Saturday, February 26, 2011

The distance of things.





I was in Denver the past couple of days, and on my way out, I took some photographs for my blog on churches in the West.

I've been to Denver approximately a billion times. But trying to find photographs on a particular topic really focuses in your attention on some things. More on that later, but one thing I noted is that you can find multiple churches of a single denomination relatively close to each other, in modern terms.

For example,the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Denver, is really relatively close to Holy Ghost, a fine old church (which I did not get to photograph) in downtown Denver. If I lived in downtown Denver, I'd probably have to drive to the Cathedral for Mass, but it isn't far. Nor are either of these far, in driving terms, from Mother of God Catholic Church which is just on the edge of downtown Denver. It's a very small church.

In any event, these churches are all so close to each other, in modern terms, that I can't imagine all three being built now. All three are still in use. I was perplexed by it, until in considering it, I realized that they are really neighborhood churches, built for communities that were walking to Mass for the most part, save for the Cathedral, which no doubt served that function, but which also was the seat of the Archdiocese of Denver. Mother of God church no doubt served a Catholic community right in that neighborhood, and it likely still does. Holy Ghost served a downtown community, and probably also the Catholic business community that was downtown during the day.

This speaks volumes about how people got around prior to World War Two. It probably also says something about their concept of space.

Here's another example. Depicted here, one time close up, and a second time from down the street, is the Burlington Northern train depot. It's still a train depot, but it only serves to be the headquarters for the BNSF locally now. At one time, of course, passengers got on and off the train here. A friend recently sent me a very interesting article describing that process, and how passengers got off and went to a nearby, now gone, restaurant. For that matter, at least three major hotels were located within a couple of blocks of the depot, one of which is the Townsend, now converted into a courthouse.

Best Posts of the Week for the Week of February 19, 2011

The distance of things.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nice Post on what every American should learn about U.S. History

Very fine post on what every American should learn about U.S. History.

I'm often amazed by how little people know about the history of our nation. Nice to see somebody in the trenches considering it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Heating

I'm reminded, semi painfully, of a major change in the last century being heating.

I don't know how the winter has been elsewhere, but here it's been a really cold winter. We've been down below OF repeatedly, including today.

Our house has electric heat. I actually like it quite a bit, but it's been having trouble keeping up in the really cold weather. Most houses around here have gas heat.

Most office buildings, if they're big ones like the one I work in, have a boiler. Ours has a boiler, but for some reason it's having trouble today.

This building was built in about 1917 or so. Not much insulation in it. When the heat isn't working, it's real darned cold in it.

For that matter, it was probably pretty cool in it back in the day during the winter, which is likely why men wore so much wool for office work in those days.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Office machinery and the written word.

Just recently, I resumed using the Dragon voice recognition system for dictation. For those not familiar with it, it's a program that jacks into your computer, and you speak into a microphone
which then processes the spoken word immediately into print. This is the second time I've experimented with. The first time, I grew frustrated with it and, after the system collapsed, I abandoned using it and simply typed things out on my computer. I'm a pretty fast typist, so this was working well, but any way you look at it, it's slower than speaking. This time around, the Dragon system seems to be working very well, so I've very happy with my resumed use of it.

Anyhow, what a revolution in the process of generating pleadings and letters this is. When I first started practicing law, some 21 years ago, we were using Dictaphones. Now those are practically a thing of the past. For those not familiar with them, a Dictaphone is a specialized tape recorder that allows the speaker to dictate the document. This ended up, at that time, in an audiotape which was handed over to the secretary, who then listened to it and typed out the document. The secretary handed that back to you, and then you manually red lined it for changes. This process could take some time.

This, of course, was an improved process of dictation as compared to the original one, which entailed calling a secretary in to your office and dictating the document to her. She took it down in shorthand. My mother, who had worked as a secretary in the 40s, 50s and 60s, could take excellent shorthand as a result of this process. Now, shorthand is nearly as dead of written language as Sanskrit.

Even earlier than that, legal documents were processed through a scrivener, a person whose job was simply to write legibly. That person wasn't normally the lawyer.

I'm not sure if this entire process is really quicker than the older methods, but it is certainly different. My secretary only rarely sees a rough draft of anything. That rough draft goes on my computer, and I edit it from there. About 80% of the time, by the time I have a secretary proof read a document, it is actually ready to go. Those entering the secretarial field, for that matter, generally no longer know how to take shorthand or even how to work the Dictaphone machine. They're excellent, however, on working the word process features of a computer.


All this also means, fwiw, that the practice of law, at least, is a much more solitary profession than it once was, at least while in the office. Generating a pleading, in a prior era, was more of a community effort in a way. The lawyer heard the pleading for the first time, in many instances, as the same time his secretary did. Over time, most secretaries were trusted to make comments on the pleadings. In the case of letters, they were often simply expected to be able to write one upon being asked to do so, something that still occurs to some degree today. But for pleadings, today, a lawyer tends to wall himself off by himself while drafting them, and any outside input tends to start after a relatively complete document has been drafted. Of course, with computers, it's much easier to circulate drafts and to change documents as needed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What one buidling says about the march of history.





This is the Ewing T. Kerr Federal Courthouse in Casper, Wyoming. I recently posted these photographs of it on my courthouse blog.

In doing this, it occurred to me that this building, in many ways, symbolizes how many changes have come about in the last 80 years.

This building was built under appropriations set out in 1926, but actual construction did not start until 1931. It was completed in 1932. The building, therefore, came early in the Great Depression.

The ceremony for the corner stone included a Masonic Ceremony. That's an amazing fact in and of itself. A Masonic Ceremony would be regarded as unthinkable now for a Federal event, and it probably generated some concern amongst the Catholic lawyers in town at the time. The Masons, however, were quite powerful in Casper in this era, and of course fraternal organizations of all type were much more common then as opposed to now.

The building itself was not built with just the judiciary in mind. Indeed, there was no sitting Federal judge for it at all. At the time, there was one Federal judge who sat in Cheyenne. He was, however, a bit of a circuit rider, and Federal courthouses existed in Cheyenne, Casper, Green River, Lander and Yellowstone National Park. The courtroom was on the second floor of the courthouse, and the main floor and part of the basement housed the Post Office. Service recruiters were also located here, along with other Federal officers. The building was built with this in mind, and it served in this fashion up until about 1970 when a new much larger Federal office building was constructed. This itself shows how much smaller the Federal government actually was, as there is no way this building could serve in this fashion today. Even as late as the early 80s, however, the building still housed various Federal offices, including the United States Geological Survey, for which I briefly worked. It's odd to think that the dingy basement USGS office was once located in what is now a very nice courthouse. Even odder yet is to recall the beautiful Depression Era murals that were once on the main floor, with the mail boxes. The murals depicted scenes of Western migration, and were removed to the new post office (which is now the old post office) when the post office went to the new Federal Building in 1970.

What this courthouse did not see by that time was very much use as a court. By the 1950s at least the Federal Court made little use of this courthouse, and the ones in Green River and Lander had fallen into near complete disuse. In part, this may simply have been due to advances in transportation and technology. The addition of additional Federal judges, however, meant that the court needed to once again use this courthouse, and it was remodeled in the late 1980s and now has a sitting Federal judge.

Even the name of the building illustrates a change. This building was simply called "the Post Office" by most people here when I was young. Later, it was called "the old Post Office". When it acquired a sitting Federal judge most people started calling it The Federal Courthouse. The official name, the Ewing T. Kerr Federal Courthouse, came about in honor of long time Wyoming Federal judge, Ewing T. Kerr. Judge Kerr is notable, amongst other reasons, for being the last Wyoming Federal judge to lack a law degree. He had never attended law school, and actually started off as a teacher. He "read the law" and passed the bar.

By the way, just behind the courthouse is the old First National Bank building. It hasn't been used in that fashion during my lifetime, I think, but was a major office building up until the 1970s. It then fell into disuse, and was abandoned for many years. Very recently, it was remodeled into appointments, and where the bank lobby once was a grocery store now is.

Also, this view is considerably more open than at any time prior to the present time. A small building neighboring the courthouse was recently removed so that room could be made for parking. They heavy iron fence serves a security purpose. Up until recently this also did not exist, showing, I suppose, how things have changed in another fashion.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

365 Days With A Model A.

Here's a blog that takes an interesting look at the early automobile era.

The author notes that this is because he doesn't feel that everything should have a computerized element to it. I couldn't agree more.