Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Notes Week of December 9
(2 items today)

1. My history with Electronics: On the wall of my childhood home was mounted a large oak box – our telephone! There was a listening device to hold to the ear, and a mounted mouth piece to speak into. To make a call, it was necessary to remove the ear piece, then turn the handle on the side of the phone 3 times … this could connect you with Grace Cheney– the “Central” telephone operator in downtown Delia Kansas.

Wall Telephone - ~1940

We would just tell her the name of the person we wanted to call. She could also help arrange a long distance call ( rarely used ). If the bells on the phone rang two long and a short ring we knew the call was for us. Since the phone system was a party line everyone else received the rings too – so other folks would listen in to see what interesting gossip they could pick up on their neighbors. As more and more people listened in the signal became fainter and it was necessary to shout into the phone.

The only other electronic device that we had in the house was a radio – Rushing home from school to listen to radio adventures filled my imagination as well as TV does today! In the evening there were famous radio “stars” to hear– names known and loved for their weekly radio appearances – Jack Benny, Fibber MacGee, and Gracie Allen… You can listen here:

I was about nine when I first saw a television… and it seemed a very unlikely candidate for success.

It was a large box with a small 6 inch screen, with a large magnifying glass in front. The image was blurry – it was black and white ( but actually quite bluish in appearance). The programming was poor - people talking or singing… and it didn’t do much for me. The Principal of the Delia High School was the first to have a set in his home. They had a regular stream of people come by to see this new phenomenon.

Early TV image - Felix the Cat? ~ 1948

When I started the fifth grade we had moved into Topeka, and I recall a lesson on telephone etiquette. The teacher handed standard desktop telephone to two students to hold a mock conversation. (I was one !)

Desktop telephone with dial! ~1950

I had no idea how to speak into this thing! The teacher was very kind and explained to me in a way to minimize my embarrassment.

TV of course went on to became a dominant part of the American culture – it has changed how we get our news, our entertainment, and has changed the exercise patterns of millions. Today I watch mostly news programs, nature programs, and BBC imports… I have very little patience with the so called “reality TV “ shows and situation comedies that I see… And I hate programs with recorded sound tracks of canned laugher played during situation comedies to signal to the viewers that something is supposed to be funny…Aargh!

I was out if college before I heard of computers. They were small and not very impressive. Apple computers in the early days gave computers to the schools ( a smart move ) and I found my school computer to be a useful tool – kind of a fancy calculator… but nothing to get very excited about. It couldn't do much.

Early "Mac" computer ~ 1965

And look at me today – I love the internet! Wikipedia and Google are my constant sources of information. I use my desk top and my lap top daily… I send emails instantly to the far corners of the world. Skype even allows me to have face to face visual conversations with far distant people. I love my digital camera and the ability to connect it to my computer to process the photos and send them to far distant friends and family.

There are some things I don’t do. My Facebook page is poorly maintained. I don’t play games. I dont use chat groups. I don’t “twitter” ( except to send out my blog). Not that any these things are bad – I just don’t have time.

And now, my friends, – my latest accomplishment, of which I am very proud… I have learned to send text messages… I resisted it for a long time – but it became necessary if I wanted to connect with my student teachers and interns… It is kind of fun...

Now it looks like the internet, cell phones, and twitter are major agents of change in our world. In the cases of Iran, the Arab spring, the US Occupy Movement – cell phones and cell cameras have played a large role in documentation of events, communication across a city or world... Criminal activity, police wrong doing, political speeches... are all recorded and used to build the movements and as evidence of wrong doing.

Occupy wall street - NYork

See for yourself:

2. Robert Reich: I dont normally use this space to directly copy an article - Here is a portion of the article in the Nation of Change web newspaper: This is "don't miss" reading:

For full article go to :

What kind of society, exactly, do modern Republicans want? I’ve been listening to Republican candidates in an effort to discern an overall philosophy, a broadly-shared vision, an ideal picture of America.

The share of the nation’s income flowing to the top 1 percent of households increased sharply, from 16.9 percent in 2002 to 23.5 percent in 2007

They say they want a smaller government but that can’t be it. Most seek a larger national defense and more muscular homeland security. Almost all want to widen the government’s powers of search and surveillance inside the United States – eradicating possible terrorists, expunging undocumented immigrants, “securing” the nation’s borders.

Border fence - US/MEXICO

They want stiffer criminal sentences, including broader application of the death penalty. Many also want government to intrude on the most intimate aspects of private life.

They call themselves conservatives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to conserve what we now have. They’d rather take the country backwards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Act, Medicare, and Medicaid; before the New Deal,

Before the time of environmental oversight - Air pollution was uncontrolled

and its provision for Social Security, unemployment insurance, the forty-hour workweek, laws against child labor, and official recognition of trade unions; even before the Progressive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Federal Reserve.

They’re not conservatives. They’re regressives. And the America they seek is the one we had in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century.

Child Labor in America - 1880
It was an era when the nation was mesmerized by the doctrine of free enterprise, but few Americans actually enjoyed much freedom. Robber barons like the financier Jay Gould, the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, controlled much of American industry; the gap between rich and poor had turned into a chasm;

Your biggest mistake was being born poor...

urban slums festered; children worked long hours in factories; women couldn’t vote and black Americans were subject to Jim Crow; and the lackeys of rich literally deposited sacks of money on desks of pliant legislators. (sound familiar? - history repeats itself...)

For full article go to :

Don't miss Links of the week:

National Defense Authorization Act: Read this and fear:

The truth about global climate change: