Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Troubles in Cansas.

There was a story going around some years ago about the growth of information. At one time all mankind’s information was handed down orally, and the amount of it doubled every thousand years. It was stored in people’s heads. Then along came writing and scrolls. Information doubled every hundred years. We began looking for places to put this information. Libraries were invented. Indexing came later. With the advent of books and education, mankind’s information doubled every ten years, and we quickly ran out of library space. Now, with computers, mankind’s information doubles every year and there is no place to store it all, except on the Internet.

The Internet overwhelms us with information. Fortunately, it also indexes what we know, so we can avoid the uninteresting stuff and go right to the heart of whatever we are interested in. Sometimes.

My family has a letter that was written in 1856. It was written by my third great-grandfather, and it was full of folksy family information. Except for the remark that the “Cansas troubles are continuing.” I wondered why the family kept this letter. Later I found out: it was the last letter they had from him. He was murdered in Lexington, Missouri shortly after he wrote the letter and shortly after John Brown had hacked up six or seven slave owners nearby.

My ancestor, Henry Bruce Vallandingham, was part of the “Cansas troubles.” The Kansas territory was about to come into the Union as a new state, and it meant a great deal to both the North and the South whether Kansas came into the Union as a slave or free state. Henry was in the restaurant business, but it seemed he was helping to free slaves on the side. The Missouri penalty for that was death, so someone saved the State money by blowing away Henry’s stomach with a shotgun.

The l856 letter from Henry is only an example of an obvious but often overlooked factor about all the information one finds on the Internet. This information is indexed (eventually). Words like Cansas, cross-referenced with 1856, may show up during a search, and by themselves or in connection with other words, tell a story.

Yes, much of today’s blog material is useless crap right now, but maybe in tandem with other words, ideas, or blogs, it will tell an important story. The trouble is, we just do not know what is important and what is not.

But blogs may help provide some answers.

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