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Steelhammer: Keeping tabs on tweets

If poring through collections of stamps, matchbooks or non-precious minerals elevates your pulse rate to alarming levels, the Library of Congress has a new archive for you.

According to an Associated Press story that moved on Friday, the library has amassed more than 170 billion tweets since it began collecting a file of all Twitter messages dating back to the time the first tweet was posted back in 2006.

The Twitter archive holds little interest to a guy like me, who tweets less than a mute swan with a tracheotomy, and believes what I had for lunch is a matter that should be shared only with fellow Weight Watchers.

While a blurb at the bottom of the front page of Friday's Gazette urges readers to follow my outdoorsy feature writing on Twitter, I am ashamed to report that I have posted a grand total of five tweets since June, only two of which deal with the outdoors. I had a sixth tweet, but I had to delete it since the post was supplied by someone who hacked my account and made it appear I was promoting a raspberry ketone fat-burning supplement via the Gazette's Twitter feed - something I would never do without adequate compensation.

While I recognize that Twitter is an important communications tool, like robo-calling and citizens band radio, it's a tool I feel uncomfortable using, since I'm not particularly chatty and not much of a self-promoter. On the other hand, I like the challenge of using 140 characters or less to complete a message, and value my continued employment at a newspaper that encourages its staff to be visible and accessible in the social media.

According to the AP report, the number of tweets the Library of Congress receives daily from Twitter has grown from 140 million two years ago to nearly 500 million as of last month.

I'm making it a New Year's resolutions to at least quadruple my Twitter output in 2013.  I don't want history to pass me by without a peep -- or at least 20 tweets.

***

After reading about Colorado's first bring-your-own-baggie marijuana club opening on Jan. 1 following that state's vote to legalize the substance, I wondered what our nation's Founding Fathers would think about such a development, had they been able to peer a couple of centuries into the future.

Of course, many of them, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were too busy growing and selling hemp at the time to think about such airy matters. True, they cultivated cannabis for its tensile strength in rope rather than its THC content in smoke. But an item in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette dating back to October of 1729, and posted recently on Slate's history blog, the Vault, shows that other uses for hemp were known back in Colonial times.

Hemp seeds, according to the 1729 article, are "said to have the faculty of abating venereal desires," and when mixed with milk, can effectively treat jaundice.

"The leaves are held good against burns, and the juice thereof against deafness," the article continued. And while smoking the substance was never mentioned, the Philadelphia Gazette piece did point out that the plant's "powder, or flower, mix'd with any ordinary liquor, is said to turn those who drink thereof, stupid."


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