The Unseen Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

This weekend’s Sunday New York Times features the striking photo seen above, spread over two pages. Most people experience the Great Wall, “on half-day tours from Beijing to the Badaling or Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall, which are 40 to 50 miles north of the capital” but the author of The Great Wall, Our Way chose the road less traveled and hiked along a remote section of the wall further to the North that have been essentially untouched for 500 years.

Time Travel

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Leave it to the Lutherans.

100 years ago, on April 22, 1913, the Ladies Aid Society and the First Lutheran Church in Oklahoma City sealed a time capsule which has been sitting under a grill set into the floor of the church. Last month, the Century Chest as it was called, was opened. The contents were in pristine condition and included newspapers & periodicals, a brand new telephone, a straw hat, clothing and correspondence, all in mint condition.

Oklahoma Century Chest

Several letters and objects were addressed to future descendants of local families. Imagine handing your youngest daughter or son the package above and telling them it was from their ancestors and addressed specifically for them.

Further reading:

Google Glass and Time Travel

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A lot has been written about how Google Glass will be great for those that put on a pair. Immediate access to the world’s most powerful database, push alerts from your closest friends, a voice UI so you can look up directions without having to look down at your phone, a  camera that lets you take a photo and share a moment, all without leaving that moment.

While these are all powerful use cases that are bound to transform how we interact with the world around us, I’m more excited for the capability of Google Glass to annotate the physical world as we travel through it for those that come after us, especially those that can re-experience that world, as we saw it, in context. Imagine being able to take a photo of Notre Dame in Paris today, on a trip with your family and saving those photos with all the GPS data so the photo has a place, on a map, in time. Add a community and you have a series of photos of a place, all taken from different perspectives. This, of course, is flickr’s world map – announced in 2004 under the tagline, “eyes of the world.”

flickr-world-map

 

While a picture is worth 1,000 words, what if you could add more context. What if you could add more text to your photo? Tell a story that shared how this photo, in this place, was important to you? This is Findery.com, a place where people leave notes for each other in space and time. As described in their FAQ,

Findery is made of notes. A note can be a story, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestos. The content of a note is only limited by your imagination. A note can be shared with the world, one to many people, one to one, or only with yourself.

findery

 

Findery and the Flickr Map are compelling maps experiences but imagine how powerful they could be if you could experience them in situ. The mobile versions of Flickr and Google+ get at this with a Nearby feature. This sort allows you to browse photos that are nearby to your GPS location. I’ve used it a few times but rarely is it compelling. Even if the photos are only a block away, they lose their connective tissue.

While Google Glass is interesting as an information capture device, the possibility of a viewing device that can potentially line up photos that are taken at the same place is something that really excites me. Once you have a head’s up display connected to a vast library of GPS-tagged photos you can enable clever overlays that show you not only the space around you but also that same space through time.

Check out OldSF – it’s a completely voluntary effort where two folks came together and took the time to put a bunch of photos from the San Francisco Public Library on to a map so you can browse through them. One of the founders of OldSF blogged about the thrill of overlaying one photos from the past and fading to the present (and back again) where you can basically time travel in real life. It’s a genre called, Now and Then photography most recently cataloged in the site, Dear Photograph

Imagine being able to pull up photos from your past, your father’s past, or your grandparent’s past. Ask Google Glass for directions to the nearest pinned memory and then bring it up in your glasses and be able to see that moment, captured in time, while standing on the very spot the photographer stood. Add voice annotation, capture some audio. It’s that moment that puts goosebumps on my arms. It’s that moment, reliving history, your personal history, that makes me excited to try out Google Glass someday.

notre-damePhoto from Tom

A day that will live in world history

At Pearl Harbor there is an exhibit of the events leading up to the Pacific War. Inside is the original draft of the speech FDR gave to congress on the day following Japan’s attack. The document is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of FDR. Several changes you can see include:

Replacing, “a date which will live in world history” with the much stronger “a date which will live in infamy.”

A tentative attacked “without warning” is struck out. There are theories that FDR did have warning.

Also at the exhibit is the full text of a telegram which FDR sent to the Emperor of Japan the day before Pearl Harbor. In it he says that he is willing to cede what is today Vietnam to the Japanese as long as they withdrew the build up of forces in Vietnam which were gearing up to invade the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia (which they eventually did).

There is absolutely no thought on the part of the United States of invading Indo-China if every Japanese soldier or sailor were to be withdrawn therefrom.

I think that we can obtain the same assurance from the Governments of the East Indies, the Governments of Malaya and. the Government of Thailand. I would even undertake to ask for the same assurance on the part of the Government of China. Thus a withdrawal of the Japanese forces from Indo-China would result in the assurance of peace throughout the whole of the South Pacific area.

As Above, So Below

My sister noticed that a recent photo I uploaded to Instagram looked familiar. The photo I uploaded below is of my two kids on a recent trip to Mt. Shasta.

The next photo is from a hike in Yosemite with my sister when I was a student at UC Berkeley.

Brother – Sister. 20 years hence.

Find your first tweet with oldtweets

UPDATE: Twitter announced that you can now request a zip file of all your tweets.

Kellan Elliott-McCrea, the CTO of Etsy, has made available an searchable archive of Twitter’s first year of tweets. It’s a fascinating dip into the early days of the service.

The first two tweets from Biz and Ev testing out their new service, twttr is a 21st century version of  the Mr. Watson. Come here, I need you! Check out the timestamps.

Followed 11 minutes later by:

If you were on twttr or as it later became known, twitter in 2006, you can search for your first tweets at http://kellan.io/oldtweets. Kellan writes more about what he built on his blog where he writes,

I think our history is what makes us human, and the push to ephemerality and disposability “as a feature” is misguided. And a key piece of our personal histories is becoming “the story we want to remember”, aka what we’ve shared. I just wanted my old tweets, as a side effect I got all of them.

It’s humbling to look at these early tweets. Like the first, tentative steps of a child. This was before hashtags, before the @sign, before links, it was just text and, if memory serves, most of us were using T9 text entry and sending our blips off via SMS to 40404. We had no idea what twitter would become.

Thank you @kellan for digging up our collective past and reminding us of our earlier, simple selves. It’s amazing how something so mundane has turned into a force that has sparked revolutions and changed the media landscape.

Obvious in Hindsight

Today’s history lesson. Cracked.com helpfully points out that depictions of Vikings with huge horns on their helmets was entirely impractical, if not suicidal.

As for the Vikings, the one single thing we know them for–wearing huge horns on their helmets–isn’t true. They just wore regular helmets, not anything fancy. Here’s some advice: If you want a career in something that requires a lot of hand-to-hand combat, don’t wear anything that’s easy for people to grab onto. This is why when cops wear ties, they wear clip-ons. It’s also why you don’t want something on your hat that is essentially a giant set of handlebars.

Now you know. You can put those silly plastic hats away.

The Family Gathering

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While everyone was down in Austin for the annual gathering of the tribes, I sorted through an old box of photos trying to streamline my memories. I don’t have many prints anymore so most of what I found was from the last century (love saying that!). It was nice to actually hold the prints in your hand and put the best ones into a nicely bound album which is now in our living room.  A book full of memories on the living room coffee table? There’s a line that’s been crossed somewhere, somehow that sounds significant.

As I transformed a box full of random photos into piles that were roughly arranged by major life-events (pre-marriage, pre-first kid, pre-second kid), I noticed that at regular intervals there was a photo taken at my grandparent’s house in Yokohama where the family would gather for an annual feast. It’s cool to see how people have changed over time (check out my eraser-head hair doo in 1990!) and I love how we’re always hoisting the beers for the camera like we’re at a table in Munich.

Grandpa is always at the end of the table and would preside over everyone – always making sure my glass was full and telling stories of the old days. He worked hard through his life, the post-war Japanese econmy was built by his generation. He’s gone now, died almost three years ago to the day. My grandmother now lives in a nursing home so we don’t get together as a large group anymore.

Need to fix that next time I’m back home.