Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hometown Money

I've always had a love of the past and one of my hobbies when I was younger was to collect coins.  Naturally, I didn't have enough money to collect anything expensive, so it was mostly pennies and some nickels.  Anything much larger was beyond my means.  Although I never bought anything from the coin shops, I did enjoy looking around and seeing all the items on display, so from those visits I have a little familiarity with currency also.

That's why it came as a surprise to me when I was doing an Internet search and I ran across reference to National Bank Notes.  This was American currency issued by local banks with a federal charter.  From 1863 to 1935, local banks could deposit bonds in the US Treasury and then they could issue currency up to 90% of the value of the bonds.  The banknotes were backed by the United States Government and often resembled United States Notes and later Federal Reserve Notes.

The cool thing about these National Bank Notes however, is that the name of the local bank is prominently displayed, meaning that your local town name was found on national currency.  I quickly did a look and found that a bank in my hometown of San Luis Obispo, California was one of the towns issuing currency.

$10 San Luis Obispo, California, National Bank Note

Since the program continued all the way until 1935, the later smaller notes closely resemble the money we still have in circulation today.

$10 Paso Robles, California, National Bank Note

The $10 bill above is from the town where I teach which at the time it was issued probably had less than 3,000 people!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Holland vs. Netherlands

I'm not always tracking visitors to this site, but when I do, I'm always a little surprised by the number of Dutch visitors we have.  Perhaps it's my last name (Maas), or maybe it's something else entirely, but either way, I'm always happy to have visitors from the Netherlands.  As I've noticed such a strong interest from that part of the world, tidbits of news pertaining to that nation now more frequently catch my eye.

That's why today, I'd like to share with you, the following video, produced by Grey Explains, that a fellow teacher recently shared with me.  It explains the difference between Holland and the Netherlands (terms that most here in the United States use interchangeably).

A quick warning though, I get the feeling that the producer, while trying to explain things, also likes a small amount of joy in making things seem a little more complicated than they really are by talking fast and quickly displaying pictures, so feel free to pause the video or rewind a time or two.

Also, for those who are interested, I would from time-to-time, show an earlier video he produced explaining the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom (a subject that more of my students have always had difficulty understanding).  A second warning: this one moves more quickly than the Dutch one:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Stand By Me

Many, if not most of you, are probably aware of the song from the 1960s, "Stand By Me," sung by Ben E. King.

There's an interesting viral video cover of the song from a music documentary that's been making the rounds for the last few years.  If you haven't seen it yet, you'll want to check it out...

One of the things that I think is most interesting about early rock music was its strong gospel roots with many of the biggest names getting their musical upbringing by singing in church.

Ben E. King

Ben E. King was no different, being a regular in his church choir as a boy.  Early on, King was picked up as a replacement member of the second iteration of the musical group, The Drifters.  King eventually started a solo career and was recording the song "Spanish Harlem" when the producers asked if he had any other songs.  King played the tune "Stand By Me" which he took from the spiritual "Oh Lord, Stand By Me."

Included in King's version were several additional lines from the Bible:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, thought the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.

Psalm 46:1-2

I heard a radio interview the other day where someone was talking about the state of Christian music in the United States.  He said that he found it sad that many of the Christian songs now are just romantic love songs with the girl replaced by God.  I partly agree, but if you study music history, you'll find that it has happened the other way too.

If you haven't heard the original "Stand By Me" here it is too:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nate's Nonsense Will Return

I see a number of you have noticed the recent lack of posts on Nate's Nonsense and a number of you have even taken the time to write nice letters of concern and for that I am so grateful.  I wish I had a better explanation other than I became really busy.

For the past 15 years, I taught primarily history (although sometimes a few classes of math or science) at the same high school.  This year, I'm teaching at an independent study high school program in our same district.  I meet with six students each day, for an hour at a time.  Now this sounds a lot easier than what I was previously doing, but it actually entails a great deal of paperwork.  I have to prepare and teach every subject for several grades and then collect and grade the work that comes in.  I had become so proficient in my previous assignment that I rarely took work home to grade, now I'm coming home with a couple hours of work each night.  Because I've committed myself to so many other things, I'm finding that my job is encroaching on my free time.

Although, I do enjoy writing this blog, I always considered this to an avocation.  Due to my increasing workload, I have increasingly found myself frustrated by the quality of my posts and for a time even thought about ending the blog.

Well, over the course of my unintentional break, I have received so many positive and encouraging e-mails from readers all around the world, I have reconsidered ending the blog.  Although I'm not quite caught up, I hope to be so soon.  I'm looking to restart the blog sometime before March.

Some of you may be wondering why I've posted a photo of Douglas MacArthur on this page.  When I was trying to figure out whether I should use 'will return' or 'shall return,' I am reminded of my junior high school English teacher who always seemed to hold General MacArthur in high regard for his proper use of shall in "I shall return."  Personally, I don't think MacArthur and I would have gotten along very well, but I am quite sure he and my English would have hit it off just fine.

Anyone have any strong opinions about either MacArthur or archaic grammatical rules?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

If We Could Send a Man to the Moon, Why Couldn't We Fake It?

When I was younger, I can't tell you the number of times someone started a gripe with the words, "If we could send a man to the moon, why can't we (insert gripe here)..."

I haven't heard that saying for quite some time now, but a few years ago, there were a few people who began claiming that we never even went to the Moon, but rather our government faked the whole thing to freak out the Russians with our superior technology.

I'm not going to repeat the claims of the "Moon Landing Hoaxers" or the hoax debunkers here, you can do a quick search and see what they're saying, but a friend sent me a link to this creative video where a photographic expert explores the issue from a unique perspective.  His basic premise is, we probably had the technology to go to the moon in 1969, but we certainly didn't have the technology to fake it.

Anyway, it's worth a watch.  I certainly enjoyed it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Technical Difficulties

My apologies, Nate's Nonsense is experiencing some technical difficulties.  It should resume sometime next week.  Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Academic Schools and their Strange College Mascots

I've never really been in the habit of watching sports on television.  The closest major league team to our home is about a four hour drive and none of the local events are televised.  My wife, however, is from Wisconsin.  That state is crazy for their football and University of Wisconsin was playing Stanford in the Rose Bowl yesterday, so naturally my wife watched a few minutes of the game.  One of her first questions was, "If Stanford's mascot is a cardinal, why do they have a tree dancing around on the sidelines?"

The unofficial Stanford mascot – The Stanford Tree

So where did the tree come from?  Like many academic schools, Stanford has had trouble coming up with a good mascot.  Getting in the game late, it adopted the "Indian" as its mascot in 1930.  At first the school had a dignified looking Indian chief with a headdress, but as so often as these things go, they later adopted a more comical looking brave dubbed "Prince Lightfoot."

Old Stanford Mascot

Of course real American Indians were offended by the ignoble depiction and in 1972 were able to convince the school administration to drop the mascot.  However, instead of adopting a new mascot, the administration declared that the color "Cardinal" (singular) would be the new nickname of all the athletic teams and that El Palo Alto, the famous landmark tree, would replace the Indian on the helmets.  Not having a mascot and realizing that a color would be difficult to represent, some enterprising members of the band began dressing up in a makeshift tree costume.  The Tree has now become a regular fixture, testament to political administrators inability to pick good mascots.

John Harvard, mascot of Harvard University

Other more academic schools seem to have the same problem.  Take Harvard for example.  Their official administratively driven mascot is "John Harvard," a Puritan minister who came to America in 1637 and died the next year, leaving an endowment for a university.  Of course, John Harvard doesn't make for a very good mascot either as his surname is already the name of their university.  What would they all themselves, "The Harvard John Harvards?"  So instead, the popular name of their team is just Crimson for the school color.  Crimson, unlike cardinal is not regularly confused for a bird.  Although, when I was searching for images of John Harvard the mascot, I quickly realized that even a Harvard education cannot keep ivy leaguers from confusing Puritans and Pilgrims (for the record, John Harvard was a Puritan).

Perhaps it is not a characteristic of academic schools to know what to do with athletics.  When I was living in Chicago, I attended a Northwestern football game.  They were so used to losing that the crowd would break into the following chant after the game:

That's alright!  That's okay!  You're gonna work for us someday!

Northwestern was for years the odd academic school in the Big Ten Conference, having joined in 1896.  Then in 1995, they suddenly had a huge year, becoming conference champions for the first time since 1936.  The other schools were so used to a weak Northwestern Football team, they would purposely schedule their Homecoming game against that poor school (Northwestern won three homecoming games in a row in 1995).

One of the reasons I think this is all so funny is that one of the undergraduate colleges I attended, Moody Bible Institute, has the "Archers" as their team mascot.  Some of my classmates were eager to go support the athletic teams, not knowing what our mascot was, one of them asked one of the school administrators what  our mascot was.  He replied, "We are the Moody Archers."  He then asked if we had a mascot and was told, "Why yes, it's on our seal."

That's right, the mascot was not a bowman, but an architectural element!

For fun, Smedly and Nate made a large cardboard arch (one person on each side of the arch) and trotted out on the courts to rouse the crowds.  I can tell you by watching them that a two man mascot is harder to pilot than a single person mascot.  And of course, it didn't have a "fight song," but they did sing the school hymn, "The Christian Fellowship Song," on a regular basis, I'll reprint it below for your enjoyment:

Often only the fourth stanza was sung at school events.