New York’s First New Year’s Eve Countdown Was Thanks to 19th-Century U.S. Navy Timekeeping

Lovely article. It would appear that your author is not familiar with Ian Bartky’s Selling the True Time: Nineteenth-Century Timekeeping in America (Stanford University Press 2000). In it, she would find that the concept of counting down to an event had its origin in the telegraphic dissemination of time, which began with the Navy in the 19th century. The concept became a public event when the Navy installed a time ball on Manhattan in the early 20th century for the ships in New York Harbor. It connected that ball to the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. To mark that event, it publicized a public event for New Year’s Eve with the idea that New Yorkers would know exactly when the new year began. I haven’t looked at the book for several years but I believe the year was 1906.

David Alan Grier

Elliot’s Exercise in Empathy Was Right on Point

Thank you for publishing your recent essay by Stephen G. Bloom, detailing Jane Elliott’s brown-eye/blue-eye exercise (which he incorrectly referred to as an “experiment”). So many of Mr. Bloom’s observations proved how effective Ms. Elliott’s exercise was and continues to be.

In sharing how many people left the exercise feeling disturbed, violated, and confused, it revealed just how insidious racism is to people who experience it firsthand. The people attending her exercise might have felt picked on for a few hours, and have every right to feel upset.

However, the kindness, compassion, and empathy that Bloom is looking for should have come from those very people, at the very moment they realized that people of color, women, LGBT people, and other marginalized minorities go through that experience every single day, often for decades or a lifetime. They constantly feel ridiculed, falsely accused, and manipulated. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are an unbelievable breach of trust and obscene.

If those participants are, 30 years later, still only remembering their own pain and grievances, then it’s not likely that Ms. Elliot or any other educator can impart to them what it takes to generate sufficient empathy and compassion. That is not the fault of Ms. Elliott or her powerful exercise.

Steven Reeder

Why People Are Leaving California for Texas

Because if you live in Texas,

… you don’t have to spend countless time looking at all those beautiful mountains, hills, and valleys across the state

… you can drive to the country’s best ski resorts in just two or three days

… the winter ice storms are ‘cool’ for taking walks

… you enjoy fabulous cheap Texas blended table wines

… the hot and humid summers are a great way to sweat weight off

… you get lower state income taxes which enables you to pay your property tax that is at a 2.5 times higher rate than California

… you save money since you only need to wear blue jeans, t-shirts, cowboy hats, and boots

… it’s a far shorter travel time to visit Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana

… you may get to enjoy a hurricane

… you live in a state that has a fast-increasing crime rate… and a quickly declining number of Texas police

… BUT you can protect yourself from criminals because of the Texas ‘Open Carry’ laws

… driving time to hate rallies is shorter… in fact, you’ll probably have them in your own home town

… far more restaurants serve the famous French delicacy: chicken-fried steak in country gravy

… you save money and keep the weight off since you can’t find many Michelin Star restaurants

Richard Wollack

A Rare Visit to the Hearst Family’s Wyntoon Estate

In response to Joe Mathew’s article on Wyntoon: I have been there! In 1964 I was working for a consulting forestry firm in Oakland that had Sunical Corporation as a client. Sunical was the division of the Hearst Corporation that was responsible for the Hearst forest lands in California. I was sent in 1964 to McCloud to scale the timber coming off of the property on the McCloud River. PG&E was building the dam to create Lake McCloud, which was to flood some of the Hearst property. We were in the process of logging the reservoir site which was to be flooded. While I was there, I became acquainted with one of the caretakers at Wyntoon, and one afternoon he invited me to visit the property. He showed me the Bavarian Village, but we could not go near the buildings, possibly because family members were there (it was August, I think). He did take me into what he called the castle, a large stone structure, that had been under construction when William Randolph Hearst died. It was said that all worked stopped the day of his death and had never been resumed. It was a magnificent structure and appeared to me that it was near completion, but the water had never been turned on. I also remember that the other caretaker was on a trip to Fort Bragg on the coast. The reason for his visit was that the Hearsts had a warehouse there of antiques or art objects that had been purchased for Wyntoon and that the caretaker went there to check on it periodically.

Leif C. Hatlen

Speaking for the Unhoused

It was an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be part of this event. I value the recovery of my life dearly and wish to help as many as possible find the same satisfaction that I have. This overwhelming desire has guided me and given me new purpose. I would never in a million years have thought I would be the voice of Homelessness, but now I speak for them/us proudly!

—Shawn Eric Pleasants

Academic Freedom Is a Fundamental Building Block of the Public Square

The University of Toronto is on the wrong side of history and, I’m afraid, so is Michael Ignatieff. The growing movement in support of CAUT’s censure should be a clear indication to the U of T administration that it ought to resist any attempt at interference in academic freedom. The reputation of this great university is at stake. Ignatieff’s decision to break ranks with those who are trying to get the University to reverse course is based on a spurious argument about the public square that does not stand up to scrutiny. There is no public square when basic fundamental building blocks of that square are being eroded.

W. Andy Knight, FRSC
Distinguished Professor
University of Alberta


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