‘The Science of Saving the Declaration of Independence’

Joe Pappalardo, writing for Popular Mechanics:

The official declaration of America’s independence from Britain may be dated July 4, 1776, but the story of the Thomas Jefferson's hallowed document really begins two weeks later. On July 19, the Continental Congress ordered a scribe, Pennsylvania State House clerk Timothy Matlack, to write the words on a piece of parchment big enough for everyone to read—and with room for signatures.

Since then, the Declaration of Independence has had a fairly rough time. A forensic analysis of the document shows some rough handling, damaging displays, and even a mysterious handprint. Understanding why it looks the way that it does — much more faded and battered than the U.S. Constitution or The Bill of Rights — is a romp through the history of printing, preservation, and patriotism.

This was a fascinating read; it’s astounding how old documents like this survive.

(via The Loop)

On Integrated Classrooms

Great Seattle Times op-ed by Ilene Schwartz on the value of blending general education and special education students. She says University of Washington researchers have found evidence showing “children with and without disabilities do better in inclusive classrooms.”

As someone who worked in Pre-K special education classrooms for nearly a decade, I can confirm this is true. I also studied early childhood development, and can attest to the fact inclusive settings are ideal. Typically and atypically developing students can learn a lot from each other if afforded the opportunity. With the right kind of support, special education students can thrive in mainstream classrooms. This isn’t to imply special day classes are bad; they certainly have value, but the ideal scenario is to integrate as much as possible.

On San Francisco and Cash

Michelle Robertson, writing for SFGate:

Some San Francisco neighborhoods are more averse to cash than others, according to data collected by Square Inc. in March and April. Heavy shopping districts filled with new stores and young residents, like Hayes Valley and SoMa, favor card and digital payments over older neighborhoods with more established businesses, like the Richmond and Sunset districts.

I live in the Inner Richmond and can attest to the neighborhood's preference for actual cash. The majority of businesses I frequent are hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop dim sum places and other stores, and nearly all of them are cash-only. The only times I use something like Apple Pay is when I venture to other parts of the city, notably in various parts of the Sunset. Otherwise, I'm prone to ATM visits to get cash because that's how commerce works in my part of town. And I'm okay with that—I don't mind cash and I like supporting small businesses.

On Analog Clocks

Rachelle Hampton, writing for Slate:

The fact that analog clocks have managed to stand the test of time in an increasingly digitized world is a bit of a wonder. While there may be nothing quite as charming as the quiet tick of a watch, the fact that teachers are adapting to the fact that a fair number of teenagers can’t read an analog clock isn’t another sign of corruption in The Youth. It means, as Nobel Prize Winner Bob Dylan once wrote, that times are a-changing. It doesn’t make sense for a teacher to waste precious class time to teach teenagers how to read an analog clock just so they can tell time during an exam. And if students can’t read traditional clock faces with relative ease by the time they’re sitting for exams, it means one of two things: Somewhere down the line their teacher prioritized other knowledge over doing countless worksheets on telling time, or they’ve just forgotten something they learned in elementary school once they tested out of that grade.

Kids in America who learn under Common Core standards are required to be taught how to read an analog clock in first or second grade; if kids in the U.K. are taught around the same time than it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to learn that they forgot how to do so by the time they’re teenagers. With the sheer amount of stuff kids are expected to know once state exams roll around, it’s understandable that they’d get a bit rusty on something they’re not using every day.

One of my saved watch faces on my Apple Watch is one of the analog ones. I like to think using an "old" way to tell time on a 21st century computer on my wrist is a bit whimsical, and it's cool. I was born in 1981, so I grew up with analog clocks; I know how to tell time. Digital clocks are fine too, but I'm comfortable reading the clock's hands.

One amusing aspect to analog clocks versus digital ones, at least in my experience, is how young people (read: teens and twentysomethings) don't understand "approximate" time. For example, if someone asks me what time it is and it's 3:15, more often than not I'll say it's "quarter after." Likewise, if it's 3:45, I'll say it's "quarter to." When I use these phrases, it seems to throw off people—I think most people nowadays are used to exact numbers. To them, it's not "ten to 4," it's "3:50." Digital timepieces have set the expectation for getting exact numbers as opposed to abstract (albeit correct) phrases.

Maybe I'm showing my age. My grandma told time this way, so I guess I picked it up subsconsciously.

(via The Loop)

‘What It Was Like to Attend the First Academy Awards’

Fascinating piece on Medium by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

On the evening of May 16, 1929, Academy members and their guests, 270 in total, filled the Blossom Room at the Roosevelt Hotel for a banquet featuring the presentation of the Academy’s Merit Awards. They dined on fillet of sole, half a broiled chicken on toast, string beans and potatoes. And they all knew the winners.

My favorite tidbit from this article: The ceremony lasted only 20 minutes!

(via MG Siegler)

‘Regarding the Em Dash’

Adam O’Fallon Price:

For me, there is no punctuation mark as versatile and appealing as the em dash. I love the em dash in a way that is difficult to explain, which is, probably, the motivation of this essay. And my love for it is emphasized by the fact that many writers never, or rarely, use it—even disdain it. It is not, so to speak, an essential punctuation mark, the same way commas or periods are essential. You can get along without it and most people do. I don’t remember being taught to use it in elementary, middle, or high school English classes; I’m not even sure I was aware of it then, and I have no clear recollection of when or why I began to rely on it, yet it has become an indispensable component of my writing.

Like Price, I use em dashes often in my writing. A small but nerdy stylistic change I’ve made in my usage is to not leave a space between the dashes—I prefer how it looks without the space. It’s more aesthetically pleasing to me. As a freelancer, however, I realize my editors will be sure I conform to the publication’s style guide rather than my personal one.

(via Michael Rockwell)

On Blink-182 and Aliens

Weird story on ex-Blink member Tom DeLonge by Drew Millard for The Outline:

This year, NASA will be launching a satellite called TESS, whose job it will be to map out all the stars we can see, so that we can identify planets that aren’t too far from their sun to be really cold, but not so close that they’d be too hot. (This ideal space is called the “Goldilocks Zone.”) From there, a high-powered space telescope will hone in on those planets and analyze their wavelengths, looking for these biosignature gases. By the calculations of Sara Seager, the MIT astronomer who conceptualized the project, that this process, once complete, will provide us with exactly one life-bearing planet besides our own.

Tom DeLonge, however, thinks the aliens are already here. During his music-making prime, DeLonge had long been fascinated by conspiracy theories. He referenced the alleged 50s-era alien hunters Majestic 12 on Enema of the State’s “Aliens Exist”; the sole album by his Box Car Racer side project was peppered with angsty lyrics about how frustrated he was with the lack of government disclosure about various secrets; in 2001 he got married on Coronado, an island near San Diego that was once the site of an alleged alien abduction. (From here on out, just mentally insert the word “alleged” whenever you see something that seems dubious, because shit’s about to get alleged as hell.)

But around the time of his split with blink, he went full tinfoil. He began giving conspiracy-laden interviews to incredulous outlets, who gleefully racked up clicks by playing up the incongruity of the blink-182 guy talking about aliens. He became a curious footnote in last year’s presidential election when a Wikileaks dump of Hillary Clinton’s emails revealed he’d been communicating with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta about aliens, which in part led to him being named “UFO Researcher of the Year” by OpenMinds.tv.

I’m not inclined to believe aliens exist, but I do have some Blink-182 in my Apple Music library. Their new stuff may not be great, as Millard writes, but their back catalog—with DeLonge—is chock-full of some pretty great tunes.

On Streaming Video and Classic Film

Zach Schonfeld, writing for Newsweek, on the dearth of classic films on Netflix:

Netflix’s selection of classic cinema is abominable—and it seems to shrink more every year or so. As of this month, the streaming platform offers just 43 movies made before 1970, and fewer than 25 from the pre-1950 era (several of which are World War II documentaries). It’s the sort of classics selection you’d expect to find in a decrepit video store in 1993, not on a leading entertainment platform that serves some 100 million global subscribers. Netflix’s DVD subscribers enjoy a much wider selection (four million customers still opt to receive discs in the mail), but as the company shifts its focus to streaming and original content, cinephiles fear the cinematic canon is being left behind.

“If you're the biggest name in film streaming services, the less you offer in classic movies, the more you imply that classic movies have less to offer,” says Nora Fiore, a 26-year-old writer who has a blog devoted to classic cinema, “The Nitrate Diva.” “It's a terrible message to put out there.”

I’ve long been a fan of classic film, and have a good-sized library of movies on DVD. If Turner Classic Movies ever launches a streaming service, I’d sign up for it in a heartbeat.


PodPocket is my new favorite accessory; I first heard about it from Matt Gemmell on Twitter. It's a little case for your AirPods with a hook that you can use to clip on your key ring, belt loop, or whatever. The top and bottom of the AirPods case is exposed so you can open and close and charge, respectively. It's a really nice way to carry your AirPods while keeping the case pretty clean and scratch-free.

September Is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

My friend Stephen Hackett, writing at 512 Pixels:

Every September, I forgo running sponsorship on 512 Pixels and donate the month’s membership and YouTube revenue to highlight and raise money for a cause that is very close to my heart: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Stephen is hoping to raise $9,000 this month, $1,000 for each year for his son, Josiah, who turns 9 this year. If you can, help Stephen and his family.

‘Writers Dish on Scoops That Slipped Away’

Elon Green, writing for Columbia Journalism Review:

I imagine that to actually get scooped on a story must feel considerably worse. So over the last two weeks, I contacted a number of journalists whose work I admire, and asked what it was like to be scooped. Some said that, like me, they’d managed to dodge a bullet. Others were not so lucky. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

I like the response from the NYT’s Mike Isaac:

I will say, though, that scoops are great but have an incredibly short half-life, journalistically speaking. Everyone quickly ends up matching your scoop, and years from now no one really remembers who the first reporter to publish such-and-such mid-level Google executive left their job to go to Facebook or whatever. These days I’m hoping to focus more on the longer, more enduring pieces that leave a strong impression on the reader for years to come.

That’s not exactly easy to accomplish and often takes much more time and effort to knock out. But I think it’s worth it.

TJ Miller Leaving 'Silicon Valley' Ahead of Season 5

Joe Otterson, reporting for Variety:

“The producers of Silicon Valley and T.J. Miller have mutually agreed that T.J. will not return for season 5,” HBO said in a statement. “In Erlich Bachman, T.J. has brought to life an unforgettable character, and while his presence on the show will be missed, we appreciate his contribution and look forward to future collaborations.”

This is bad news. I recently got into Silicon Valley on HBO Now, and enjoy it immensely. Bachman is one of my favorite characters. It'll be interesting to see how producers write him out of the show, and how things will look after Miller's departure.

'London Bridge Is Down'

Fascinating piece by Sam Knight for The Guardian, on what'll happen when Queen Elizabeth II dies:

Unlike the US presidency, say, monarchies allow huge passages of time – a century, in some cases – to become entwined with an individual. The second Elizabethan age is likely to be remembered as a reign of uninterrupted national decline, and even, if she lives long enough and Scotland departs the union, as one of disintegration. Life and politics at the end of her rule will be unrecognisable from their grandeur and innocence at its beginning. “We don’t blame her for it,” Philip Ziegler, the historian and royal biographer, told me. “We have declined with her, so to speak.”

(via Six Colors)

On 'Frisco'

Vinnee Tong, writing for KQED News, on San Francisco's hotly-debated nickname:


Just try dropping that word into conversation these days and see what kind of response you get. Chances are good the nickname will be met with a healthy dose of side-eye, a grimace or even a slap on the wrist.

Frisco is the nickname we love to hate.

I dislike "Frisco"—worse even is "San Fran." I've lived in the Bay Area my entire life, San Francisco for the last three years. I don't know what out-of-towners do, but regionally speaking, I've only ever heard San Francisco referred to as "The City." Again, a regional colloquialism. Anything else sounds wrong; if not "The City," I just call it "San Francisco."

Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies Host, Dies

Mike Barnes, writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

Robert Osborne, the former columnist for The Hollywood Reporter who as the genial and scholarly host of Turner Classic Movies became a beloved icon to a legion of groupies with gray hair, died Monday in New York, the cable network announced. He was 84.

David Staller, his longtime partner, told The Hollywood Reporter that Osborne died in his sleep in his apartment from natural causes.

Sad news. I'm a big fan of classic film, and TCM has long been one of my favorite channels.

New York Times to Run Reporters' Tweets in Print Edition

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

The catch: For now, at least, if you want to read New York Times reporters’ tweets in the New York Times, you won’t find them on the Times’ web site or app. They’ll be in the paper’s print edition.

The Times has redesigned the second and third pages of its print edition to resemble what used to be called a magazine’s “front of the book”, back when magazines still existed.*

As Kafka writes, this is a good move. It's a testament to how instrumental Twitter is at spreading breaking news. I hope The Times brings this to the Web sooner than later.

'Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes?'

Fascinating read by my friend Glenn Fleishman, writing for The Atlantic.

I've said numerous times that I fancy myself somewhat of a typography nerd, and I wholeheartedly prefer curly quotes to the straight kind. In fact, the font I use here on Steven's Blog, Open Sans, uses straight quotes and it bugs the hell out of me. Like many others, I really prefer the look of curly quotation marks.