Categories
History

Women soldiers

From a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that’s no longer online:

Jennie Irene Hodgers was born in County Louth, Ireland, on Christmas Day in 1843 and later sailed to New York with her family.

But she already was calling herself Albert D.J. Cashier when she turned up in Belvidere, Ill., and enlisted in the 95th Illinois Regiment in 1862. She served as an infantryman through three years and some 40 Civil War battles.

Later, it was as Cashier that she lived and worked in Saunemin, voted in elections, collected her Army pension and moved in 1911 to the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home (now the Illinois Veterans Home) in Quincy.

She became Jennie Hodgers again only when she was transferred in 1913 to the former Watertown State Hospital near East Moline and psychiatrists forced her to wear female attire.

But while she was confined at Watertown, men from her old unit rallied to her defense, convincing the federal Pension Board to rule in 1914 that she could continue to collect her pension as Pvt. Albert D.J. Cashier.

And at the insistence of Saunemin residents, that was the name she was buried under — clad in her Civil War uniform — after her death in 1915.

Interesting story about women who disguised themselves as men in order to fight in wars. About Jennie Hodgers, historians say she may have taken a male persona for economic rather than transsexual reasons:

As an illiterate immigrant girl, Hodgers could have found lawful employment only as a domestic servant. But in male disguise, she could work in factories or as a farmhand. At enlistment, Hodgers gave her occupation as “laborer, farmhand and shepherd.” A private in the Union army earned more than an agricultural worker.

Categories
Writing

Writing computer books

I’m in the middle of ‘proofs’ for Adding Ajax, which is never a terribly fun experience. You can only fix errors during proofs, because the layout of the book and the indexing can’t change. You don’t have time for anything major; to spend a lot of time rewording phrases you might not be as happy about. It’s also typically the time when a computer book author will see ‘content editing’, whereby someone in the publisher has ‘polished’ up the writing –a process that can leave you feeling disconcerted. Even a little down.

It’s discouraging, at times, being a computer book writer because we’re not really treated as ‘authors’. Someone like David Weinberger will take 2 years to write Everything is Miscellaneous, get a nice advance for doing so, have a rollout party, and then lots of people will write reviews. The publisher will send him around to places to talk to folks and typically pay the tab. The only time computer book authors get ‘sent’ to a place to talk is if we pick up the tab, and usually we have to have another reason for being at an event–such as doing a presentation, if we’re so lucky as to have our proposals accepted. Being an author is no guarantee of acceptance.

As for the tech community, I’ve had so many people ask me what open source projects I’ve been involved with. What have I done to give back to the community, I’m asked. I point to my books, many of which are on open source technologies. Writing isn’t the same, I’m told. The code we lay down in the book isn’t ‘really’ code, and therefore we don’t garner any ‘street cred’ for writing about technology–only creating something.

Ask all but the ‘star’ computer book authors, of which I am not one, and I bet they’ll all say the same thing: typically, we’re not taken seriously. One link to an application is worth more than five links to books written. But in the book community, we’re just ‘hack’ writers, writing to a formula.

Yet for all that we’re writing to a so-called formula, it’s an enormous amount of work to write a computer book. We not only have to write, we also have to create little mini-applications all throughout the book. We have to second guess what our readers are going to want to see; balance the use of word and code so that neither is too much; use the right amount of bullets and figures; and basically try to mix in enough of the human element to keep the writing active and entertaining, without compromising its quality. Our code must be error free and innovative. Once finished with the code, we’re faced with other problems related to syntax: would that be better as a colon? Comma? Period? Sentence too long? Sentence too short?

All of this gets packed into 3-5 months, depending on the size of the book. This for a book that is effectively double the size of David’s Everything is Miscellaneous.

People will say that David’s book is ‘different’. Somehow, his writing is more creative, his ideas broader, his reach further. More people will be impacted by his book. It is somehow grander in the scheme of things. This is highlighted at every facet at the book publication process, and when the computer book author rolls a book out–other than reviews at a few sites, a note at the publisher, and comments at Amazon–there is no major drum roll to announce the book. No rollout parties. No press. It’s just another computer book.

Then, from time to time, you get a note in your email. Someone will tell you how much your book helped them. These notes are our champagne bottles, our corks going off. I guess everything is relevant in addition to being miscellaneous.

Enough of such maundering. Back to the proofs.

Categories
Technology Writing

Hacking Computer Books

I’m in the middle of ‘proofs’ for Adding Ajax, which is never a terribly fun experience. You can only fix errors during proofs, because the layout of the book and the indexing can’t change. You don’t have time for anything major; to spend a lot of time rewording phrases you might not be as happy about. It’s also typically the time when a computer book author will see ‘content editing’, whereby someone in the publisher has ‘polished’ up the writing –a process that can leave you feeling disconcerted. Even a little down.

It’s discouraging, at times, being a computer book writer because we’re not really treated as ‘authors’. Someone like David Weinberger will take 2 years to write Everything is Miscellaneous, get a nice advance for doing so, have a rollout party, and then lots of people will write reviews. The publisher will send him around to places to talk to folks and typically pay the tab. The only time computer book authors get ‘sent’ to a place to talk is if we pick up the tab, and usually we have to have another reason for being at an event–such as doing a presentation, if we’re so lucky as to have our proposals accepted. Being an author is no guarantee of acceptance.

As for the tech community, I’ve had so many people ask me what open source projects I’ve been involved with. What have I done to give back to the community, I’m asked. I point to my books, many of which are on open source technologies. Writing isn’t the same, I’m told. The code we lay down in the book isn’t ‘really’ code, and therefore we don’t garner any ‘street cred’ for writing about technology–only creating something.

Ask all but the ‘star’ computer book authors, of which I am not one, and I bet they’ll all say the same thing: typically, we’re not taken seriously. One link to an application is worth more than five links to books written. But in the book community, we’re just ‘hack’ writers, writing to a formula.

Yet for all that we’re writing to a so-called formula, it’s an enormous amount of work to write a computer book. We not only have to write, we also have to create little mini-applications all throughout the book. We have to second guess what our readers are going to want to see; balance the use of word and code so that neither is too much; use the right amount of bullets and figures; and basically try to mix in enough of the human element to keep the writing active and entertaining, without compromising its quality. Our code must be error free and innovative. Once finished with the code, we’re faced with other problems related to syntax: would that be better as a colon? Comma? Period? Sentence too long? Sentence too short?

All of this gets packed into 3-5 months, depending on the size of the book. This for a book that is effectively double the size of David’s Everything is Miscellaneous.

People will say that David’s book is ‘different’. Somehow, his writing is more creative, his ideas broader, his reach further. More people will be impacted by his book. It is somehow grander in the scheme of things. This is highlighted at every facet at the book publication process, and when the computer book author rolls a book out–other than reviews at a few sites, a note at the publisher, and comments at Amazon–there is no major drum roll to announce the book. No rollout parties. No press. It’s just another computer book.

Then, from time to time, you get a note in your email. Someone will tell you how much your book helped them. These notes are our champagne bottles, our corks going off. I guess everything is relevant in addition to being miscellaneous.

Enough of such maundering. Back to the proofs.

Categories
History Photography Places

Switzer

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Sunday, I discovered that the Switzer Building was being destroyed starting on the 14th; the first wrecking ball would fall at 10pm. This was my last chance to take pictures of the building I’ve come to be fond of.

As I was taking pictures, others would show up from time to time: to look at the building, to reminisce, and take pictures, themselves. A person I talked with on the Eads Bridge mentioned about visiting the riverfront and the licorice aroma that would gentle pervade the area. Another person I ran into at the base of the building talked about his family being here before the building was created, and how too many of these unique buildings are now gone.

With the images below, I’ve included links to other sites with more on the Switzer Building, and other buildings at risk in St. Louis. Many of these sites have pictures far superior to mine, so don’t judge my photos too harshly. I had hoped to find an image of the building when licorice was still being manufactured at the premises, but no luck.

First, though, a couple of photos of what the building was like before the storm damage that doomed it.

Switzer before damage

Switzer before damage

The rest of the photos were taken Sunday, May 13th.

Side of building

The Damaged side

Full view of damaged side

Front cast iron work

Building Number

Smile You Being Watch

Three quarter front view

The Ecology of Absence web site

Ecology of Absence weblog entry on the building

Urban St. Louis thread on the Switzer Building

Vanishing St. Louis post on the building.

Built St. Louis Switzer page

St. Louis Today article on the building damage

LaClede’s Landing Walking Tour

Switzer Sign from Fading Ad

Categories
Photography Places

Mississippi Runneth

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The Missouri river flooding is enough to raise the Mississippi, though not to the same levels. The water along the St. Louis waterfront rose to the level of the road, but luckily no further. Enough, though, to drown the area where I normally park, as these two pre-flood and flood pictures demonstrate.
Flooded waterfront in St. Louis
Flooded waterfront in St. Louis

The water level was 29 feet above normal levels, which is one hell of a lot of water. However, unlike the Missouri, barge traffic was still moving on the Mississippi. I was lucky to be on the Eads Bridge just as one moved beneath, giving a nice birds eye view.

Barge on River
Casino
Another picture of flooded waterfront

In September, 2006, the city installed a new statue dedicated to the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. It stands 23 feet tall, and is installed just below the Eads Bridge, along the lower portion of the waterfront. All that showed above the water was Captain Lewis, waving his hat triumphantly.

The top view of the statue shows the swirls and eddies in the water. This is an incredibly dangerous river anyway, but with the flooding, if you fell in you wouldn’t be getting out.

Waterfront
Statue from above
Lewis and Clark statue almost underwater

No one was killed with this flood, though the damage was extensive in the north and west. It served as a reminder that Missouri is a state bound and threaded by rivers, and that we live here at the sufferance of nature.