April 2008

This sign and barn are on my way to and from work. I didn’t notice the humor in their unintentional placement till a friend pointed it out to me.  If you can read the bottom of the sign it reads “Keeping the past alive” mean while the beautiful old barn behind it is falling to the ground ever so slowly. It’s ashame because it was a big beautiful old barn.

I think it goes to show that we are only interested in keeping the past alive when it means we can have a festival about it. I think the event that is associated with the sign however is a quality one. And it is very educational about how things were done agriculturally in the past. But sadly, there are some things in the past that will just continue to die out and be essentially forgotten, unless thier is a need for it. Apparently this barn is not needed.

Although I do wonder how much profit there is to gain in reclaiming the old beams!

Maryland State Arts Counsel

This past weekend we took a trip to Baltimore, Maryland. We had a complimentary stay at a Sheraton in Towson, which was very nice.

Our main goal was to visit Fort McHenry and the Aquarium with Charles’ cousins. All the week before the weather was calling for rain, but the sun shone for just about all of the weekend we were down there. It was a welcomed surprise.

My favorite part was the visit to Fort McHenry. It was interesting to walk around the pleasant grounds of the fort which once hosted a time of great peril. You see this was the site of a major battle. The one of which caused Francis Scott Key to write a little poem which became so famous.

This little fort was bombarded with artillery from British warships through the night. They kept their ships just out of reach of our cannons. But regardless of their effort, the flag stood. The British finally left. At this time, Francis Scott key returned to the harbor from being held by the British during the battle. When he saw the flag still waving, is when he scratched down the famous poem “Oh, Say Can You See”.

It was an interesting reminder of the price paid to protect this new nation. There were men running scared along the same paths that I walked. They ran with haste, diligence and purpose, but hundreds of years earlier. Which in the history of things, really wasn’t that long ago!

Now it is a pleasant grassy park where people jog along the seawall, take their dogs for a walk or have picnics. Hotels and shipyards invade the landscape surrounding this last bit of history clinging to existence.

Top photo source: Maryland State Arts Center

Ledger Books and reciepts.

I was happily invited to be one of few people to access the vault in an old building in downtown Wellsboro. It was in a building which was/is William Binghams Land Office. William Bingham was a wealthy merchant from Philadelphia who lived in the latter part of the 1700’s to the early 1800’s. He owned much of the land here in Northcentral Pa and also into New York (hence Binghampton) and about 2 million acres in Maine.

He was a wealthy states man and merchant, of which he made his fortune. At one point he was known to be the richest man in the U.S. and held many different offices. He also funded the Louisiana Purchase. You can read more about him here and here.

In Wellsboro, facing the serenity of The Green, sits a pale yellow building housing a small walk-in vault containing millions of handwritten notes of transaction, deed descriptions, maps and personal letters of the Bingham estate.

Land reciepts and deed descriptions (1800\'s)

All of these are originals and are extremely well preserved. I was honored to be in this room looking through these items. Someone had enough forethought to label most everything so anyone researching would have an idea what a certain packet of papers or a drawers contents were. I was so surprised as to the quality of many of these documents. It felt almost as if he didn’t live so long ago as I read and handled hand written letters which he composed by candle light at some desk.

We came upon this vaults existence through a boundary research project our county is doing. We are finding the real county boundary lines and all the Township boundary lines within. There are quite a few that are still a mystery even after weeks of research and field work, finding and surveying old stone markers and what not.

That is where, somewhere in this vault, lies the answers.

Interview Question:

There is a light switch with three switches that control three seperate lights in a room that has no windows and only one door. The switches are outside the room. With only one switch being allowed on at a time and only being allowed to enter the room once, how can you figure out which switch belongs to wich light?

The above is another question that was asked of me as a “lets check your problem solving skills” question. It is similar to the one previously posted in that the interviewer initially does not set any parameters other than what is stated in the question.

So, my answer, which I came up with rather quickly, was that I would open the door and one by one turn on and off each light switch while watching the lights. Simple! And nothing I did goes against the parameters set in the question.

Of course the question giver balked saying that  I can’t do that and that now the light switches are down the hall way. This was stated so that the question would then fit the pre-composed answer that took too much thought to come up with, though it was rather brilliant, but again, not necessary given the original question.

The pre-composed or “correct” (bleh) answer was to turn on one light switch and leave it on for a minute. Then turn it off and turn on the next one and enter the room. Then by touching the  lights (assuming you can reach them of course!) you can tell that the hot one was turned on by the first switch and so on. This answer is just as invalid as my answer, because you are assuming that the lights are within reach.

Tell me, was my answer wrong? Or was the question giver so stuck on their “brilliant” answer that nothing else could be right but their answer?

I decided that this is a thought that is post worthy. It’s about thinking outside the box. Usually I am not one to be accused of such an act but I guess in certain areas it just happens.

In the past few years, and more recently, just the other day, I got into a conversation about job interview questions. You hear about large corporations asking off the wall questions when interviewing a potential employee to see how they think. In a lot of questions like this, it is not as important to have a “correct” answer as much as it is important to have a good answer. And by that I mean the thought process that goes on while formulating an answer. The object of asking the question is to see how he or she might problem solve.

I think its a great idea to do this in an interview. But some questions have really irked me because the people asking them are close minded, have the “I’m always right” and “There’s only one answer!”attitude, or the “I don’t think things through” mindset. I don’t mean for this post to be negative but rather one to see if others think similarly to the way I do.

With that said, I will post the questions below and then discuss them as to why I think they are bad questions.

This one is a series of questions built on each other:

“The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and will tell you whether you are qualified to be a professional. The questions are NOT that difficult.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Did you say, Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the refrigerator?

Wrong Answer.

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend…. except one. Which animal does not attend?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there. This tests your memory.”

Okay, Let’s start with question one, be honest with yourself on these questions. In my mind, I first thought up of chopping up the giraffe and all the normal ways you mind tries to make the impossible possible logically. I admit that it was a good question. So now with its answer we automatically that all normal reasoning must be thrown out the window because the questioner is stating that there is a fridge big enough to fit a giraffe….of course making you feel dumb (I think thats the point of these questions anyway which is another reason I am more vehemently opposed to the person who made these up and even more to those who use them).

So with question two about the elephant, the “question giver” thinks they are trapping the answerer because of the answer the “question giver” already has in their head without thinking it through. I cant even express my annoyance of this question! My first answer to question number 2, along with most other people, would be to open the fridge and put the elephant in and close the door. At which point the “question giver” injustly jumps to say “WRONG!”

This is where the “question giver” is wrong for doing so. In question one, we threw out all common sense by assuming there is a fridge big enough to hold a giraffe. If this is true, then it is totally conceivable that there could be a fridge that can hold a giraffe and an elephant. The interviewer suddenly applies restrictions to the size of refrigerator. It suddenly is only big enough to hold a giraffe or an elephant. This is preposterous and, might I say, hypocritical! So the interviewee would have been correct in their first guess.

The phrase “This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.” that is after the answer in question two totally speaks to the interviewer, not the interviewee.

So on to question three. The interviewer so far is assuming that their close minded thinking is all right so far and is thinking that only one animal is in the fridge, so naturally in their closed mind the giraffe is out and about. This is where I would like to say “WRONG!” The giraffe and elephant are still hugging each other for warmth in the fridge!

The interviewer should be demoted to Mail Boy.

I’ll talk about the other interview question that bothers me tommorrow.