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Posts Tagged ‘researching history’

Some may find it odd that I, a guy who makes his living dealing with data, computers, bugs, and code, am such a fan of low-tech.

It’s not that I dislike technology—I don’t, and I have the phones, tablets, and game consoles to prove it—but while technology has made the lives of millions safer, easier, and more pleasant, it’s also taken us away from our roots, separating our connection to the physical world around us.

Alexander Langlands, an archaeologist who has worked uncovering Britain’s history for decades, thinks much the same way, and in his book, Cræft, he explores some of the most basic skills in human history, skills that require us to touch the world with our hands, and that are intimately tied to our environments and ecosystems. Through historical context and personal experimentation, Langlands shows us how tasks that, today, we might deem very simple—tasks such as digging a trench, weaving cloth, making hay, and thatching a roof—actually require broad experiential knowledge to master. He uses cræft, the Old English of the word craft, to highlight the change in the word’s meaning over the centuries. (more…)

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S T DupontHave a question? Search the internet and you will find an answer. Search long enough, and you can even find the answer you want. While that’s great (if you live in an echo chamber), it’s no help if you don’t know which answer you’re looking for. In that case, the internet will provide you with a bevy of contradictory answers, leaving you to sort it all out for yourself. Square One.

The Quandary: Issues with Ink

The other day I became peevish when the letter I’d written got smudged (I write almost exclusively with a fountain pen). How could I keep the ink from smudging? I wanted an answer. I thought back to all those movies where the actor pulls out a piece of hand-laid paper, scritches a few lines with a feathered quill*, dashes some sand across the page to blot the ink, knocks the sand off onto the floor, seals the note with wax and signet, and then hands it to a waiting messenger with instructions to place it directly into the hands of [insert name of influential character here]. You know, the Elizabethan equivalent of “Is this a secure line?”

What is that stuff they sprinkled across the page? How did it work? Did it work? And if so, where can I get some?

Burning questions.

Naturally, I hit the ‘net to search for answers. Naturally, I found plenty.

The Answers: Contradictory Camps

As with most Things Internet, the answers I found separated into two categories, both of which claimed to be the only truth, both of which stated that everyone in the opposite camp was a yammering thumb-sucker who, blinded by misinformation, couldn’t see the facts for the lies. Frakking sheeple.

As with most Things Real, however, I found that the answer is not binary. Rather, it is a combination of the answers provided by both camps. Again, in standard internet style, instead of combining information for a win-win, both camps went for an I-win-you-lose outcome, which means everything ends up in a lose-lose tie. Bloody typical.

This left me having to sort through all of it myself. It was up to me to evaluate the two camps’ positions which, obviously, meant I had to do my own research. My own actual, physical research.

If you’re interested in my results, read on. If not, here’s a picture of “the cutest kitten on the internet.”

Have a nice day. (more…)

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