Omeka Organization

This week in class we worked out how we might structure our soldier’s exhibit, paying particular attention to accommodations we might make in order to cater to the way in which modern internet users browse content. I’m uncertain how exactly I will end up organizing it all, but in class I came up with:

Navigation to Union
Background, family, war

During the war
Battles, injury, release

Profession, family, dispute, divorce, post-divorce

Professional works
Patent, pictures

as a tentative outline.

Published in: Uncategorized on 25/04/2014 at20:12 Comments (0)

And so it begins

We’ve learned of metadata. We’ve familiarized ourselves with our soldiers. Now, we begin our journey of sharing what we’ve learnt in a manner easily readable to both machines and carbon-based life forms: setting up our Omeka page!

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Published in: Uncategorized on 04/04/2014 at21:50 Comments (0)

Some Tidbits

Herman Pfiel, it turns out, was an entrepreneur. Remember the problems he had with his wife? It appears the reason the pension becames held up was due to complications with work! His partner at the office was his brother-in-law!

It seems that after the war, Herman set up shop in New England, but died shortly after the turn of the century. He seemed to have had a falling out with his wife’s family prior to that; I can only speculate, but it appears to have been related to the practice he and his brother-in-law co-operated. I need to find exactly where they operated, and check some newspapers for anything about the practice.

Looking through his life felt remarkably like detective paperwork; I can see how they draw their complaints in fiction, and also why they stick with the job through it all. I think the key narrative for Herman may shape up to revolve around the relationship he had with his wife’s family, his immigration background, and how his sickness might have affect his work. There’s definitely a story here; I just have to keep digging to find it. Perhaps I’ll even manage to secure one of his practice’s works!

Published in: Uncategorized on 21/03/2014 at22:55 Comments (0)


I read Terms of Service; I try to stay aware of security concerns; yet I don’t undertake even the simplest of precautions. Well, the simplest, perhaps. Still, torn between privacy and convenience, I tend to look to the side, see a butterfly, and frolick away concerns of matters more important: like how I should stop using this, start using that, or become a crypto-hacker to protect myself from the man.

That’s not necessary, though. A few changes here and there, and I’d be more secure, if not perfectly safe. A couple minutes of my time and I may salvage months of effort should a data catastrophe occur.

This makes me think of ways we – as a society – could train these skills into the general populace. As Professor Robertson repeatedly assured class, like a stove, once you’ve been burned you’ll learn to beware its danger. Take some kids, tell them to write something or play a game, and when they are all focused, and halfway done, crash the programs. Do this once, then tell them what happened. Instruct them to save. From then on, for all assignments or activities, randomly crash the program; they’ll learn.

Teaching password security might be a tad more difficult. I suggest holding a secret, double-blind competition; the teacher tells the students to enter into a program their go-to password. After all students have entered their password, the program will try to blunt-force, or guess, the passwords entered. If no one’s password lasts beyond a certain date, all lose. Whoever’s password survives beyond that date, and holds out the longest, wins. After a victor is crowned, a new competition begins, into which students must enter their new go-to password; the winner must enter the same password as before. Thus the game shall continue until all students have a very strong password, and no victor can be crowned before the school year ends. This competition might cost a lot, however, taking electricity and computing power into account.

Published in: Uncategorized on 07/03/2014 at23:12 Comments (0)

Finding the little things

Professor Robertson asked us to discuss the little tidbits that stand out as worth further academic investigation; reading through the documents provided for my soldier, Herman Pfeil, I think I found one. He died before his wife, but shortly before he passed, he filed for his pension to be paid to her. It seems there was some issue, as some years later she filed further paperwork to ensure receipt – or so it seems. While I’d need to look into some background material on how pensions were paid out for American Civil War veterans (as it seems many of us must), if this indicates ineptitude, then I’ve found a potential research topic: coverage of spouses or extended family under American Civil War pension programs.

There’s another angle I could take with that. Perhaps there was discrimination instead of ineptitude, and related to Herman’s background, not the change of beneficiary. In that case, if I could find a group of people like Herman who had troubles finagling their pension payouts, I’d have a research topic (as would everyone else with a Herman-like soldier).

Of course, there’s also why Herman died – it appears he settled his affairs beforehand, so I suspect he saw it coming. I could try to find what that process would entail for someone like Herman, though that would only be interesting were there complications or challenges; the medicine behind his demise I find more interesting. How were patients treated at Blenheim? on the field? in general hospitals? Diving into Herman’s struggle to heal after sustaining wartime injuries would, with occasional asides contrasting treatment quality then with treatment quality now, guide the curious into the foreign past with a handrail of comparison. Stories that connect to the foreign with the familiar hook strongly; and with a strong hook, the curious might actually learn something.

Published in: Uncategorized on 28/02/2014 at22:27 Comments (0)

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Published in: Uncategorized on 21/02/2014 at20:47 Comments (0)

Cataloguing History

History, often, is portrayed as a mystery, a puzzle to solve. Running with the puzzle analogy, imposing order upon miscellaneous historical documents by means of cataloguing data in a spreadsheet would be unto finding all the edge pieces of a puzzle. Tedious, perhaps, yet necessary.

The mystery begins once you’ve catalogued the simple stuff; reading the documents, discovering the patterns that relate the apparent miscellany – this is when the fun begins.

But what if it’s not fun? What if we find ourselves uninvested detectives? The latter enables some degree of objectivity – the former just proves a problem.

Problems yearn for solutions. Let’s find one, then, shall we?

First, and perhaps most obvious by this point: actively make a narrative out of what you find. Regale yourself with a captivating beginning, and make the middle interesting enough to make you wish to seek out the end.

Another strategy: pretend your subject relates to you in some way. I don’t want to spoil your imagination with suggestions as to the how, so I’ll leave it at that.

Have you ever read an inductive non-fiction book, that begins with a life earning their living through the most mundane means, and ends with a metaphorical conquering of the cosmos? Assume what you’re doing will end like that; it probably won’t, but at least you’ll find it out either way (and have a laugh at yourself for thinking it would).

Add some external motivation – find out the basics of the mystery, explain them to a friend as impartially as possible, then make a wager on how you think it will resolve. I recommend making the wager on Opposite Day, so when you inevitably try really hard to make the evidence agree with your wagered outcome, yet still fail, you’ll have done a right rigorous job of puzzling out the mystery and will still collect the spoils of your wager!*

*This last strategy is offered facetiously, in part. Don’t fall prey to confirmation bias; wagers are powerful motivators.

Published in: Uncategorized on 07/02/2014 at22:27 Comments (0)

Interactive History

Hearing the Professor lament the current lack of History demonstrative of that which allows the user to interactively shape or investigate the veracity of the arguments they hear in favor or against a particular interpretation of available evidence. This worries me.

These days, it is not uncommon to come across a pair arguing how they can keep the public’s interest in the face of hyperstimulation; filmed media will add more cuts, interactive media will nuture its doling of rewards, and books read like long-form dramas. Educators pay attention to the science of how humans learn. But History? History is an analysis of surviving (and absent) evidence aimed at discovering the state of the past. I see potential in counter-argument algorithms well versed in the secondary literature, but find the academic viability of interactive visual immersion with the past limited. Perhaps visual comparisons of the state of the past suggested by differing arguments would help convince others; I’m skeptical this is all that would merely occur.

The great effort of contructing two responsive worlds solely for the purpose of one’s visual exploration would be a terrific waste of resources were one to simply stop at that point. Cheap, reliable virtual explorations – not just of worlds, but of language manipulation, as well – could come only from computer emulations not dependent upon teams of humans to operate effectively.

I digress. I worry that the distinction between improving the means by which History is practiced, consumed, cricitized, and vying for the popular attention of the masses will sacrifice or transform History in a fashion counterproductive to the purported actual goal of better understanding the past. I think my worry stems from, as Professor Roberston put it, the desire of historians for as many differing perspectives as possible, rather than accurate representation of the past; achieving the latter might certainly necessitate the former, but the reversed emphasis gives me cause for concern. Should the practice of History become divided, I expect deviations of purpose to arise; that there could already be one deviation worries me.

Published in: Uncategorized on 31/01/2014 at12:58 Comments (0)

Weaving the Web

You’re an Inter- spider. How might you make your web – your Interweb?

You’ll have to figure that out yourself; I’ll tell you about the internet, and you can build from there, or go off in your own direction.

First, a metaphorical explanation:

The internet uses cables to connect servers – think dragons who hoard data rather than gold – which house domains – think kingdoms – to other servers. People use the internet to visit different kingdoms on their genies – or browsers. Genies only speak to other genies in numbers, but can understand specific words that people tell them, thanks to translators called the Domain Name System (DNS). If you want to go to the kingdom (or domain) of ‘Superland’, tell your genie, “!”, and your genie will begin the journey.

How does your genie know the address of the place called ‘Superland’? The specific words genies understand correspond to kingdoms’, or domains’, addresses. These addresses, according to the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) – think a thoroughfare governed by traffic guards – guide your genie in ethereal form from server to server – from dragon to dragon – until you reach your destination; then your genie will introduce you to the domain called ‘Superland’.

The genie, when in ethereal form – called a ‘packet’ – may have bits of themselves arrive sooner than others. All these bits and bytes of the genie have numbers and instructions on them, so that once they arrive at their intended address, they reassemble properly.

Now, to resolve the metaphor:

Web browsers allow people to visit domains by sending packets, which contain the information you are sending, be it a request to view a domain, receive data, or send data. Packets are sent to domains by either inputting their TCP/Internet Protocol address, or their corresponding alphabetical address, which the DNS will translate into its numerical TCP/IP address for you. The Protocols inform servers how to handle your packets, and ensure they reach the right domain, by passing them along step-by-step, from server to server, with each server layering a little more information to your packets so they may make their way back to you after they reach the target domain. The packets, on their way back, will be stripped of those layers by the servers they travel through; once the packet returns with your requested data, it will only contain the information requested and instructions on how to arrange each packet in their proper order.

Now weave your web, oh spider of nonexistence!

Published in: Uncategorized on 22/01/2014 at18:42 Comments (1)