Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Break Book Selections

As a child (and I may be dating myself here) I can recall one of the things that signaled the beginning of the holiday season was the arrival of the Sears "Wish Book" in the mail. This fabulous catalogue displayed all the toys that my brother and I could possibly hope to find under the tree on Christmas morning (along with clothes, and other less desirable items.) We would spend hours pouring over the pages, dogearing the items we intended to include in our letters to Santa.

These days catalogues have given way to online shopping.  I remember the shocking news of Sears discontinuing their "Big Book" in 1993, and now the company offers an online version of the catalog - complete with Wish Book.

Canada had a similar store in Eaton's.  T. Eaton & Co. a dry goods store and haberdashery opened in Toronto on December 8, 1869.  The store was successful and grew rapidly, becoming the first store in Canada to have electric lights and elevators.  In 1884, Eaton's introduced the first mail-order catalogue to Canada, it offered everything from clothing to farming equipment, and even pre-fabricated houses. 

As Canada's population became more urban, shoppers were less reliant on catalogue purchases.  In 1976, Eaton's announced that the Spring-Summer catalogue would be their last.  Many Canadians were in shock.  Unfortunately, the whole chain folded in 1999 and Eaton's corporate assets were acquired by Sears Canada. 

Fortunately, for those feeling nostalgic this time of year, Internet Archive provides a window into Christmas shopping past.  The Eaton's Fall and Winter Catalogue 1913-1914 is available in its entirety online for perusing pleasure.  These days my desire to browse for toys has lessened (unless I'm shopping for my nephew) and I've never had much success purchasing clothes I couldn't try on, but the book selection looked interesting.  While nothing beats walking into a bookstore and diving into the stacks, end of semester assignments often allow little time for shopping.  Plus, with the magic of the internet I can browse the 1913 selection.

With winter break just around the corner, I'm looking forward to some leisure time and a little reading for pleasure - a luxury grad students can't often afford.  So I picked out a handful of books from the 1913 catalogue and using more internet magic, managed to locate some grad-student-budget-friendly (read:free) copies.  Here are some of my holiday reading selections.

Since this time of year always inspires me to try new recipes in the kitchen i decided to check out the cookbook section.  What better women to turn to for hosting advice than the First Ladies?  The White House Cook Book: A Comprehensive Cycolpedia of Information for the Home, is touted as being "comprehensive, filling completely, it is believed, the requirements of housekeepers of all classes.  It embodies several original and commendable features, among which may be mentioned the menus for the holidays."  While this 600 page book full of the "choicest recipes" would have set me back $0.75 in 1913, the full text is available online for free today. 

While preparing my meals fit for a President, I thought I might want to brush up on my table manners as well.  Fortunately for me, right under the cookbooks are numerous books on etiquette.  The Encyclopaedia of Etiquette: A Book of Manners for Everyday Use, seemed like a promising resource.  Eaton's describes it as "a guide for your every-day conduct on all occasions, whether in private or public.  Deals with calls, cards, dinners, table manners, balls, wedding, receptions, musicales, invitations, correspondence, etc."  With this handy manual I never have to worry about not knowing the proper use of a finger bowl or if it would be appropriate to bring my ladies maid to the next house party.

The next book I found is one that was on the shelf in my childhood bedroom.  I think it may have belonged to one of my parents as it had seen a lot of love before I started reading it.  The Little Lame Prince is a story for children about a young prince whose legs are paralyzed due to a childhood injury.  The prince is given a magical traveling cloak by his fairy godmother; he uses this cloak to go on various adventures, and develops great wisdom and empathy in the process.  I can recall enjoying, if not fully understanding the story as a child, and though my hard copy is packed away in a box somewhere, I can enjoy this digital copy as an adult.  "If it draw a few tears, they run into smiles; and the last page leaves us with a gentle, quite feeling, such as grown men and women call peace."

There are a handful of books that I frequently reread, each time enjoying as much as the first.  It doesn't seem to matter that I know what is going to happen, or how the story will end, it still touches me each time I pick it up.  Stepping Heavenward is one of those books, and I'm glad I came across it in the Eaton's catalogue and managed to find it online.  My paper copy is well loved, but like so many of my books right now, it too is packed away in a box in the basement.  I can think of no book I would rather take a break with over this holiday season.  This is a journal-like account of a 19th century girl who learns, on the path to womanhood, that true happiness can be found in giving oneself to others.  It reminds me so much of my halting attempts at a journal in my youth and I am captivated by Katherine's story.

Earlier this year, I went on a history field trip which included a stop at Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site.  This site commemorates the life of Reverend Josiah Henson.  An active abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad, Henson's memoirs served as a source for Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.  While at the site, I was inspired by Henson's story, one that I knew nothing about prior to this visit.  I was familiar with the book, but have never read it.  But with a full text version available from the Internet Archive, I am able to tackle this 19th century best-seller whenever I find the time.

Along with the books with which I was familiar, I wanted to look into a couple new titles.  This highlighted one of the downsides of the book selections in Eaton's catalogue.  Though there was an abundance of fiction titles from which to choose, there were no descriptions.  So as much as we are warned to not judge books by their covers, I was forced to pick on title alone.  My first choice Not Like other Girls, sounded promising.  I hopped over to to see if they had a summery of the book.  I was in luck, "this is a ripping yarn written in the manner of Jane Austen.  Three daughters and their mother fall into gentile poverty after their father's death left them somewhat destitute...They are 'not like other girls' as the book is titled, because they manage to earn admiration and respect despite their reduced circumstances...The book is an interesting window into gender politics of the late 19th century."  One of the things I discovered trying to find a copy of this book online is that it was published in volumes.  The first one I opened was just the second volume - or the middle part of the book.  Something to keep in mind if you undertake a scavenger hunt like this in the future.

The final book that I selected was from the "high-class recent fiction" list of books in the Eaton's calalogue.  The Woman Haters by Joseph Lincoln sounded like an entertaining read.  This one, like my last selection, also posed a bit of a problem when I looked for the full text online.  There was a misprint in Eaton's and the book was listed as The Woman Hater (singular, not plural.)  Turns out there is a novel by Charles Reade of that name.  It was easy enough to sort out the difference, and find the book by the correct author.  Without a description I Googled the title and provided me with a summary for my last read, a "light and amusing tale of a Cape Cod lighthouse keeper and a young new Yorker who becomes his assistant."  I especially enjoy the depiction of the salty lighthouse keeper on the books cover.

I wasn't entirely surprised at the selection of books available online, I am familiar with many Epub books.  I expected to find the well-known titles easily, but the lesser-known ones were a pleasant surprise.  Not only are you able to read all the books I selected online, but they can also be downloaded to a mobile device, like an e-reader.  I have a Nook Color, so I can add all my winter reads to this device and bring them wherever my holiday travels take me.  I was hesitant at first to get on the e-reader bandwagon, I am such a fan of books, and there is nothing like browsing in a bookstore.  But it's hard to beat the convenience of holding dozens of books and magazines (not to mention pdf articles for class) on one device.  With so many of the classics accessible on sites such as Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, Google Books, and Hathi Trust, my personal digital library need never be empty.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Movember - Token American Style - AL Central

For background on Movember see my original post.
Support the cause - donate to Steve, and the UWO Geography Gentlemen!
Be sure to check out Lindsay's Movember blog! 

On this, the last day of November, I wrap up my MLB Tour de Whiskers.  Though I have featured contemporary players, the moustache has a long history of creating an image and mystic for many ballplayers.  As we have seen with Mr. Redstockings, 'staches aren't limited to those on the diamond, but off as well.  This is also the case with my final Movember profile, AL Central manager - Jim Leland.

James Richard "Jim" Leyland
Jim Leyland actually began his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers when he was signed as a catcher in 1962.  He spent several seasons as a minor leaguer for the Tigers club (1964-1970), though mainly served as a coach in 1970.  Leyland left the Tigers for the first time in 1982 when he became Tony La Russa's third base coach from 1982-85 with the Chicago White Sox.

Jim's first appointment as a manager came on November 20, 1985, when he was named the 33rd manager in Pittsburgh Pirates history.  He was with the Pirate for ten years (1986-96) and won two Manager of the Year trophies (90 & 92).  Leyland led the Pirates to the National League Championship Series for three straight seasons from 1990-92, though unfortunately the club was unable to secure the title. 

Leyland's first championship came in 1997, when he managed the Florida Marlins to a World Series title.  The off-season following 97 saw owner Huizenga dismantle the team, and Leland resigned after a terrible 1998 season.  He was skipper for the Colorado Rockies for one season in 99, before temporarily leaving management to scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 2005, Leyland returned to the franchise with which he originally signed, managing in the American League for the first time.  In the 2006 regular season, Leyland steered the Tigers to a 95-67 record, the best since 1987.  It was enough for the Tigers to enter the playoffs as a wild card, defeating the New York Yankees and sweeping the Oakland A's to claim the AL pennant.  Unfortunately, the Tigers were unable to best the St. Louis Cardinals and win the World Series.  However, in leading the Tigers to the AL pennant, Jim became the seventh manager to win pennants in both major leagues.  His first season managing the Tigers earned him the Manager of the Year award for the third time in his career - third person in baseball history to win this award in both leagues.  As of August, 2011 Leyland's contract has been extended through the 2012 season.

These impressive statistics will undoubtedly see Jim Leyland into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager, though which team he goes in under may be up for debate.  As he started a Tiger, and is currently a Tiger, I'm making him my choice for the AL Central representative in this Movember Hall of Fame.

Previous Posts

Movember - Token American Style - NL Central

For background on Movember see my original post.
Support the cause - donate to Steve, and the UWO Geography Gentlemen!
Be sure to check out Lindsay's Movember blog! 

The moustache has been so closely related to the game of baseball, that it's easy to frequently find whiskers not only on players, but on mascots as well.  While I found a whole site devoted to moustached mascots, I knew instantly the one I wanted to feature.  With such a long and rich history as a ball club, I knew the team to discuss for the NL Central, was the Cincinnati Reds and their mascot Mr. Redlegs. 
Mr. Redlegs

Mr. Redlegs first appeared in the 1950s when the Cincinnati Reds were re-branded with the name Cincinnati Redlegs, in an effort to remove any potential association with communism.  The name change lasted into the early 60s when the team returned to its original name.  At the same time, Mr. Redlegs shaved his moustache, and became famous for his "running man" pose.

Mr. Red
 Shortly after, in the late 1960s, the Reds instituted a strict rule barring the team's players from wearing facial hair.  This clean cut look was intended to present the team as wholesome in an era of turmoil.  This rule remained in place for the next three decades, and even occasionally cost the Reds potential players such as pitcher Rollie Fingers, who refused to shave his trademark handlebar moustache.  The rule was finally rescinded in 1999, when the Reds traded for slugger Greg Vaughn, who had a goatee.

Mr. Redlegs, in all his handlebar moustached glory, returned as a mascot in 2007, and has been entertaining Cincinnati fans ever since.  His snappy style has earned him a spot in my Movember Hall of Fame.
Previous Posts

Movember - Token American Style - AL West

For background on Movember see my original post.
Support the cause - donate to Steve, and the UWO Geography Gentlemen!
Be sure to check out Lindsay's Movember blog! 

When I started doing research for my baseball moustache hall of fame, I found a surprising number of sites dedicated specifically to ballplayers facial hair.  Some ranked players according to the impact their whiskers had on their legacy, while others simply listed their favorites.  But no matter what site I consulted, there was one name that appeared over and over, and frequently ranked number one.  It was none other than the Oakland A's Rollie Fingers!

Roland "Rollie" Fingers
Though Fingers was a starter throughout his minor league career, he established himself in the majors as a late inning closer.  In the 1970s, an era allowing for greater opportunities for closers than had previously been available, Fingers' excellence in relief allowed him to gradually increase his annual saves totals past 30.  In 1980 he broke Wilhelm's record of 227 saves, and eventually finished with 341, a record that stood until Jeff Reardon passed it in 1992.  (The same year Fingers was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.)

Some of Rollie's career highlights include seven All-Star appearances, three World Series championships and a World Series MVP, he won the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 1981, and was the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year for both leagues.  Fingers is also one of only a few MLB players to have his number retired by more than one club (Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers.)

However, Fingers wasn't known just for his pitching ability.  His waxed handlebar moustache was originally grown to earn a $300 bonus from A's owner Charles Finley.  Finley, who was known for all kinds of gimmicks, offered prize money to the player who could grow and maintain the best facial hair for opening day in 1972.  Fingers went all out and modeled his whiskers after players of the late 19th century.  Finley went a step farther and came up with "Moustache Day" at the ballpark, where any fan with a moustache could get in free.  Though a majority of the other players shaved their moustaches off after the team traded most of their players in 1975-76, Fingers maintained his and still has one today.  His dedication to the upkeep of this classic facial hair earns him a spot in my Moustache Hall of Fame.

Previous Posts

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movember - Token American Style - NL West

For background on Movember see my original post.
Support the cause - donate to Steve, and the UWO Geography Gentlemen!
Be sure to check out Lindsay's Movember blog!

Both players featured in my previous Movember posts have been inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  My moustache pick for the NL West is a recent retiree from professional baseball (January 5, 2010) and so won't be eligible for induction until 2015.  I suspect Summer 2015, or shortly thereafter, will see the arrival of Randy Johnson in Cooperstown, New York - along with his moustache and his mullet.

Randy "Big Unit" Johnson
Johnson has a staggering list of accomplishments that stack up nicely next to his lanky 6-foot-10-inch frame.  This south paw was known for his dominate fastball and his self-nicknamed "Mr. Snappy" sliders.  His pitches regularly approached, and occasionally exceeded, 100 miles per hour (160 km/h for my Canadian friends) in his prime.  

These skills earned him five Cy Young Awards (1995, 1999-2002), 10 All-Star appearances, and a World Series co-MVP (with Curt Schilling, 2001).  Johnson lead the league in strikeouts nine times, ERA four times, holds the record for most strikeouts in a relief appearance, and struck out 20 batters on May 8, 2001 against the Cincinnati Reds.

There are several milestones every pitcher strives to reach during his career and Randy Johnson hit all of them.  He collected his 300th win in a 5 - 1 victory against the Washington Nationals on June 4, 2009.  He struck out 4,875 batters - second most of all-time, trailing only Nolan Ryan.  Johnson pitched a no-hitter for Seattle on June 2, 1990 and the illusive perfect game for the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 18, 2004 - the oldest pitcher to do so in major-league history.  With these stats it is not surprising that Randy Johnson has defeated every major-league team at least once, and was named to the Sports Illustrated MLB All-Decade Team in 2009.
While Randy Johnson's 'stache may yet to grace the plaque gallery in the Hall of Fame, his skills on the mound and his fabulous facial hair has earned him a spot in my Movember Hall of Fame.

Previous Posts

Ladies in Blue

I've always had a tendency to throw myself into a new subject head first - just ask my parents.  I don't know how many summers I spent going back and forth from the library reading everything I could get my hands on about a new topic.  Fortunately, as a professor's daughter, I not only had the small local library at my disposal, but also a university library for satisfying my curiosity.

Whenever a new person (usually a famous historical female) piqued my curiosity, I would pour over biography after biography, totally immersing myself.  Annie Oakley, Eva Peron, Clara Barton (okay, so maybe I had a thing for musicals as well...)  I just couldn't get enough.

I haven't entirely grown out of this.  It's why I still love learning and trying new things.  Only, now it's even easier to find the information that I used to have to scour the library for.  Now I can just turn to the Internet.  When I was younger I was unaware that I should read things critically and check for reliable sources - if it was in a book it must be true!  Older, slightly wiser, and with a history degree under my belt, I know I have to exercise caution with research on the Internet.  It's a great place to start with a new subject you know little about, but knowing how to fact-check is crucial.  Let me show you how I tackle online research.

Let's start with a topic that I know a little about, but I'd love to learn more - women in baseball.  I start where most people start, with Google.  Unless, I'm looking to buy something, I typically ignore the sponsored ads at the top of the results.  I don't begrudge Google trying to make money, they do offer a service, I'm just not going to start there with my research.

I'll begin with the next three results.  The first - the AAGPBL website is informative, but I don't want to focus on that today.  I think A League of Their Own and Diamond Dreams do a great job at promoting that.  I'm looking for something different.  The Wikipedia article about women in baseball is more modern than I'm looking for, but this third page is interesting.

The Girls of Summer takes you through a brief, entertaining history of women in baseball - and not just the AAGPBL.  What catches my eye are the featured female umpires.

I had heard that there have been a few professional female umpires, but I really don't know much about their stories.  I had no I idea that Amanda Clement was umpiring men's baseball games in the early 1900s.
I had read about Pam Postema before, but I honestly couldn't remember where.  I am intrigued, and I want to know more.

 This is how it starts.  I get curious and I want to know more. What starts out as an interesting article, balloons into multiple Firefox windows with various tabs, in an order that likely only I understand.  Hopefully I can guide you all through my process without losing too many of you along the way.

As I mentioned earlier, with online resources, I like to check who operates the website to see how reliable my new-found source is.  When I clicked the header on The Girls of Summer exhibit, I am taken to this page:

Project participants include Louisville Slugger and the National Baseball Hall of Fame - awesome, but where do I go from here?  The Baseball Hall of Fame also happens to be the home of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center, and they have an online database.

The ABNER (American Baseball Network for Electronic Research) Library Catalog (Abner - get, it? no...okay....never mind) lets me search through the library and archive holdings.  

A quick search of Amanda Clement reveals a scrapbook with newspaper clippings, a few cartoons, and advertising handbills along with comments written by the creator.

Unfortunately, even though the Hall of Fame collection is searchable online, you can only view this item in the reading room.  Since I'm in London, Ontario and Cooperstown, New York is over nine hours away - I'll have to settle for further online research.

Now that I'm thinking along the lines of researchers I do a check-in with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR.)  The SABR website is great, they have a lot of online resources for researchers.

SABR produces several publications including a research journal.  You can search their journal archive from the website. 

You can also open articles from archived publications.

Just to see if I could find anything else online, I checked the notes at the end of the article.  There were quite a few citations from the scrapbook I located at the BHOF, as well as other archival material from the research center.  There was also an article from Sports Illustrated that I manage to find in their vault.

From here, I go where many do when looking for quick info - Wikipedia.  Now,  Wikipedia takes a lot of heat because it is open to editing by anyone.  I'm not recommending you cite it in a paper (I wouldn't recommend you site a regular encyclopedia in a paper either) but it's often a good starting point. 

Unfortunately, this time Wikipedia fails me.  There's a mention of her in the Baseball Umpire article, as the first paid female umpire, but there is no citation.  Usually, I would read through the article and then click on all the "references" links at the bottom.  Then I could assess the reliability of those sources.  Maybe after all this online research some Wikipedia additions and editing is in my future.

This was a quick tour of how I conduct my online research and check sources.  During my research I came across four other professional female umpires and did similar searches on them as well.  It turns out there is a lot more information out there than I expected (and too much to cover in one blog post.)  Perhaps I've found my latest obsession...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Movember - Token American Style - AL East

For background on Movember see my original post.
Support the cause - donate to Steve, and the UWO Geography Gentlemen!

When I started my Movember series of blog posts, I didn't originally take time to consider how many I wanted to publish.  I knew I wanted to do more than one or two, so I started to ponder various numbers associated with baseball.  First, I considered nine - one for each inning - until I realized that would mean basically writing a post every other day until the end of the month, at this point that seemed a bit much.  Doing one for each fielding position wasn't an alternative, as there are nine of those as well.  Other numbers, such as games in a series - five or seven - just didn't seem like the right fit as that number may vary depending on the series.  I finally settled on a moustache from each division.  This gives me five posts in the 15 days left in the month.  Which seems reasonable.  I even sat down and chose a someone from each division (not as easy a task as one might suspect!)

Since I started out in the National League East Division with the Phillies, I decided to tackle the American League East Division next.  As much as I may loath to mention the Yankees, I can't help but bring up the mutton-style moustache of Richard Michael Gossage.

"Goose" Gossage

Goose is often credited with creating the role of the 'closer' in baseball, the main difference from today being that he would often pitch the last three innings of a game, compared to only the final inning most closers pitch today.  Gossage played 22 seasons for nine different clubs, spending the best of his years with the New York Yankees and the San Diego Padres.  

Before retiring in 1994, Gossage pitched in 1002 games, finishing 681, which earned him 310 saves.  He racked up 1502 strikeouts in 1809 innings, and three seasons he led the American League in saves (75, 78, and 80).  He also holds the Yankees career record for ERA (2.14) and hits per nine innings (6.59).  These stellar stats earned him nine All-Star appearances, and he took the mound in three World Series.  
Goose was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. 

In 1983, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner directed then-manager Yogi Berra to tell Gossage that his beard had to go.  In response, Gossage grew and extended his moustache even further down his jaw.  He was known for his "wild facial hair and gruff demeanor to go along with his blistering fastball," thus earning him a spot in my Movember Moustache Hall of Fame.

For those of you wondering how I chose Gossage as an AL East player when he pitched for nine different teams, he is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Yankee, so that was good enough for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, found me in Victoria Park honoring veterans as part of Canada's Remembrance Day commemorations.  Military personnel - both active and retired - as well as poppy pins were plentiful.  A brisk, but beautiful morning provided a perfect backdrop.  It was a moving ceremony, much like ones I have attended in the States, with the exception of song selections.  

I would like to take a moment, on this Veterans Day, to honor and thank those closest to me who served in the military.

Private First Class Harold E. Putt - United States Army Air Corps, World War II
I do not have a photo of my grandfather in uniform, but I did manage to find his enlistment record in the National Archives Database.

Seaman First Class William L Shorts - United States Navy, World War II
I had the chance to interview my grandfather as part of the Veterans History Project through the Library of Congress. 

Lieutenant Thomas E Price United States Army, Vietnam
My godfather served in the Army with a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam.

Finally, my brother, who is currently serving as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, safely returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan two years ago.  He continues to make me proud to call him my little brother with his service to our country.

Lest we forget

Remember to thank the veterans in your life today.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Movember - Token American Style - NL East

Movember fever has swept the Room of Requirement

For those of you not familiar with Movember (as I wasn't prior to this year), it is a world-wide movement to raise funds and awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer.  At the beginning of November, previously clean-shaven men start growing moustaches and register on the Movember website (USA Canada) to track their progress and raise money.  Turns out it is pretty well known in Canada because last year the NHL got in on it (hockey, go figure.)

Lindsay got the ball rolling on her blog, tackling the topic with famous historical moustaches.  While brainstorming future posts, she solicited suggestions from the rest of the public history crew.  Soon names of political leaders, actors, athletes, and artists were flying about the room, everyone advocating their choices.  It became apparent that perhaps this topic was pretty broad for just one blog.  So a few of us have decided to do spin-offs.

As the Token American, I knew I had a responsibility tackle a specific area: moustaches in baseball.

Those of you who know me personally, know that there is only one man to start off this series for me - Michael Jack Schmidt.

Iron Mike

Ask your average Phillies fan who is the best player the club has ever seen, and most will say Mike Schmidt.  Schmidt spent his entire 18-year career in Philadelphia, along the way earning three National League MVPs, 12 All-Star nods, 10 Gold Gloves, and was named the The Sporting News Player of the Decade for the 1980s.  

Known for his slugging as much as his fielding, he racked up 548 career home runs, hitting 40 or more in three separate seasons, and at least 30 home runs 10 other times.  His success is frequently attributed to his signature stance  in which he would nearly turn his back to the pitcher and wave his derriere while waiting for the pitch.  In 1976, he hit four consecutive home runs in a single game, and his 48 round trippers in 1980 set a major league record for a third baseman.

On May 26, 1990 - just shy of one year after making his last MLB appearance, the Philadelphia Phillies retired Schmidt's uniform number 20.  Later they erected a statue of him outside the third base gate at Citizens Bank Park.

In 1995, Mike was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  He earned an amazing 96.52% of the votes cast.

While his amazing skills on the diamond saw him into the Baseball Hall of Fame, his well known facial hair would also undoubtedly earn him a spot in any Moustache Hall of Fame.  So widely known, Nike has already immortalized it on a t-shirt.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of HTML

I may not be technologically savvy, but I'm not completely in the dark either.  I had heard of HTML prior to my Digital History course.  For example, I was familiar with the Compose/HTML buttons in the corner of my blog post pages.  Occasionally, when something wasn't formatting the way I wanted it to, I would switch over to HTML and try to discover the culprit.  (Sometimes this strategy worked, sometimes it lead me to start over from scratch!)

For the most part, I thought of HTML as being like the Wizard of Oz.  The face that the world sees is striking, with fantastic formatting and special effects.  But behind the curtain, it was unimpressive, odd, and a bit confusing.  I preferred to keep that curtain shut, as long as the proper buttons were being pushed and levers were being pulled, the pyrotechnics kept working as they should.

This week Toto, in the form of my Digital History professor, forced me to pull back that curtain and try my hand at the levers and buttons.  With the aid of, I was taken step by step through basic HTML.  The principles are pretty simple.  You have to spell out exactly what you want the text to do, and then you have to tell it to stop at the end.  It can be tricky to catch on at first - forget a " here or a /> there, and nothing happens - which is extremely frustrating!  Once you get it though, it becomes a bit addictive.  I was driven to learn how to do all kinds of little things that add nuances to your web page.

Much like my colleague Dave noticed, I was impressed with how writing in HTML tapped into my creative side.  I often separate technology and creativity, but this showed me how interrelated they could be.  I also have to admit that once I started to catch on, I got really excited.  I didn't quite have the "genius" moment that Lindsay did, but that's probably because I'd just passed the point of frustration!  Once I had caught on, it became hard to stop.  I can see now how so many people end up adding too much to their web page, its kind of fun to show off what you can do.  (This is evident from my tweet!)

With the curtain pulled back on HTML, does it still seem like the Wizard of Oz to me?  Sure, I learned that with just a few essential tools, I had the ability to do it on my own all along...