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Failing Fast

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Trying to fail may sound like a truly odd concept. Trying to do it fast probably sounds even more bizarre, but there is a point to it. When a problem itself is even remotely interesting, the solution is often not something that is easy to find. Many documents might be needed and little shards of […]

The Contemplation of Things

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I was reminded of a wonderful quote this week. I was watching a PBS documentary about the photographer Dorthea Lange who had a copy of it hanging in her studio- The contemplation of things as they are without error or confusion without substitution or imposture is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest […]

A Man of Letters

Monday, September 1st, 2014

I’ve been translating Swedish letters lately and I’m struck by the personalities. Most letters from more than a century ago start with the discussion of health. It seems to be a general feature of letters in the western world at that time. There is the boilerplate proclamation of good health and the question about the […]

While the Shutter is Closed

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Sometimes one hears that the census is like getting a snapshot of a family taken every ten years. The time between “exposures” does change from place to place but many countries have settled into the once per decade pattern. In the U.S. state censuses can sometimes be used to cut the time that the shutter […]

Near Enough

Monday, April 14th, 2014

David J. Hand, the author of the book The Improbability Principle has a list of items that go into his principle- The Law of Inevitability The Law of Truly Large Numbers The Law of Selection The Law of the Probability Lever The Law of Near Enough In the book he describes events that seem like […]

Coincidence?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The other day I went to the library to pick up a book I had on hold. I found the book and a magazine on the shelf waiting for me. I checked them out and was casually flipping through the magazine while I waited for my daughter’s choir practice to wrap up. In the back […]

Not Omniscient

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Last week after a presentation one of the audience members came up to the front to say hello. She said that after hearing my introduction she had to tell me that she had been a physicist in the 1950s and that she understood the connection between being a physicist and being a genealogist. She added […]

Whither the Source?

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Sources give us information. That information is the same no matter who looks at it. A researcher might miss something but that missed information is there whether we see it or not. Other times information only becomes meaningful when placed in context. The source has the information but the knowledge needed to interpret it needs […]

GeneADHDlogy

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

“Hmm…I wonder if this the right family. It could be. Better check these new names and see if they clarify things…I’ll start with Reginald, that’s an unusual name.” “Oh, what’s this? Ronald…Could that be Reginald? Better check that!” “Wait, which window did I have that first document in? Ok, found it.” “Here is a Donald […]

Fingered by the Index

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

I don’t remember when I first read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. Whenever it was, I have read it many times since. I won’t go into much of it here, it would be well off topic. Suffice it to say that it deals with a vast sweep of the future and the decline of a great […]

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