Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/30/14): Horses!

This is a bit of a busy week for me as I'm at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference this week, listening to talks about user interface design, the psychology of how people decide to use (or not use) computer interfaces, etc etc.  In some ways it's my "home field" conference, the one I've been attending for many years.  It's where many of my professional publications are, and certainly where most of my professional friends are.  So it's a kind of blend of science, craftwork, and the occasional party with people I rarely get to see.  

BUT that's not the challenge for this week.  Instead, as I was flying to the conference, I went cross-country and as I flew over hill and dale, for some odd reason I kept seeing horse racing venues.  They're surprisingly common (especially in more rural areas where you can easily spot many oval courses scattered around in the farmlands).  

As I talked a few of my fellow travellers about what I was seeing, I started to think about the history of horses, and the following questions came up: 

1.  What was the price of a horse in 1918 in the United States?  In particular, can you find an advertisement in a newspaper printed in 1918 for a horse that would measure 2 meters high? How much would such a horse cost?   
2.  What's the oldest horse racing course you can find that's around 5,800 feet in length?  (The course may-or-may-not be in the US.)   
3.  What's the horse breed with a kind of gait that's particular to only that breed?  

This last noe surprised me when I found this out. I had just assumed that all horses would walk / run / canter / gallop (etc.) in the same way.  It's a little like finding out that people born in Rhode Island have a different way of running than everyone else!  

When you find the answer, let us know HOW you found it. 

(Note also that I'll be flying on Friday, so the answer for this week will also be delayed a bit.) 

Search on! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Answer: What's the date of this globe?

I'm impressed with all of the energy and good thinking that went into solving this Challenge.  As often happens, *I* learned something along the way as well.  Good job, Researchers!  

Recall the Challenge: 

1.  What year was this globe made?  

And then a bunch of pictures followed.  Here's the first one: 

Just how will we figure out the age of the globe?   First off, I scanned the globe images carefully, looking for a date, or an edition number, or anything that would be an authoritative mark from the manufacturer.  But I (I and Jon agrees) couldn't find anything.  There's a "Copyright Rand-McNally" in the cartouche (the legend of a globe), but no date. 
So I figured I'd have to start looking up countries that were shown on the globe (or not shown) as a way of figuring out what the possible range was.  
The first thing I noticed was that Vietnam was showing up as both North and South Vietnam.  I knew off the top of my head that Vietnam's unification happened in 1976, but I needed to be more precise. I needed a master list of countries--when founded, and when they disappeared from the world stage. 
My search was:  
     [ list of countries founded by date ] 
This took to me a few different pages, each with a list of countries and their establishment and dis-establishment dates.  
I then had to line up dates that would cause countries to appear, disappear, or change in territorial status. 
1976 - North and South Vietnam unified to become "Vietnam" 
1970 - "Muscat and Oman" changed name to just "Oman" 
"Muscat and Oman" is on the map.  We must go deeper.  Looking at "Muscat and Oman," I noticed "South Arabia"  

A quick search for 
[ South Arabia ] 
told me that "The Protectorate of South Arabia" existed as an independent country only from 1962-1967, after which it became Yemen. This is great, as it limits our searches quite a bit.  Since South Arabia was dissolved in November of 1967, the map on the globe must have been made before the end of 1967.  
Right below South Arabia is the "Somali Republic."  Another search tells me that this country existed only between 1960 - 1969.  This is consistent with what we already learned.  And Socotra Island became Yememese in 1967.  
I kept working in this vein, just checking to make sure all of the country labels are consistent, working upward from 1962.  
1963 - Kenya created.  It's on the globe as Kenya. 
1964 - Nyasaland dissolved, becomes Malawi.  Malawi is on the globe as well. 
1967 - Dominica becomes a British protectorate.  It's labeled as such on the globe. 

1967 - French Somaliland becomes the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas. (Which then, in 1977, becomes Djibouti.)   For this globe, on the coast near Ethiopia and Somali Republic you'll find a tiny country labeled "FR SOM"--or French Somaliland.  Since the name was changed around the end of 1967, this is a great date to use for finding map time boundaries.  
1968 - Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, and Swaziland all become independent. HOWEVER Swaziland and Mauritius are still marked as British, but Equatorial Guinea is shown as independent. 
1969 - St. Vincent and the Grenadines become independent, but the globe shows them as British. This also suggests that the globe is probably pre-1969.

This pins it down pretty well to 1967, with a little room for error.  The uncertainties in dating (e.g., Swaziland being marked as British) probably stem from the globe production cycle, and concerns over disputed territories.  Who knew if they'd stick around for another couple of years.  This is great for globe makers (countries change--everyone needs a new globe!), but they also would like to put out globes that are accurate for a while, hence the hedging.  The side-effect of all these country names makes relying just on country name changes a bit problematic.  It'll get us within a year or two. So we really need a second source on this.  

METHOD 2: It struck me that this globe didn't seem to have any kind of edition / version or date on it.  Isn't that strange?  So after I did my first method, I started over again with the query: 
     [ world globes publication dates ] 
(Why "world globes" in the query?  A: Because the term "Globe" is frequently used as a company name.  Using the bigram "world globes" was the way that I thought I could avoid all of the companies, and I was right.)  
I found (like a few other readers) that there are sites dedicated to putting dates to globes. - run by Murray Hudson offers a nice search tool to (guess what!) search for globes.  Here's their search interface with what I entered for search terms.

I just put in what I knew about the globe (terrestrial, table globe, date range of 1968-1969) and did a search.  Found it!  It's exactly the same globe, down to the code in the cartouche. (Cycle through their images until you find the cartouche--the code is the same.)    

David Mackinder's method:  David did an smart thing and looked for map and globe search tools.  That's a great move.  He found the Biblioserver Newberry search tool.  Using that he treated the code on the fourth picture as if it was a book's ISBN, and entered 'A-110000-751 -2-2-5.4' into search field, to find a hit in their index.  
That's a great trick, but reading the entry carefully, it says that it is: "Dated 'c.1964' in manuscript on attached tag."  That c. means "circa," which is just another way of saying "I'm not really sure, but approximately this time."  I guess 1964 is c. 1968!  
There are other sites for dating old globes, and they're great fun to explore.  Bear in mind that it's really worth checking multiple resources

Search Lessons: 
1.  Communities exist--take advantage of them.  I honestly didn't expect there to be such an active and vibrant community of people who deeply care about older globes.  But there it is.  Lesson for us all, as my friend Leigh Klotz said "This is the Internet.  There's a group of people interested in every possible topic."  What's more, they write about their topic of interest.  Remember this when doing research on obscure topics.  There are always people who know more than you do.  

2.  Second source everything. The method of looking for country-name-changes is pretty good, but it's not super precise, and got us only within a year or two. By using the names + dates on the globe, and then looking for other sources, we were able to find exactly the globe's publication date.  

3. Try searching for collections that might have a description of the thing you seek.  A final note on this topic... an avenue I discovered, but didn't have the time to pursue... 
One of the searches I did was for the Rand McNally sales catalog.  The obvious search: 
     [ Rand McNally catalog 1964..1968 ] 
led to a remarkable find:  the collected documents of the company in the archives of the Newberry Library in Chicago.
It's pretty clear that there ARE catalogs from 1964 through 1968.  A quick glance through those would satisfy our Challenge.  (If anyone happens to be close to the Newberry Library, could you take a quick run over there?)  
Thanks to everyone for all of their wonderful searches.  The SRS community is full of fun, interesting people that makes writing these challenges a joy.  Keep it up! 

Search on!  
(Thanks again to Jon (the Unknown) for this great SearchResearch Challenge.  If YOU have a great challenge, write to me with it.  We just might try to solve it together.) 


April 27, 2014 - Made a few edits to fix up typos. As Remmij points out in the comments, I switched around a few of the dates.  Today I fixed that up, making the dates consistent with the prose. And I added the text about French Somaliland.   

Friday, April 25, 2014

Answer? Not yet...

Folks -- I can't quite get to writing up the answer to Wednesday's Global Challenge... I'm really busy today (giving talks at Rutgers and Stevens Institute).  If you're free, consider dropping by! 

Rutgers talk at 11 AM 

Stevens talk at 3 PM 

I promise I'll write up the answer tomorrow! 

Search on!  (For the next seminar....)  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/23/14): What's the date of this globe?

THIS is a busier week than usual.  

I'm teaching five classes this week, including a new class on how to search for, find, and use historical primary source materials.  That was great fun, and I'll write about it soon.  I promise.  

So it was with great happiness that SRS Regular Reader Jon (the Unknown) wrote in with a superb Search Challenge for this week.  

Jon writes:  

"My 9 year-old granddaughter wanted a globe for her birthday. I had one kicking around for years that was old when I was given it. Naturally, I wanted to know when it was made. 
It seems globe makers are notorious for not dating the things, so that users will always think they have the latest and greatest." 

Jon sent in some photos of the globe to see if we could figure it out.  

Today's question is straightforward (but perhaps not so simple).  It's a great challenge, though. 

     1.  What year was this globe made?  

You'd think that the globe's legend would tell you, but no.  However...  All the information you need is right here.  It's just a matter of figuring out how to use the information in the pictures to determine when could have been produced.  

Can you tell us?  

When you figure it out, be sure to tell us HOW you figured it.  We're all interested in learning from your research process!  What was the line of reasoning you used to determine the date here.  

Search on!  (And a big tip o' the hat to Jon!) 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Answer: What was the major news story?

As mentioned, this wasn't an especially easy or simple Challenge. Here are the questions, and my solution.  

1.  What was the biggest news story of something that happened in a particular part of Andhra Pradesh during the past 100 years?   (As measured by coverage in the international English language press. For people who want to use other languages, you should find the same result, but I don't know how to solve this in anything but English.)  
2.  In that same year, what was the biggest audio technology story? 
3.  Again, in that same year, what was the biggest story (same basis as before) about events going on in Germany?  

Let's break this first question down.

What and Where is Andhra Pradesh?

If you do the obvious search, you'll quickly learn that Andhra Pradesh (AP) was formed in 1956 by the annexation of the country of Hyderabad with the Indian Union.  AP is now composed of the regions of the small enclave of Yanam, along with the smaller coastal regions of Coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema. The city of Hyderabad (formerly the capital of Hyderabad, the country) is now the capital of AP.

So finding the "biggest news story" that happened in a particular part of AP means checking news stories in AP since 1956 AND checking news stories about Hyderabad, Coastal Andhra, Telangana, and Rayalaseema as well.

Now... How can we check for "biggest news story" about a particular topic over the past 100 years?

It's pretty clear that (a) we need an archive of news stories, and (b) we need some way to count the frequency of news stories on a topic over a given time period.

Think about it this way:  What would be the ideal tool to answer a question like this?  When I thought about it, I realized that what I'd like is some way to create a histogram of the "number of news stories over the past century on a given topic."  Make sense?  How are we going to find that?

I remembered that once upon a time, Google News had this capability, but it's long gone.  There are various APIs to let one write code to access archival content (such as the NYTimes Article Search API, but that archive only goes back to 1981).

There are a number of newspaper archives out there, and the first one I checked,, just happened to show a histogram feature to indicate the number of hits on a topic over the past century. This is exactly what we need to answer this question. 

Here, I've done the obvious query about AP.  And it's easy to see that Andhra Pradesh didn't register at all before it was founded in 1956.  Notice that the UI shows the number of hits in red above the histogram.  

By doing several queries : 

  [ Andhra Pradesh ] 
  [ Hyderabad ] 
  [ Telangana ] 
  [ Rayalaseema ] 

etc.) it didn't take me more than a minute to discover that the major event in the region of AP was the annexation of the state of Hyderabad by India.  That event, called "Operation Polo" (September, 1948) was the takeover of the princely state of Hyderabad and its incorporation into the union. By clicking through to the news articles, it was clear that this was generating a LOT of news coverage, as you can see by searching just for Hyderabad, and zooming in on 1948.  

As an event on the world stage, it was fairly major, causing a great deal of news coverage at the time.  (It was, after all, the overthrow of one of the world's last principalities, and merged 18 million people into India. During the fighting, roughly 30,000 people were killed.)

Now we have the answer:  The biggest news story in the AP region was the annexation of Hyderabad into India with at least 18,746 stories  Even the creation of Andhra Pradesh state in 1956 itself didn't generate quite as many news stories (at least 1000 fewer).  

Next question?  Now that we know the year (1948), the next two questions are relatively simple.  We could do more searching in the newspaper archive.  BUT.. a simpler search: 

     [ major news stories 1948 ] 

will bring up a large number of "What Happened in the Year 1948?" sites.  Scanning through several of them, you'll quickly discover that they agree: the 33&1/3rd LP (long-play) record format was announced in 1948 by Columbia Records.  Reading through some of that content revealed that this was a major advance over the previous formats (78 rpm records) with a much longer play time (20 minutes / side) and an improved signal/noise ratio.  

Doing the same kind of search for Germany in the "Top Stories of 1948" shows that, from the English language perspective, the Berlin Blockade and the subsequent Berlin Airlift to provide essentials to the city during the blockade by the Soviet Union.  Airplanes and crews from the United States Air Force, British Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, delivering up to 4700 tons of necessities each day to the beleaguered city.   This story dominated headlines and coverage for much of the year.  

Search Lessons:  In this case, the hard part was figuring out HOW to measure "biggest news coverage."  In my case, I wasn't sure how to do this, but I started with what I already knew--to wit, that there were news archives.  By doing a bit of exploring there, I found that at least one of them ( offered exactly the tool I needed--the histogram of hits by year.  Lesson:  Even when you don't think you know how to solve the problem, at least go visit the content--you never know what will turn up.  

Also remember that there are LOTS of people with deep interests in history out there on the web.  Although the quality of web content sometimes varies quite a bit, they DO provide useful aggregations of information... including "top stories" by year.  When in doubt, consider searching for those aggregations and visit several of them, looking for agreement (repetitions) about what were the top stories in any given time period.  

Finally, remember that many things change name over time. The state of AP didn't even exist before 1956.  So checking for news on the state of AP really meant checking for several previously existing regions (with totally different names) that were there before.  This continues in more recent time: You won't find any news stories about the country of Eritrea before 1993.  (There are stories about the region, but not the country.  You've got to be careful...)   

Search on! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Closing in.... Searching for a tool

Quick comment on yesterday's challenge... 

As several readers have pointed out, the question really boils down to "how can I figure out what news stories were popular over the past 100 years?"  

Here's a hint:  Can you find a tool or dataset or some mechanism that will let you see that kind of overall popularity?  

Find that, and you'll have the answer quickly.  

Search on... for the right tool!

(Second hint in tiny font:  Not all tools are hidden inside the tent of Google.)  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/16/14): What was the major news story?

A while back I visited the state of Andhra Pradesh in India...  

It's fairly large, with a population of 84M people, making it the 5th largest state of India. In other words, it's 2.2 times larger than the population of California in just more than half of California's area.  Andhra Pradesh, like California, is the "rice bowl of India," providing a large fraction of southeast Asia's rice supply.  

It's been important historically, and given its size (the population of this one Indian state is roughly the same as the entire US population of all states west of Kansas), you'd think we'd know more about it.  

My visit made me start to wonder--what HAS happened, historically, in this region?  Sure, there's been a lot of history, but how would I find out more about what role Andhra Pradesh has played in world news?  

Since we know that the best way to learn something is to link it to other things that are related to it, I have three questions that are all news stories from the same year... the question is to figure out which year.  (Side comment:  This is probably the best way to learn the flow of history--don't remember dates, remember how things fit together in the tapestry of time.)  

1.  What was the biggest news story of something that happened in a particular part of Andhra Pradesh during the past 100 years?   (As measured by coverage in the international English language press. For people who want to use other languages, you should find the same result, but I don't know how to solve this in anything but English.)  
2.  In that same year, what was the biggest audio technology story? 
3.  Again, in that same year, what was the biggest story (same basis as before) about events going on in Germany?  

This isn't necessarily the simplest challenge.  (First question:  How do you measure "coverage in the English language press?)  But I think you'll find it interesting, and I assure you, you'll learn interesting things along the way. 

Be sure to tell us HOW you found the answer.  (What methods did you use?  What resources did you find that were helpful?) 

Search on! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New: Coordinates on demand

Here's a quick search tip that might save you a bit of hassle from time to time.  Just search for (replace  GEOFEATURE with a name of a site, monument, city, etc.): 

     [   GEOFEATURE coordinates ] 

and you'll get back the Lat/Long for the location of interest.  Here are a few examples. 


(I noticed it also did a spell correction on my search term "harbor.")  

Search on! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Answer: What kind of bird is that?

Credit:  Bill Walker. Link to his site.

Let's dive right into the question.  These birds are visiting... but help me out with understanding what these fine birds are!  

1.  What kind of birds are these?  (Common name and Latin names, please.  No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)  
2.  In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used.  What is the common name that he used for this bird? 
3.  Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork.  Where's the closest copy to me (in California)?  (For extra credit:  Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?) 

What kind of birds?  The classic way to answer this question is with a bird identification key or some kind of bird identification book.  I have the classic Roger Tory Peterson ("Field Guide to Western Birds")  Amazon link. Google Books link.  

The way guide books work is to work your way down a decision tree by answering questions and turning to the next entry in the tree.  "Is it passerine bird?" -- but the Peterson method is to first jump into a category of bird ("Owls & Nightjars"  or "Hummingbirds" or "Shrikes and Vireos") and then answer a few questions, but mostly looking at the color images.  Of course, you need to be able to tell your Tanagers apart from your Towhees, so it assumes a bit of learning up front.  

If we don't know anything about this bird to begin with, how would you start?  Would you recognize that the appropriate chapter is labeled "Waxwings, Phainopepla, and Starlings"?  Probably not.  

Luckily, as most people figured out a simple search for: 

     [ bird crest tan yellow ] 

gives a pretty decent set of hits on the first page, quickly learning that this is a Cedar Waxwing, or Bombycilla cedrorum.  (At least for me in California.  If you're in another part of the world, you might have to add in a georeference such as "California" or "North America" to get similar results.)  

The thing about bird identification (or plant, or insect, or most biologicals) is that you have to check the details carefully.  

This is where the Peterson guide is useful (see the section on Waxwings in either of the above links).  It includes helpful tips to discriminate between similar birds.  In this case, the Bohemian Waxwing is the bird that's most like the Cedar Waxwing.  Peterson's book points out that the Cedar Waxwing has yellow on the belly, while the Bohemian does not.  The Cedar has yellow band at the tip of the tail, while the Bohemian does not.  

In addition to Bill Walker's site, David Leahey has a nice collection of Cedar Waxwings, all of the photos taken from my immediate location.  (Hat tip to Rosemary for the link.)  

Common name of this bird used by Audubon?  The question itself suggests that there might be more than one name.  That's true for many animals and plants.  Not only are their local variations, but the common names change over time.  It's ALSO worth noting that the scientists will change the names as well.

In this case, I was curious what Audubon drew for this particular bird, so my initial search was: 

     [ Audubon cedar waxwing drawing ] 

and I looked in Images to see what he might have written as a description of the bird along side the drawing.  

It didn't take me long to find a few images (relatively small, it must be said) of the original Audubon drawings.  On those drawings he identifies the bird as a "Cedar Bird" with the scientific name of Bombycilla carolinensis. (Compare this with the Latin binomial name given above! You'll find it's different.)  

When you're doing your searches, note such differences, because older work might well have THOSE terms used instead. 

Here I've done the two searches side-by-side.  Notice how different the results are.  The Bombycilla carolinensis results are all much older, and refer to books that are no longer current.  (But still beautiful.)  

Where's the closest copy?  Whenever you're looking for a book (or music manuscript, or film, or ... any kind of library-like object), the WorldCat system run by OCLC is your friend.  

     [ WorldCat ] 

will find you the entry.  

Now, what's the book we're looking for?  

A query for Audubon will quickly lead you to the Wikipedia entry (and many others) that will all concur:  Audubon's master work was his giant ("elephant folio") edition of his collected drawings, "Birds of America."  

Having looked up OCLC's WorldCat search service, I simply entered: 

I can then enter my Zip code (94304 - Palo Alto, right next door to the Googleplex)

Of course, you want to click through the entry to make sure it's an original copy (remember that I wasn't looking for facsimiles, but the original publication).  

As several people pointed out in the comments, this is a fabulously expensive book.  I can watch an archivist turn the pages (e.g., as the Drexel Academy of Sciences daily (3:15PM) page-turn event)  

Fun facts picked up along the way:  As Regular Reader Hans (and others) pointed out, Cedar Waxwings are notorious for gorging themselves on berries, and then either getting too drunk (on the fermented berries) to fly, OR basically choking themselves to death via gluttony.  

When I was reading some of the writing of Audubon about Cedar Waxwings I was surprised to learn that they are "so tender and juicy as to be sought by every epicure for the table." 

I wouldn't have thought of that. 

He wrote that he knew of instances of a basket full of these little birds had been forwarded to New Orleans by a hunter as a Christmas present. They never arrived. "I afterwards discovered that the steward of the steamer, in which they were shipped, made pies of them for the benefit of the passengers." 

I also learned that Audubon was born as Jean-Jacques Audubon in Les Cayes in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).  He moved to France at young age. 

Although we think of Audubon as a very American character, he almost certainly spoke with a strong French accent.  (Although I haven't been able to confirm that with a contemporary letter account.)  

Search Lessons:  While there are often many ways to learn the identity of a bird, the simplest way is often the best.... but with careful checking to make sure the details line up.  

Note that birds (plants, animals, people, countries) often change their names over time.  Audubon's "Cedar Bird" quickly changed to "Cedar Waxwing" when was grouped with other waxwings in North America.  

As always, it's good to use multiple sources to validate your identification.  Turning to well-known sources (e.g., the Peterson guides) is a great way to also pick up the identification tricks you need to be good at this.  

Finally, remember that sometimes specialist external resources (OCLC's WorldCat index across thousands of libraries) can help you find exactly the object you need.  Google doesn't have this information, but this is precisely what WorldCat does best.  

Search on! 

And many thanks to Bill Walker for the use of his marvelous picture of the Cedar Waxwings.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/9/14): What kind of bird is that?

It's spring in Palo Alto, finally, after a long delayed arrival of the rains.  The start of the year has started late, so everything is a bit delayed.  The flowers are slow in arriving, and look to be a bit shorter and a bit fewer this year. 

But just recently one of my favorite springtime events took place to set everything aright. 

I stepped outside and heard a very high pitched, slight, piping sound coming from a large number of birds.  I have a large bush that's full of berries, and in the bush I saw lots of movement.  A flock of my favorite birds had returned to have a breakfast en masse.  They seem to sweep through twice a year, once in spring, and once in the fall, as they migrate from place to place, always pausing where there's food.  

I tried taking a picture, but my lens wasn't long enough and they're pretty fast.  Luckily, my good friend (and superb photographer) Bill Walker was able to take this wonderful photo. 

Credit:  Bill Walker. Link to his site.

These truly are my favorite birds, although some farmers might think otherwise.  There's something about their sleek appearance and very social behavior that make them seem especially interesting.  

Although I know what kind of bird this is, I thought on the occasion of their annual migration, they would make for an curious Search Challenge.  

Obviously, you could just do an image search and find this picture on Bill's site, and then you'd have the answer.  But let's see if we can solve this WITHOUT search-by-image.  (There's method in my madness--suppose I'd taken the photo and not posted it onto the net, in that case, search-by-image often doesn't work.  We need to develop this "regular search" skill for birds as well.)  

1.  What kind of birds are these?  (Common name and Latin names, please.  No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)  
2.  In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used.  What is the common name that he used for this bird? 
3.  Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork.  Where's the closest copy to me (in California)?  (For extra credit:  Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?) 

Let us know how you found the answers.  I'll tell you what I know on Friday. 

Search on! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Answer: What's the connection?

Thanks to everyone who solved this Challenge.  It wasn't that hard, but it's good to mix things up every so often.  I promise that next week will be a bit more... challenging!    

The challenge for this week was to make some sense out of a scribbled note I found in my stuff: 

1.  What's the connection between "sea fencibles" and the US National Anthem? 

To start with, I didn't know what "sea fencibles" were (are?), so I did the obvious search: 

     [sea fencibles] 

which led to the obvious Wikipedia page about the Sea Fencibles.  

There I learned that the "Fencibles" began with in the United Kingdom as an "organized sea defence by local fisherman to prevent invasion." That is, a kind of locals irregular coast guard.  The idea was carried over to the US and became a more-or-less official unit of the military. 

There I also learned that during the War of 1812 there were sea fencibles set up in Baltimore. "At Baltimore, two companies were raised under the command of Captains Matthew S. Bunbury and William H. Addison." They were attached to the War Department. 

As Jon, the Unknown, pointed out: The word “fencibles” were defined as corps raised for limited service, exercised in the use of musketry and sea-board defense fixed fortifications and the maneuvering of gunboats. Though seamen in general they were under the U.S. War Department and issued muskets and accoutrements. However, they (except for the officers who wore the standard U.S. Infantry uniform) wore no standard uniform, only the clothing of their trade.

This reminded me of when I wrote the note: Clearly I was in Baltimore, and the last time I was there I visited Fort McHenry.  That's a big clue. At this point, I understood the connection.  

But I really liked Ramón's search path: 

     [USA Sea Fencibles around(3) USA National Anthem] 

in Web Search and in Google Books.

In this query, Ramón is using the AROUND operator to look for "fencibles" within 3 words of "USA National Anthem" -- a good idea.  There are many hits here, all of which point out the same thing.  

As pointed out in the post, MARYLAND IN THE WAR OF 1812   "On September 13-14, 1814, in the third year of the War of 1812, this 34 year old Virginia born artillery officer ordered an American flag raised over the ramparts of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor following a 25-hour British naval bombardment. The flag itself inspired a Maryland lawyer to write a song that would become the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931."

The British attacked the Baltimore port which was defended by Fort McHenry.  At the fort, as part of the local defenses, were the Sea Fencibles.  During the attack, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem beginning with “Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light.."

And then, 1931, Congress made the "Star-SpangledBanner" the national anthem of the United States. 

An excellent history of the flag, the battle, and the song can all be found at the Smithsonian Institution's web site.  Since they actually HAVE the flag (and getting history right is their job), I trust their version of the story.  

Regular Readers might remember that we visited the National Anthem topic before when we discussed the connection between the phrase, “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine” and the development of the US practice of  "defense by reason of insanity."  You never know what you'll learn in SearchResearch!  

Here, in all its verses, is the entire anthem.  As an elementary schoolchild, I had to learn the first and last verses.  I wonder how many people know all FOUR verses.  

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - “In God is our trust,” 
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Nice job, everyone.  

Search on!