Günter Grass – “How I Spent the War”

From The New Yorker:

It must have been possible for a Luftwaffe auxiliary to trade a weekend leave for a Wednesday or Thursday off. In any case, one thing is clear: after one long day’s march, I took the tram from Heubude to the Central Station, and from there the train via Langfuhr and Zoppot to Gotenhafen, where Navy recruits were trained to handle submarines. It took all of an hour to reach the goal of my dreams of heroism. I found the recruitment office in a low, Polish-period building where, behind a row of doors with signs, bureaucratic rigmarole was processed, passed on, filed. After signing in, I was told to wait for my name to be called. There were two or three older boys ahead of me. I did not have much to say to them.

The sergeant and the seaman first class I spoke to rejected me out of hand: I was too young; my age group hadn’t come up yet; it would soon enough; no reason for excessive haste.

The Astor Place Riots

Or the dueling Macbeths:

The Astor Place Riot, one of the bloodiest days in New York’s history, had its roots in a banal squabble between two arrogant actors. Actor William Macready, Englishman, and actor Edwin Forrest, Native son, had once been friends. Macready had helped Forrest get his start in London, and Forrest had married an English woman he met through the older actor. But over the years, professional competition and personal egotism had created friction and then outright antipathy. Their rivalry was exacerbated, and then exploited, by a growing nativist movement, then organized as the Order of United Americans, forerunner of the know-nothings and a group with much strength in the organized gangs of the Bowery and other working-class areas. The slights supposedly delivered by an effete, aristocratic Macready to a bold, Democratic Forrest – billed everywhere as “The American Tragedian” – were transformed into insults piercing the very soul of the American character. When the English actor arrived in the United States for an 1849 tour, nativists were incensed.

An attempt by Macready to play Macbeth at the Astor place Opera House on May 7, 1849 proved unsuccessful, as he was driven from the stage by an unruly crowd throwing, as he later cataloged, “eggs of doubtful purity, potatoes, a bottle of pungent and nauseating asafetida, old shoes, and a copper coin.”

Convinced by city elders, including Washington Irving and Herman Melville, to try again, he announced a return to the Opera House stage for May 10. This proved to be, to put it mildly, a miscalculation. Nativist elements, fired by the temerity of this fop and organized by local ward leaders, regrouped. One of the principal instigators of the protest was Edward Z.C. Judson, a popular author who use the pen name “Ned Buntline” and who was the man that dubbed William C. Cody “Buffalo Bill.” He later served a year in prison for his role in the riot.

Astor Place, from Broadway to Third Avenue, began to fill up early on the evening of the 10th . By curtain time there were thousands of unruly citizens – estimates ran up to 20,000 – in the street, and a packed house inside. It was clear that the situation was uncontrollable.

Putting a Computer Hard Drive in the Freezer Will Help Recover Lost Data?

Hmmmm. But why?

A few months ago I was visiting another computer-forensics specialist when I learned about the freezer trick. This fellow gets a few broken disk drives now and then, and, by putting the drives in a freezer overnight, he’s frequently able to recover data that would otherwise be “lost.” Well, when I got back to Harvard, where I work, I took a few of my “broken” drives down from the shelf and put them in the freezer overnight with a note: “These hard drives are being used for a research project; please don’t eat them.”

The next day I took two of the drives back to my desk and plugged them into my computer. How about that: two of the drives that had been “broken” were now giving me their data.

This is a big deal for me. For starters, it means that I can now get data off many of those “broken” drives I’ve been keeping on my shelf. But it also means that many of the drives being sold on eBay as broken can nevertheless be scavenged for data. This is particularly troublesome because it’s unlikely that the previous owners of the drives were able to properly clear them before they were sold.

(via Geekpress)

100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know

I’m shocked that “pwned” failed to make this list:

BOSTON, MA — The editors of the American Heritage® dictionaries have compiled a list of 100 words they recommend every high school graduate should know.

“The words we suggest,” says senior editor Steven Kleinedler, “are not meant to be exhaustive but are a benchmark against which graduates and their parents can measure themselves. If you are able to use these words correctly, you are likely to have a superior command of the language.”

LEGO Rubberband Chaingun

With video of the chaingun in action:

“The motor driven barrels start winding up to speed at the flick of a switch on the handle. Pulling the trigger unleashes a stream of rubber bands, deluging the target. The fire rate is high enough that at least half a dozen bands are in the air at any one time – the gun appears to fire a single very long chain of them. It’s as much like using a hose pipe as firing a rubber band gun. It also sounds fantastic because each mechanism makes a distinct click as it discharges a rubber band.”

(via Bifurcated Rivets)

An Obituary of an “Amateur Historian”

From the Opinion Journal:

I don’t think there’s a good word for what Mr. Hall did: “researcher” is too dry, “historical investigator” carries hints of melodrama, and “archivist” suggests a dutiful drudge, which Mr. Hall was not. “Amateur historian” probably fits best, though it sounds vaguely derivative and second-tier. Following a career with the Labor Department–he retired in the early 1970s–Mr. Hall turned himself into the world’s foremost authority on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Historians, pros and amateurs alike, sought him out for his knowledge and access to his exhaustive files. As one of them put it, James O. Hall knew more about Lincoln’s murder than anyone who ever lived, including John Wilkes Booth.

Uncorrupted by graduate degrees, with no thought of professional advancement, Mr. Hall exemplified a tradition in the study of American history, particularly in the Lincoln field, where the most interesting writing and research is often done by hobbyists. It’s been this way from the beginning. Until the middle of the last century, all the great Lincoln biographers made their livings outside the university–journalists like Ida Tarbell and free-lance enthusiasts like Benjamin Thomas produced biographies that were beautifully written and filled with news. Even now, dozens of Lincoln or Civil War roundtables flourish, and many of them publish quirky newsletters in which members let drop bits of recondite research or boldly advance new theories. While other areas of academic research have shriveled into hyperspecialization, the amateur tradition has kept the Lincoln field blessedly free of the guild mentality that can make academic history seem the dreary province of pedants and bullies.