Friday, November 29, 2013

Pumpkin-Headed Christmas Creep

Over on the Historical Society Blog you'll find a repost of last year's "Christmas Creep" article.

I notice this morning that many retailers are reporting brisk Thanksgiving Day sales.  It seems pretty obvious that the old holidays are merely cover for the new Selling Season: Christmas now begins at Halloween, a holiday designed to teach children how to ask for gifts, and then migrates to Thanksgiving, where families check to see if they can dine together peacefully, and exchange gift lists.

That makes Halloween "PreMas" and Thanksgiving "PracticeMas," both of which lead up to Christmas.

After that, of course, comes the Fourth Sunday Before Super Bowl--and the new year begins!

Modern America really has two big seasons: Football and Christmas, broken up by March Madness.

Oh, and the 4th of July.  We don't want to forget that.  When else would be buy our new cars?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Few Pictures from the 150th Dedication of the Gettysburg Address



The dedication ceremony this week honoring the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address featured keynote speeches from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and a Naturalization Ceremony conducted for 16 new citizens by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.  Lauren Pyfer, a junior from Upper Dublin High School near Philadelphia and winner of the "In Lincoln's Footsteps" essay contest, delivered her modern interpretation of the Gettysburg Address to appreciative applause.

Of course, President Lincoln delivered 270 words, give or take.  Edward Everett was nowhere to be found--not a bad thing given the cold morning breezes.

Kudos to the National Park Service, the Gettysburg Foundation,  the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, and Gettysburg College for supporting such a moving event.

We walked in the footsteps of Lincoln the day before the dedication ceremony, from the Lincoln Train Depot to the Wills House to the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  This is the Soldiers National Memorial, not far from where Lincoln spoke, framed against a perfect fall sky.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Another Look at the Industrial Revolution: Visiting Lowell

A thread spool sculpture marks the entrance to the Boott Cotton
Mills Museum in Lowell.
One of the great things about researching the Industrial Revolution from a home in the Boston area is that it's hard not to simply drive smack into the Revolution on a regular basis.  My posts to this blog have included local sites like the Ames Shovel collection at Stonehill College in Easton, the Yankee Steam-Up in East Greenwich, Rhode Island (at the New England Wireless and Steam Museum, located not far from historic Slater Mill), the steampunk exhibit at the old Waltham Watch Company (now the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation), the Mount Hope Company in North Dighton, and Haverhill's very cool mural and painted boot markers.  The other day, too, I finally drove all 22 miles to the City of Lowell, in some ways the most important site of all.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Cult of the Entrepreneur: Maybe It's Too Easy to Start a Company? (2013)

In October, Disrupt Europe 2013 was held in Berlin to highlight what was described as the “burgeoning European tech startup ecosystem.”  2,000 delegates attended, “the cream of Europe’s entrepreneurs and investors.”  Fifteen semifinalists had been honed to four finalists.

What would the best of Europe’s high-tech brains be offering?  Would the finalists address clean water, climate change, food waste, urbanization, acidic oceans, tools for an aging society, or maybe pandemic control?  Perhaps they would tackle something way-out, like defenses against rogue asteroids or slowing species extinction.  Was someone finally curing cancer?  There are so many big, seemingly intractable problems. I could not wait to learn what the best and brightest was working on.
  
Alas.  One of the four finalists had created an app “that helps you find clothes that you like around you in the physical world.”  Another allowed its users to turn any web page into an API with just a few clicks, making “it easy for developers to pull data from the web.”  Another had developed a platform for voice-enabling consumer and enterprise apps. 

And the eventual winner?   A smart lock for bicycles.  That was the winning idea coming out of the tech ecosystem in Europe.

Meanwhile, back in the States, last month’s winner of TechCruch Disrupt San Francisco had raised $6 million to fund a “communications platform that can be added to any mobile app by adding fewer than 10 lines of code into the mix.”  This will allow users to send text, voice, and video messages across different applications.

Wow.

Does it seem sometimes like we’ve made it just too easy to start a company? 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Guest Posts: Pivots and Ngrams

I have a couple of guest posts this morning, one about "pivots" co-authored with Ascent Ventures' Matt Fates on the "Investing Edge"  blog here, and the other applying (or misapplying) my newest videogame, Google's Ngram Viewer, on the "Historical" Society blog here.