Inez Milholland

Inez Milholland was a suffragist in Washington, DC, in the early 20th century. She organized a march on the Washington Mall in 1913 to argue for women’s right to vote. She rode a white horse while dressed in flowing robes.

Three years later, she was dead. She ignored her own health problems to travel around the country giving speeches for suffrage. She collapsed and died during a speech in 1916. At the time, she was hailed as a martyr for the cause.

100 years after suffrage march, activists walk in tradition of Inez Milholland – The Washington Post.


News from 1843: Swedish teenager succeeds where British engineering fails

English: Drawing of the mechanical calculating...

English: Drawing of the mechanical calculating machine designed by Pehr Georg Scheutz in 1843 and completed in 1853. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1823, Charles Babbage began construction of his difference engine (an early calculating machine) with a grant from the British government. Twenty years later, it was still unbuilt.

In 1833, Georg Scheutz, a Swedish lawyer and translator, was so inspired by Babbage’s difference engine that he decided to build his own. In 1837, his teenage son, Edvard, age 15, offered to help his father turn his designs into reality.

“By the summer of 1843 he (Edvard) had succeeded in building a working machine.

Babbage had demanded the highest precision in the manufacture of parts for his Engine, and British technology, which was the most advanced anywhere, was stretched to its limits and beyond. Edvard’s machine has a rough wooden frame and was made using a simple lathe and hand tools by a young man with craft skills. A Swedish teenager had succeeded where the best of British failed.”

from The Cogwheel Brain, by Doron Swade, 2000 (p. 197)


Societal Transition: No Robots to Robots

I have never seen a sci-fi book or short story about the transition our society is currently experiencing: the transition between a society with no robots and a society with non-exploited, non-murderous robots. There are plenty of sci-fi stories about societies with peaceful robots that are integrated into the society, and there are a few about robots gone bad, but there are none about how a society gets from where we are now, with all kinds of research into robotics and cursory attention to ethics and ethical robots, to a society that has successfully integrated robots and navigated the ethical pitfalls and possible extermination that await us.

For President’s Day

April 30: George Washington becomes the first ...

Image via Wikipedia

The sermon in church today was all about George Washington and the leadership he provided. In his time, he was acknowledged as having a superior character, and inspiring loyalty in the men around him. Thomas Jefferson wrote years later that “His character was perfect, in all ways good, in no way bad, and in a only a few places indifferent.”

Washington is lauded as the father of this country and a honest man.

In all the celebrations of President’s Day, and Independence Day in a few months, it is easy to forget, that this country, the United States of America, was founded in treason.

We do not discuss this bit, how for all their moral courage and leadership, the Founding Fathers were rebelling against their rightful government. They laid out all the reasons the true government had become intolerable, and attempted to petition the monarch for relief, but were ignored. In the end, however, they did commit treason and rebel against their government. We conveniently ignore the truth underneath the founding of our country.

Where is the line? Where does rebellion take on the cloak of righteousness and become the truth, the true moral calling? The South, in the Civil War, attempted to assume the cloak of righteousness under the guise of states’ rights. They were put down by Lincoln & the North after years of fighting. But they were rotten at the core, since the rights, the economy, and the way of life they were defending were all built on the backs and with the blood of other human beings.

There have been many other rebellions around the world that the United States has helped put down in the name of anti-Communism. Some of those countries have prospered, such as South Korea (although let’s not talk about their neighbor to the north). Others of those countries have prospered in spite of the United States (and one might say, in spite of their Communist leaders), such as Vietnam. And still others of those countries still struggle with poverty, corruption, and violence, such as Guatemala.

What makes our rebellion, the Revolutionary War, special? The men who petitioned the king for redress were right, they were being treated unfairly. But how are they any different from other rebellions, where the rebels are right, or believe they are right? Well, overthrowing the government is one of two crimes you can only be convicted for if you are unsuccessful.

However, a successful rebel must also be right, not just believe in their cause’s righteousness. And to be right, they must be fighting for fundamental human rights, not just for the right to further your own ambition and lust for power. They must be willing to lay their lives on the line, but defend others, and cause no unnecessary loss of life. So many rebels think the path to winning is killing innocents, but that is only a path to hatred and destruction, not only of others’ lives but their own cause, too.

Does the right rebel automatically win? Of course not. There are many forces arrayed against them, from the way things are done (do not underestimate the power of “It has always been done that way”), to the power of the existing state.

In a modern democracy, there are many ways for anger against the state to be heard without resorting to armed rebellion. They are being tested right now in Wisconsin. I find any one who resorts to armed rebellion without trying peaceful protest first to be a coward. And peaceful protest does work, from India in the 1950s to Tunisia and Egypt today.

So, let us celebrate our Founding Fathers without reservation, while remembering that they tried every means at their disposal to change their government before resorting to armed rebellion. And while we celebrate them, remember that they were great enough to take only the power they needed, not grab all the power available to them.

Book Review: Keeping Time

I liked Keeping Time, by Stacey McGlynn very much.

Daisy Phillips, from Liverpool and seventy-seven years old and tired of being prodded by her son to move out of her home and into a retirement community, decides the perfect way to escape his schemes is to travel to America and look up her long-lost boyfriend with whom she lost touch after World War II.

She decides to stay with her American relatives, whom she has also not seen since World War II. She slips into their lives, bringing stories of England and friendship.

Despite minor mishaps and misunderstandings, all’s well that ends well, and this ending will make you smile.

My one complaint is that the sentences are a little choppy, and the end feels a little cut short, as we are told by the author what happens but do not really see it happen. I was disappointed in that.

This is Ms. McGlynn’s first novel, and I hope we will see many more.

Four out of five stars.

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