Let’s get this party started   Leave a comment

Okay! Here I am, about two hours before the deadline, live-blogging my attempts to win…whatever it is that we’re trying to win. Anticipation of pizza is nigh; the boyfriend is beating up bad guys in City of Heroes. We’re doing this!

1) the earliest séance described in a newspaper

My first search attempt, at 7:03:

seance OR ghost OR spirit

yields 9880 results, and the first thing that comes up is an editorial from the Atlanta Constitution encouraging you to PATRONIZE HOME INDUSTRY! (It is in no spirit of animosity…)

I’m not giving up yet.

After a few more skimmings, I realize that “skimming” is just not going to work, guys. I refine my search to:

seance OR ghost

At 7:08 and I’m trying to think of a way to modify that some. This search yields an article entitled ON ITS LAST LEGS: Radical Reconstruction About to Give Up the Ghost. The second search was an advertisement encouraging ladies who like to powder their skin to use Milk of Violet, so ladies: keep that in mind.

But aha! I seem to have found something. On October 30, 1869, the Atlanta Constitution finally made reference to a seance. THE SPERRITS: N.P. Willis’ Ghost Makes Sound Astounding Revelations. It seems that Mr. Willis is a frequent visitor to the wife of a lawyer, who oftens brings her presents, like flowers still dripping with dew, a book of poems, and a crayon drawing of himself. It’s…kind of adorable, actually.

Hmm. So We have a starting point of October 30, 1869, huh? He doesn’t feel the need to explain what a seance or a medium is. I wonder if this goes back further. At least I can add a year onto this, somehow: “before 1869.”

It is 7:21. The pizza has arrived. My new query:

seance OR ghost BEFORE 1869

…this yields nothing new. It just whittles it down to the five articles I’ve already read. Hmm.

…oh no wonder it was only coming up with Atlanta Constitution articles. I had someone selected Atlanta Constitution. Let’s modify the search a wee bit.

seance OR ghost BEFORE 10/30/1869 using databases: American Periodicals Series Online (1740-1900); ProQuest Historical Newspapers Atlanta Constitution (1868 – 1945); ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987); ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2007)

Obviously I could only choose newspapers that were around before October 30, 1869.

The first three articles are actually…poems? This search yielded 3375 returns. Hmm. Changing this to newspapers-only cuts it down to 394. And the first ten are in French! They appear to be about the French Revolution. Somehow I don’t think that has to do with seances. Or they could, I don’t know. But I don’t know French, so let’s try this again. (*pulls up Google translator*) Oh! It turns out “seance” is French for “meeting.” This is good to know!

Okay, so removing the American Periodicals Online removed…wow, a lot. I only have 16 documents to search through. The second is an article from December 10, 1858, entitled “A Crowd of Spirits,” detailing a man’s encounter with ghosts.

That’s the date I’m going with. December 10, 1858, in the Chicago Tribune.

2) the most detailed description of an electric car in a book published before 1910

It is 7:46. Time to start the second one. My boyfriend is telling me I should check out Wikipedia for ideas of what companies were making electric cars around the turn of the century, and then go check out their websites. I’ll keep that in mind.

Right now I’m trying ALADIN on the GMU website, because I don’t know what it is. I’m searching “electric car” as a phrase. I…I need to modify the date, somehow, I think?

Hmm. I think ALADIN is how we find out what books are available in the library. Maybe? Geez I suck at this. I guess I’ll try going to gmu’s library homepage…the research databases…engineering? Sure I’ll go with Engineering. It’s an electric car description, right?

Is an electric car electrical engineering or mechanical engineering?

I’ll try mechanical.

…automotive engineering…

…okay, let’s try electrical…

Okay I need a database that lets me search by date. This is stupid.

Let’s try Ebsco database? Full of e-books (which are the devil). No results.

Okay screw this. I’m going to try my boyfriend’s suggestion.

Wikipedia–>electric car–>electric drive vehicle–>history of the electric vehicle. Aha! Detroit Electric. Argh. Pulls up nothing.

It’s 8:15 and I got nothing. I just did a generic search in gmu’s library database. It turned up electric AND car, let’s try “electric car” shall we?


I’m getting frustrated and getting nowhere. I have no idea where to find e-books. I’m going to google books. Advanced Search–>Find Results with the exact phrase “electric car” published between January 1800 and December 1910.


But really, this one is really very detailed. I just wish I hadn’t resorted to google to find it. Oh, deadlines

3) the best source for historic voting patterns in Fairfax, VA

So the first thing that I did was…well actually I screamed in frustration, because it’s 8:41 and I accidentally closed the blog post. But it was auto-saved. My ass: saved.

The next thing that I did was go to Fairfax County’s government website and type “voting history” into the search tab. This pulls up a page on all the books and maps on Fairfax County history you could possibly want.

Next I hit the link “Resources” from the left-hand menu. You can get a list of every single Chairman of Fairfax County from there. Nothing about voting, though, so I next tried “Maps, Stats, and Facts.” I tried “Demographics and Data.” There is a lot of interesting stuff under Population Information but sadly nothing appears to be about voting.

I’ve clicked a few other places under “Maps, Stats, and Facts,” and nothing seems to be about voting — just demographics, including the number of people with personal computers in their own home, and how many people don’t speak English, and where Fairfax residents came here from. I’ve clicked a couple other links like “resources” and “demographics,” but nothing useful. I’m going to call fairfaxcounty.org a bust for the first time.

Now I double-check my logic with my boyfriend. He recommends trying Virginia’s election commission website. I knew there’s a reason I’m dating him.

I click on the side bar option “Statistics and Polling Places.” There’s a link “Historical Registration Statistics.” It appears to go all the way back to 2000, and it’s about how many people were registered to vote. I next try “Registration/Turnout Statistics (November Elections, 1976-Present)”. It is, again, all about the number of people who voted, not how they voted. But you know what? Good enough. It’s 8:58.

Posted September 15, 2011 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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