Monday, August 31, 2009

Science: 1620

Nay more, I declare openly that for these uses the philosophy which I bring forward will not be much available. It does not lie in the way. It cannot be caught up in passage. It does not flatter the understanding by conformity with preconceived notions. Nor will it come down to the apprehension of the vulgar except by its utility and effects.
--From The New Organon--

Considering that the most "enlightened" members of our government seem sure science is about consensus I would say Bacon's prediction has definitely come to pass.

But beyond that, it's true.  How many of our possessions could we make from scratch, could even tell someone how to make?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Footnotes of history: 1620

The music of Michelangelo Galilei, Galileo's little brother.

Was he any good, or was his stuff kept around just because of his brother's fame?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Logic: 1620

The necessity of this was felt no doubt by those who attributed so much importance to Logic; showing thereby that they were in search of helps for the understanding, and had no confidence in the native and spontaneous process of the mind. But this remedy comes too late to do any good, when the mind is already, through the daily intercourse and conversation of life, occupied with unsound doctrines and beset on all sides by vain imaginations.
--From The New Organon--

 I wonder what Dr. Spock would have said if Dr. McCoy had quoted this to him.  Logic wont help if your givens are faulty and all errors in thought do not arise from emotions.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The cause of ignorance: 1620

Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own.

--From The New Organon--

Looking at 1620 from the present it's obvious how people being sure they knew certain "truths" was a problem, especially truths we now consider false.  But what errors are we preserving in our own textbooks, today?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A fun diversion: 1883

"Porpoise-shooting is followed at all seasons and in all kinds of weather—in the summer sea, in the boisterous autumn gales, and in the dreadful icy seas of midwinter."

"The flesh of the porpoise, when cooked, tastes like fresh pork, and at one time was much used. The Indians still eat it, and it is also in request by the fishermen on the coast, who readily exchange fresh fish for 'porpus' meat with the Indians."

--From Sport with gun and rod--

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trophies: 1883

You could shoot a buffalo:

Or take the belongings of an Apache killed in a stampede you started:
"A pair of moccasins, taken from the saddle, fell to me ; they were unworn, and soft as a castor glove. I have them yet, and keep them because they were beaded by the warrior's love, the daughter of an arrow-maker who lives in a painted tepee off over the Sierras, by the loud-singing, but lonely, Gila."

--From Sport with gun and rod--

The article tries to make it sound like the Apache was up to no good, but I see no reason for the author to wax poetically about stuff he stole from a dead man.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stuffed animals: 1883

--From Sport with gun and rod--

What cute baby animals!  Let's kill them, cut their guts out, and mount them.

Don't they look sweet?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Pope: 1823

Pope. A figure burned every fifth of November, in memory of the gunpowder-plot, which is. said to have been carried on by the papists.
--From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

Something tells me the Europeans of a few generations ago would have had a much different response to Muslim extremists than those of today.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Transexuals: 1904


--From The Marvelous Land of Oz--

The main character of the story is a boy named Tip, who is really a girl magically trapped in a boy's body.   Tip doesn't even think he is a girl, but agrees to be turned into one at the end of the story.

There is also another character who has been calling Tip "father" throughout the story and expresses some confusion before the sex change occurs, but immediately accepts it once it has been completed.

Just a typical children's book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The cost of drugs: 1890

" a matter of simple justice to the retail trade, proprietors should decline all orders for quantity lots from persistent advertising cutters, whose policy is to use the extra discount, not for profit, but as a means of advertising their retail trade, selling at cost or less, to the annoyance and injury of legitimate druggists, who purchase in the usual quantities required by retailers."
--From Proceedings of the American Pharmaceutical Association--

Certain retailers were buying medicine in bulk and getting a discount; but instead of pocketing the savings, they were cutting prices for their customers. And the pharmaceutical companies wanted the practice stopped. People were concerned about the price of drugs--being too low!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Weighty issues : 1890

Ann Althouse started a discussion on the kilogram, so I investigated the topic. It turns out people have been trying to get America to adopt the metric system since the days of George Washington. America could even have been the first country to adopt it.

This is from a paper presented in 1890, describing Congress's constitutional power to determine legal weights and measures, which it had never gotten around to doing up to that point:
"And yet, so important is this question of uniformity in the weights and measures in use among the people that the power to establish fixed standards for them was expressly conferred upon the Congress by the Constitution of the United States. Section 8 of Article I. of that instrument, in enumerating the special powers expressly reserved for Congress, places the power to establish fixed standards of weights and measures next after the vital powers to lay and collect taxes for the support of the national government, to borrow money on the credit of the United States, to regulate commerce, to provide a uniform rule of naturalization, and to coin money."
The taxing and borrowing parts they had gotten around to, but not the establishment of a fixed system of weights and measures.

Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson!) had even suggested the adoption of a decimalized system of weights and measures before the French had come up with their metric system:
"Thomas Jefferson, while Secretary of State, prepared, at the request of Congress, several reports on the subject. Mr. Jefferson had, as the representative of his country, resided in Paris during the great Revolution. He was of course inspired by the nobler ideas of that stirring period, one of which was a universal language of weights, measures and money, in perfect harmony with our arithmetic. About the 20th of May, 1790, he had finished a report containing the description of a new and decimal system of weights and measures constructed by himself, which was the first decimal system of weights and measures ever devised and in every way as meritorious as the Metric System subsequently perfected in France. This report was submitted to the House of Representatives July 13, 1790."
Even George Washington pushed for a system to be adopted, but it went nowhere:
"Our first President said in his first message: 'Uniformity in the currency, weights and measures of the United States is an object of great importance, and will, I am persuaded, be duly attended to.' But a century has passed, and the matter has not been attended to."
Because Congress hadn't decided on a system, the Treasury Department tried it's best to set provisional standards. Of course the states were free to make their own adjustments:
"We have already referred to the fact that the Treasury Department regards the bushel as the volume of 77.6 pounds of water, while several of the states declare that it is 2150.42 cubic inches. But the same states and, in fact, nearly all states and territories, have further passed laws fixing the contents of the bushel by weight of certain commodities, and their standards differ widely. A bushel of apples in Maine is 44 lb; but in Wisconsin 57 lb; a bushel of barley in Louisiana is 32 lb, but California law makes it 50 lb ; a bushel of buckwheat is 40 lb in Dakota, but it takes 56 lb of it to make a Kentucky bushel; a bushel of clover seed varies in different parts of the country from 45 to 64 lb, oats from 26 to 36 lb, rye from 32 to 56 lb, potatoes from 50 to 60 lb, and salt from 50 to 80 lb...."
In 1866 Congress passes a law making it legal to use the metric system. They also legally defined metric measurements in terms of American weights and measures. But since there were no legally determined American weights and measures the law perversely made all American weights and measures based on the metric standards:
"By act of Congress approved July 28, 1866, it was declared "lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the Metric System." (R. S. Sec. 3569.) The same law (R. S. Sec. .3570) undertakes to fix the values of the respective metric units, which are well understood throughout the civilized world, by stating their equivalents in terms of the weights and measures in common use, which are not understood. The whole world knows what a liter is ; but nobody knows except by tradition and usage what an American quart is, dry or liquid. Yet, American law fixes the value of the liter by declaring it to be 0.908 dry quart or 1.0567 liquid quarts. It would have been more to the purpose to fix the value of each quart in terms of the liter."
The author of the paper makes this prediction:
"The ultimate adoption of the Metric System seems inevitable."
And this now funny observation:
"I believe that this Nation has it in its power to decide now upon the immediate establishment of the Metric System throughout the world ; for if this country should set the date for its adoption by our people in relation to imports and exports, the postal service, inter-state transportation, etc., Great Britain and Russia must soon follow the example."
America could encourage Great Britain to adopt the metric system!

--From Proceedings of the American Pharmaceutical Association--

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The meaning of roses: 1823

ROSE. Under the rose; privately or secretly. The rose was, it is said, sacred to Harpocrates, the god of silence, and therefore frequently placed in the ceilings of rooms destined for the receiving of guests; implying, that whatever was transacted there, should not be made public.
--From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

Of course you can't tell anyone the meaning, because I have it under a rose.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Amusements: 1823

SPARROW. Mumbling a sparrow; a cruel sport, frequently practised at wakes and fairs: for a small premium, a booby having his hands tied behind him, has the wing of a cock- sparrow put into his mouth; with this hold, without any other assistance than the motion of his lips, he is to get the sparrow's head into his mouth; on attempting to do which, the bird defends itself surprisingly, frequently pecking the mumbler till his lips are covered with blood, and he is obliged to desist: to prevent the bird from getting away, he is fastened by a string to a button of the booby's coat.

WHIP THE COCK. A piece of sport practised at wakes, horseraces, and fairs, in Leicestershire : a cock being tied or fastened into a hat or basket, half a dozen carters blindfolded, and armed with their cart whips, are placed round it, who, after being turned thrice about, begin to whip the cock, which if any one strikes so as to make it cry out, it becomes his property ; the joke is, that, instead of whipping the cock, they flog each other heartily.

--From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

A mixture of animal and human cruelty.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Something you should never ever name your baby: 1823

TRIP. A short voyage or journey, a false step or stumble, an error of the tongue, a bastard. She has made a trip ; she has had a bastard.

--From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

I suppose it could be ironic, but who would do something like that?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Zombie meme: 1823

WIFE IN WATER COLOURS. A mistress, or concubine; water colours being, like their engagements, easily effaced or dissolved.

--From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

The lyrics in this 2009 song go: "...I'm a wife in water colors..." and now I know what the song is about!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Not :1823

BENDER. An ironical word used in conversation by flash people; as where one party affirms or professes any thing which the other believes to be false or insincere, the latter expresses his incredulity by exclaiming, Bender! or, if one asks another to do any act which the latter considers unreasonable or impracticable, he replies, O, yes, I'll do it— Bender ; meaning, by the addition of the last word, that, in fact, he will do no such thing.

--From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

That's really clever, not (Bender?).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

British Royalty, circa 1700

BARGAIN. To sell a bargain: a species of wit, much in vogue about the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne, and frequently alluded to by Dean Swift, who says the maids of honour often amused themselves with it. It consisted in the seller naming his or her hinder parts, in answer to the question, What? which the buyer was artfully led to ask. As a specimen, take the following instance: A lady would come into a room full of company, apparently in a fright, crying out, It is white, and follows me! On any of the company asking, What? she sold the bargain, by saying, My a-se.

-- From Grose's classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue--

Friday, August 14, 2009

Salt Peter: 1896

The question of diet has much to do with purity in the child, as well as in the adult. This, also, is acknowledged in the Scriptures. The Lord has always provided unstimulating food for his children. All sciences recognize this truth, and every physician of experience will tell you that the unnatural, stimulating diet of today is largely to be blamed for the alarming prevalence of social impurity. Tea, coffee and spices, and more especially the free use of eggs and flesh meat, irritate the nervous system and inflame the passions....

Dr. J. H. Kellogg, in his work entitled "Social Purity," says: "Simplicity in habits of eating, and the avoidance of all stimulating foods, are, with the exception of religion, the most powerful of all aids to purity of life; and, in addition, are most potent correctives of impure tendencies when they are once developed."

--From the educational pamphlet How shall we preserve the purity of our children?--

Who would have thought that cornflakes were supposed to keep you from touching yourself?

Also, what is with that advertisement? A woman is the corn's "sweetheart"? I don't even want to think about how that works.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The more things change: 1694

The present State of the Designs and Studies of Mankind is so very different from what it was 150 Years ago, that it is no Wonder if Men's Notions concerning them vary as much as the Things themselves.

--From Reflections upon ancient and modern learning--

Still true!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dumb criminals: 1656

When you decide to impersonate someone it's important not to pick too prominent a target. In this case the culprit decided they looked a lot like Jesus.

After he and his followers road into town singing "Hosanna" he was arrested and charged with blasphemy. He was sent to prison, had his tongue burned out, and a "B" branded into his forehead.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Death circa 1100-1500

The statue is made so that embers can be put in its base, allowing smoke to come out of its eyes and mouth. Go ahead and look right at it; it's horrible and fascinating and maybe even beautiful.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Against elitism: 1869

It is a common error to overrate the intelligence of the present day, and underrate our forefathers in the intellectual scale; for, although our nomadic ancestors were long without the cultivation of knowledge and literature, they were not, therefore, mentally inert. "There is an education of the mind, distinct from the literary, which is gradually imparted by the contingencies of active life. In this, which is always the education of the largest portion of mankind, our ancestors were never deficient...."

--From Popular errors explained and illustrated--

How can you claim wisdom if you refuse to value the wisdom gained from a lifetime of work?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Meteors: 1808

"In all the instances in which these stones have been supposed to fall from the clouds, and of which any perfect account has been given, the appearance of a luminous meteor, exploding with loud noise, has immediately preceded, and hence has been looked to as the cause. The stones likewise have been more or less hot, when found immediately after their supposed fall. Different opinions however have been entertained on this subject, which is certainly involved in much difficulty. Some philosophers imagine them to be formed in the atmosphere by a sudden condensation of the elements of their component parts: others, that they already existed on the spot where they were found, and were merely struck by the electric discharge : and prof. Proust has invested, that they might be torn from the polar regions by the meteor. Some have supposed them to be merely projected from volcanoes : while others have suggested, that they might be thrown from the moon; or be bodies wandering through space, and at length brought within the sphere of attraction of our planet."

--From A dictionary of practical and theoretical chemistry--

So many theories, and the author is careful not to take sides, using "supposed" in the main description. He definitely understood the spirit of scientific investigation.

The explanation we use today wasn't handed down by a committee or what one person thought was best, but by years of experiments and arguing.

It doesn't make sense to take sides when all the information isn't known. At one point the French Academy of Sciences did make a ruling on the subject; they concluded that meteorites didn't fall from the sky at all, but were caused by lightning strikes. Fortunately, today we don't try discovering scientific truths through consensus. That would be idiotic.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pet food : 1847

"If you wish to teach the Birds airs, or artificial notes of any kind, they must hear nothing that can in any way distract their attention. Every time you enter the room, the oftener the better, and especially when you feed them, whistle, or play on a flute or flageolet, the tune you wish them to learn. Whistle or play that, and no other. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat, until they can pipe it correctly."

People would capture wild birds of all kinds and either teach them human songs or raise them with nightingales so they would have a nightingale's song. Some people even sold birds that had been trained this way. But getting food to feed the birds could be troublesome:

"Take some meat, or fish, or a dead cat, rat, or dog, and hang it in a shady place until it is well fly-blown or maggoty. Then place it in a large box half full of earth, and cover. In the course of a week or ten days the maggots will bury themselves in the earth, and may be dug up, if the box is kept in a cold place, at leisure."

I wonder if the cats and dogs just happened to be dead, or were killed specifically for this purpose.

--From Manual of Cage-birds, British & Foreign--

Friday, August 7, 2009

Save the children: 1805

"Among the various absurdities with which modern times and modem manners abound, there is no one which seems to threaten more evil consequences to society..."

Than child actors!

"...and hence it follows, that, instead of reading Caesar's Commentaries, and Studying Euclid's Elements, the youths are reading Shakespeare's Plays...

Nothing good can come from reading Shakespeare.

"But, to be serious :—among the many schemes set on foot by Voltaire, Condorcet, D'Alembert, and that host of wretches who combined to destroy Christianity, and to diffuse misery over civilized society..."

Voltaire, Condorcet, and D'Alembert; according to Wikipedia these are their crimes:

Voltaire - believed in freedom of religion

Condorcet - proponent of equal rights for women and people of all races

D'Alembert - helped write an encyclopedia

Who would have guessed? Long before the internet, video games, and television existed, the greatest danger to our children's minds was Shakespeare and Enlightenment philosophers.

--From The Gentleman's Magazine--

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Time clock: 1805

This is a picture of "a watchman's noctuary." People had watchmen who were supposed to check an area at night to make sure fires didn't start unnoticed or items of value get stolen. But how could someone tell if the wathman was doing his job?

"The invention consists principally of a large horizontal wheel, which is moved regularly round, every twelve hours, by clock-work."

Place these devices around the area the watchman was supposed to check. Each contained wheels ringed with holes big enough to hold coins. A slot let the watchman put a coin in the wheel to show when he was at the machine.

The article notes that two of these devices were already in use.

But what I found most interesting is some of the brainstorming the author does:

"Another use may be derived from it by farmers, manufacturers, ship-carpenters, and others, who employ many labourers, by ascertaining at what hours in the morning, evening, &c. their men come to and leave their work."

If you have to "clock in" and "clock out" of work, this is some of the basic research that made it possible.

--From The Gentleman's Magazine--

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Minority rights: 1805

"Mr. Alexander apprehended nothing but destruction to the Constitution, in Church and State, from a compliance to the prayer of the Petition."

"He had never met with a Blasphemer, a Democrat, or an Enemy to his Country, who was not a friend to the Catholics."

"The Roman Catholics, without any new law in their favour, already enjoyed more civil and political liberty than any nation on the face of the globe; and he saw no reason why they should complain."

--From The Gentleman's Magazine--

This was their basic argument:

Giving more equal rights to Catholics would cause a breakdown of society. Precedents would have been overturned to support a way of life that was hurtful to the state, and to the religion the was the foundation of the state. Plus, Catholics already have more than enough rights.

*cough* gay marriage *cough*

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Interesting ways to die: 1805

"In consequence of a wound in the groin, which he received in a duel..."

"Drowned herself by walking into the sea..."

"He was employed to remove a part of the wall between Dean-street and Dean-yard, when, owing to the badness of the foundation, the whole of the wall, near 20 feet long and 10 feet high, fell down upon him, by which he was so dreadfully bruised as to cause his death in a few minutes."

"They then followed the little dog up stairs, who led them to a room on the third floor, the window of which was open, and on looking out, they perceived Miss W. laying on a newly-dug bed in the Prince of Wales's garden, having thrown herself from the window. She was still alive, although she had fallen on her head, which was sunk in the ground. Mr. Taggert was sent for, who gave her every possible assistance; she survived, bleeding, a very few minutes. She was a very fine young woman, just 22 years old, and took a most active part in the business of her parents, of whom she was the only child. She had dressed herself preparatory to the fatal event. An inquest was held; verdict, Lunacy."

--From The Gentleman's Magazine--

The woman who drowned herself by walking into the sea was a widow and that was almost all they said--how she died, who she was, and that she was a widow. The lack of details makes it all the more shocking. That's something no human-interest story could capture.

Monday, August 3, 2009

America: 1805

The Americans, to their honour be it said, have triumphed over that petty African tyranny, to which the several States of Europe have so long submitted, and supported by their inglorious and impolitic subsidies.

Accounts from Medina, dated the 1st of June, communicate the following intelligence:

Colonel Eaton having landed with a body of marines, &c. from the American squadron in Egypt, advanced into the Tripolitan territory; and after some severe contests, in which he was wounded in the arm by a musket-ball, and in which many of his people fell, he carried Derna and Bungasi by assault. The Tripolitans, alarmed at this success, immediately made overtures of peace...

--From The Gentleman's Magazine--

Americans standing up to bullies while Europeans try to buy them off with money. Some things never change.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dirty Dancing: 1894

Some select quotations concerning the waltz:

The waltz became to me, and whomsoever danced with me, one lingering, sweet and purely sensual pleasure, where heart beat against heart, and eyes looked burning words which lips dared not speak.

Women of virtue or self-respect will now blush to have the dance named to them.

The well-known Inspector Byrnes of the New York police declares that three-fourths, at least, of the abandoned young women of that city were first approached through the round dances by the villains who effected their ruin.

The waltz—-a species of dance I do not hesitate thus publicly to denounce as undisguisedly licentious.

Yes, "the voluptuous movement of the Waltz" is the dance of death.

--From The Lutheran Witness--

Wont someone think of the children?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dirty dancing: 1833

The waltz is a dance of quite too loose a character, and unmarried ladies should refrain from it altogether, both in public and private; very young married ladies, however, may be allowed to waltz in private balls, if it is very seldom, and with persons of their acquaintance. It is indispensable for them to acquit themselves with dignity and modesty.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

Young people these days with their wild dances. The type of things they do in public!

It's practically pornographic.