue, Langdon comes across a section on planetary orbits (p. 211 in my paperback edition):
Elliptical orbits. Langdon recalled that much of Galileo's legal trouble [with the church] had begun when he described planetary motion as elliptical. The Vatican exalted the perfection of the circle and insisted heavenly motion must be only circular.

I could be wrong, but I don't think this is the way it was.

I think Galileo got in trouble with the church because of his text titled "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems." The two systems were the ancient Ptolemaic system in which everything orbited the Earth, and the newer Copernican system in which all the planets, including Earth, orbited the sun. Galileo's "Dialogue" favored the Copernican system, which angered the church. The church favored the Ptolemaic system, where the Earth is at the center of everything.

But there's more to the story. Galileo in fact argued for circular orbits, not elliptical orbits. The irony is that Galileo should have known better. While it is true that planetary orbits were circular in the Copernican system (as in the Ptolemaic system), Kepler had discovered some 23 years before Galileo published his "Dialogue" that planetary orbits were elliptical. Galileo knew about Kepler's work, and even corresponded with Kepler, but did not believe that planetary orbits were elliptical.

Here are some relevant dates:
1543 Copernicus published his theory
1601 Tycho Brahe died, Kepler got his data
1609 Kepler's laws of planetary motion
1632 Galileo's "Dialogue"
1687 Newton's laws of motion and gravitation

I mention Brahe (pronounced brah-hee) in this chronology because it was his astronomical data that Kepler used to discover the laws of planetary motion. Kepler's first law of planetary motion says that planetary orbits are elliptical. But Galileo ignored Kepler, and went back to the earlier Copernican theory of circular orbits around the sun, which we now know was wrong.

I mention Newton because it was his laws which provided a mathematical proof for Kepler's laws. Kepler had derived his laws empirically—from observational data, without any underlying mathematical framework. Newton provided the mathematical framework.

I think it is common knowledge that the trouble between Galileo and the church was about whether the Earth or the sun was at the center of things. I don't think it is so commonly known that Galileo argued for circular orbits when he should have known from Kepler's work that planetary orbits are elliptical.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Boulder Hi & Boulder Lo

Behind Pager's house is a lilac garden that Travis created in 1999 in memory of Grandma. Here is Pager standing in the lilac garden in May 2006:

Note Bill's sugarhouse in the background. The thing in the center of the lilac garden is a potash kettle.

The subject of this post is the small building next to the lilac garden. Here are two better photos of the building. The first was taken in June 2000 when the lilac garden was young (and the sun was shining), and the second was taken yesterday (in the rain):

This building has an interesting history. It is currently used for storage. I can remember when we raised chickens in it. During World War II it sat on the hill above the Boyden Farm — Pager says it was intended to be a place where someone could stay to guard the electric power line from saboteurs, but it was never manned. Originally, however, this little building was a tourist cabin at the Big Spring in Smugglers Notch:

The Big Spring is still there, but without any sign or buildings (only a small parking lot). It is opposite the beginning of the Hell Brook Trail. In the 1930s there was a tourist attraction here called Boulder Cabin, and it included tourist cabins. The building behind Pager's house is one of the tourist cabins.

Pager talks about two tourist cabins: Boulder-Hi and Boulder-Lo. But apparently there was also Boulder-Ette and Boulder-Ite as well as a main building named Boulder Cabin. Here is an advertisement that was reprinted by the Cambridge Historical Society in 2006:

The advertisement does not say so, but Pager says the tourist attraction included a stocked trout pond fed by the Big Spring. Overnight guests could catch their dinner and have it cooked for them. (Confirmed in this book, p. 52.)

Boulder Cabin was run by Pearl Shafer and her husband. Before this area of Smugglers Notch was added to the Mount Mansfield State Forest in 1940, it was owned by L.S. Morse, a Cambridge lumberman and mill owner. Pearl was Mr. Morse's daughter. (The area where Smugglers Notch Resort is located was known as Morses Mill. The building now housing the restaurant Stella Notte was a boarding house for the sawmill workers.)

Here is a slightly damaged photo of two of the four tourist cabins at the Big Spring:

On the left is Boulder-Ite, and on the right is Boulder-Lo. Alas, we don't know which one of the four tourist cabins is the one behind Pager's house.

On the back of the building are these 1949 Vermont license plates:

Pager says the cabin came to the farm from the hill near Boydens in 1946.

International Thanksgiving

On the day after Thanksgiving, we again had an "International Thanksgiving" dinner, as we did in 2007 and 2006. Chalene, Edna and Congcong prepared a spread that looked as good as it tasted:

From top to bottom — Korean scallion pancakes by Chalene (oval plate), Japanese shrimp tempura by Congcong and Chalene (round plate), Ma Po tofu by Chalene (round bowl):

Seafood noodles by Congcong (heart shaped dish):

Chinese steamed pork buns by Edna (top left) and eggplant and sweet potato and shrimp tempura (large plate in center):

Tamagoyaki (sweet omelette) by Chalene (large plate at top left—this is something that Japanese mothers often make for their children in school lunch boxes), mushroom tempura (small plate at top right), and Ma Po tofu (bowl):

For dessert (no photos) we had crepes by Emily with Japanese/Chinese red bean paste by Edna, manjar (aka dulce de leche) by Emily, Nutella, maple syrup and ice cream. Note that dessert included favorite repeats from prior years—crepes (Marion) and manjar (Camila).

Thanks, Chalene, Congcong, Edna and Emily, for a delicious feast!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! All three children were home, and Emily brought three friends from Middlebury: Chalene, Congcong and Edna.

This was Chalene's third year at our house for Thanksgiving, Congcong's second, and Edna's first.

Last year we were in New Zealand. Click here for Thanksgiving 2007. I had not started the blog in 2006.

If it hadn't been for the war...

The previous post about Freeman Dyson relates to something else I've been thinking about recently.

I am currently listening to "Biology: The Science of Life," a set of lectures from The Teaching Company. (Highly recommended. Biology is much more fascinating than I had realized.)

I'm only a few lectures into the course, but one name that keeps coming up over and over again is Francis Crick. Freeman Dyson tells a story about Francis Crick at the end of the online article that was the subject of the previous post:


Briefly, both Dyson and Crick were British physicists. They met for the first time in 1945, before World War II ended. Dyson was 21. Crick was 28, and had spent his 20s working for the British government in the war effort. Crick was depressed, because the war effort had taken six years out of his physics career. For a scientist, one's 20s are often a period of high productivity that sets the foundation for one's professional career.

At the time Freeman Dyson thought: "How sad. Such a bright chap. If it hadn’t been for the war, he would probably have been quite a good scientist."

But Francis Crick didn't give up. And he didn't return to physics, either. He changed disciplines to biology. Together with James Watson, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, he discovered the double-helix structure of DNA just eight years after the end of World War II. (Nobel prize 1962.) Francis Crick continued to make many important discoveries in biology until his death in 2004.

Freeman Dyson in his own words

I've mentioned Freeman Dyson a couple of times recently — in the previous post and last March. Here is Freeman Dyson in his own words (August 8, 2007):


He first talks about the importance of heretics. Feynman would have agreed.

Then he talks about three heresies:

1. "All the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated." Dyson does an excellent job of briefly describing all the various aspects of global warming, from polar ice to topsoil.

2. "The wet Sahara." Dyson says the Sahara was wet 6,000 years ago; that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide might bring back such a climate; and that this might be a good thing. In this part of the paper, he writes about the philosophical differences between naturalists and humanists.

3. The third heresy is not about global warming. It is about global dominance. "The United States has less than a century left of its turn as top nation." He has some good thoughts for today's young people.

Freeman Dyson begins this paper with a story about the famous astronomer Tommy Gold, and he concludes with a story about the famous biologist Francis Crick. It is a good read, and I recommend reading the whole thing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The CRU hack - so what?

Background here.

So "the CRU hack" might have been the work of a whistleblower, not a hacker. So what? Was there any wrongdoing to blow the whistle on?

You can find lots of discussion on this issue all over the Internet. (Here's one place to start. Here's another.) I don't see any evidence of wrongdoing in the sense of outright fabrication of data. But there is plenty of reason to wonder if there is wrongdoing in the sense of groupthink and cherry-picking of data (maybe even suppressing data) to support a particular point of view.

As just one example, this 2008 e-mail exchange between Dr. Phil Jones, the director of the CRU, and Dr. Michael Mann about deleting e-mails, if true, is troubling:


[The reference to "AR4" means the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC, released in 2007. The reference to "CA" means the Climate Audit blog.] Any request to delete e-mails on a particular subject, especially at a time when the organization is responding to FOIA requests, is troubling. (Note that the subject of the e-mail is "IPCC & FOI.")

Whether or not any of this is illegal, I leave to others. But I think a strong case can be made that it is bad science. That's the root of the controversy: is the science of climate change good science or bad science? What is science, anyway?

It is clear that the scientists at CRU and RealClimate are human, with egos and emotions. They aren't always nice. Consider this quote from the first post on RealClimate in response to this incident:
It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him.

True enough. But it's interesting that they would mention Feynman, an authority on scientific integrity. That's what this is about at bottom. See especially Feynman's 1974 Caltech commencement speech titled "Cargo Cult Science." Feynman said that scientific integrity requires
utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards....If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.

Feynman wasn't talking about deliberate attempts to fool others. He was talking about the very human tendency to fool oneself: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool."

Do the e-mails in "the CRU hack" reveal "a kind of leaning over backwards" to consider other points of view? No, just the opposite. If true, they reveal a concerted effort to stamp out other points of view. This is bad science. What "the CRU hack" makes us wonder is this: are the establishment scientists involved in climate change fooling themselves?

Feynman is dead, so we can't ask him what he thinks about the state of climate science. But a one-time colleague, Freeman Dyson, with views similar to Feynman's about scientific integrity, has lately turned his formidable intellect to climate science. His view? "Lousy science."

UPDATE 12/03/09: Today's Wall Street Journal has a letter to the editor with most of the above Feynman quotes. It's nice to know that Feynman's "Cargo Cult Science" speech has not been forgotten.

The CRU hack

Private e-mails between scientists at a major climate change research center, the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, were published on the Internet a few days ago. Here are several articles about the incident:

New York Times: Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute

Christian Science Monitor: Hacked climate emails: conspiracy or tempest in a teapot?

Washington Post: In the trenches on climate change, hostility among foes

For more background and perspective, I recommend two blogs that represent polar opposite views about climate science:

RealClimate, run by Dr. Gavin Schmidt. Dr. Schmidt is a climatologist who works for NASA (but the blog is not affiliated with NASA). A number of leading U.S. climatologists contribute to RealClimate.

Climate Audit, run by Steven McIntyre, a retired Canadian mining businessman with a background in mathematics. (Mirror site for high traffic situations)

Scientists at the CRU and RealClimate are major contributors to the reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPCC reports are said to represent the scientific establishment's consensus view on climate change. IPCC reports are used by policy makers around the world to justify major government controls and programs such as the cap and trade legislation currently being debated in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. McIntyre, on the other hand, asks skeptical questions about the "consensus" view of climate change.

Many of the "hacked" e-mails are between scientists at the CRU and RealClimate. And many of those e-mails are about Steve McIntyre and a handful of other scientists who ask inconvenient questions about the science of climate change.

A good place to begin to understand the controversy is with the famous (or infamous) hockey stick graph:

Dr. Michael Mann and two colleagues developed the original hockey stick graph. Dr. Mann is a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University and a contributor to the RealClimate blog. The graph shows that temperatures have risen dramatically in recent years (the hockey stick shape). This graph was featured prominently in the 2001 IPCC report.

Steve McIntyre began his blog in 2003 to question the data and methodology behind the hockey stick graph. He has continued to question the data and methodology of published articles on climate change. A recurring theme of the Climate Audit blog has been the reluctance of establishment scientists to release for public scrutiny the data and methodology behind their published articles.

And now we are getting to something about "the CRU hack" that I think the newspaper articles above missed. I titled this post "The CRU hack" because that is the title of the first post on RealClimate responding to this event. And the word "hack" is used in all the newspaper articles I cited above. But it is not at all clear that this event was a hack.

On his blog, Steve McIntyre writes about recently asking the CRU to release certain data under the U.K.'s Freedom of Information Act. The CRU refused, citing contractual agreements that prevent disclosure. Mr. McIntyre appealed this decision. On Nov. 13, the CRU refused his appeal. Days later, "the CRU hack" was anonymously released to the public in a file titled "" and accompanied by this message:
We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.

This could have been the work not of a hacker but of a whistleblower.

More thoughts here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Man and His Horse

Recently I read to Pager a story about Morgan horses from this book. I mentioned to Pager that he must have had some horses on the farm that had Morgan blood in them, and he said yes. I asked if he remembered any of their names, and he said no. But after a few minutes he said that he remembered a horse named Beauty that he'd had as a young man. I said that was a nice name. He said she was a nice horse.

And then he said something that surprised me: "There's something between a man and a horse that you can't put into words."

I was surprised because I'd never heard Pager be this sentimental about a horse before. And I was also surprised because one doesn't hear this much any more. Maybe about a woman and a horse, but not so much about a man and a horse. (At least not in the east.) In my previous post I wrote about changes during Pager's lifetime. But here's one I missed—the use of horses has changed from almost exclusively by men to almost exclusively by women. I don't know why that should be, but it just is.

It turns out that Pager has a photo album about Beauty. Here's the first page (click on photos to enlarge):

The writing says: "Boots, born September 1936, purchased April 2, 1937, from C.J. Munn, Johnson, Vermont, priced at $65, named Beauty, nicknamed Boots while being used with Black Beauty." Black Beauty was another horse on the farm; the album has a photo of the two horses working together "haying at Gomo's."

Here is a photo of Pager holding Boots in front of the farmhouse in 1937 soon after she was purchased:

On the porch are Pager's parents, Mabell (normally spelled Mabelle?) and Kinsley, Pager's sister Elizabeth (mostly hidden), and a boarder named Edson Cook. Pager was 22 or 23 at the time.

The album has many pictures of Boots being trained or ridden, and of Boots pulling something such as a sleigh or a gathering tub of sap. But most of the photos are of Boots with young women. Boots was a chick magnet! There are six different single young women in the pictures, not counting Pager's sister Elizabeth. Here is a photo of Mother's sister, Evelyn Gould, in 1942:

And here are several photos of Mother (Lois Gould), probably about the same time:

Pager called her Pat (and she called him Put). The caption says: "Boots and Pat, let it go at that." Put and Pat were married on June 16, 1946.

Changes in Pager's Lifetime

I've been remiss about posting birthday celebrations. Pager's 95th birthday was on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. We celebrated at his house the day before, which was Labor Day.

I've been thinking about the changes that Pager has seen in his lifetime. (Pager is fond of noting that Europeans discovered this part of the world only 400 years ago, and he's been around for almost a quarter of that time.) The photo below is four years old (11/6/05) but it shows Pager listening to Laura's iPod Nano. Now there's some change!

Modern electronics like the iPod Nano and computers (including blogs) would not be possible without quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics and relativity were the two major scientific developments of the 20th century. Both got started in the decade just before Pager was born, with major papers in both areas by Einstein in 1905.

What else was going on in the world when Pager was born on September 8, 1914? The Germans had just invaded Belgium and France the month before, starting World War I. But that didn't directly affect Pager. Let's consider how the world looked to Pager.

When Pager was a boy, the most advanced method of transportation available to him at home on the farm was a horse & buggy. If he rode in the buggy to Cambridge village, two miles away, he could board a steam train. No cars or tractors. Certainly no commercial airplanes. No radio or TV, and certainly no computers. No electricity! Artificial light was by candle or lantern. Pager's parents did have a telephone at the farm. In fact, they had to use the telephone on the day he was born. It was a difficult birth, and he might not have made it into the world if the telephone had not been available to call a doctor. Of course, the telephone technology was different from today. Not many people today remember the crank telephone.

Here are a few milestones in communications and transportation in the years before Pager was born:

- steam engines (first commercial steam railroad 1830)
- telegraph (1844)
- telephone (1876)
- internal combustion engines (1876)
- radio (1902)
- propeller airplanes (Wright Brothers—1903)
- automobiles (first widely available car—Model T—1908)

Other major developments, that we now take for granted, did not come until later—in the 1930s. The first major television broadcast was the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Jet airplanes were first flown by the Germans in 1939. In 1936 the British mathematician Alan Turing proposed his concept of universal computation, the so-called Turing machine, which eventually led to the computer that we know today.

The first car at the Putnam farm, a Model T, came in 1921, when Pager was 6 or 7. Electricity did not come to the farm until 1941, when Pager was 26 or 27. The first tractor on the farm was in 1943—a "Doodle Bug," really an old Model A truck that had been modified for field work. Until that time, all field work was done with horses. Pager was the one who introduced tractors to the farm. No doubt his father couldn't understand why horses weren't perfectly adequate.

If I make a list of the biggest changes that Pager has seen, I come up with the following: cars; tractors; electricity; modern telephone; radio; TV; computers; the Internet; jet airplanes; putting a man on the Moon in 1969; space probes to all of the planets; 15 million dead in World War I—at the time the worst war the world had ever seen, but soon to be eclipsed by 50 million dead in World War II; 25-50 million dead in the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919; the right to vote for women in 1920; the atomic bomb; nuclear energy; refrigeration; antibiotics; biotechnology; the rise of the carbon-based economy (soon to fall?); the rise and fall of communism (another 25-50 million dead).

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments on what you think are the biggest changes that Pager has seen in his lifetime.

UPDATE 11/27/09: Here's something I forgot to mention—Vermont is much more wooded now than it was when Pager was born. In 1910, Vermont was 70% cropland and pastureland. In 2002 it was only 11% cropland and pastureland, with most of the rest being woods (some is cities, villages and roads). Source: Census of Agriculture. I wrote about this for work here and here (first comment).

George's 2nd Birthday

While looking through Pager's photo albums recently, I found this picture of me on my 2nd birthday:

Also in the photo is Pager (he was "Daddy" then, simply "Dad" later), Grandpa (J. Kinsley Putnam) and Beth. My guess is that what everyone is smiling at is Pager wiggling his ears. Pager had a way of wiggling his ears without moving any other muscles that fascinated us kids.

A few days ago I showed this picture to Pager and explained what I thought was going on. I asked him if he could still wiggle his ears. Instantly, he did! He still can wiggle his ears in a way that I've never seen anyone else do.

At the time of this picture (1957), Pager was 42, Grandpa was 83 and Beth was 9 almost 10. The photo was taken in the kitchen at the farmhouse. Note the blackboard on the wall behind the table. It was used extensively to write notes to family members.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quebec City - Churches

Quebec City has many churches. We toured two. Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral has been located on this site since 1647:

The smaller Notre-Dame-des-Victoires dates back to 1687:

Quebec City is divided into an Upper Town (most of the city) and a Lower Town (next to the river). Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral is located in Upper Town, while Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is located in Lower Town.

Quebec City - Statues

Quebec City is full of statues. Here is a bust of Louis XIV:

In the photo above, the church at the left is Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, which was built during his reign. (See this post for more pictures of churches.)

Of course there is a statue of Samuel de Champlain:

The statue of Champlain is in Dufferin Terrace, in front of the Chateau Frontenac. The angle on the above photo is not very good, but it was the only angle that captured the English inscription on the base. Click here for a better angle.

There were also many statues outside of the walled city. All of the statues below are located outside Old Quebec.

The facade of the Parliament Building for the Province of Quebec has many statues (all of the dark spots):

Directly over the main entrance to the Parliament Building, in the center, are statues of Wolfe and Montcalm (close-up).

Below is a statue of Montcalm in front of Loews Hotel le Concorde. Montcalm was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and died the next day. The statue shows him standing, sword in hand, but with an angel hovering over his shoulder:

Nearby in a park named for her is a statue of Joan of Arc:

Most of the statues in the city were of historical figures, but not all. Just outside our hotel was a statue of the Muses.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quebec City - Fortifications

Old Quebec is a walled city. It is the only such city in the U.S. or Canada with its fortifications still intact. Our hotel in Place D'Youville was just outside one of the three gates through the wall:

[In the photo above, note the ice skating rink at the left. The pile of snow in front of the gate is from the Zamboni that maintained the skating rink, not from the weather.]

The highest point of land in the city is occupied by the Citadelle, a fort within a fortified city. Construction of the Citadelle was started by the French in the late 1600s but most of the current fort was built by the British in the 1820s to protect against attack from the Americans (which never came). The Citadelle is still an active Canadian military installation, home to the Royal 22e Regiment. Flags at the Citadelle were flying at half-mast because of the recent death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan.

The Citadelle is not imposing from the outside. It does not rise much above the land. Below is the entrance, which is itself reached only by a circuitous route and therefore not visible until you are upon it:

The only way to get inside the Citadelle is on a guided tour (highly recommended). Below is the view from inside the Citadelle at the height of land. Note the Chateau Frontenac in the distance at the right.

The view below is from the same spot (note the Chateau Frontenac again). The general direction of this view is downriver, but of course the English were concerned about possible attacks from either direction. The cannon at the right is pointed upriver, in the general direction of the refinery noted earlier, and when operational it was capable of firing twice as far as that refinery.

Just outside the Citadelle, and therefore also just outside the walls of Old Quebec, is a high plateau known as the Plains of Abraham. Here there are additional fortifications, including this Martello Tower:

The open fields which constitute the "plains" are just to the right of the above photo. Today they are part of the popular Battlefields Park. A pivotal battle was fought here in 1759 during what we call the French and Indian War. Canadian history can be divided into three periods: the French period, the English period, and the Canadian period. The French period ended in the 20 minute Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Briefly, the British General James Wolfe (only 32 years old) was sent down the St. Lawrence River in May 1759 with about 8,000 men and 50 ships and with orders to take Quebec City. After nearly four months of bombardment and several skirmishes, he had damaged the city but not taken it. In September he hit upon a plan for a small force to climb the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham during the night. The French were not expecting an attack from this direction, and they were defeated. Both Wolfe and the commanding French General, Louis Joseph de Montcalm, were killed, but the British held the field.