I wish had an interesting John McCarthy story but mine is hum drum. I was at a talk at MIT circa 1990. It was most likely about software patents but I don’t recall the topic exactly. Someone a few rows over stood up to ask a question (actually he made a statement, a good one) and a revered hush spread across the room as we collectively recognized the father of Lisp. He said his piece, sat down and that was that. Since I was actually a Cognitive Science major (who realized I only needed a few more courses for a resume-burnishing Computer Science major) the artificial intelligence topics were especially interesting. I spent a lot of time in LISP and Scheme during college and while I’ve never used them in my career, I’ve always strived for that elegance of expression.
Corning Inc. has ably survived into the computer age with its glass a necessity for electronic displays both small and large. In 2008 it shed its money-losing luxury glass division, selling Steuben to Schottenstein Stores, a holding company of various retailers. Steuben is the last manufacturer of luxury lead crystal in the United States. It continued to lose money and in August of this year Schottenstein announced that the 108 year old company will close in November. The flagship Steuben store on Fifth Avenue in New York will close after 77 years of business. Buyers of wedding gifts, commemorative glass pieces, and mementos for heads of state and royalty will have to find something else. The Corning Glass Museum has replaced its Steuben store with works of local glass artists. Steuben’s online store has marked down the merchandise so for some time you can still get an animal hand cooler without having to turn to eBay. Corning has bought back the brand name so perhaps one day when we tire of buying each other gift cards and electronic devices Steuben can shine again.
Above is my copy of “K & R”. It’s actually my dad’s. In college we were first taught Pascal. When I found out nobody actually used Pascal in the real world, I used this to try to learn C one summer and then borrowed it when I went back to college. I still have it. My favorite part is the opening for “Pointers and Arrays”:
Pointers have been lumped with the goto statement as a marvelous way to create impossible-to-understand programs. This is certainly true when they are used carelessly, and it is easy to create pointers that point somewhere unexpected. With discipline, however, pointers can also be used to achieve clarity and simplicity.
Rest in Peace, Dennis Ritchie.
Retailer Eddie Bauer has been pulling itself back from the brink of bankruptcy, the second in its 90 year history. Seattle Met magazine has a nice article on the history of the company detailing how its latest CEO Neil Fiske has been rebuilding on its outdoorsman heritage. Eddie Bauer began as a sporting goods company with Bauer repairing tennis rackets and patenting a badminton shuttlecock. His love for fishing led to a down-filled jacket which led to a commission for the Army which led to a mail-order business that included women’s clothing created by Bauer’s wife. He sold the company in 1968 to General Mills and went back to fishing. General Mills also owned Talbots and Eddie Bauer’s women’s clothing line grew into a huge success. General Mills cashed out in 1988, selling to Spiegel. Things went well until Spiegel topped under the weight of defaults from the gobs of easy credit it had handed out to eager shoppers. Eddie Bauer survived its parent’s bankrupcy by taking on a huge chunk of Spiegel’s debt. Repaying that debt took its toll on their bottom line. Neil Fiske was brought in as a CEO with vision. Miraculously, second bankruptcy proceedings saw Eddie Bauer through the 2008-2009 downturn. It emerged from bankruptcy auction with the Spiegel debt erased and Neil Fiske still in charge courtesy of investors who believed in the progress he’d made and his passion for the brand’s history. James Whittaker wore an Eddie Bauer parka when he become the first American to climb Mount Everest in 1963. Fiske brought in Whittaker’s nephew Peter to develop the First Ascent line to bring Eddie Bauer back to the mountains. He’s planning to retake the forest and streams too. It’ll be a tough road.
A sliding pole? A huge garage? What attracts buyers to old firehouses? It’s not just the romanticism. Firehouses often reflect the architecture of the time they were built and since the older, historic houses are the ones usually up for sale, the draw’s in their appearance and what can be done with the interesting space. Seattle has just granted approval for two old firehouses to go up for bid. Fire Station 38 was built in 1930, Fire Station 37 in 1925. Their assessed values may not be accurate for fair market value but they provide a ballpark price for the curious. Both are historical landmarks so alterations will have to go the city’s Landmark Preservation Board. Fire Station 37 suppposedly comes with a ghost upstairs which the firefighters won’t mind leaving behind when they move into their new modern station.
Seattle’s Museum of Flight missed out on getting a space shuttle but their board hasn’t given up on trying. They’ve met with NASA to point out flaws in the data regarding tourist attendance numbers used to determine which cities would get one of the coveted, retired spacecraft. NASA is of course standing firm on its decision to place shuttles in Los Angeles and New York City, along with the obvious winners Washington D.C. and Kennedy Space Center in Florida. New York’s Intrepid Museum has already changed its plans for displaying the shuttle and may take a few years to raise the funds and build a suitable structure. The Seattle folks would love to take a shuttle even temporarily while permanent homes are built. The Museum of Flight is already spending $11.6 million on a new Space Gallery which was hoped to house a shuttle but will display a full-scale shuttle trainer instead.
At the heart of the general store is the community. Tourists may come to see the New England fall foliage and stop in to buy a souvenir but these stores may also be the local post office, coffee and donuts gathering spot, soda fountain, penny candy store. As this A.P. article points out, one of them sells guns and wedding gowns.
This Friday the Seattle Cinerama begins a two and a half week 70MM and Cinerama film festival. The theater’s curved and impressively wide Cinerama screen will be used for all showings. Greg Wood tracked down several 70MM classics including “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Cleopatra”, and “My Fair Lady”. A few years ago at a similar event, I saw “This Is Cinerama” there with all 3 projectors going. “Lawrence of Arabia” in 70MM had just been delivered to the theater from Sony Pictures by FedEx and so I snapped a photo of the 13 large containers sitting in the lobby. The festival is a unique opportunity to truly see the widescreen movie experience as it was before theaters were crammed down into sizes that makes one want to just wait for home television viewing.
The Church Street Post Office in Manhattan processed the mail for the World Trade Center. After the September 11 destruction, curators at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum debated whether to collect any objects related to the tragedy. Immediately following the horrible events, historian Nancy Pope was determined that they not preserve any artifacts. It was a graveyard to her, not a place to gather museum objects. She and others eventually decided it was a historical event that needed to be documented and the museum obtained several items and also the recollections of one of the postal carriers on site. The zip codes used for the World Trade Center were withdrawn from use. The museum has a postal handstamp bearing the September 11 date and zip code 10007.
The U.S. Postal Service isn’t doing well financially and as the government moves to help with proposals such as removing Saturday delivery, the Director of Stamp Services has announced that living persons can now be featured on stamps. Previously only people dead for five years could be considered and until 2007 it was ten years. The exception to the rule was U.S. Presidents. They hope to have their first living person stamp in 2012 and are taking suggestions. They’ll also now look at those who died within the last five years. I’m thinking not of what I’d like to see on a stamp but what might bring in the most money from collectors around the world. Over 124 million Elvis stamps were collected. Perhaps what we really need is something equivalent to Pokemon cards.