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Tidbits :: Sunday January 31, 2010

Researcher gave the Chumash a gift: their heritage: “Everyone thought the tall, strange white man was some kind of genius. But to teenage Ernestine De Soto he was a giant pain in the neck, a nosy, “Ichabod Crane-like” character who drew her mother’s attention from its rightful place — on her.
John Peabody Harrington studied De Soto’s Chumash family for nearly 50 years, pumping her great-grandmother, her grandmother and her mother for the tiniest details of their lives. Everything fascinated him: the Chumash names of places mostly forgotten, of fish no longer caught — even, to the family’s puzzlement, of private parts never discussed in polite company. A brilliant linguist and anthropologist, Harrington had been just as relentless with countless Indian families throughout the West, but that didn’t impress the young Ernestine.
“It’s due to his madness that we are who we are today,” said De Soto, a 71-year-old nurse who works at a Santa Barbara rest home. “We have a language. We have an identity.””
Stevenf on I need to talk to you about computers: “For as frustrated as I was with the restrictions, those exact same restrictions made the New World device a high-performance, high-reliability, absolute workhorse of a machine that got out of my way and just let me get things accomplished.
Nothing is simply black or white.
Old Worlders are particularly sensitive to certain things that are simply non-issues to New Worlders. We learned about computers from the inside out. Many of us became interested in computers because they were hackable, open, and without restrictions. We worry that these New World devices are stifling the next generation of programmers. But can anyone point to evidence that that’s really happening? I don’t know about you, but I see more people carrying handheld computers than at any point in history. If even a small percentage of them are interested in “what makes this thing tick?” then we’ve got quite a few new programmers in the pipeline.
The reason I’m starting to think the Old World is ultimately doomed is because we are bracketed on both sides by the New World, and those people being born today, post-iPhone and post-iPad, will never know (and probably not care) about how things used to work. Just as nobody today cares about floppies, and nobody has to care about manual transmissions if they don’t want to.”
Blue whales are singing in a lower key: “A retired Navy scientist directed Hildebrand to a trove of tapes stored at Sea World. The delicate old reels were the size of dinner plates. It turned out they contained snippets of blue whale songs from 40 years ago.
The tapes eliminated all doubt: In the Beach Boys’ era, blue whales’ voices, while nowhere near falsetto, had been distinctly higher pitched.
With more work, the researchers were able show that blue whales worldwide are using deeper voices lately. Some have dropped their calls by only a few tones, but all showed a steady decline. “It was baffling,” Hildebrand said.
Blue whales are shrouded in mystery as it is. ”