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Drop That Cellphone and Back Away Slowly

At the block party last night (I brought, shockingly, beans) we had much discussion of my proposal to stage an 18th Century Weekend. I've discussed it here before: Participants would agree to eschew, and also shun and abhor and possibly deride, the technological short-cuts and "conveniences" that have shredded the timeless social fabric of the village. You want to tend your backyard garden, but you wind up lost in Northern Virginia trying to find the birthday party in some godforsaken place called Bailey's Crossroads.

At bare minimum I think the weekend would bar the use of email, TV, phone, cellphone and automobile. Those are the key technologies that disrupt village life. Also any isolating technologies such as ipods with earphones. The question, as always, is how far to take it. I'd want to keep my fridge plugged in, and the furnace going if its freezing outside. The phone allows us to keep in touch with distant parents. Do we tell Mom that we can't call this weekend, or do we just call anyone and keep a diary of our exemptions, exceptions, and contraveniences? I think the contraveniences, if documented honestly, will help us understand the success of the weekend at the debrief.

Another question: Why the 18th century and not the 19th century or, for that matter, the 17th, 16th or 15th? Conceivably we might start with the 18th and then jump back in time to, say, the 14th century, complete with twice-a-day wagon rides through the village with cries of "Bring out yer dead!"

The 18th Century was more pre-technological than the 19th, when, as early as 1844, Samuel Morse figured out how to send messages across great distances, and soon people were dropping cables under the Atlantic.

But in reality we're not trying to recreate the past, much of which was, let us state clearly, a grinding horror. This is not a costume party. [Nor are we trying to create our own little Earthaven, though being more energy conscious would be a good outcome.] [Nor would this be like living in the pre-luxury-hotel version of Biosphere 2.] We're just trying to find ways to connect, be a bit more local, and neighborly, and maybe have more face-to-face conversations, and get a little exercise walking to the coffee shop rather than burning gasoline.

Simply turning the clock back to 1990 -- and quitting email for a couple of days -- would be liberating and revelatory. Maybe it should just be 1980s weekend, performed to the soundtrack of Madonna, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran.


Discover magazine has an article (Oct. 2007 issue) on the R&D expenditures of different countries around the globe, and it can be read in the usual America-in-decline framework that I have so deftly dismantled and stomped. The article comes with a map of the world in which the size of each country is scaled according to how much it spends on research and development. The United States is a bloated, elephantine mass. The article states that the U.S. spent $343 billion on R&D in 2006, which is about a third of the global total. But that percentage is declining. The feds spend less on basic research than they used to. Western Europe now publishes more scientific articles than the U.S. The article quotes Bill Gates: "When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow."

But hold on. A graphic also tells us that a third of the Ph.D.s awarded annually in the U.S. go to foreign-born students, and that most of them stay here in the U.S. It's hard to argue that we're in terrible trouble if the best and brightest around the world continue to flock to America. (Though we have to be willing to let them in the country.)

In 1992, 56 percent of the most-cited scientific articles worldwide were generated in the U.S.; by 2003 that figure had fallen to 46.5 percent. Is that ominous? Only if you believe that the U.S.'s fate is tied to producing an absurdly high percentage (56 percent?????) of influential scientific papers. More likely it's in our long-term interest for the rest of the world to catch up a little.

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 1, 2007; 7:51 AM ET
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Next: Sputnik and the Space Age [Annotated]



Posted by: byoolin | October 1, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

My turning back of the clock to the 1990s consisted primarily of not reading the Achenblog for the last two days.

In the meantime, it became October. So that's the last time I'm doing *that*.

Posted by: byoolin | October 1, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I believe that I just was born in time to have experienced the analogue years. (I'm from 1973.)
In my early youth all electrical stuff was still analoge. It came with dials and wheels. (I remeber having setting the channels on the TV with small plastic wheels.)
I guess the digital age realy started about 1984 when all of a sudden prices for chips dropped and they became integrated in about anything one bought. (I admit that there were chips long before this time, but they were not a part of a normal day to day life.)

Posted by: Eurotrash | October 1, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Happy Rockin' Achtober, all.

How about a month of Hysterical Historical Weekends in Achtober, each one a millenia apart?

1090 BC, 10 BC, 990 AD, and 1990 AD?


Posted by: bc | October 1, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Ah, bc proposing two BC celebrations. :-)

Posted by: dbG | October 1, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I feel compelled to note here that Joel could consider contacting the Maryland Renaissance Festival or even the Medieval Times resturant in Arundel Mills mall for catering services.


Posted by: bc | October 1, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

An 80's weekend Joel, have you forgotten how long, and how much hairspray it took to get your hair looking right?

Posted by: dmd | October 1, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

First 'contravenience' googlehit - United States - Matrimonials - i'm looking for ...i'm looking for married by contravenience. Matrimonials > United States · Back | Next. From: Click here to reply to [anonymous] ...

Posted by: Boko999 | October 1, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Last night, when I went in to check on Dear Child, I found her sound asleep, clutching a dollar store bejeweled clock, her Tink pj bottoms swirled around her head like a fortune teller. I was grateful she continued to sleep as I busted out laughing.

Only this morning did I realize she was probably time-traveling in her dreams. Very on-kit of her.

Posted by: LostInThought | October 1, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

If you are doing an 80s weekend, then I demand to be the DJ. I already have the playlist put together. I dare you to go through these 40 gems and not get stuck with a tune cootie or twelve:

Unless you do the 1780s. For that I got nothing, except maybe "Yankee Doodle".

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

LiT, that's wonderful.

I think there's a children's story there...

I wonder when she went?
And where? And what she did?


Posted by: bc | October 1, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Lessee, 1780...Beethoven, or was that a little early for him? Mozart for sure. Hayden? I like Georgian architecture but the literature and the art never did much for me.

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

We did something like pioneer days when I was in 6th grade. I remember making soap, apple butter and constructing a gallows. How ghastly.

Posted by: jack | October 1, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Good morning! I like the idea of an eighteenth-century weekend or, as Joel refined it, a weekend devoted more to community than technology. This could mean no TV, email, phones, etc - but would include Boodling, a community-builder par excellence. My family might sign on because, by that theory, one step further allows them to communicate with their World of Warcraft community (grrrr).

Of course, if we remove automobiles, I will be confined exclusively to the company of my immediate family and extended family which lives close by, will miss church, and better shop for our communal feasts early. There's no walking to anywhere, or even biking, in semi-rural America. No walk to the coffee shop here.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 1, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm back, and have a lot of catching up to do.

The ringing was caused not by climbing Mount Tinnitus (a place I practically live) but by a visit to the theater to see 'Bourne' something or other...

Posted by: omni | October 1, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

And from last Boodle - yellojkt, you mean you don't have a can of spray insulating foam around the house?!?

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 1, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to propose the 1970s versus the 80s. You just didn't have the hairspray problem in the 70s. If we do early 70s, I could dress like ususal, sort of casual.

Whatever one feels about Bill Gates, he has a point about those who graduate. There is always a best and brightest, but its the rest of the crowd that has me deeply worried. With our very vigourous economy here in Alberta, there are young persons are coming in for job interviews right now. The level of education might be ok, but they lack commonsense in a very big way. And courtesy. Deeply deficient in courtesy.

Of course this is a boom economy, and its probable that I am looking at the bottom third, but if this is what is out there becoming your tradesmen, you'd best worry. I sure am.

Posted by: dr | October 1, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt, that's a great list.

re: 1780s music. One of my favorite items of trivia learned here on the boodle is that "Hail to the Bus Driver" is the same tune as the 18th C. Austrian drinking song "Ach du Lieber, Augustin". So I'm all ready for the 18th C weekend. I'll bring the ale and the cholera.

Posted by: SonofCarl | October 1, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure I do have some foam insulation. In a center group townhouse there are only so many places you can use it though. And it was probably bought for some school project. Egg safety racer or model rocket or something. I've blanked all that out of my memory.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I was just contemplating last week what it would be like to have a *real* Renassance Festival--when you went there they would provide you with clothes authentic to the time and then all the food and buildings and facilities would be like what were really available to people of a given locality (say, London...)all those hundreds of years ago. My bet is, people would pay to get in but then they would be sorry and they wouldn't have a very good time. ("What do you mean, no toilet paper!")

As long-time boodlers know, I wouldn't have to give up too much equipment to participate in the 18th century weekend, minimal fashion. I don't have a cell phone, don't watch tv, travel more miles by bike than by car. We don't have a home answering machine and the phone doesn't get a lot of use since the teenager grew up and moved away. I still write letters. On the other hand, I'm fully committed to the internet, and consider it just about the best thing that ever happened to me--and that is partly BECAUSE I have long ago given up on any kind of real-life community. I know how great it can be, from my years in Key West. But mainland Florida is just not a village-friendly place. Too transient, too heterogeneous, too focused on the money.

Florida does occasionally have those 18th-century weekends--or even weeks--post-hurricane when the electricity and/or water supply is disrupted. People often comment on how nice it is to be able to see the stars at night, and to sit outside chatting with neighbors, and to have community cookouts. But people go right back to their old ways as soon as the grid is repaired.

Posted by: kbertocci | October 1, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Backboodling from the weekend:

Yoki - BZ on the promotion. This must make you an even bigger shot than you already were. :-)

RD - likewise BZ on that most excellant piece about awakening to the age of 41. Gawd, that was a long time ago for me.

Frosty - some advice about dealing with the VA: My youngest daughter, having returned home from war, is going to not one, but two colleges (one during the day, the other in the eveing) and has had tons of hiccups with her VA entitlement. The one advocate she found in this whole mess was the VA counselor at one of the colleges. Your hubby might likewise find some straight talk from the corresponding person at the college where he intends to get his paramedic training. Good luck.

Martooni - I love you, man. (In a proper, Christian, "manly" way. Don't take that the wrong way, now.)

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

bcc: Renaissance

Posted by: kbertocci | October 1, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Be sure to leave the antibiotics at home. Those 18th century STIs were so much more interesting that way.

I was high school class of '82, BME '87 and my son was born in 1990. I AM the 80s. I've had to quit buying those checkout line one hit wonder 80s collections because I can no longer find one with enough songs I don't already have.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

JA, in my neck of the woods, one might not have to look too far or pretend to be in another century. You're already there, although I believe most have cell phones by now. I don't.

Sounds like a good idea. I don't know if such an experiment would produce any tangible results. What would be the results of such an experiment? What would one be looking for? Would such an experiment take us back to a better time? Is there a gem to be found in that time period? Most of the time when one talks about going back, at some point it probably isn't good for some of the population, although it may be a shot in the arm for another group.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 1, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The 1700s: When conspicuous consumption was a serious medical disorder.

Posted by: SonofCarl | October 1, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm the Cubmaster for our church's Cub Scout pack. A couple of weeks ago, we had an evening marshmallow roast around the campfire. Nearby was posted the requisite 5 gal. can of water for safety. For the life of me, I could not keep the boys from playing with the water.

Like most camping / Scouting equipment, that bucket performs a number of functions. With a wooden toilet seat cover and a few wooden blocks attached to the underside to hold it in place, a small tarp for privacy, and viola, the bucket serves as an emergency roadside potty. Once I put the toilet seat cover on the bucket, there was no more playing in the water!

How's THAT for going backward in time?

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Last Saturday, the morning mosquitos at a palm farm in Loxahatchee reminded me of times past. Fortunately, they went into hiding by about 9:00.

I guess Jefferson introduced macaroni and tomatoes by the end of the 18th century. I suspect that my own 18th century Virginia ancestors (who migrated inland to Franklin County) were all illiterate.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 1, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, Jim Rokakis's opinion piece on subprime mortgages in Ohio matches Niall Ferguson's view of the "crisis."

"Unofficially, subprime is a euphemism for poor. And consequently, in Detroit and Memphis, it is a euphemism for African-American, which is itself a euphemism for black."

And these people were taken to the cleaners.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 1, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I see JA updated the Kit, I'm going to have to review the update.

As far as having these Temporal Throwback Games (with dress roughly as appealing as the Philly Eagles' throwback jerseys from a couple of weeks ago) go, there's one thing that all of us are avoiding talking about:

The smell.

Also, if a Ren Fest isn't your speed, there's always Burning Man (and not the one Alfred Bester wrote about).


Posted by: bc | October 1, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Ah, bc, the smell. You mean like my cat only worse?

I have actually helped dig a new hole for an outhouse. It was my grandparents 50th and it was 1967. They had no indoor bathroom, so with all the anniversay celebrations, they just built a bigger better outhouse. Ah the smell and the mess. Good times.

I'm dressed kit appropriately today. I have on one of what is going to many pairs of handmade wool socks on. Modern man really missed the boat with store bought socks.

If you ever need a new obsession, take up knitting and make socks. Handmade socks are so seriously worth the little time and effort, they make me want to raise sheep and learn to spin. I keep telling myself on obsession at a time.

Speaking of obesssions, mostlylurking, what are you doing later this week, next week? Maybe even the weekend. I am going to be in Vancouver it seems, on a somewhat surreal vacation (it keeps changing days, and has disappaeraed and morphed a few times), and mr dr is amenable to driving farther south down the coast.

Posted by: dr | October 1, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Good words for this kit include:


Off to see a man about a bike (old school would be horse.) Have to get on the subway with said bike before 4 or it shall be a long ride back to the barn (er, garage).

Posted by: College Parkian | October 1, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

CP, you left out codpiece. That's my favorite. Sometimes progress is good. In this case, it would be zippers.

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

After reading Joel's kit addendum I am picturing George C. Scott yelling "We must not allow a mine shaft gap!"

I don't expect anyone to understand or sympathize. It's just the way my mind works. Or doesn't.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

A man I worked for once asked an old woman in Kentucky what invention she thought was the greatest in her lifetime. She didn't even hesitate before she told him, "window screens."

Posted by: TBG | October 1, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Great story today on the front of the Metro page...

Posted by: TBG | October 1, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

re: 80s hair:

If Joel were to attempt 80s hair, wouldn't he be obligated to use cans and cans of Achanet?

Posted by: mmg | October 1, 2007 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Moving a bit slow this morning - my recovery from a concert the night before gets slower and slower. Tull was fabulous - they performed Fat Man and Bouree, as well as mostly flute rendition of Aqualung, so I was very happy. Also did songs from the 16th and 17th centuries. Sat between two guys who had seen them back in the '60s and '70s. Ian Anderson's voice is a bit creaky, but he still moves and plays with abandon and flair.

dr, sent you email - how exciting! My husband does not understand the depth of my Achenblog addiction, or what it means in real life, but he's learning.

Jumper, the John Irving books I got were Hotel New Hampshire and The Cider House Rules. I'm way behind on Irving (and those were the only ones I came across). I guess I can read them during '80's week.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 1, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

If you want to keep the addicition less visible, mostly, we can do Bellingham. Or a yarn store.

With Error and my crying over that in the office all day, he's learning. He's known about Achenblog for a couple years, but its hard to explain isn't it.

Posted by: dr | October 1, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

If you're going to read a lot of Irving, mostlylurking, make sure you watch out for the bears!

Posted by: TBG | October 1, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Our neighborhood routinely returns to the sepia-tinted age before electrification. Something about an unfortunate juxtaposition of seasonal lightning storms and a poorly-grounded trunk line. These episodes are always a good excuse to step outside, smell the ozone, and re-acquaint ourselves with the neighbors. As well as the Dominion Power technicians, with whom we have became unsettlingly familiar.

And although these interludes may foster good interpersonal relations, they can't rightly be called a trip back in time. For in the olden days they knew how to do stuff without electricity. They lived in a hand-cranked, hydraulic-powered universe well lit with kerosene lamps. And were happy to do so.

We have none of this. We are pathetic creatures whose pitiful reliance on oscillating voltage has made us painfully vulnerable to an unreliable infrastructure. So I think a true 18th century weekend, where we have the opportunity to relearn the lost wisdom of our ancestors, would be quite useful. Cause I'm having a heck of a time getting my steam-powered airship to work properly.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 1, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Omigosh, front page alert and Mudge is away! Is the bunker presentable? Who has the key this week?

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

When I was a kid at the NW corner of Puerto Rico, the electicity went out pretty often, which made for magnificent night skies.

Years later, spending nights at the west slopes of the Bighorn Mountains, near Butch Cassidy's most hidden hideaway, the city lights of Billings were annoyingly on the horizon.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 1, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Such a busy day, I almost missed the Kit's Front Page link...


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 1, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I only wish that an electrical power outage could take me back to the 18th century. I am not concerned with temperature; in summer one can open windows and use hand fans, and in winter one can use the fireplace (at least, in theory) and wear blankets. Again in theory, one could cook using the fireplace or an outdoor fire pit. No, the essential difference for me is water. When our electricity goes, our electric pump to our well follows. My ancestors had hand pumps. They may have worked hard for that bucket of water, but they could get it. A lack of water lends a twist to the thought of adventure.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 1, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

A couple of years ago, I took a one-evening course sponsored by Montgomery County's Dept of Homeland Security. It was designed to train the trainer of the citizenry (that would be, ahem, you-all) in the wonderful ways of "disaster preparedness". It's all at:

We got the bunker, snacks, drinks, swooning couch, etc. So the "shelter-in-place" thing is goin' on!! Bring on the terrorists!!!

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I used to live in an old building in DC that had steam heat and hot water and gas stoves. The electricity would go out in winter storms for days. With a battery-operated clock, judicious use of the refrigerator, and candles, I wouldn't miss it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 1, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom used to be a Washingtonian, who knew?

Let's hear a rousing chorus of "Hail to the Redskins", sung by somebody that's not totaly plastered.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of singing, the following ditty may be sung to the tune of the familiar childrens nursery rhyme:

"Wilson bridge is fallin' down, fallin' down.

Wilson bridge is fallin' down, my fair lady"

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

CP -- I think I've got the chilblains right now. Along with a wee bit of sneezing and sniffling. Must have picked up that bug at the memorial service last week (all that hugging). I do like that word, however.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 1, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Don, I was there for several years back in the Reagan administration, and Bush I. Boy, from the outside we thought lawyers were fleeing Justice like rats from a sinking ship back *then*. What a difference perspective can make.

I actually went to a Redskins game once - my only appearance at a pro football game. They were playing the Dallas Cowboys. I was (very very quietly) rooting for the Cowboys, who won. It was noisy.

Posted by: Ivansmom | October 1, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

One little item, RD--If we're in the 18th century, then we would be using whale oil in our lamps or tallow candles. Kerosene didn't come into vogue until the mid-19th century.

Posted by: ebtnut | October 1, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Now, from A-blog news desk: Flash - As of this date in 1850, Congress has outlawed flogging on Naval Vessels.

(We just got the memo.)

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

//(We just got the memo.)

Possibly that helps explain Rumsfeld and Gonzales.

Posted by: kbertocci | October 1, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

ebtnut - see, it's just those kind of details that are going to totally mess me up when the infrastructure totally fails. I'll be trying to burn kerosene in a whale oil-lamp, and goodness knows what kind of mischief that might cause. Although I fear the term "incendiary fireball" might be involved.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 1, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Don, I think you're off by three days

When President Millard Filmore signed the 1851 naval appropriations bill on 28 September 1850, flogging as a form of punishment in the US. Navy was legally abolished: "Provided, That flogging in the navy, and on board vessels of commerce, be, and the same time is hereby, abolished from and after the passage of this act."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 1, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

See, I told ya. I always get the mushroom treatment.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse


dixitque Google fiat lux et facta est lux

or something like that.

Posted by: omni | October 1, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Who watches the watchman?

Posted by: yellojkt | October 1, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

RD... I grew up very near where you live and shared those same above-ground wires. Our electricity went out every time there was a storm. But we shared Ivansmom's problem: the well water was pumped into the house with an electric pump. No showers, no flushing.

On the rare occasions now when our power goes out in my current house, I take a shower sometimes just because I can. My family laughs at this grown woman who gets giddy just because she can flush a toilet in the dark.

Posted by: TBG | October 1, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Hur-ry, Hur-ry, Hur-ry,
Step right up and look at the newest marvel of modern science. Dandy Don's new, why so new it's not even patented yet, waterless toilet. Not water-saving, I said water-less.

Yes, sireee, lad-ies and gentlemen: You say you don't have electricity? Don't have any water? With Dandy Don's new waterless toilet, you don't have a problem!! Just place this here part "A", the toilet seat cover, on top of part "B", the 5 gallon bucket end, once you've loaded part "C", the garbage bad into it, of course.

Presto, your worries are over. Why, folks, for a mere $1,000 you, too can be the proud owners of Dandy Don's new, revolutionary, miracle of modern science. We ship to all 50 states, but not Canada. Those folks don't believe in the good, old US of A gallons. Noooo, they got to have their OWN gallon.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | October 1, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

An 18th century weekend? Are you people out of your minds? I already had 5,200 of 'em. Highly, HIGHLY overrated.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 1, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

As were the 5,200 19th century weekends.

Look, why not just settle for a 1950s weekend? You can have a telephone call once in a while, but if you need the number you have to look it up in a dead tree edition phonebook. You can have TV, but only four channels -- the three networks and PBS. You can have drive a car, but no AC and maybe no radio. You can have sex, but only in the missionary position and only for procreation (nobody's allowed to enjoy it).

Come to think of it, the 18th century is looking better and better, now that I think about it. Those folks knew a thing or two about wenching.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 1, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind a 1980s weekend now and again. But only if I get to pick which 1980 weekend to revisit.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 1, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

There's some great video here. Talking heads, indeed...

Posted by: TBG | October 1, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Don... I'm so glad you're back. Not many people could get double mileage out of that bucket. Good job!

Posted by: TBG | October 1, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Utterly, totally, off-topic (except with respect to understanding the living conditions of our forefathers): The other day, I chanced to read some of "On Faith." One of the commenters made what he thought was a trenchant point against Christianity, sneeringly describing its founding personage as an illiterate Jewish carpenter. A few points:

(1) Credentialing standards for prophets, remarkably, do not exist.
(2) Illiteracy does not equal stupidity.
(3) Illiteracy is hardly a significant failing in a time in which practically everyone was illiterate. After all, there wasn't much to read besides the tax code, the judicial code, and the latest lascivious cuneiform fresh from Lagash, the mud surface still warm and wet. And, of course, one other publication of the time, which I shall address presently:
(4) Jesus was a Hebrew and an Israelite. The Israelites had instituted widespread literacy about 300 years before his birth, as a response to the Babylonian exile, in order that the cohesiveness of the Israelites not be lost in case of the destruction and/or defilement of the Temple, slaughter of the priests and so on. Every boy (what can I say? Sexism) was supposed to be schooled to at least a basic ability to read the Torah.

So there.

Posted by: HistoryTim | October 1, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Um, I forgot the obvious clincher: "So, Jesus probably was literate."

Name-calling is hardly an effective agnostic or atheist philosophical response to religion.

Posted by: HistoryTim | October 1, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Nyaah, nyaah your god has warts, bad breath, and big feet soaked with angry grapes.

Well I guess when you put it THAT way, HistoryTim...

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 1, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Don, I herby formally request and beg that you insitute Canadian shipping. I do anticipate long delays in shipping, which may be a problem.

I'll call 1-800-We Paddle. IIRC, the portages are murder. It'll probably be pricey.

Posted by: dr | October 1, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, dr, and those portages are likely to get trickier once the permafrost starts to thaw. Like Farmer Yassur said, gallons, imperial gallons, what in the he11's the difference once the head's blowed off?

Posted by: jack | October 1, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

>big feet soaked with angry grapes.

"trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored" is kind of an odd turn of phrase, isn't it?

dr, you won't need that fancy Yankee portable toilet after you see the New! Improved! Hole-in-the-Ground ® Four easy payments of $59.99 plus S&H.

Posted by: SonofCarl | October 1, 2007 6:15 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget the must-have Hole-in-the-Ground accessory, The Shovel! Never dirty your hands again! Easy credit terms and a money-back guarantee!


Posted by: Scottynuke | October 1, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, SonofCarl, but it accurately describes what happened during the Civil War, doesn't it? That was a Yankee anthem, but what a song!

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I hate to think what role you had in the Regency. You could have kept Prinny out of trouble, you know. And Brummel, didja have to let him go head over heels in debt like that?

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 6:47 PM | Report abuse

The 20th and early 21st aren't too hot either, and I'm talking about cords. Electrical cords. Each and every one of our electrically powered gizmos has a cord running out of it that gets in the way. They're visually cluttering, mechanically tangling, dust-gathering, cleaning-impairing nuisances, is what they are. Not only that, if the cat gets in a tight, that cat will seek something in the room to scrape up with his paw, and it's gonna be one of the electrical cords. 375 square feet of easy-to-clean wood floor; will he go there? No he will not. He will find an electrical cord, do his business right there, and then make sure he scrapes your cord right into the mess. This is his idea of being "clean and tidy."

No, I do not like the electrical cord. I bet Tesla had cats.

Posted by: Jumper | October 1, 2007 7:00 PM | Report abuse

In response to recent and overwhelming demand, we introduce Hole-in-the-Ground-for-Pets! Order now and get a free* excavation device (patent pending).

*not free. $179.99, plus applicable taxes, OAC.

Posted by: SonofCarl | October 1, 2007 7:07 PM | Report abuse

At that price SoC I am willing to rent out dmddog for excavations, he is fast and reliable and works even better if given a fresh planting to excavate - plant disposal would be extra of course.

Posted by: dmd | October 1, 2007 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The new Wisdom on wisdom teeth.;_ylt=AjvyC2KhESNDsOPCVc25EiWzvtEF

Apparently Australia was discovered by Alaskans long before Columbus and Cook... at least by bar-tailed godwits.

Which then raises the question, do New York birds cope by yelling and developing caffeine habits?

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 1, 2007 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, please accept these words as an apology for leaving off 'codpiece.' We are mixing our centuries but never mind.

corset blanc (sans stays)
banyan (men's lounge wear)
color'd silks

I shall close with this amazing term and definition:
Like mitts, but cover the forearms only, and not any part of the hands

Knitting anyone?
Georgette Heyer, perhaps?

I am on-kit!

Posted by: College Costume-ian | October 1, 2007 7:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention. Australia was discovered by a bob-tailed dimwit?

Slyness, I was Brummel's lackey. A miserable job, just miserable. You have no idea.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 1, 2007 7:48 PM | Report abuse

CP, some day I'll have to tell you how we used to laugh our a---es off at "muffatees," so we finally had to change their name to "sleeves."

But oh, jeez, ya hadda be there. Never laughed so hard in my life. Nearly broke my codpiece.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 1, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

You left the leg-warmers and the smoking jacket inside the sulky in the carriage-house, CP.

Other words to remember: debtor's prison or poor-house; chimmey sweeps, horse apples, body powder, haberdasher, bustle, millinery, periwig, merkin...

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 1, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Yes, that's what they used to say of Cook, Mudge, as you know.
You said it quite frequently yourself.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 1, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

I? Never! A foul canard, be that, Wilbrod. I have always held Cook in the highest esteem. Ahab, sure. Kidd, definitely. Bligh? No question about it. Kangaroo and Crunch? Two buffoons, to be sure. But Cook was a great sailor, and not a bad skipper.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 1, 2007 8:06 PM | Report abuse

So Brummel was a pain to work for, Mudge? Somehow that doesn't surprise me. I'll bet you were snapped up quick when he had to leave for the continent. Who was the lucky lord?

(BTW, hope you're feeling okay and having a good time on the anniversary vacation!)

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 8:55 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I adopted a tradition something like this idea, when our children were young. We called it the Pilgrim Thanksgiving. The project was to go 24 hours without modern conveniences, and to prepare and eat Thanksgiving dinner without the use of electricity or the gas stove. We cooked the meals all day over fires outside (we live in California, which helps)and ate and went to bed by candlelight. No electricity all day is a simple rule for getting back to the 18th century.

The kids were entertained by building and cooking over fires. It was challenging to get everything cooked by sunset. The food was often pretty badly cooked in the early years, but we got better at campfire cookery as the years went on. More importantly, after working quite hard all day to make a gourmet Thanksgiving dinner without modern appliances, I found myself quite grateful when we were finally eating. I was actually giving thanks for food.

We did this every year for about 12 years. It was fun and an excellent break from modern life. I highly recommend it.

Posted by: jmbehmke | October 1, 2007 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Wow, JMBehmke. Amazing. Write some of this up and you might have a small book.

For Wilbrod
One-horse shay
roman-nosed apaloosey
paint pony NOT a pinto
strawberry roan
dapple grey
flea-bit grey
blue tick hound
ticking (blue or red)

Posted by: College Parkian | October 1, 2007 9:42 PM | Report abuse

CP, I suppose merle doesn't apply to horses. I had an Australian shepherd whose coat was blue merle. I loved that dog.

Posted by: Slyness | October 1, 2007 9:54 PM | Report abuse

The beverage of long-ago and far-away could be switchel:

cider vinegar
lemon slices
ground ginger

This was the gatorade of the prairies in the 1880s-through at least WWI, said my first-person source and grandfather. He remembers being about 17 when he was given a sip of the spiked switchel, saved for the end of the day.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 1, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Lips
Madame Moose
Ahh. I'm often called Monsieur Moose myself.)

And on the equine front (oh boy!)

Polly Peachum

We could go on forever... I like Truelove or Peacemaker especially.

Posted by: Wilbrodog Truelove Peacemaker Thackeray | October 1, 2007 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Merle is a fabulous word and color. Might some of the dignified among us sport merle-hair?

Off to help TowheadBoy with homework. He is doing Westward expansion -- which I love. Himself? Not so sure yet, but he was impressed with the James/Dalton/Younger gang connection. Some relies were farm hands for the Dalton and Youngers near St. Jo, Mo. Somebody HAD to help the long-suffering Missuses of those riding gents.

"Go West, young man, and see the country grow up."

Horace Greeley is NOT the sayer of this; John B. L. Soule IS. The quote first appeared as the title to the 1851, Terre Haute Express editorial written by Mr. Soule.

This quote makes me think of the haunting poem: "Luke Havergal" By Edwin Arlington Robinson

GO to the western gate, Luke Havergal,--
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,--
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The wind will moan, the leaves will whisper some,--
Whisper of her, and strike you as they fall; 5
But go, and if you trust her she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal--
Luke Havergal.

No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that 's in your eyes; 10
But there, where western glooms are gathering,
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies-- 15
In eastern skies.

Out of a grave I come to tell you this,--
Out of grave I come to quench the kiss
That flames upon your forehead with a glow
That blinds you to the way that you must go. 20
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is,--
Bitter, but one that faith can never miss.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this--
To tell you this.

There is the western gate, Luke Havergal, 25
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall.
Go,--for the winds are tearing them away,--
Nor think to riddle the dead words they say,
Nor any more to feel them as they fall;
But go! and if you trust her she will call. 30
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal--
Luke Havergal.

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833-1908). An American Anthology, 1787-1900. 1900.

Quote and poem, brought to you courtesy of the Old and Grand-Fashioned AchenchenFair&Extravaganza; midway rides, extra.

Posted by: College Parkian | October 1, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Welcome jmbehmke!

For pity's sake! I go get all involved and leave off Boodling, and miss one of my favourite things. Word lists.

Fire screen.


Posted by: Yoki | October 1, 2007 10:16 PM | Report abuse


(And you can put them inside each other!)

Posted by: nellie | October 1, 2007 11:11 PM | Report abuse

I can tell some of us would really enjoy Scatterogies.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 1, 2007 11:32 PM | Report abuse

A good day in the Boodle.

Goodnight, all.

Should I consider increasing my R&D Budget so that I'll become more successful, and keep friends around?



Posted by: bc | October 1, 2007 11:33 PM | Report abuse

The most entertaining (and sometimes ghastly) book I've read on the 18th century was "Riot, Risings and Revolution" by Ian Gilmour (Lord Gilmour), who died recently.

During the Gordon Riots (p. 355), at a London distillery:

". . . his premises were attacked and fired and his stocks of liquor . . . began to flow. Drinking large quantities of unrectified spirit would by itself have inflamed the rioters, but much of the spirit was itself on fire, as were all Langdale's large premises and surrounding houses. The crowd allowed two fire engines to work. Unfortunately, they were pumping out spirit not water and spread rather than confined the inferno. Men, women and children in varying degrees of intoxication were burned in the street; others were killed by falling buildings.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 1, 2007 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Roan is probably the horse color equivalent of merle - white hairs mixed with another color, strawberry roan being reddish, blue roan being gray.

Horse colors:
gray - dapple gray, fleabitten gray, steel gray

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 2, 2007 12:05 AM | Report abuse

I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our associate pastor's son was shot and killed tonight. My daughter was friends with this young man and she called me and told me what happened. His father is in my Sunday school class. I really feel bad for him because his oldest son was shot and killed a couple of years ago. My heart goes out to him and his wife. I'm so tired of our young men getting shot all the time. The young women don't have any one to marry, half of the young men are in prison and the other half are getting killed. There is so much work to be done. I could work seven days a week, and still not cover enough ground. Please pray for us.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 2, 2007 12:13 AM | Report abuse

And forgot to mention..........

Brittany Spears has lost custody of her children. And that is sad also. Those children will miss their mother terribly. I'm sure the judge ruled on the side of safety and what is best for the children. The children don't understand that though. What hurt we do to children.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 2, 2007 12:22 AM | Report abuse

RD, I can't thank you enough for the computer. It is so nice that you thought of me, and acted on that thought. I hope you know that I appreciate your kindness. I can't remember if I told you that.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 2, 2007 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra - I am so very sorry to hear that news. I know you must be heartbroken.

Posted by: Kim | October 2, 2007 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, that is sad. My condolences for you and everyone who is touched by this loss.

Posted by: mostlylurking | October 2, 2007 1:09 AM | Report abuse

I must be the only one up. The church needs some stacking chairs, but chairs that would accomodate those of us that are overweight. Anyone know where I might start looking? I don't want those skinny chairs, and the ones made out of the hard plastics would be nice, if sturdy. We only want to order a few to start with, and see how they hold up. We really need these chairs, we don't want anyone to fall and get hurt.

Did everybody go to bed? I need to be in the bed. Just kind of balled up inside, can't sleep. Where are the night hawks? And I mean that in a good way. Maybe I killed the boodle? If it can be killed, I can do it. Witty conversation is not my calling. Doom and gloom seems to be more my line, and I really would rather not be that.

Oh well, guess what? Don't you love it when kids say that? Guess what? They really think they have something fantastic to say, and I love the guess what more than the story. I wish all children would use their imaginations and sense of wonder, I believe the world would be such a better place. So much of the time children are bogged down with grown-up stuff or impacted by grown-up mess,and don't get to experience and talk about that sense of wonder and awe that only a child can really possess. The written word can be a glorious escape and a path to imaginations never dreamed of.

I'm off to bed, my friends. I am rambling. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 2, 2007 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Boodle is just resting, Cassandra. Wilbrodog wanted to play search and rescue exercises tonight.

I know what you mean about sturdy chairs. My mom has done fine with the heavy old-fashioned folding metal chairs at church-- sturdy enough, and she's heavy.

However some women do need more.

Model 2618 has 20 inch wide seats, which is about as wide as you can get, but the design is not good on hard floors at all.

I searched by "Sturdy stacking chairs inch"

And here are church seating tips...

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 2, 2007 2:08 AM | Report abuse

I'm up due to restless legs (there really is such a syndrome), abetted by the noisy weather. I think everyone else must be sleeping.

Cassandra, I hope that right now you're getting a bit of rest after such miserable news. I wrote a bit about English violence, a couple of centuries ago, earlier tonight. Lord Gilmour's conclusion was that most of the "violence" in the society of that day was imposed by the powerful on ordinary people (hangings, for example).

It's been proven in several American cities that violence among young men isn't inevitable and that it can be reduced. A decade ago, Jacksonville made a coordinated effort to ensure that kids of high school age went to school, and kids in the criminal justice system definitely went to school. For a while, this approach seemed to do some good, and maybe some lives were saved or made better.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | October 2, 2007 2:23 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I'm so sorry... *HUGSSSSSS*

*perfunctory Grover waves*

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 2, 2007 4:53 AM | Report abuse

My dog is roan. It's almost as cool a color as paisley.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 2, 2007 5:31 AM | Report abuse


Cassandra, I'm sorry to hear your news. What a terrible waste and terrible loss.

Posted by: Slyness | October 2, 2007 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I was sorry to see your post about the loss of the young man, such a tragic loss of life. My deepest sympathy.

Posted by: dmd | October 2, 2007 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Joel, you're on the front page. Take us with you, pleeeze!

Off topic, I was in the library yesterday and saw "The Idiot's Guide to the FBI," right next to the business section. What's next? The Idiot's Guide to Running for President?

Posted by: dbG | October 2, 2007 7:36 AM | Report abuse

I am sorry for the loss of your associate pastor's son. So much pain in the world.

I hope the 'puter gives you no trouble. And you are extremely welcome. Of course, this gift wasn't entirely altruistic. Your presence on this blog is important to me.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 2, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, that was a bit unexpected. I've been up for over 5 hours already and have reached over-caffeination.

Cassandra, I'm sorry to hear your news. One child is bad enough, two is unimagineable. I'm glad he has you nearby. . .

Two years ago I vacationed in the land where cellphones don't work and forget about logging in. It was like Heaven. I did a lot of thinking and returned home to a major life-shift (not coupled with a job shift, however).

Today, I've been beeped 12 times since I rose at 2:30 am. I've been IM'd, e-mailed and called from or called to all over the US and Great Britain, all while remotely connected to 5 recalcitrant servers over a secure-id'd VPN. No problem communications from Singapore this morning, which was just fine with me.

Who would leave all this voluntarially? :-)

Posted by: dbG | October 2, 2007 7:48 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

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