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Posts Tagged ‘Thoughts’

Note: This post is long but both Ray Bradbury and Jane Austen make an appearance, so there’s that.

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We keep a little pad of paper stuck to the side of the fridge to use as a grocery list. Every couple of weeks I get tired of crossing things out and trying to remember what we actually bought and what I only think we bought, and I start fresh. Yesterday I pulled the latest iteration of the list off the pad and turned to toss it in the recycling bin, when the back of the sheet caught my attention. It was blank.

Not a big surprise there, think of all the Post-its you’ve used one side of in the last decades. But! It struck me how much times have changed. Wealth is a continually moving target, and so are our measures of it. 

I mean you’re warm in winter and cool in summer and can watch the World Series on TV. You can do anything in the world. You literally live better than Rockefeller. His unparalleled fortune couldn’t buy what we now take for granted, whether the field is—to name just a few—transportation, entertainment, communication or medical services. Rockefeller certainly had power and fame; he could not, however, live as well as my neighbors now do.

— Warren Buffett, quoted in Getting the Goalpost to Stop Moving

And I’ve always liked this Ray Bradbury quote:

“To hell with more. I want better.”

* * *

In the case of paper, we’ve got both more and better.

Once upon a time, people had to use both sides of the paper. Heck, once upon a time, people didn’t have paper, and after its invention it took centuries to become what we think of today: cheap, high quality, readily available, reliable information storage, bird cage liner, and paper plane in waiting.

Even after paper became widespread in the Western world, wood pulp paper was terrible. Like, sheets of nasty grey pulp held together with weird glues and chemicals that slowly (or not so slowly) destroyed itself.

“Unfortunately, early wood-based paper deteriorated as time passed, meaning that much of the output of newspapers and books from this period either has disintegrated or is in poor condition; some has been photographed or digitized (scanned). The acid nature of the paper, caused by the use of alum, produced what has been called a slow fire, slowly converting the paper to ash.”

— History of paper – Wikipedia

* * *

Depending on the circumstances, writers also did their best to use every inch of a page. Part of that was the paper itself, and part was the cost of postage. (Insert obligatory statement of love for modern postal services here!) 

Click through to see a letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra using cross writing, designed to condense as much information as possible onto a given sheet:

Autograph letter signed, dated Godmersham, 20–22 June 1808, to Cassandra Austen | Jane Austen | The Morgan Library & Museum

Here’s another example from Ontario:

crossed letter written by Mrs. F. L. Bridgeman to Fanny West, December 15, 1837. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

* * *

It turns out that paper wasn’t quite as expensive as I’d thought, but the good stuff still wasn’t cheap. 

Based on paper purchases by individuals from the 1570s to the 1640s, paper was “roughly a penny for six sheets… To put this in perspective, the average laborer making 6-12 pence a day could purchase up to 75 sheets of paper with a day’s wages. (Was early modern writing paper expensive? – The Collation)

Later, Regency-ish England did have additional duties that made quality paper, particularly in book-sized quantities, more expensive.

“The excise duty on paper was a frequent problem for all printers and publishers. The reorganisation of the duty in 1794, whereby it was charged by weight rather than ream, had the effect of making the burden heavier”

— Half the cost of a book | OUPblog

So, not prohibitive for a person of good fortune in search of stationery or a good novel, but not nothing.

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

* * *

In researching this I came across a wealth of fascinating economic information. For example, what was one shilling worth in London during the mid-1700s? So many things!

  • Dinner in a steakhouse – beef, bread and beer, plus tip
  • Sign-on bonus for army recruitment: The king’s Shilling
  • Admission to Vauxhall Gardens
  • Admission to Ranelagh Gardens (although it could be as much as 2 guineas on masquerade nights)
  • A dish of beef at Vauxhall
  • 1lb of perfumed soap
  • Postage of a one page letter from London to New York
  • 1lb of Parmesan cheese

— 18th century cost of living – redcoats history

Aaaaand this is where I fell into an internet black hole on commodity pricing vs. real wages in Regency etc. England, and had to take a break. (Step away from the seminal economics investigation of Seven Centuries of Real Income per Wage Earner and Super-cycles of commodity prices since the mid-nineteenth century!)

Photo by David Nitschke on Unsplash

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Since we’re discussing costs, let’s sketch a quick portrait of sample economic expenses for gentlefolk around the time of Jane Austen:

Costs of Living During the Regency Period

  • Silk stockings — 12 shillings (£20.38 or $40.24 in today’s currency!)
  • Woolen stockings — 2 shillings 6 pence (£4.25 or $8.39)
  • A white silk handkerchief — 6 shillings (£10.19 or $20.12)
  • A pair of gloves — 4 shillings (£6.79 or $13.41)
  • A simple white dress — 5 shillings (£8.49 or $16.77)
  • A fan — 5 shillings (£8.49 or $16.77)
  • Simple shoes 6-11 shillings (£10.19-18.68 or $20.12-36.89)
  • Walking boots 2 pounds (£67.92 or $134.12)
  • Cotton fabric — 1 shilling per yard (£1.70 or $3.36)
  • Enough cotton fabric for a dress — 6 shillings ($20.12)
  • Velveteen fabric — 2 shillings 10 pence (£4.81 or $9.50)
  • Enough silk fabric for a dress — 1 pound 6 shillings (£44.15 or $87.18)
  • Shawls — if real silk or Kashmir could run £200-300
  • Shoes — men’s shoes went from 10 /6 to several pounds for boots so I think the ladies shoes will be in the same range.
  • A silk purse– a coin purse sort of thing– 2 s

For more of the nitty gritty, including detailed tables (3 cows equalled a pair of coach horses), see “How Wealthy is Mr. Darcy – Really? Pounds and Dollars in the World of Pride and Prejudice” by James Heldman.

* * *

How did we get here? Right, a grocery list, and my appreciation that so many of us now have access to things like affordable paper, postal service, and oh yes, literacy!

Photo by Nav Rashmi Kalsi on Unsplash

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Me: You know, I feel like we haven’t talked much lately. Was it something I said?

Muse: No, no, nothing like that. It’s just…

Me: It’s ok, I’m listening.

Muse: Thanks, this is hard for me. I just haven’t been feeling like myself. I know you want to write and I’m trying to come up with fun ideas, but I keep getting distracted.

Me: Interesting. What’s catching your eye?

Muse: Pretty things. Colorful things. Bright, shiny, fun, sometimes practical but maybe not always Things. 

Me: So you mean…

Muse: Yes! Concrete, physical items like turned wooden bottle stoppers are fun, or if it’s digital, something colorful. And self-contained. Writing a few pages in a big story feels so small, you know?

Me: I do know. Is that why we’ve been playing with photo processing?

Muse: Yep. I love it when you bring my ideas to life. Not in months or (god forbid) years, but right f-ing now. Pardon my Fffrench.

Me: No worries, it’s my second language. 

Muse: Heh. But do you see?

Me: I think so. You’re saying we should either write faster or stop focusing on writing alone. Shake it up a little. Stretch. Experiment. Do more and don’t worry about genre boundaries or shoulds or “Seriously? That is a crazy idea!” and see what happens.

Muse: Yes!

Me: Ok, then. Let’s do that:)

* * *

Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

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Here’s a heaping helping of free fiction, with a side of motivation. John Scalzi’s first novel is posted free to read on his site. It’s the web version, with each chapter its own link and charmingly antiquated page design, but the novel is fun.

Agent to the Stars

After a long day of work sometimes you just want to dust yourself off, meet an alien at the corner bar, and laugh a little. At least I do:)

Scalzi refers to this as his practice novel, but it’s well written and entertaining. (If you’d rather get the full version, the book was eventually published via traditional means, so visit your favorite retailer.) It’s also a great example of what can be done if you just knuckle up to the keyboard and see what comes out.

Which I will absolutely do. Tomorrow.

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Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

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How does fiction help us reimagine the future of worlds, including our own? This essay explores the history of that relationship:

A Century of Science Fiction That Changed How We Think About the Environment

If we think about science fiction (sf) in terms of the genre’s connections to pressing issues in 21st-century culture, no topic is more urgent than climate change and the ways it promises to transform all aspects of human life, from where we live to how we cultivate our food to what energy sources will fuel our industries.

Preparedness discourse responds to change, understood as disaster, through strategies of containment. But science fiction offers something much more. It offers us a way of thinking and perceiving, a toolbox of methods for conceptualizing, intervening in, and living through rapid and widespread change — and the possibility to direct it toward an open future that we (re)make.

Here’s to thinking new thoughts, building new worlds, and making them.

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Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

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“Life, a good life, a great life is about “Why not?” May we never forget it.” 

― Danielle Steel
Original Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Oh look, I’ve used this quote before. Guess it must be true:) Bonus quote!

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” 

― Shel Silverstein

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Dreaming of Winter

It’s hot and sticky, I’m in the middle of several projects but have nothing finished, and I’m short on time because Mr. Man wants me to give him a haircut. What does that mean for this blog post and you, fair readers?

How about something fun and easy, with a bit of history thrown in? I give you the NHL’s oldest recorded footage of hockey:

Safety gear? What safety gear?

Stay cool, friends!

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Today in things I like: Here’s an item I did not know existed before I moved to Canada: the electronic mosquito swatter.

The Zapper

You may know that mosquitoes are annoying;) This year has been pretty good* but even one mosquito indoors at night can be disruptive. (If you’re me, anyway. Mr. Man is born and bred Canadian and is mostly unfazed by even the largest of blood suckers. ) 

And I’m trying to be more tolerant outside. Inside? No.

Cue the swatter. Its mesh displaces less air than a standard fly swatter and also sends a current through the wires. Any mosquito or other biting insect caught in the layers is toast. Sometimes literally.

Seriously, don’t activate this thing while touching it.

Zip zap, all done. 

As penance, I put the mosquito corpses outside so that something, somewhere might benefit.

* * *

Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash

* That’s good and bad. Good, because it means fewer giant, itchy welts, bad because the dry Spring that led to fewer mosquitoes has a lot of follow-on effects, for insects, the birds and other animals who eat them, plants, trees, and of course, us humans.

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Drabble for a Monday morning.

Today might be crap. Wake to rain, the car won’t start and the kid’s hamster is under the weather too.

You’re out of coffee.

Steam builds and you dash headlong toward the Scylla of anger and the Charybdis of self-doubt. You seriously consider a cup of despair.

The boss asks you to step in last-minute for the most important meeting of the year or the kid’s hamster dies or it really is uphill both ways or (fill in the blank here) and you think, “I just… can’t.”

I hear you.

But. 

What if this is the ‘verse where you can?

— J.R. Johnson

* * *

Photo by Tom Henell on Unsplash

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Let’s Play Ball

How long would it take for a ball to drop on Venus or Jupiter or Mars? This cool visualization knows!

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* Editor’s Note: Welcome to Lunchtime Clickbait, where we test oddly specific headlines establishing implausibly sweeping claims for oddly specific life strategies. 

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Sure, it’s only been two days, but I can unequivocally say that smoked oysters have changed my life.

Photo by Thomas John on Unsplash

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How do I know for sure that smoked oysters are the best thing since sliced bread? Well, three days ago I had ideas as usual, but little energy for action. Sure, I got my work done, but then, meh.

For the past two days we have had smoked oysters for dinner, and for the past two days I have had far more energy and verve than usual. I think the connection is obvious.

Yesterday? I did all of the things. Work, yes, but also house and writing and creative fun stuff. Also peaches.

Happily tucked away in the freezer, waiting to become sorbet.

Today I’ll do that and more, and I’m sure that it’s all because of the smoked oysters. What’s not to love?

Will smoked oysters work for you? Maybe, and unless you have a shellfish allergy, they can’t hurt.

* * *

Now, do I wish they didn’t come in cans designed to slice my fingers when taking them to the recycling bin? I do, but I also have a solution.

I mean sure, you could still cut yourself if you tried hard enough. So maybe don’t?

And many of the readily available options are from halfway around the globe, but it would be great if increasing local popularity also encouraged more local production.

It’s also encouraging to see the shells used as material for educational and shoreline reclamation projects like the Billion Oyster Project and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Still not convinced that smoked oysters are right for you? What else does a sweeping claim for dramatic outcomes based on one small lifestyle change need for maximum reputability?

A Top Ten List, of course!

* * *

Top Ten Reasons to Eat Smoked Oysters

10. They are great on salads, on pasta, in soups, on picnics, or straight from the can when you don’t have time for niceties like plates.

9. Canned, they are shelf stable to the Apocalypse and beyond.

8. Oysters purify water, are terrific for shoreline health, contribute to restorative aquaculture, and in a well-managed fishery are a great addition to a sustainable food system.

7. They remind me that the history of cities like New York is tied to the oyster. 

6. Smoked oysters give an average day a bit of fancy dancy je ne sais quoi.

5. Oysters are rich in protein, good fats, iron, zinc, and copper. Eating them makes me feel practically electric!

4. Smoking takes away that weird sliminess of raw oysters that some people love but, well, I don’t. (Although maybe I haven’t tried enough of the good stuff, like those from High on the Hog‘s TheRealMotherShuckers.)

3. I still have warm fuzzy feelings from childhood, sitting in the living room recliner, reading, and eating after-school oyster stew.

2. Lord, I don’t know, isn’t this list done yet?

And finally, the number one reason to eat smoked oysters…

1. They are affordable, accessible, and Costco sells these babies in eight-can packs!

* * *

Yes, these oysters are the squishy kind, but the picture is pretty. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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