Ah, The Good Old Days

When I was kid, we got visitors in the village every spring and summer.  These were usually relatives who’d moved away long ago, but there were also friends and friends of friends.  I have a vague memory that, before I was six, my grandfather’s boss from his time in South Africa spent a summer with us.  I know other people – from the bigger cities or from abroad would come and spend summers in the village, living the simple life.

The verdict was always the same, and best summed up by the friend of a friend my mom had house-sit for her some years ago “It’s like going back to a simpler time.  It’s like a little slice of paradise?”

Was it a slice of paradise?

I confess that in my mind the time I go back to those long summer days.  In the nostalgic mind it’s always ninety degrees out, and the air is full of the scent of roses and ripening grapes.  There is no sound save from, very far away, a song – so distant that you can’t tell anything beyond its being music.  And I’m lying in bed, on crisp sun-dried sheets, reading.

But if I stop squinting quite so much, I’ll hear the mosquitos buzzing, and your choice is between turning out the light and not being able to read, or keeping the window closed and sweltering.  And the summer nights is when the garbage disposal plant near us – well over capacity – chose to burn the garbage outside (instead of inside the plant with filters.)  Since that plant processed all the waste from the city of Porto, you’d wake in the morning to the village blanketed in impenetrable smoke that stung your eyes and made it impossible to breathe.

If you go back before that, to the early seventies or late sixties, the village was even more… picturesque.  For instance, there was often an animated soccer game in the street in front of grandma’s house.  This is because there was maybe a car every three hours, and you could hear it coming a mile away.  This was before the garbage disposal plant got placed about a mile from the village, and when things were still so safe my brother used to take his books and transistor radio and go study in the middle of the woods and even I and my little friends could go on long unsupervised hikes.

There were village festivals.  On summer nights – it seemed like every night to me, but hey – there were often celebrations and parades up the street.  People gathered on their stoops to talk.

A slice of paradise!

Except that we were one of the very few families in the village which had a bathroom with running water.  But even there, given the difficulties of installing such things in a 100 year old house with rock-slab walls, the bathroom was outside the kitchen door.  This meant in winter (or even fall) at night, we used the guzunder which is what my friend Kate calls those useful porcelain (usually) containers that go under the bed for an emergency.  Not your more pleasant setup, even if part of human life for many centuries.

And because the only way to wash clothes was by hand, in the wash tank (in grandma’s house a square stone thing big enough to drown several grown men, at mom’s house only big enough to drown a small child.  Weirdly, my brother did almost drown in grandma’s, only they caught him in time and revived him.  Dying by drowning in the wash tank was fairly normal for kids my generation and older.  Every few years it would happen.) and could only dry them on the line, most people only washed/changed clothes once a week.  (We changed at least underclothes every day because mom is like that.  She dried the clothes in the kitchen, too, if it was too cold outside.  I remember lines strung back and forth everywhere except over the stove and the kitchen table.  Since that house, back when I was very little, was a shotgun apartment – kitchen, hall (where my brother slept) bedroom (where my parents slept.  I slept next door at my grandma’s, with my cousin Natalia) and front room/mom’s workshop, this meant that the kitchen was 1/3 our living space and the gathering place.  Right under the dripping clothes.

Grandma’s kitchen next door had a Franklyn stove, but that was the only heating around.  Sometimes, in winter, if you left a glass of water on the bedside table, there would be a thin crust of ice on it in the morning.

Even in my mom’s house – bathrooms inside, electricity in every room, and more than just the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling or, in other words, the height of luxury for the village – there was no heat.  (Part of this is that despite being a climate not un-akin to London, the North of Portugal thinks of itself as temperate or warmish, so they don’t think anyone needs heating.  This is a recent illusion.  My friend across the street lived in a Victorian that had radiant water heat – must have been the only heated house in the village.  I used to go over to sit on the radiator in her room.)  I spent a great part of my adolescence reading in bed, not because I was tired, but because I’m very cold-intolerant.

None of this is to complain understand.  If you squint at the village a certain way, it was a paradise.  It was certainly much better than most of humanity has had for most of human existence.

Squinted at another way… well… when the community organization started running the neighborhood (yea, exactly what you’re thinking) one of the few things they did that I could find no fault with was arrange to have showers installed in the nearby school, and to have them open to the public every Sunday with hours for men and hours for women.  This alone must have improved the health and longevity in the village exponentially (I moved here shortly after, so I haven’t tracked.)  Before that, there were people who simply didn’t have the facilities to bathe (not even the hip bath in front of the fire we had at Grandma’s.  There was a shower too, but it wasn’t heated and the only one who used it in Winter was dad who believed in the old Roman method of forestalling colds.  In my parents’ “new house’ built 1971, we had running hot water.  And inside, too.  The height of luxury.)  Most of the village didn’t use to bathe in winter at all, and the smell in any enclosed public gathering had to be smelled to be believed, particularly when you consider most people heated their houses with wood or coal.

We had cholera every summer and some sort of flu bug that killed all the elderly people in winter.

But the landscape was beautiful, the area pristine, and generally (except largely for me) the people who survived all this were fine specimens, because they had to be or they’d be dead.

Why am I going into all this?

Years ago, in the bar, I got in an argument with a fellow writer who said longevity hasn’t improved at all.  Humans have always lived about this long, if they survived infancy.

This is, pardon me, horse pokey. Which of course doesn’t prevent its being the currently prevailing archeological theory.

She “knew” this because she had studied an affluent village in Bavaria in the eighteenth century.  Head>hits>desk.  Guys, even then and there, there were differences.  You can say longevity was sort of the same if you eliminate all deaths by misadventure.  Because if you don’t eliminate those, there’s a hundred ways you can die, from a hangnail or an infected tooth.  (Which is why you shouldn’t eliminate those.  Antibiotics dramatically changed human life.  Yours truly would not have survived childhood had she been born 20 years earlier.)  And even then, it’s close to our life now, only if you think that most people die in their sixties.  (No, they don’t.)

I can’t even begin to imagine how people can believe this, unless people my age in the States lived at a much, much, much higher level.  I met exactly one person over eighty when I was a kid, and let me tell you, he was not like my parents who are still largely active and self-sustaining, nor even like my grandmother who lived independently and self-sufficient until 87.  Go back just twenty years from that – when I was little, and sixty was “very old.”

Maybe people in the little village were unusually sturdy.  Maybe – and my mom and dad maintain this happened in their childhood – childhood conditions were so horrific that only the strong survived, and so those lived maybe to their seventies.

Maybe.  Or maybe there was the usual slapdash way of recording births and deaths, and people were assumed to be a lot older than they were.  (It was said that Shakespeare was “very old” when he died, but worked out, he was about 58, that is seven more years than I am now.  For that matter we’re not sure EXACTLY how old my dad is.  The only thing we know is that he couldn’t have been born on his official date of birth.  And this in a fairly bureaucratic society.)

My son volunteers at the hospital.  The only people coming in dying of old age, and in conditions when they usually can’t cope are in their hundreds.

When I was a kid there was doubt people could live till their hundreds.  The few cases, usually featured on TV, “Auntie Isolda lived to be 100 by eating a pound of dried carp a week” my dad would scoff at and say that they’d got her birth registration wrong.  Now, it’s not even unusual.

Now, does everyone live to that age?  Well, no.  The picking off starts at round my age, and continues at a merry pace, but there is enough of a percentage hitting 100 that it’s not that big a deal.  (The hard and fast unbreakable line seems to be 114 right now.)  It is, to my “feel” of it, the equivalent of hitting 74 in the village in the old days.

I was talking to Charlie Martin about this the other day and he said that we seem to have roughly doubled the expected human lifespan but no one has noticed.

No one has noticed because the theory, of course, is that “people lived about the same time.”

They didn’t.  I didn’t grow up in the eighteenth century.  I didn’t grow up in a real third world country.  But I remember when people died and of what.  I also remember, for that matter their finding the skull of the Tsar of Russia and finding he had had a permanent abscess in his mouth.  Guys, this was one of the wealthiest persons in the world.

Abcesses, uncured infections that left weak points, people who did die of little trifling colds…

No matter how much you tell me life expectancy past childhood was about the same I’m going to say you’re full of it.

It’s like telling me the village was a slice of paradise.  Oh, sure.  It was pretty.  And we loved some parts of living there – but it was not comfortable, hygienic or very healthy.

You see, there are different ways of looking at data.  For instance, I was reading about the thirties in England (yes, THAT backburnered project.)  It was a scholarly booklet put out by Oxford (I think) and there it was how after WWI people came back, and they were displaced from their traditional occupations in the countryside, and they were living in urban slums and oh, the horror.  But in the chapter on appliances they forgot this and talked about people – even lower middle class people – buying domestic electrical appliances.  Oh, also, rural estates were overrun with suburban houses built for the working class.

At which point I wondered if they read themselves and how they squared the contradiction.

But they weren’t interested in that.  They were interested in running down modernity and capitalism.  Hence, older times were better.

This is partly noble-savagism (totally a word) partly eco-savagism (totally a concept.  It’s the desire to believe that if we all went to a “sustainable” society where the most advanced concept is the grass skirt there wouldn’t be massive deaths or famines) and partly Marxist-savagism (which is the belief you need wise top-down leaders to prevent you from being rooked out of paradise as your ancestors were.)

It’s also a strong dose of “I want to believe.”  I don’t know what the heck it is in the human mind that makes us wish to believe in a lost paradise.  But something there is, and you can’t beat it down with a stick.  (Give me a stick large enough and I shall move the world.  Ahem.)

This is the same thing that has led people to SERIOUSLY claim that hunter-gatherers were healthier.  They base this on a few skeletons found.  Brother!  Of course they were healthy.  Given how hard the life of modern primitives is, you had to be healthy to survive to be of advanced enough age to merit a burial.  (Let alone the fact that most of the tombs we found are, of necessity, royalty.  That corrupts every such study up to the very recent time because (if what I read in that book about burials in London was true) paupers were often buried in ways that either left no trace or would be er… interesting to excavate.)

Me?  I accord my ancestors the same respect I accord members of other races. I don’t think they were idiots.  No, they weren’t always in control of their own fates.  (Dad’s ancestors have a fatal – or often near fatal – attraction to lost causes.)  They lacked that control the same way we lack it.  I might believe I know exactly what’s wrong with the economy (too much regulation, too much money printing, too much wrong-headed fiscal theory) but the truth is that I can’t just tell the idiots in charge to move over and let me drive for a while.

But to the extent they could make choices – agriculture over hunting gathering, indoor plumbing over lack thereof, motors over oxcarts – I trust them to have made choices rational beings would make.

And I don’t believe they needed wise leaders, any more than I need a wise leader.  I believe most of them could match wits with most leaders throughout history (most of whom, after all could figure out which end of a queen to set the crown on one try out of three.)

You can tell me it’s been a long slow way down for humanity from some imagined paradise. And I can tell you that unless you believe in noble savages, you can rinse your assumptions and start again.

In some regions, for some brief time, you might have had near-paradise.  But compared to us?  We are healthier and wealthier than Pharaoh in all his glory.  Caesar’s legions couldn’t secure for him the comforts of someone who lives on welfare in most regions in the US.  And I believe PJ O’Rourke about the ad in Pravda in the final days of the Soviet Union, “Will trade state assigned apartment in Moscow for sleeping bag over grate on the streets of New York City.”

And it would be a poor trade for the person getting the apartment in Moscow.  Even if you throw in all the comforts Charlemagne enjoyed.

I’ll take antibiotics, running water and the lack of need for a guzunder, thank you so much. And I’ll take the possibility of living to 100 or near there.

You can keep your splendid primitives.  Me and mine will do what we can to stop you subverting civilization.

Like the village when I was a child, the past is very scenic.  Provided you don’t have to live there.

434 thoughts on “Ah, The Good Old Days

  1. As a kid, my sisters and I loved spending two weeks at my grandfather’s dairy farm every summer. But now I can look back and realize that I wasn’t the one getting up at the crack of pre-dawn to milk cows. Every single day, no matter how cold it got in winter. And picking cherries was an afternoon adventure, climbing trees, not several days of hard work. I wasn’t there when the garden was dug over and planted. The butchering of chickens took place out of our tender gazes. I wasn’t the one sanitizing the milking equipment. Never saw a sick cow.

    It was a contrived paradise, a show farm during the brief visits of the City grandkids. I think the ‘Back to Nature’ crowd never realized they were seeing the idealized version. They think it’s always summer, in paradise.

    1. Yep, I get that feeling every time I see an article about ‘getting back to the land’ or whatever they are calling it these days. They have absolutely no conception of reality. Butchering, gardening, milking, mucking… they take skills, and massive amounts of time. It’s no idyll, trying to get your living from the land, as I’m sure Dave Freer will fervently attest to.

        1. There is that. I know I used to get comments on how strong my grip was. Yeah, milking twice a day for a decade will do that to you. And if you stop, you lose that!

            1. I have read a statement that, extended to its logical implications, explains the presence in major League baseball of so many so many successful Latin-American players is that many of them grew up on farms, milking by hand. Thus when they grip a baseball to impart spin their handstrength gives them an advantage, and when the try to turn a 96+ mph fastball around they are less likely to get the bat knocked out of their hands.

      1. People tend not to have any concept either of how much land you need just to be able to provide food for one year for a family, and how much work that requires. It’s somewhat frustrating sometimes to try explain to someone who also has no concept of distance or time that no, ‘a day of travel’ is not ‘far away’ that’s your neighborhood.

        1. A days travel when you are walking– 10-15 miles. A man might get 20 miles more or less (I have heard a possible 30 if the warriors were really moving) 😉 My days travel would be about 1-2 miles now.

          1. I’ve noticed that there are places in the US were towns are about thirty miles apart which IIRC was a daylight trip for wagons.

              1. My cousins’ Great Gran was telling us the story of seeing their first Aeroplane (She always said it that way)” Her father and the family watched a Curtis towing a banner stating it’d be at the state fair that week, and he said “We’re gonna go see that” and next morning, loaded the family up in the wagon, rode to the general store and liveried the horses, rode a stage coach from the store to the rail head, caught the stage to my home town, hopped onto a trolley car to Escanaba where the fair was held, and got a hotel room for the night because it was rather late.
                She also related the first time they saw any kind of automobile. The Ford dealer in Esky had barged some Model Ts and C cab trucks over to show the local farmers.
                When my father was a kid, the same trip taken in the family car, (an old 34 Ford Sedan) still took most of the day, but that was because they left the house after breakfast, and Pa had prepped for the trip by tying on an extra spare tire, and carried a pump and patch kit … fist flat he changed for a spare, and repaired the tube and tire then they continued til the next flat … if they were lucky, they only mounted one repaired combo.
                Today that is a trip of around an hour or so.

                1. oops. poor proofreading skilz. Took the train from the railhead to my home town of Gladstone. The train did go all the way in but the trolley was cheaper and who had that much extra? Ride the trolley that last 10 miles.

                    1. Grandpa’s story was of his brother Bill going to do that one Halloween and discovering that someone had beat him to it, and he was wearing his new shoes, too.

                2. During WWII, my grandmother spent about three weeks driving from Texas to the Oregon/California border with two kids and another lady.

                  The worst part was ‘bridges’ where the guy before hadn’t hauled the boards back across.

                  You see, you’d pull up, and there’d be two boards on your side. You’d lay them out, and pull across, to where there were two more boards. You’d grab those, and take them back, the pull the boards you’d driven on back to your side and carry on….

                  The interstate is freaking awesome.

                  1. When my grandpa was ten, his mother had to go visit her sister in Pennsylvania, and his father couldn’t get off work. I guess the trains were inconvenient. So Grandpa became designated driver for his mom (her eyes weren’t good), and he drove all the way from Dayton to his aunt’s house, with blocks tied to the pedals so his feet could reach, and him short enough he was looking through the bottom of the windshield.

                    Grandpa loved the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Yeah, it’s an overpriced tollroad, but at the time it was the best road he came across the whole way.

            1. That’s why the counties in the Panhandle of TX are the size they are: so everyone could get to the county seat within one day’s travel.

              1. Georgia is that way as well. They had a law that one had to be able to get to the seat and home in one days ride. All voting then took place at the county seat.

                1. A lot of places the counties were designed that way. Although most out west were anyplace in the county within a days ride of the county seat, so twice as big as those in Georgia.

            2. In 1880-something, or there abouts, on Christmas, there was a big fire.

              A hero jumped in a wagon and headed for the nearest town with a doctor.

              He got there, and back, in time to save most of the folks.

              There are still little statues of the doctor around the town he rode from, because it was a Marathon (the guy, not the event) level of awesome.


              My mom told that story every time we went through the town.

              It’s maybe an hour outside of the “big town” that had a doctor…by car. Strictly following Oregons 55mph law.

          2. When the mission priest came to make the regular appeal — we do great stuff, give us money — once it was recounting how they had to run a boarding school because it was often twenty miles to the children’s homes.

            1. Well – children– twenty miles is a long ways. If it was 1-5 miles, the children might have been able to walk– who knows though. I know that we used to walk a half mile to school and it could take a half hour to an hour– we liked to meander. 😉

        2. I’d guess most people going on about being promised “40 Acres & a Mule” have no idea how small forty acres is. Contemporary suburbia seems to like 1/4 acre lots, so it is about 160 houses or about four blocks. I suspect many of these advocates would be exhausted just walking the perimeter.

          1. I used to work for a surveying/engineering outfit that had company meetings at a restaurant (off clock but the boss bought breakfast) every Thursday. I remember a lady who was a landscape architect going on about being out at the new Good Sam construction site, and how they had thirteen acres of ground scraped off, “That is a lot of bare dirt!” One of the engineers grew up on a farm, and she couldn’t understand why some of us burst out laughing when he replied, “unless you’re a farmer.”
            He finally had to explain to her, “thirteen acres of bare dirt means you’re broke down, if you’re a farmer.”

          2. In England, three acres was considered enough for a poor family (see here). I assume that meant more labor intensive cultivation and probably a more fertile soil.

            1. One minimizes your SCARCE resources. Where lands are plentiful and hands rare, you minimize labor; where lands are dear and hands plentiful, you minimize land usage.

          3. I always wondered how one would cultivate 40 acres with just one mule. Yes, it’s not all that big (a square encompassing 40 acres is 1/4 mile on each side), but that’s a lot of trips back and forth, trying to dig grooves in the dirt.

            Now, my father always used fertilizer, so I can’t say for sure how much it would produce without, but his two acres of garden (which he never filled all the way with plantings) always provided more than enough for 10 people throughout the year (this is an estimate based on how much we gave away and still had enough to put up for the winter), except that the only grain he grew was corn. I don’t know how much land you would need for wheat for that many people.

              1. During the late 1800’s it was claimed that you could raise a family on 10 acres of land in the Willamette valley with room for an orchard and everything. This is a touch dramatic, but I suppose if you had good bottom land and a cash crop it was doable. There were hundreds of small dairies around all feeding to small butteries and milk distributions and if you grew prunes or cherries you would take your harvest to the dryer or the cannery.

            1. I have a second cousin that farms about 3500 acres in Louisiana. He plants corn, soybeans, and cotton, plus about a two-acre kitchen garden. He uses tractors for 90% of the work, but there’s one field he can’t get a tractor to. He still uses mules for that 300-acre patch. It usually takes him about a week to plow and plant that piece of ground. He keeps doing it because it produces 2 1/2 times as much per acre as the rest of his land. It also gets flooded every year in the early spring.

      2. I don’t understand how people can not realize that going backwards to a previous level of technology/civilization is terribly idealized and romanticized.

      3. Most of those folks wouldn’t last six months on a farm. See: The Last Centurion.

      4. ironically, a large portion of these folks are vegans as well. I’d love to see them walk out into the wilds of Montana and stay vegan … be a short experiment … first frosty night and they’re a vegcicle.

        1. Assuming they didn’t find some nice wild carrot or camas root and mushrooms for supper first.

          1. Camas is OK, it is the Death’s Camas that is the one with the violently poisonous alkaloids. The hard part is telling them apart when you dig them up.

        2. I had a cousin who decided she was a vegetarian when she graduated high school. Then she went to Africa with the Peace Corp for a year. She came back thoroughly carnivorized, as she said, “if you don’t eat meat there, you don’t eat much.”

      5. Re: the romance of farm life, this week’s new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, “Simple Ways,” features an urban pony travel writer who becomes enamored with the charms of a farmpony and her “simple life” — such that he stands around getting in her way while she’s trying to do chores, and doesn’t actually notice that she’s not interested in him.

    2. One month, uncle’s farm. Usually really fun until I turned old enough that they figured I had to take part in the haymaking.

      And that was something for which about half of the extended family had to take part so he could get it done in time, he was unmarried and kept the farm with his spinster sister, but during haymaking there were usually between six to eight other adults staying there (and when I was small me and sometimes one or two other kids young enough that we didn’t have to work, by the time I was teen I was the only next generation individual willing to go there). The place was a small family farm, with several scattered small fields surrounded by forest, and he never got any machinery apart from paying a neighbor to come and cut the hay with a tractor. Otherwise it was him, his horse, with aunt and the visitors using rakes and hay forks, and he and his sister would have been screwed if they had tried to do it all by themselves. As it was it tended to be a pretty hectic few weeks (exactly how long depended on weather and the visitor’s schedules). After uncle died aunt kept the animals for a few more years and paid for the hay, but as far as I know that was not exactly a profitable arrangement.

      1. Ah yes Haymaking. I did that on my cousin’s farm for a few years in my late teens/early 20s. One year I calculated I lifted 80 tonnes of hay an average of 1 meter… (it was a complicated calculation). But that was at least partially mechanized.

        My last year we tried the huge round bales instead of the little square ones. Apart from one interesting discovery about how not to stack them on a trailer when you are going up a steep hill it worked so well and was so much less work that the following year I wasn’t needed to help out. Which was a good thing becaise I had graduated university and was off to Japan and hence wasn’t readily available.

      2. Whittaker Chambers, wanting to discuss the marvels of modern technology, used the example of getting in the hay by car headlight. (He actually farmed.)

    3. I know what it’s like — I lived it until I was 18 and left home for the Air Force. Milked two cows every morning (Dad milked them at night) before going to school. Helped raise pigs, chickens, rabbits and cows, turkeys for awhile, and a “vegetable garden” of about an acre — all broken, weeded, and cultivated by hand. We also had figs, plums, blackberries, and one pear tree on the property, and more things we could gather foraging on thousands of acres of government land. I hunted in the winter and fished during the summer, not for pleasure but to put meat on the table. And there is nothing quite like parking your rear in a leaky outhouse with it 30F outside, at 8:30 at night. Even my dad had to quit raising a garden and animals by the time he was 60 — it was just too much hard work.

      Many of my ancestors lived into their 80’s and 90’s, with an occasional one living to a hundred or more. At the same time, some of them died in their teens and twenties, and a couple of my dad’s family died under ten during a tornado. I’m not sure the curve itself has changed as far as the age distribution, but the number of people in each age group has changed. The number of people dying young is smaller, and the numbers reaching ages that used to be exceptional is getting more and more common. We no longer see a quarter of the population dying before the age of twenty from disease, and it’s much more common for someone to reach 65 or older. My parents both reached 80. My maternal grandparents died at the age I am now — 67. My paternal grandfather died at 72 from complications of a bullet wound, and my paternal grandmother died at 85. I have diabetes, and I can STILL look forward to reaching 80 or older. A hundred years ago, diabetics died in their 50’s.

      1. You raise a good point. It wasn’t so much that the maximum attainable age has shifted that much (it has, some) but that the percentage of people who reach it is much higher.

        Remember that as recently as the 1930’s the Social Security full retirement age was set to 65 because that was “old” – many wouldn’t reach it, and many of those that did wouldn’t be collecting for long.

        It didn’t mean some people didn’t live to extremely ripe old ages – when I got interested in genealogy I found a few ancestors that lived well into their 80s or even 90s (back in the 18th century!). But I found many more that died in their 40s or 50s, a truly appalling rate of infant and childhood mortality, women who died in childbirth or following it, and men who died in their 20s or 30s for unrecorded reasons (one ancestress outlived three husbands, with children by at least two of them).

        I recall a bit from a Kipling story where his viewpoint character overhears an Indian servant claiming that the British had the secret of extended youth – men and (especially!) women looked much younger than they “should have” because of their comparatively easier lives. Lives that were so much harder, unhealthier, and shorter (on average) than those of the average “lower class” person today.

    4. Problem is, if you showed them the hard work, and the dirty work, and the other things like the killing and butchering, they would either tell you that you’re doing it wrong (because they know it’s not really like that), or else they would expect that they would be the owners and other people would do all the dirty work.

  2. The only people who do not seriously love indoor plumbing in general and hot running water in specific are the people who have never had to live a regular, normal life without it. (No, a weekend camping trip doesn’t count.)

    Thinking about the “idyllic back to nature”… ugh. I think I’m going to go take a shower now, just being reminded of it. Because hot shower! So awesome! That’s right up there with dry socks, clean sheets, heat that doesn’t require you to get up every three hours to feed the fire, dishwashers that make it possible to avoid the entire house coming down sick together, washing machines that take all the backbreaking work and turn it into “just add clothes, soap, and twist a dial”… did I mention how AWESOME hot running water is?

    1. Great bloody gods, yes.

      Grandma’s house, built back in the fifties I think, still loses water in a hard freeze sometimes (like, say, *now*…). It’s part underground, dug into the side of a pretty steep hillside, and the pipes are a pain to get to. I just hope the idiot cousin doesn’t try “heating” the pipes with an AO rig again- that particular visit by the Good Idea Fairy took a while to re-plumb.

      Also, humping buckets of water to heat on the stove (yes, she still has a wood/coal stove) ain’t fun. Washing clothes in a tub, same. *shakes head* She doesn’t want to pick up and move to my place for the winter, which *has* lovely hot running water, alas.

      Good plumbing is right up there with antibiotics and not getting invaded every other summer by the pugnacious noble idiot next door. *grin*

    2. I got dismissed the other day in a discussion or the merits of modern life for my “little adventures in Alaska.” I think you will understand when I say that made me see red!

      1. 😀

        BTW, have to say I gained a new appreciation for indoor toilets back when I did that geological mapping in Lapland. You do, after all, need to bare your ass when you have to empty your bladder, or worse, your bowels (woe if you happen to be even a bit constipated). And when you do that the cloud of mosquitoes which had been following you all race down there… (did cause some p*nis envy, at least guys needed to uncover much less in order to pee).

    3. I remember when we had regular power outages and needing to go outside the apartment to wash our clothes at the water tap that was outside the compound we lived in. In Quezon City.

      We also still boil water to drink, using a pot that we’ve had for literally decades – it used to be my youngest brother’s bottle sterilization pot.

      1. Ah, yes, the real reason coffee and tea-drinking is so widespread across the world – when you’re boiling the water anyway to make drinking it safer than Russian Roulette with all the chambers loaded, you might as well make it taste good!

        1. When my folks were in India they drank tea, beer, milk (pasteurized), and Limka soda without ice. They were the only ones in the group who did not get the touristas/Moghul’s Revenge.

          1. My father spent weeks in India for business. He knew about the water issues, but got too adventurous with the food. Fortunately, the nuns took care of him for the week he became violently ill– which they expected. Indeed, when he came out of it, the nuns told him he much stronger than expected, because most visitors stay *two* weeks with that particular bug.

          2. milk (pasteurized)

            As my mom says, there’s a reason the guy who came up with a rabies vaccines got an award for cooking milk instead…..

            You don’t want to mention the “raw milk” fad around her. Ever. She’s seen too many folks deathly hurt because they think that drinking milk basically straight from the cow, and three days from the cow, is the same thing.

            1. OK, I’ll have to say, I’ve never heard of someone being hurt by drinking sour milk. And that’s including talking to my father about it, who grew up in the Depression, with their own cows.

              Now, having read something about it, I suppose it could be one of those things which exposure will develop a resistance to, which could be why he never heard of it, either.

              1. It’s the same reason eating raw meat is a bad idea. Not because it goes sour, but because milk is a really, really good place for nasty bugs to grow.

                Bad milk was as dangerous as bad water.

                1. I honestly don’t know how old the milk ever got in his house. They separated all (or almost all – they may have made their own butter) their milk and sold the cream, then kept the skim, and they had enough that the kids were allowed to drink all they wanted. And they probably didn’t have to worry about milk-borne tuberculosis, due to not having much contact with other cattle.

                  1. Traditionally it was all processed for sale– and the cream they sold would probably be pasteurized, too.

                    Heck, they may have done it themselves as part of the processing for sale.

                    1. Yep. We got butter from the store, but I tried to churn some for household use, too.
                      And we got our milk EVERY DAY and stored it in the fridge. Before that (We only got a fridge when I was 8) we stored it in the ice-box. The farmer who sold us milk was right across the street.

                    2. In Brasil I mostly drank boxed, irradiated milk (you can get the same stuff here, but it ain’t cheap). Depending on how broke we were at the time, it might be bags of pasteurized, unhomogenized milk instead. I did make friends at one point with a fellow who worked, IIRC, at a local dairy (this was out in the interior), and he hooked us up with raw milk. We would boil it for safety sake, and the cream that was left would semi-solidify and rise to the top. That was when I discovered that straight cream on bread is delicious… and that it doesn’t take a lot to do a number on a system that’s not accustomed to it. *grimace*

                    3. Sarah – technically, by boiling it you DID pasteurize it. The official process calls for below boiling for a longer time period, but it’s the same thing.

                      Foxfier – I really don’t think my dad’s family pasteurized their milk or cream. The reason I think this is because dad mentioned the centrifugal separator they used, but made no mention of anything else. This was in rural Kentucky in the 20s and 30s, and I seriously doubt they thought of such things.

                2. We used to get about four gallons of milk every day from two cows. There were times when we only had ONE cow, and the milk was half that. I never drank pasteurized milk until I was 18. We would run our milk through a cheesecloth strainer (you get a bit of trash in it when you milk — it s practically unavoidable), and store it in a wide-mouth gallon jug in the refrigerator. We’d frequently skim off the cream and save that to make butter. We usually gave a gallon of milk to my grandmother (who lived next door) every other day, and another gallon to whichever relative needed it. We usually had about three pounds of butter in the house at any one time, and all our relatives (most lived within easy walking distance) had as much as we could spare (same with the garden and everything else).

                  Raw milk is far better tasting and provides more vitamins and minerals than homogenized/Pasteurized milk. You do have to be careful, and keep it refrigerated. Otherwise, you get cottage cheese… 8^)

                  1. Big difference between that and buying “raw milk” at the store, or from the guy on the corner.

                    “Better tasting” is a matter of, ahem, taste, and the rest of it sounds a heck of a lot like the debunked claims for “organic” food.

                    It’s not like there’s some kind of serious doubt that it was a major cause of death or something.

                    1. One of the draws for condensed canned milk was that it would keep, and was not half water and chalk that you used to get in major cities, and that it was pasturized and wouldn’t make you sick. Still, the frustration that I have with the pasturized/raw milk debate is not that some people are getting sick because of what they freely chose to do – I mean there are people who are mainlining Laetrille still and that doesn’t do a lot of good – but the brainless regulatory acts that makes raw milk illegal to transport over state lines, and in Oregon makes it illegal to sell if not a small farmer, advertise in any way at all, and penalizes farmers for selling it. If it is a public health hazard then it should be handled with education, not fines and siezures. Regulation on this level is wrong, simply because this is the sort of regulation that could conceivably also be used make it illegal to home-school your children, or send them to a parochial school “as a public health issue”.

                    2. I’m not sure I can agree with you. I was in the local Catholic school once. I don’t know what he did but they had this one guy nailed to a big plus sign 😀

                    3. Well, injecting mayonnaise will kill you, but in that case it is just considered operator error. My point is that stupid stuff should be handled with education, not legislation and code enforcement. I will add that a huge amount of the anti-vax and pro-whole milk and a lot of the other odd ideas come about because the public health education system has been used to push agendas like how much salt or water or lipids or meat or whatever we should be eating but aren’t/are eating too much of —- instead of teaching basics like wash your hands, eat greens, eat something with B complexes…don’t eat pork raw. Code enforcement just gives government a stick to pry into your life and then beat you for it.

                    4. My point is that stupid stuff should be handled with education, not legislation and code enforcement.

                      My point is that no amount of education would change the fact that figuring out pasteurization saved uncountable lives, and “education” wouldn’t manage the same.

                      We have supposed experts making themselves sick, and hospitalizing their children, over here all the time. It’s as noteworthy as the hippies freezing to death in their “one with nature” cabins or the exercise fanatics dropping dead of heart attacks far too young when they run in below zero weather.

                      I agree that education– TRUE education– is important, but that won’t make drinking milk with a large amount of living organisms in it any less dangerous.

                    5. I am not arguing that pasturization and cleanliness have made our lives better and kept people from dying needlessly. I am saying that measures taken by the state and federal government are too extreme, suppress people’s rights and can give a pretextt and a justification to suppress people’s free exercise of their freedoms in other ways. “Oh, NO! People are being harmed by doing X, we must stop anyone from doing X to save their lives!” is a recurrent theme used from anything from the size of sodas to be sold to whether you can have a woodstove.
                      This wasn’t your point, it was mine. I have an obsession over it.

        2. A number of people have found that small amounts of bacteria and parasite reducing antiseptic alcohol — say, from 15 to 45% — made the consumption of water much safer. This is especially true if allowed to age a suitable period of time with the alcohol in it.

          What many forget about the Whiskey Rebellion was that the easiest, cheapest and safest method of storing and transporting grain crops entailed their conversion into liquid form.

          1. My father worked on ships, long distance routes, at a time when they stayed at least days, sometimes even several weeks on harbors while the cargo was unloaded and loaded by stevedores, and had visited harbors in Africa and South America on his longest trips during the late 40’s and 50’s.

            His advice when I went abroad the first time: always drink a little bit of alcohol with every meal, either drink wine or mix a bit of hard liquor with whatever you are drinking. 🙂 My mother wasn’t amused, I was about fourteen at the time (that trip was with a friend and her father plus a couple of other adults, and only to Majorca. I did try wine for the first time then though I usually settled to something like soda – anything bottled – with meals).

            1. I think part of the reason that some cultures tend to have less of the alcoholism gene is that they had more use of alcohol on a daily basis to make water safe. And whiskey really is a good way to kill certain kinds of stomach bugs (even if the bugs are already in your stomach), besides helping to stop things up.

    4. I lived for fifteen years in an apartment which had only cold running water, no shower and a toilet which got clogged regularly. I think my friends liked it. I was always willing to cat-, dog- and house sit in exchange for showers and the use of a washing machine. Plus I always played a free taxi service to anybody who needed one back then too. 🙂

    5. One of my earliest memories is helping my dad cut up an old hickory tree when I was about six or so. That was my introduction to a backbreaking task — keeping up your end of a cross-cut saw. It was my duty to cut kindling from the time I was about four or five until we moved into a house with gas heat (not forced air, but space heaters — two of them in a four-room house!). It was one of the years we actually had snow in Louisiana. Our original house was heated by two potbellied stoves, one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.

      One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here, and it truly should — how our diet has changed. When I was young, fresh fruit in the winter was unheard of. Any fruit you ate was canned, frozen, or dried. A banana between October and April was almost unheard of.

      Consider, though, the diet of people living in Europe between about 800AD and 1600AD. There were no potatoes, squash, or corn. Any meat that was not immediately used had to be salted until it was almost inedible, smoked (and that was a backbreaking chore, too!), or pickled. Most stored food began to get rather poor by the time Spring rolled around. i really feel both sorry and disgusted when I read about those that think food comes from a super market, and it’s always been that way. How intellectually stunted they are, how deprived of understanding that without the modern miracles we live immersed within, life would be “nasty, brutish, and short.”

      1. Again that uncle’s farm: it was next to a lake, and he fished regularly. What wasn’t eaten immediately was salted. The end result of that was something with enough salt in it that pretty much all you could taste when you ate it was that salt. The older generation, especially the men, seemed to like it well enough, after all they had been eating it their whole lives, but I never ate it voluntarily. I like salty food, but there are limits.

      2. Most stored food began to get rather poor by the time Spring rolled around.

        My folks were really well off when she was young.

        She can remember being sent out– as the oldest girl– to cut meat off for dinner.

        The cow would be hanging in the well house, and she’d shave off the fuzz for the size of cut she wanted, get it, and take it in….

        When I was a kid, Granny was still scraping fuzz off of the cottage cheese and then eating out of the clean hole.

        Oh, and the year I was married: most of mom’s family went to a big goodbye meal at a restaurant. Everyone under 35 or so go deathly ill (it was actually not funny at all at the time) and everyone who’d grown up That Way just had an upset stomach.

        1. It is amazing what you can become immune to, I grew up drinking from creeks and beaver ponds. Never even heard of giardia until I joined boy scouts. To this day I can drink practically any water a Mexican can drink with no ill effects. That includes lots of water that will put your average city-dweller in the hospital.

      3. There was a lot more use of winter root vegetables like turnips and collards and fennel (and their greens), a lot more growing and eating of herbs and greens and cabbages, and there were certain kinds of Old World gourds and pumpkins which got a lot of use. But OTOH, many of the vegetables and fruits which existed grew smaller or were less productive, and modern fertilizers and pesticides didn’t exist so there was less available and more lost to pests.

    6. Mmmm, indoor plumbing and hot water. So vital I took half a day off of work and spent about $3k on Monday to get mine fixed. All houses on our water system require pressure regulators because of the hilly countryside and growing demand on the mains, resulting in rather high water main pressures. Mine was going out, and finally gave up the ghost, reducing my water flow to a trickle. My water heater was leaking, and the expansion tank had a ruptured bladder. But a nice young man came by and fixed it all over the course of about 5 hours. and the new water heater is 50 gallons instead of 40. Bring on the showers! I don’t want to hear from anyone how I could had had it done cheaper. I have enough trouble spending money even when I need to.

        1. This is why you never EVER piss off A-gang. Next thing you know your head’s water heater is tagged out for a week while they’re “waiting for parts.”

          The only time I took navy showers on the ship was when we were in port in Jebel Ali in June and the cold water was 110 degrees. The rest of the time I operated under the theory that since I made it, I can use as much of it as I wanted.

  3. Humans tend to have selective memory. We remember the really bad periods, but blank out the daily grind. The good memories get pulled out fairly often and revisited which reinforces them while smoothing the rough edges. Every recall they get the tiniest bit better, so eventually those times when you were at all happy and content become paradise.
    I have become quite fond of a few of the current crop of reality shows, particularly the one about the extended family up in Alaska. Their lives are filled with constant toil just to survive, hunt, fish, grow crops, tend livestock, and they are not at all primitives other than those lacks imposed by climate and remoteness. They gladly incorporate every modern convenience available to them that are within their means.
    As for our fearless leaders, I’ve never understood why exactly that winning what is essentially a popularity contest invariably makes the dumb slobs believe they’ve been imbued with superior wisdom. Especially when that wisdom leads them to believe they can rewrite basic math and economic theory. Or for that matter that you can continue to lie to folks and never ever get caught in this day of cameras and video and tape recorders.

  4. Not only are the ‘back to nature’ and ‘the old days were better’ tropes completely false, they’re predicated on living in areas where Mother Nature isn’t actively trying to kill you at every opportunity. I grew up in Africa, where drought, floods, storms, mass animal migrations, predators who rapidly learned that humans tasted just as good as antelope or zebra but didn’t have horns, hooves or teeth to defend themselves, and other hazards would very rapidly ‘thin the herd’ of the human race. In rural Africa to this day, it’s estimated that only about two out of three children make it to adulthood, and that’s an extraordinarily high proportion by historical standards (as Sarah says, thank antibiotics).

    I’ve traveled extensively in ‘darkest Africa’. The name is appropriate. If you live there (not just in the past, but today as well), your life is likely to be dark and your future more so.

    Have I mentioned how grateful I am to be in the USA today?

    1. they’re predicated on living in areas where Mother Nature isn’t actively trying to kill you at every opportunity.

      The ‘Nature trying to kill you’ part is one of the reasons why, my hubby tells me, that ranchers and farmers out in the Aussie Outback are amongst the few allowed the special licenses that grant them ownership and use of ARs and full automatic firearms. Probably would need them, if you have ranches and farms larger than some cities, and require planes or choppers to patrol.

      Unfortunately, there are enough people here who buy into the ‘nature is best’ bad ideas tropes that immunization is a BIG topic over here; or at least, it was for about a year or so. It’s gotten so bad a law in New South Wales was passed that if your kid wasn’t immunized, he or she couldn’t go to daycare/preschool/kindergarten.

      1. Some of the guys I work with deal with feral hogs on their land. One of the guys uses an AR-10, because these things travel in packs of six or more. I’ve heard multiple stories of a pig taking several hits to finally bring down, including one case of the pig treeing the hunter, and then knocking down the tree.

        It just seems to me once you’re bringing a battle rifle with extra magazines, and a backup magnum, we’re kind of heading beyond the realm of hunting, into the region of open warfare.

        1. Feral hogs are very bad news. Are wolves worse? I’ve read somewhere that someplace (maybe Russia) they had such a bad wolf problem that they were using helicopter gunships to keep the population down. Also that the gunships were barely making a dent in their wolf problem.

          My husband and I are both alive because of modern medical technology. We are thankful that we are living today to benefit from this technology.

          1. Similar thing happened in Alaska. Palin got a lot of flack for that one. The wolves were decimating the moose and caribou herds, and the people who depended on those herds were going hungry. Easiest option was to cull the wolf packs down to a reasonable number.

            But to some a**hats, animals are more important than people.

            1. In the particular case you cite, due credit must be given the need/opportunity to trash Palin. The historical record shows there is no principle the Left values above the principle of trashing a (perceived) conservative. Witness how the opportunity to trash Mitt Romney prevailed over praising racial inclusiveness.

                1. Consider the recent foofaraw over Romney’s biracial grandchild.

                  The treatment of Herman Cain (or Clarence Thomas, or … do you recall the initial campaign run against JC Watts, using an old photo of him with full afro? Imagine if the GOP ran such a scare ad about a Democrat) fall into a special category, the name of which starts with Uppity and frequently includes such terms as ungrateful and traitor.

                  1. Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain, Colin Nior…

                    But the reason Republicans hate Obama is because he’s black.

                    1. my reply to that is always “Name me one white person with the same veiws I would like.”
                      After the silence, I say “I don’t dislike him because he is black, It is because he is commie red.”

          2. At a guess, feral hogs — individually — are worse than wolves (and possibly smarter/more cunning. They are far heavier, with sharp-hooved feet able to slash a man to the bone and capable of gutting a man with their tusks. The difference in favor of wolves comes from their pack-hunting ways.

            1. The grey wolf doesn’t coexist well with people pets livestock and game – hence the wolf is a more or less endangered species across much of its historical range in the lower 48 – and the subject of much dispute in agricultural communities. And or course pretty much long gone from western Europe – wolfhounds survive but not wolves.

              The wild bore is like the domestic pig pretty much omnivorous and coexists well with people, pets, livestock and game but not with some field crops.

              From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’m Audie Cornish.

              ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

              And I’m Robert Siegel.

              Berlin may be the capital of Germany but to those who live and work there, it has another distinction. It’s the capital of wild boar. The tusked creatures roam the city by the thousands, tearing up parkland and occasionally clashing with humans. In late October, a boar attacked and wounded four people outside an apartment building, including a policeman who later shot the animal.

              As NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, the city and many of its residents have run out of patience.

              SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Wild boars in Berlin are shy creatures that prefer to stay out of sight. Not a single one is visible inside this tree-filled enclosure at a city park that’s supposed to provide a safe viewing experience. But then they noticed human visitors arriving with food.

              (SOUNDBITE OF BOARS)

              NELSON: Three of the shaggy, gray beasts rushed to the fence, each of them weighing at least 200 pounds. They shove one another to get at the snacks.

              1. Adhereing to the rule that says spelling errors may only be mocked if the joke is appropriate:

                The wild boar is like the domestic pig, coexisting well with people, pets, livestock and game but the wild bore is a terrifying entity, traumatizing lunchrooms, bars, company parties and web sites. It is closely related to the troll.

              2. feral and wild boar are as dangerous as a wolf and a big problem is most places they are expanding into are city/towns where any kind of hunting is disallowed. Ft Worth has an issue with them. They are also just plain destructive and pollute waterways. The reason they expand where wolves have been endangered is twofold. A: they are the ferals that escaped from some farm. It still happens all the time (and sometimes by idjit galoots letting them go for “rights” reasons or vandalism) and B: the rate or reproduction by sows is amazingly higher than wolves.
                The reason wolves don’t get along with pets and livestock is they tend to eat them and get killed for doing so. People in Upper Michigan learned quick that wolves with a radio collar were transplants that are chronic livestock hunters. The DNR keeps whining these wolves are being illegally killed but farmers tend to not be happy feeding a calf or two to a critter that is a repeat offender. Pigs, instead of eating the calf will rut a hole for it to break a leg, and ruin the watering hole. If the farmer is a crop farmer they wipe out the fields (a nice side effect is those pigs are tastier when you shoot the vermin) and cause other damage to property.
                Oh, btw, more people are eaten by pigs than eaten by wolves.

                1. Everything you say may be true, but I would rather have wild hogs than wolves if I had the choice. Hogs will not generally come from anywhere within hearing range to come kill your dogs, like wolves are all to prone to do.

                  And yes wolves are hunted out of choppers wherever the bunnyhuggers aren’t in charge and prohibiting it. Although this only tends to be successful in more open terrain, it is basically a waste of time in heavily timbered country.

                  1. that wasn’t an issue any of the folks I know up in Michigan have with the wolves. The first beef was the DNR lying their arses off about bringing them in, then it was the trouble makers that were transported in (most have been in multiple states killing livestock) , then it was not allowing hunting or culling and they were really hurting the deer herd. They finally allowed hunting this past year, but many think it was too restricted.

                    There was a big stink about Palin supporting helo hunting of some that were in dire need of culling as they were wiping out prey in their area. AniRights maronies prefer critters to die off from diseases and starvation to managing for healthy numbers.

                    1. Palin supporting helo hunting of some that were in dire need of culling

                      I’m all for helicopter gunship culling of any Dire Wolf outbreaks.

                      Just sayin’.

                2. The DNR keeps whining these wolves are being illegally killed but farmers tend to not be happy feeding a calf or two to a critter that is a repeat offender

                  We’ve got COWS that have gone missing, starting right when they introduced– oh, I mean the pack magically appeared with no trail before the place they’d just finished a study to check the suitability on, and then traced a wide range of dead pets to our area— that was so bad we thought that a gang of humans were poaching cows on the range.

                  But it keeps happening.

                  My parents live right next to a major road, but they have to keep their lights on or the wolves harass their dogs– one night during a power outage dad went out to check why they were going nuts and there were wolves right up by the house.

                  This is ludicrous.

                  1. I’ll have you know more than one fluffy-headed friend has told me that wolves don’t attack humans because they don’t like the way we taste.
                    Grandma told us stories of kids carried off…

                    1. I read Russian fairytales (and other tales) at 9 years old that really contradict your fluffy headed friend. 🙂 It sounded like from the stories that wolves on that continent had a taste for horse and human flesh. In America we did a systematic killing of wolves so they wouldn’t get a taste– or that was what I was told by the old folks many years ago.

                    2. The way I had heard the thing about not liking the taste of human flesh (which I heard way back in the ’70s, so is probably a more accurate notion, and the ones now probably dropped the important part), is that wolves don’t like the taste of human flesh, with our modern diets, high in chemicals. I’m sure they’d be happy to carry off an organic-eating vegan. 🙂

                    3. Wolves don’t like they way we taste? Wolves have Zagat’s?

                      “Humans taste somewhat like pork but are much easier prey when you can find one alone. In packs they are noisy and tend to throw things.”

                  2. the DNR at first denied they were reintroducing the critters and even folks calling to help were lied to (“I have a shewolf and cub with sever mange on my property. Could you send someone out to trap them and give them vet treatment?” — “There are no wolves in the U.P. of Michigan, sir” after several minutes of arguing that point “Okay, I’ll just shoot them and put them out of their misery and protect my cattle.” — “You can’t shoot wolves! That’s illegal”

                    “Well seeing as they do not exist, according to you, I couldn’t be shooting real wolves, now could I?”

                    “Sir, what’s your name and where are you located?”

                3. I’ve been following the “Bring back the Wolf” fuss for a couple of decades now. The thing that amazes and enrages me is that you can, with work, get the pro-wold idiots to see that they are going to have to compensate ranchers for killed livestock. What you CAN’T do is get them to see that compensation must be quick and easy to get, and that if it isn’t, the ranchers will go back to shooting wolves. It isn’t stubbornness, it’s simply self-preservation.

                  1. At least back when wolves, and bears, first began to spread back to Finland (they got hunted close to extinction here once, but always some new ones kept coming across the border, from Russia, so when the attitudes turned more to protection, well, no need to reintroduce, they did it themselves) they didn’t seem to be able to spread to Lapland even when they were becoming more common in the South. Large areas, lots of forest and tundra, not that many police or border patrol people around. And lots of reindeer herders who didn’t like the big predators at all.

                    Could be different now, I haven’t looked at this for years. I think the government compensates the herders for lost animals, so perhaps they are a bit less likely to just shoot and bury now.

                    There are stories of wolves attacking humans, and killing children from the area where I live, from a few hundred years ago, but the claim now is that those were either rabid animals, or wolf-dog mixes which are, at least here, ‘allowed’ to be dangerous even by the most ardent conservationists (makes a handy excuse, maybe, if a wolf is said to behave badly it can always turn out to be a wolf-dog mix). If I remember right one story is of a woman who survived an attack because she jammed her hand down the wolf’s throat when it tried to bite her, and then held on long enough that some men got there and killed it. Although she supposedly died later. Possibly infection, maybe rabies, rabies being the preferred explananation.

                    1. Usage limit reached. Couldn’t access article. Aren’t people who work in AK warned about things like wolves etc.? What’s the rest of the story?

                    2. My biggest problem, personally, with protecting wolves and bears here is the fact that we can’t carry a gun, the exception being hunters with the required permits. If they are common somewhere I’d like to hike, fine, provided I can at least have something I can use to protect myself with me. Having an automatic permit to kill ones which start to hang close to human habitation might not be a bad idea either, including homeowners shooting one on sight if seen near the home (sure it would be misused too). I presume it’s possible to coexist with them IF they stay timid, and wary of humans, but that would probably need more than just a small bunch of hunters going after the dangerous ones well after they have done something.

                      And then good compensation for killed cattle, or pets for that matter, and it might even work.

                      But I doubt this current system will, not on the long run.

              3. Solid evidence that the boars of Berlin have managed to domesticate the local humans. Much like the bears of our national parks

                1. I don’t know, emily61 — I think wild bores are better than the domestic kinds. The domestic bore is just a bore. A wild bore is a conversation piece!

              4. Actually, wolves have made a big comeback in the former East Germany, particularly in places where most people have moved away or died of old age. I think I’ve heard they’ve also got wolves in the mountains in France.

            2. One on one, I’d take a wolf.

              And I am fully aware of how dangerous wolves are.

              In a pack? I’d… probably shoot myself before the pigs got me, but shoot the wolves in hopes of scaring them off….

        2. Yeah, I hear they’re pretty darned bad. There are, of course, the macho types who would rather ‘nobly hunt’ the feral razorbacks with a big knife. We were at the range when I found out about this. I said that I’d climb a tree first before trying to shoot the damn things. Though, on retrospect, I’m unsure if a eucalypt would hold. Or if I could even climb one of the things.

          Still, I wish we could find a farmer willing to let Rhys and his mates hunt on their land. Apparently, people have been such wanking tossmonkeys about hunting on private land that most of the farmers around aren’t willing to let respectful ones hunt.

          It just seems to me once you’re bringing a battle rifle with extra magazines, and a backup magnum, we’re kind of heading beyond the realm of hunting, into the region of open warfare.

          I’m pretty sure that it’s been referred to that way once in a while.

          When the whole ‘ten rounds’ idiocy came up in the US, I was told that it wouldn’t work for the people who are out in the Outback or primary producers, and nobody would be dumb enough to try suggest it. When you’ve got feral camels and pigs and wildcats and feral dogs as well as dingoes? Yeah, I think not.

          Also, $(#)*@$#@!!! cane toads.

          1. Point of information, professional hog hunters will carry firearms and large knives, but their goal is to live capture the feral pigs as once put down the meat cannot be sold for commercial consumption only kept for personal use or given away. The knives are mainly because the pros hunt with dog packs and if a hog must be put down a surgical stab is a much lesser risk than a shot from a gun.

            1. I had the thought that she was talking about the ones who hunt with “boar spears”, which are often referred to as big knives, even though they are properly a spear with a crossbar to keep the boar from continuing down the spear to get to the person holding it.

              1. No, hogs are commonly killed with knives (thus we get the term pigsticker when referring to an overly large knife) when hunted with dogs. They commonly have one or two “catch dogs”, often hound/pitbull or hound/Airedale crosses, that will run in and “catch” the pig, usually by the ears. Good catch dogs will then hold the pigs head and you can either hogtie or stick the pig. The have outfits that make special Kevlar vest and ‘cut collars’ designed to help protect the catch dogs from the pigs tusks these days.

                1. yep. One of the methods for a tastier pig is to have the dogs catch it or live trap, and then pen the beast and feed him pig chow for a week or two then butcher. Basically tastes like regular lean pork (Florida and southern Georgia from what I’ve seen).

                2. What bearcat said. You wouldn’t be able to get a spear around here, much less carry one. I think part of the reason of the appeal for that kind of hunt is you don’t need a firearms license for it. I could be wrong, but it’s a bit of a thing ’round here.

                  1. here it is in part to protect the dogs. Many places now have no season on hogs … it’s an all year deal, but unless it is your land, you need a hunting license, and only our commie areas require a firearms license or disallow a boar spear and most of those don’t have a pig issue … except Hawaii, and they are not typical in that they actually want anyone with a gun to shoot any feral pig they see and get rather put out if you don’t.

                    1. iirc shotguns are not as hard, not positive on rifles, but if you have one, and are on state land and see a feral pig, they are close to fining you for NOT shooting the beast (or were some years back .. I’d not put it beyond them to pass a fine for not shooting).

            1. You’re welcome, though, according to my housemate, one of the requisites of my becoming a ‘properly integrated migrant and Aussie’ is to learn how to swear more. Perhaps more creatively? I suppose that after a few years more of further exposure my swearing lexicon will be further… erm… enhanced. I got the wanking tossmonkeys from him.

        3. Idunno. That problem sounds like the sort I’d start using claymores to solve. No, not the swords. BOOM. Pork for dinner. Presalted with nitrates! You’re welcome. 🙂

        4. Read your History — hunting boar was one of the most fearsome tasks done as far back as the Greeks and Romans. Given how many contemporary folk are spooked beyond belief by an angry chicken, does anyone think they could hold their ground with naught more than a short spear against 500-lbs of feral boar?

          1. One gunship per feral hog? Sounds like the right amount of force. Hubby says that’s overkill and that a thirty ought six or a .308 would be sufficient.

            1. I personally think the best way to hunt wild boars is with a 106MM recoilless with beehive rounds. That way you can take out the whole family when they charge you. Just DON’T MISS!

                    1. I’ll skip all the kvetching (it’s tedious and does no one any good) and just say we’re keeping body and spirit together so far, and I have not yet actually duck taped any of my children to the ceiling. Mostly because the Oyster Wife keeps hiding my tape. *grumble*

            2. Texas Parks and Wildlife says:

              Because the feral hog has such a tough hide the best rifle calibers to use should be a .243 or greater to prevent wounding and loss of the animal.

              Because it’s control work with unlimited bag limits while dealing with extended family groups (sounders) modern sporting rifles are very popular among hog hunters using various larger bores from 6.8 up to .458 Socom. Then too Bill Wilson and friends promote hog hunting with modern sporting rifles for many reasons – perhaps including market incentives.

                  1. I always had a dream cartridge to make. The . 475 Schadenfreude. The only purpose was to watch people hurt themselves while shooting it.

                    That market niche appears to have been filled by the .700 T-Rex.

                    1. Easy enough to come up with a cartridge – but pricey. The firearms get to be pricey too. The .700 T-Rex takes a very large and strong action.

                      The X-frame S&W revolver with full power loads are painful enough to make the point. Skip Talbot who at one time held thousand yard records with the .50 Browning pretty much had to give up his hobbies with accumulated damage to his hands. I’m downsizing some myself because my hands hurt too.

                      Frail Old Woman Shoots S&W 500 Magnum
                      Posted by BearingArms.com Staff on February 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm

                      It’s brutal to hear TheYankeeMarshal call his sister a frail old woman, and then put one of the shorter-barrel variants of the .500 Smith and Wesson Magnum revolvers in her hands.
                      It would have been even more cruel if he’d actually intended to let her fire it, like this poor girl who managed to kill herself because someone she trusted put a gun far beyond her capabilities in her hands as a “joke.”
                      Luckily for her, he’s just trolling.
                      I hope his point is made.
                      Tags: Video

                      It’s a shaggy dog video – with the punchline that you’ve got to be crazy to subject anybody including yourself to the abuse with no better cause. And doubly crazy to think videos that really show such subjects are fun to watch. The staff at a range in metro Seattle where a woman fired a magnum pistol twice once downrange and once in full recoil swear she must have planned and intended to kill the man she was with.

                      I never got a chance to buy a magnum handgun or rifle along with an almost full box of ammunition. I did get a shotgun cheap once along with a bunch of goose loads. A novice apparently thought the extra power would help his score.

                1. seen an AR pattern shotgun used. One could call it .729 gauge if you were to use a rifled barrel and slugs. Uncle Ted (Nugent) uses a full auto AR for helohunting porkers.

            1. You are wise.

              A great uncle was eaten by one.

              Nothing special, he just tripped while being a young idiot and was dead and eaten before anything could happen.

              Don’t play over the pig pens, folks.

              1. Just before I started workign in Cold Midwestern State, a sow ate a farmer. He thought he’d gotten all the piglets out of the enclosure so he could clean it and replace the bedding. He hadn’t. He stepped on a piglet in the bedding. It squalled. Mamma attacked. There wasn’t enough left recognisable to use for identification (other than DNA), but everyone agreed that it had been him, which was good enough for the coroner, the family, and the Sheriff.

                  1. It was lost on me too, not because I didn’t know pigs, the opposite. I just assumed it was another bit of “adventure”
                    Fair disclosure. I damn near gave my grandmother a heart attack as a crawler verging on toddler. She took me to the barn while she milked or whatever. She looked up and I was gone. She found me in the hogpen with the mean sow my grandfather swore he was going to put down at least once a month. I was sitting on her playing with her piglets. She was fine til my grandparents tried to get me out. She protected her piglets, including me.

        5. We were “fixing” pigs one year, because mom was a 4H leader.

          The sow got out.*

          Thankfully, nobody got hurt, but she ate a three inch square branch that my dad was using to keep her out of the tree the adults were in (kids got thrown into the pickup) from six foot down to two before she got bored. Just snapping it off like a Hollywood special effect.

          * by “got out” I mean she went through two layers of pig wire and a lodge pole pine fence in, as best we could tell, one go. And she wasn’t that big of a pig.

      2. They are allowed “SLRs” (Self loading rifles, AKA semi-auto), not fully automatic firearms, and that’s not so much to protect them as it is to protect their herds or crops.

        Most of the things in the outback that can kill you are WAY too small to deal with by shooting. In fact, I can’t think of anything other than crocs that were dangerous and NOT snakes or spiders. I guess you could use a shotgun on the snakes, but generally by the time you notice them they’ve got their fangs in something.

        I’d love to move to either NZ or AU more permanently if they’d just get their heads right about guns.

        1. It’s sort of on a basis of need, it was explained to me. If there are circumstances which warrant a full auto, there apparently exists a license for it. It’s just insane hard to get.

          Me, I’ll be happy to be able to get the handgun and a rifle license. The rifle for small game (rabbit, fox, possibly goat and deer or horse) hunting, and the handgun because it’s a nice skill to pick up. Hubby and I are planning on getting me one of the CZ series at some point, but I’m willing to wait because I have enough expensive hobbies.

          1. The people I knew in Alice would have manufactured almost *any* need to get a license for Full Auto.

            The rifle license was easy to get (I had both pistol and rifle while I was there), lasted 3 or 5 years and all you had to do was claim you wanted it for “hunting”

            The CZ rifles are nice, and my wife’s CZ75 is a nice handgun.

      3. Unfortunately, there are enough people here who buy into the ‘nature is best’ bad ideas tropes that immunization is a BIG topic over here; or at least, it was for about a year or so.

        Folks growing up with everyone immunized + influx of very-much-not-immunized = really big topic.

        1. Apparently, some doctors are buying in to the notion of immunization being bad. One of my former coworkers recently posted a link to a story about how “vaccines aren’t safe, and they never will be”. When I told her that I’ll take vaccines, since I have a cousin who had Polio, she told me that her daughter’s neurologist agrees that it may have been vaccines that caused her problems.

          1. That’s in the ‘rare, known complications’ list – some people DO react or have a highly adverse reaction to vaccines, which are listed on the NIH website. One of the problems I have is that people usually end up believing that medicine is 100% safe, and then when it’s not – because it never is – they end up instead believing that the percentage risk is enough to demand that vaccination should be BANNED EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD because CHILDREN ARE DYING OR MAIMED.

            Funnily enough, the chances of some women maimed or dying by their botched abortions / abortion complications are probably acceptable to the same folks…

            But from the sounds of things she was linking to the debunked studies that quack Wakefield did tying the MMR vaccines to autism. If that moron hadn’t gotten celebrity backing it would have been quickly smashed by every medical research group out there fast.

              1. In what order? Each continent, then country, then town in alphabetical order? Someone might mistake him for a oil-soaked bird and then complain about our cruelty.

                …Actually, never mind, the idiot bleeding hearts will complain anyway. Tar and feather away!

            1. Actually, that particular article claims that the resistance induced by a vaccination is not a true immunization, and is, in itself, a dangerous modification of the body chemistry, not related to the Mercury idiocy.

              The girl is not autistic, but has bad migraines caused by a structural brain defect, which she believes was caused by vaccinations.

              1. Actually, that particular article claims that the resistance induced by a vaccination is not a true immunization, and is, in itself, a dangerous modification of the body chemistry

                *tilts head, stares, tries to make sense of that, and brain rejects the premise* …what.

                For the claim about the girl, I had to go look it up.

                DDaTP is said to carry some permanent brain damage risk, but as said on the site, it’s so rare it’s uncertain if it’s the vaccine. Ditto with the MMR and MMRV vaccines (the rate is something like less than 1 in a million doses administered.)

                So there’s a chance, of less than 1 in a million, that she’s right, but they’re actually unsure of that because it’s that rare and other factors cloud the ability to determine if it is JUST the vaccines causing it.

          2. Vaccines are known to have risks– I don’t think I buy that they cause mental problems, but I’d believe they might trigger reactions that cause them.

            Any rancher should be familiar with weighing the risks of vaccination.

            Human vaccines are held to a higher standard, but for example my husband was given a shot instead of a nose-spray for the flu this year because we’ve got young kids, and the shot is less likely to be infectious. (I think it’s a modified live virus, but can’t remember.)

            Dead virus is pretty dang safe, modified live has to be handled properly.

          3. In the absolute sense, vaccines aren’t safe, and they never will be — but the odds with them are a dang sight better than your odds if you eschew them.

            When you get right down to it, “safe” ain’t on the menu — but “safer” usually is.

  5. Sarah, many of those eco- or marxo- or whatevero-savagists are also the types that believe Native Americans, lived in harmony with the land’ and ‘never fought wars of any real scale’ . (Raids, sure, but not wars)

    Even when confronted with evidence like the mass grave of something like 400-500 that was recently discovered… oh no, that wasn’t a war.

    1. I first visited Mesa Verde before Stephen Le Blank shook up the anthropologists by declaring “your peaceful tribes killed each other!” and hearing about how the Anasazi had located there because of all the wonderful amenities, et cetera. That most of the cliff dwellings could be defended easily got glossed over, as did the “mysterious” tower-like structures at more remote sites like Hovenweep and the Chaco outliers. Then along came Shepherd Krech III and the archaeologists who shot down the “at one with Nature” idea. The last time I was in the area, native warfare was mentioned briefly, as was possible relocation from Chaco due to overuse of local resources, but bog save you if you talked about “rock art” or use the name Anasazi. (Because “rock art” is somehow demeaning, and Anasazi is insulting to the Hopi and Rio Grand Valley Pueblo peoples [even if it is an accurate description of the political situation when the Navajo arrived].)

      1. “Anasazi” of course means “ancient enemy”. But I’m sure they were peaceful enemies.

        1. Oh absolutely. And the Hopi oral traditions about conducting chemical warfare and massacring entire clans in their sleeping chambers are all metaphorical and refer to spiritual warfare. *nods, tries to look serious and sincere*

      2. In the 90’s and early 2000s, I traveled around the eastern half of the country visiting pre-Columbian earthworks. Only ONE site was anywhere near up-to-date on the populating of the Americas.

        I once overheard a couple of Earth Mothers discussing how Fort Ancient wasn’t really a fort, but a religious site… despite it being on brilliant defensive ground for the technology and tactics of its day.

        Moundville, Alabama has this weird mythology built up around it as a “place of peace” — because of a novel written in the 1800s. It was Mississippian, which means human sacrifice, warfare, and slavery — documented in the archaeological AND historical record — but the myth still holds on.

        1. When my folks were kids, there were still folks who had seen the Pit River indians use their pits to figure out who to abandon and who to take along. (put all the old or sickly folks in the bottom of a pit; if you got out, you were taken along)

          Yet now it’s supposedly the worlds dumbest hunting trap, or something. (Never heard of a deer that couldn’t get out of one.)

      3. It gets worse. There are “credible” archeologists who are trying to prove that the aztecs *didn’t actually* kill people in sacrifice, they were just… “misunderstood”. “It was all, you know, metaphorical!” Naturally, the Catholic (at least nominally) Spaniards had NO means to understand to this kind of sacrifice.(*buh*??) Not to mention– it’s EVERYWHERE! Bowls where you can still see the bloodstains, the tools they used, etc. There is so much archeological evidence, including economic data that supports the insane sacrifices, etc. We know that whole Mayan villages were decimated (or more) to the point they were no longer economically viable– thanks to the Aztec’s demands for sacrifice. I don’t know why this guy isn’t laughed out of academia. But let’s not confuse ourselves with the facts.

        There’s a hill behind my grandmother’s house. Yep, it’s an Native American burial ground. It commemorates the “battle of swinging bridge” where two native tribes fought a battle over access to the Pere Marquette River. So many died on both sides that both tribes died out. There were folks who tried to talk them into making peace, but they were killed.

        That story, a part of my own family history, killed whatever potential Rousseauian romanticism I might have suffered about the Natives. Well that, and Laura Ingalls Wilder and her ilk.

        1. I got a fuzzy-headed friend riled up in college once when I suggested that, no matter how bad the Spaniards were, Aztec culture was just plain Evil and needed to be wiped from the face of the earth.

          Cue rant about moral relativism.

          Cue me suggesting that my ancient religion & culture demanded I recognize and avoid evil and how dare she criticize me for this?

          1. We had one of those nuts on Baen’s Bar. He gave me a lecture that no matter how bad the Aztecs were, the Spanish were worse. [Frown]

          2. Love it! 🙂 I don’t think Jews are *entirely* white yet– so it probably still works. (Yes, I know about the book.) That may not work so well for a Catholic. Our honored traditions are in a special group of those not worth protecting. Because, you know, it’s all *relative*. But then, they occasionally blame you (or Jewish folk in general) for Western Civilization. See ref. the current administration. Sad that the favored modern cant is “nothing is true, everything is permissible”.

            1. “Living in Harmony With Nature”


              Some of the notes Nature sings are pretty goddamned raw, when you think about it. I mean, what human behavior would ‘harmonize’ with a volcanic eruption. Maybe the Hiroshima bomb?

              1. Yeah, I always wondered about that. It seems perfectly natural to ME if you put a life vest on a deer, that more people are going to shoot at it, rather than say, “ooh, it looks human, I should befriend it.” Also, anyone who thinks it is more humane to let a deer nobly starve to death/die of disease rather than kill it for food has bigger problems. Animals are NOT people.

              2. I fully expect, should it occur in the next fifty years or so, to live (briefly) in harmony with the Yellowstone caldera’s eruption. Used to, my cat had fleas that lived in harmony with him. For certain values of harmony.

          3. I read The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz, and I must say I have never read a book in which I wished both sides could loose.

        2. The Malazan Book of the Fallen started out with people believing the whole ‘Noble Savage’ idea (The T’lan Imass were supposedly peace-loving, idyllic primitives before they became genocidal armies of the undead). Then you find out not only were THEY not like that, but not a single other savage culture that appears was that way. Stampeding herds over cliffs and wiping out the species, wars to wipe out enemy tribes (the men anyway), and very little harmonious living at all.

  6. The proper term for human beings who live in harmony with nature is “prey”. Technology is not optional for human survival, and the quality of life is directly tied to the level of available technology. Even so-called “primitive” peoples use technology–they plant crops, they build shelters, they make clothes.

    The myth of the noble savage is widespread, but there is no evidence that such people ever existed and a great deal of evidence that they never could have existed. Human beings in their current state simple could not have survived in the wild without–at minimum–weapons, clothing, shelter, fire, language, and a calendar. Trying to explain how such things came into existence gradually rather than all at once is a serious problem for the evolution model.

    Rather than admit that, they sell the myth that the world is basically kind to human beings, and we all used to live like happy bunnies in a Disney cartoon until the evil technology came along and ruined everything.

    1. The idea of the noble savage is one of the oldest forms of racism, and perhaps the first known instance of white cultural self loathing. It is also a strain of the utopian ideal, that siren song that lures away so many down a destructive path.

      Spent about 4 months chopping wood to feed into a stove to keep warm, with about 3 month living in a campground some years before that. Only 2 positive things came out of such experiences. 1 is knowing that I can survive them if I have to – butcher my own food, ect. The other is a great appreciation for all that I have. My ancestors spent the last 8,000 years developing the technology that I enjoy today, and I’ll be damned if I insult them or deny myself by chucking what they fought, bled, and struggled to create.

      1. You must remember that the noble savage was found in Roman writings, comparing them to the noble GERMAN savage. To be sure, they deemed Germans a different race, not classifying them as we do, but it wasn’t an intrinsically nonwhite thing.

      2. “The idea of the noble savage is one of the oldest forms of racism, and perhaps the first known instance of white cultural self loathing.”

        You make a good point, but there are roots going further back, I believe. Didn’t the Greeks romanticize the “Good Old Days” before the Roman Empire …. and some Romans who should have known better bought it?

        It seems to me that a lot of this claptrap has its origins in people who were on top just a little while ago bitching that they’ve been superseded. Like; a lot of the nonsense that has been said about the Industrial Revolution can be traced to members of the Landowning Aristocracy resenting the New Rich Industrialists.

          1. OTOH, most civilizations predating the Romans took it as gospel that their founding dynasties were gods or, at least, demigods, so “in the old days we were better” has a certain piquancy.

        1. “Good old days” is one of the perennials, but can mean only that you think you fall below your ancestors’ standards rather than there are people who manage to meet them. Like, say, all the observations in this post about people who couldn’t manage the agriculture that our ancestors obviously could.

    2. If you have the stomach for it, read Deep Green Resistance, the Mein Kampf of the environmentalist movement. No, I’m not making that comparison lightly. Their “solution” to environmental problems is the elimination of most of humanity and a return to Paleolithic hunting and gathering. Not sure how you’d rid the planet of humans without causing an ecological disaster, nor how you’d enforce the Stone Age without any technology.

      1. You notice they don’t live by their own ideals — it’s always the other guys they want to kill off.

          1. If they ever managed to get us to that point that movement would die a sudden and probably bloody death. Most of the ones who’d survive would have a change of heart fast once they found out what it was really like.

            1. Whenever ZPG or the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement comes up, Hubby says: “You first!” We are civilized, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t ruthless and bloodily efficient if need be.

    3. tools and fire are not serious problems for evolution. Homo habilis was making tools 2 million years ago. Homo erectus was using fire around 1 million years ago. So the reason why modern humans need tools and fire to survive is because we evolved in an environment that had tools and fire.

      And the development of complex behavior like toolmaking and building fires aren’t any more mysterious than birds’ nests or beaver dams.

        1. Try _Ratha’s Creature_ and the subsequent books, aka what if sabertooth cats mastered fire?

        2. Not that mysterious. It’s probably (and with a sample size of one we’ll never know for sure) a side effect of natural selection favoring our ancestors who were better tool-makers. That would require a certain mental flexibility that could eventually make the jump into seeing fire as another tool. There was over one million years between the two innovations.

          One thing people who say “I don’t see how [complex structure] evolved” miss is that things get re-purposed in biology all the time. For example: The area to mass ratio for a wing that is aerodynamically useful to an insect is only slightly larger than the area to mass ratio that provided the maximum heat transfer ability. So if there’s a species with the maximum ability to regulate temperature and some of the offspring develop a dwarfism mutation, their area to mass ratio will go up (area is proportional to size squared, mass to size cubed, so A/m is inversely proportional to size). That means the radiators can now be used to stabilize and direct the insect when it falls. And now there’s selection for the ability to glide, and eventually, fly. Most cases of “irreducible” complexity are like that. The simpler form is useless for the current purpose, but is optimal for some other function.

          1. Actually, though, most of the fun and funky stuff with evolution is more about gene expression and why it expresses itself in only one of several different potential ways.

            No, the place to look for weird evolution isn’t so much pre-existing structures as pre-existing gene expressions that just happen not to be expressing until the proper freaky evolution moment.

            For example, the moment when happy little grasshoppers turn into horrible locust invasions. They don’t evolve into that; they express what was already there but was unseen. And as your mommy warned you, after a while if the conditions don’t change, you can stick that way. (Fortunately, grasshoppers never stay that way more than a few seasons.)

            There’s always a lot of junk sitting around in our genes and going unused for now, and it can combine and do funky things under the right or wrong conditions.

            Buttttt moving back to technological questions, the fact remains that there’s a qualitative difference between what a crow or chimp does with a stick, and what a human does with fire. Similarly, there is a qualitative difference between even the most complicated systems of animal calls, and even the “simplest” human languages. A baby is a linguistic genius in a way that a whale or monkey is not, and nobody understands how that qualitative difference works. Waving a hand and solemnly pronouncing “evolution” isn’t an explanation.

            (And I believe that evolution is the premiere mechanism of Creation, but having any knowledge of science means understanding and acknowledging just how far we are from having the explanatory power that some people seem to think we already have. If people in physics and even in linguistics constantly have to acknowledge what’s mysterious still, I don’t know why biology should be exempt. If someone wants to study hard science, he should man up and look at the blank spots in the book. Handwaves get nothing done. And here endeth the rant, brought on by discussions with persons not present here.)

            1. It’s rather difficult to generate an actual theory when your sample size is 1. Yes, there’s plenty we don’t know about evolution, especially the human lineage. That’s what makes it so cool. The biggest sin of “that’s they way G-d did it” is that it’s giving up. There’s no reason to investigate further, to learn more about the world around us, to find something truly awesome.

    4. Human beings in their current state simple could not have survived in the wild without–at minimum–weapons, clothing, shelter, fire, language, and a calendar. Trying to explain how such things came into existence gradually rather than all at once is a serious problem for the evolution model.

      Not really a problem. Human being in our current state *haven’t* existed all that long. You can see chimps and baboons using simple tools nowadays, but not fire, or clothing, or a calendar. Our ancestors would’ve gone through similar stages, gradually building their stock of cultural tools.

  7. Now it does seem to be true that high infant mortality accounts for a substantial part of low life expectancy. If the average person lives to, say, forty, but as few as one in five die in their first year, you’ve just dropped life expectancy to 32, which isn’t trivial. And going from death in infancy being commonplace to its being a rare tragedy does count as an improvement in quality of life. In other words, there’s an element of truth in that exaggerated claim.

    On the other hand, life expectancy seems to have been going up about six months a year since the Industrial Revolution, and I don’t want to give those added years back. I’m sixty-four; when Bismarck set up Social Security, he set the eligibility age at sixty-five because few people reached that age and those who did had only a few years of retirement benefits ahead before they died. And often being simply worn out by hard physical labor over many years contributed to this.

    1. Yep. When my grandfather was born in 1901, life expectancy was 47 years. He died at the age of 92, after surviving accidents, severing of toes (that his grandmother sewed back on with needle and thread at her house), illness, cancer at 72, and went through everything from horse and buggy to flying to go on vacation. (He mentioned once that the turbulence reminded him of driving an old Model T.) They went from out of luck getting to a hospital if there was a need and you took care of what you could at home and hoped and prayed, to ambulances only 30 minutes away (very rural area still).

      The first phone in the area came in to his house because he was a government worker at a National Monument in the late 20s. If they left the house for any reason, they left the door unlocked so anybody who needed to could use the phone. He still had his first drivers license on his key ring when he died. It was a little metal tag with his initials and a number. He was too young for WWI – got called up just as the armistice was signed, and too old for WWII and in one of the exempt occupations plus a large family. That may have contributed to his survival.

      That side of the family was extremely hardy. My grandfather’s grandfather died when he was grading a dirt road on the way in to town. Did it every visit to help keep the road passable. Hit a large rock, was thrown onto a rod that pierced his abdomen, had to wait until somebody could go get a car and then drive him 3 hours to the nearest hospital (1930s). It still took another 3 days to die. He was 72.

      On the other side of the family, lets just say, my dad has beat the odds by living past 62.

    2. But how many children back then would not be counted in the Life Expectancy calculations? That’s another thing that people don’t consider. A child that didn’t survive the first week may very well not be counted as a live birth.

      1. If, just as an illustration, half of the children who die in their first year die too soon to be counted, then instead of 8×40 + 2×0 = 320, and 320/10 = 32, you are calculating 8×40 + 1×0 = 320, and 320/9 = 35.6. That is, not counting some of those early deaths will decrease the gap between population life expectancy and life expectancy for those who survive the first year.

        I’m actually not sure how palaodemographers address this issue.

        On the other hand, in real terms, as opposed to statistical estimates, every single one of those deaths in early infancy means a decrease in average years lived per live birth. And preventing infant deaths makes a big difference to life expectancy.

        1. In Elizabethan England — a relatively modern society — when counting their death rate (they didn’t) we count only kids who were baptized. it’s the only record they had. To be baptized (formally. There was a at-home baptism that could be administered) you had to live usually about a week, because there were all sorts of days baptisms couldn’t be performed. And don’t ask about burial records. (No, truly, don’t. The people who think Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare because “there’s almost no records” make me want to stomp bunnies. There’s more records for Shakespeare than for ALMOST any other Elizabethan outside nobility. Yeah, it’s a handful. Deal.) HOW they can extrapolate that going back to paleo archeology… or primitive societies… well… I’m a fiction writer. I lie for a living. But THAT is a bridge too far. (And I spent two summers doing archeology. There was a reason Maria Gimbutas could turn bull’s heads into uteri. It’s not an uncommon form of insanity, except most people don’t try it on Micenian culture and other relatively modern civilizations.)

  8. While admiring a circa 1910 cityscape, one woman remarked that she wished she lived back then. I asked her how she felt about penicillin, Novocaine and cataract surgery.

      1. Mom had her first cataract out in 1968, and had taken my sister down to get her learner’s permit to drive, according to my sister, in case the surgery blinded her. The recovery was several days to a week sandbagged in bed to she wouldn’t roll over. She had the second one in 1985 or so, and it was outpatient and was told not to lean over for 24 hours.

        1. I had cataract surgery in 1997 on both my eyes. Outpatient surgery. The entire surgery lasted fifteen minutes on each eye, about eight weeks apart. Wore a patch for the first week, then was told to stay out of direct sunlight for another week. No problems yet…

        2. Had a friend who had cataract surgery in his middle teens, in 1980. Wore a patch for a week or two and was supposed to be very careful for the next month or more.

          1. Funniest thing was one day we were swimming in his pool. He got out of the pool, looked down, and said, “My god! I can see!”

            A drop of water had collected on his eyeball, forming a perfect replacement for the lens they had to remove to get to the cataracts.

        3. A guy I went to school with– one of the “old” Navy guys, had to be about 25– had his eyes fixed by a Navy doctor about ’98. He spent two weeks with bandages over his eyes.

          Now the ads are promising you walk out and can drive home……

          1. We know that cataract surgery dates back to pretty nearly Paleolithic times – as soon as people had really small, really sharp knives, they tried them out on cataracts. The amazing thing is that not everybody lost their sight, and many people recovered.

            But yes, today is much better.

            1. I hadn’t heard of Paleolithic eye surgery. But when I was researching my chapters in GURPS Low-Tech, I read about ancient Roman cataract surgery, and wrote up the specialized needles they used for it. I have to say it astonished me that anyone could face such a thing without anesthesia, or hold still enough for the operation to have any chance of working.

  9. There used to be a fairly common meme of people “wanting to live in X society” which was better. Whether a fantasy world or the old west or whatever. I decided back in the 70s when I was a teen that they were either insane or stupid. The time since WWII has been the greatest time in all history to live. At least here in the U.S.. Central heat and cooling, electric lights, mass printing at affordable rates, Running water. The fact that I can get fresh fruit and vegetables year round. The fact that food is so readily available that obesity is far more of a problem than starvation. All that without even taking into consideration how little the life you would live would resemble the life you dream of. Go to a medieval fantasy world. Unless you stipulate great magical power for yourself life is gonna suck. You don’t even have peasant level skills. The average fighting man could kill you off hand because you don’t have the experience of being raised with a sword in your hands. You also wouldn’t have the social skills needed to pass in any of those societies. didn’t bow to the noble that passed? If you were lucky his men at arms wouldn’t break any bones as they trashed you. Wink at the queen? dead meat right there. Nice boobs? somebody raped you and probably took you as property. Till they found out you were useless at even the simplest home tasks. At which point you went into a bordello to be used up. Thank you. I like it here

    1. I think part of the reason why we’re getting a lot of the idyll ‘old days’ ideas is because people are getting so DUMB about how things work. Just as an example, because housemate has had to take tech support calls on the ‘extremely difficult customer’ level lately, but these two in particular stand out.

      A woman called up to ask for support because her screen wouldn’t light up and her computer wouldn’t turn on. After running through the check of front panel buttons, my housemate asked her to check if everything is plugged in. She said “Wait a sec, let me get a flashlight, it’s dark here.”

      “It might be better if you did this with the light turned on,” Housemate suggested.

      “I can’t. There’s no power. I haven’t paid my power bill.”

      “…you haven’t paid your power bill. I see. That’s your problem right there. That’s why your computer isn’t turning on.”

      “No way! Computers are powered by the Internet!”

      “…What about your fridge?”

      “That’s powered by the Internet too!”

      Another caller wanted a website built for her, and specified that she wanted pictures of dinosaurs. When she was linked some pictures of CG dinosaurs, she said no, she wanted photographs of dinosaurs.

      “They’re millions of years extinct, ma’am.”

      “So? That shouldn’t mean they don’t have photographs of ’em! How else would people know they existed!”

      The rest of the call involved Housemate very patiently having her wiki up ‘dinosaur’ and ‘photography.’ Amazingly, he still got paid for the support, even though the website ended up not being built.

      Then there was the short but …special one where apparently the call was terminated on religious grounds. Housemate was directing the customer to please click on the icon and was told he was being insulting.


      “Icon! Don’t use that word! I’m a Protestant! I don’t believe in icons!”

      “…Fine. Please click on the picture of the computer…” *customer hangs up*

        1. “This program has performed an illegal action” I remember well the horrified expression on my mother’s face . . . OK, she was in her seventies, but it’s a little scary to be considered the computer expert of the family, when you’re a barely competent _user_ of standard “Any idiot can do this” programs.

      1. I think part of the reason why we’re getting a lot of the idyll ‘old days’ ideas is because people are getting so DUMB about how things work.

        In Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon, written in 1942, had a character who wanted to return to “the good old days”, “living in harmony with nature” and all that claptrap. Fortunately for him, they had just found a man from the 1920s (or 30s?), who had been trapped in a stasis field, and they had just figured out how to collapse it. He told the guy in no uncertain terms how stupid that idea was.

        It’s not a new thing.

  10. I was looking at my DNA on Promothease and I saw that I had a SNPs for the longevity gene. I already knew that– My great grandmother and one of her brothers almost reached a 100. My grandmother and grandfather died in their 80s and we thought they were too young. Even so, I still have an auto-immune disease that will make my next few years, no so fun– But without medication I would have died at 41.

    1. As a complete aside, the old-age benefits were not the real reason for the social welfare system set up by Bismark; that was more in the line of the promised carrot to the workers (think Cake is a Lie). The big draw for the important people was that it also nationalized industrial insurance for injured workers who, to that time, were suing their employers for compensation in industrial accidents at the same courts that judged personal injuries. Since the manufacturer were being hurt by repeated claims, they jumped at the chance since it would tend to make the entire manufacturing section of the economy, including one’s competitors, in the position of having to pay off on mishaps, and it would also get rid of the need for, say, an antiquated manufacturer having to upgrade to compete with a modernized manufacturer for reasons of so many workers getting squashed or gassed – a great advantage for the productivity to the state, though a sad event for the poor families.

      1. The wealthier and more privileged your existence, the higher your chances of lasting long enough to collect. The poorer you were (childhood nutrition is very important) and the more likely you were to engage in debilitating physical labor the lower likelihood of your collecting a pension.

        Being a banker or lawyer the easier it would have been for you to save for a pension and the more likely you would last long enough for it to matter. A farmer, cowhand of factory line-worker was less able to afford to put money away and less likely to reach retirement age.

        A lovely scheme, brought to you by the party that loooves the working man.

  11. I read about the EPA trying to ban wood stoves and thought “You idiots, what will we do for back-up heat?” Not primary (for most folks in the Lower 48) but back-up. Which says volumes about how far we’ve come from “paradise” of the latest in efficient, safe, wood stoves and coal.

    A surveyor described the Canadian River in Texas in the 1860s as “a paradise” because it had running water, plentiful game, and wild fruit. Note that this was a bachelor surveyor working in spring and summer. I suspect a farm woman trying to make it through the winter would have a different take on the paradise. The Comanche liked it, though. And deforested and overgrazed it, too.

    1. Back home in Michigan, the insurers have killed in home wood stoves. Those who are still heating with wood have to build an outbuilding and pipe the heat indoors. One is still relying on power to get the heat (either via water or forced air) to the living areas, though I guess one could move out to the stove house in an emergency, The other fun fact of the EPA et al is they keep doing their best to keep all other forms of heating as expensive as they can.

    2. I’ve seen a few homes for sale in Ohio and Kentucky that have wood heat as their primary means of heat. One appeared to have a wood stove in the kitchen.

    3. That is a problem here with some newer houses during winters. There were about two decades when many people didn’t install stoves or anything else like that in their houses because they were considered old-fashioned, and decided to rely completely on electric heating electricity was cheaper than it’s now and it was the modern thing. Now some parts of the infra are getting a bit worn down, and we have had several winters when people in some areas have lost their electricity for days. And electricity is no longer as cheap, and most worry that the cost is just going to rise in the future.

      The newest houses now usually have wood burning stoves, or at least one open fireplace or some other alternatives.

    4. Wood is my primary source of heat, although I do have a propane furnace as backup, it only gets used when I am gone for extended periods of time (set on a thermostat, so it will kick on when the temperature gets low enough, but that generally means I have to be gone at least 24 hours in very cold weather, 48+ in moderate weather). Practically everyone I know with wood heat uses it as their primary heat source, with whatever other heat they have as backup. But due to overregulation and insurance reasons wood heat is ALWAYS considered backup or secondary if there is another heat source in the house.

  12. A few thoughts.

    The “Good Old Days” are often the times when the person was a child and/or didn’t have adult responsibilities

    While I agree that there was no “golden age” in the past, I get annoyed when certain people sneer at other people’s views because those views are “old-fashion” (ie evil and stupid).

    As for “when’s old”, growing up I would have thought a sixty year old man was old but I’ll turn sixty in June and I don’t *feel* old. [Wink]

  13. But, Sarah, There has always been a drive to return to Arcadia. In Greek literature there was a large literary movement talking about how wonderful it was to live a pastoral life away from the stinks and maddening demands of urban life (granted, it was written by urban writers, a number of them in places like Alexandria, longing for a green, mountainous area in far-off Greece where they had a lot of sheep and fewer neighbors) and that was revived in the Renaissance with Pastoralism in European literature. For a while, for example, in Spanish literature of the “Golden Century” (roughly 1500 – 1650 since it was an arts and literary thing, not a mathematical one) it was if you could not be considered a true writer unless you had done a pastoral work. Cervantes did one.
    I am sure that Rousseau and the other revolutionary thinkers who advocated plans to make a modern day (18th century) Utopia drank at the same springs, as no doubt did Walt Whitman and his ilk (for a 19th century version) –and I am sure that leads in a chain right to the eco-loonies today that want to destroy the system to save men’s souls from the corrosive whatevers that they think are bad.
    In a way it is kind of ironic that this new demand for a simpler time is so advanced and radical that it was first called for in Ptolemaic Egypt, before the birth of Cleopatra.

    1. And Shakespeare mocked the drive back to Arcadia with a lot of pastoral plays– The meaning imho was that we have fonder memories of the past than of the reality of the past. Plus when people go pastoral, they get feral and vicious. (That one is true btw)

      1. Mocked? He certainly had a pastoral upbringing be a good way for royal blood to turn out a model of perfect virtue.

          1. Mid-Summer Night’s Dream? With the play within the play, the mask that was not a mask, and courtly love between Titiana and Bottom sending up the idea of the idea of the infatuation of the court and the bucolic? As if Shakespeare was saying, you love pastoral frolics so much, here lets have one for real?

              1. Which mocks the conventions of love in Orlando, but pastoralism? Just about everyone returns to the court at the end, but before then, there are no collisions between the pastoral ideal and the reality. Everyone copes.

                The lack of a technology disjuncture between court and country probably had something to do with that.

                1. Pastoralism too– one of the points was that we are civilized people (by then even the farms there were not wild– ) and when we go pastoral we go feral. Plus there was some jokes at the expense of pastoral…

                2. From my reading (It was a decade ago), pastoral themes were the rage at that time– And yes, like us they thought they were modern technology driven society and they were if you compare them with the time before– but Shakespeare was very good at making fun of the “trends.” Also he had to keep fans (standing on their feet during the entire show) enjoying the show– so yea– jokes, mocks, sex, etc– and low humor–

      1. They think it is the Pierian Springs. I think it is closer to what is coming out of the taps at Sochi.

                1. It involves a lot of being bumped into and apologizing.

                  Just make sure you leave when the moose shows up. Some things cannot be unseen.

                    1. No the Finnish victory dance involves a lot of vodka and synchronized vomiting. You’re confusing it with the Finnish mating dance

                    2. No. The Finnish mating dance (I’m sorry Pohjalainen! I can’t resist) involves a lot of vodka and dragging of women into living rooms.
                      I think the Canadian mating dance involves a boot.

                    3. Hmph!

                      That mating part, Sarah, nowadays it can also be women dragging men. Can be hard for an independent, strong woman to find a man to sire her kids – well, there is artificial, but if one can get a nice looking healthy guy, preferably with a good income, drunk and then ‘forget’ the condom and there is an ‘accident’ he will have to support the kid. So…

                    4. No Sarah, the Canadian mating dance does not involve a boot. That’s just the way they say “About”. (As in “I’m about to kiss you, if that’s okay. is it?”)

    2. No, there’s always been a drive to return to Arcadia among people who live in the city. Just as the country folk can dream of a utopian city of gold and harmony. It springs from the natural human tendency to put perfection where you ain’t.

      1. It also reflects an all too well known adolescent tendency to see vividly our own familiar flaws while overlooking those of the ones to whom we compare ourselves. Our own zits are always noticeable … to us.

    3. I’m sure there were elderly Akkadians who looked back fondly on their hunter-gatherer days. “In my day, we had proper caves, not these mud-brick huts!”

  14. I suspect the real deal is people looking back at times when they, personally, didn’t have so much responsibility. To quote Dimo* “Hy ken feel all dot responsibility drainink avay. Iz verra nize.”

    I’ve found that the older I get, and the more I achieve, the more catastrophic my potential screw-ups get. When I was little, the worst trouble I could get into was catapulting myself out of a tree. Now I get to work on things where if I screw up bad enough people get grievous injuries and jail time.

    Sure I could have cracked my head open or broken my neck, but you don’t think about that when you’re six, and even so, it’s only your own neck at stake. Now I can screw things up that nail entire product lines, and take years to untangle. Even better, once you’re dealing with problems that can get everyone fired and/or killed, everyone brings you even more.


    1. Oh goodness. The hilarious thing is, the ‘back to nature’ people are the same morons who keep trying to bubblewrap and cotton wool everyone else’s children. The contradiction can’t even be pointed out to them. “I’ll be able to keep an eye on my kids all the time!” Ahahahahahahha no. Being the eldest kid, I remember being charged with the watching over and wellbeing of my younger sibs. On reflection, they were not onerous to take care of, but I remember sitting on park benches with my brothers having to hold on to my coat because I was holding on to bags of shopping stuff, so my parents could get a few more things that we needed Nobody bothered us, except for a cop usually asking if we knew where our parents were. But an elder child minding the younger ones was not an unusual sight even in my childhood days…

      Now? I’m not sure you could do that any more!

      1. Back in the 1990’s I wanted to design a website about an organization (to parody PETA) that was about safety. Once you got through all the fuzzy headed pictures about living in a wonderfully safe world, you get to the last page and discover their entire goal was to coat the entire planet in a cushioning layer of pink latex. 🙂 If it hadn’t been a scam designed to make money, that would have been an awesome project. Yeah, I know, I’m too honest for my own good.

      2. I used to spend hours in the small nearby forest when we moved from town to country, starting when I was four. On uncle’s farm I was also pretty free to run around outside by myself, although I was told not to go the lake alone, for that I needed adult supervision (and I was obedient enough that I didn’t. Besides, the lakefront was cow pasture, and they scared me a bit). And back when lived in the town I played outside alone when I was under four. I vaguely remember running in this pack with a few other kids. We had been warned to stay away from the streets, and the railroad, but there was a small patch of ‘park’ behind the apartment house and that was allowed, even if it was also used by teens and sometimes by winos.

        That was the 60’s. I think things remained fairly similar until the 80’s here, but towards the end of that decade the new parents were beginning to be more careful. Now, not as much bubblewrap expected or used as some news stories I have seen from some parts of USA seem to indicate, but there aren’t that many parents anymore who’d let a child under five to play alone in a forest, not even a small patch next to her home.

        1. And part of this is that the government is ready to come down on you like a ton of bricks.
          To put it this way: we could have left Robert and Marsh alone in the house when Robert was five. Why? well, Robert was smart enough to call if he couldn’t deal with something, understood his brother’s proclivities (fire, explosives, water) and was good at end running them.
          I was left alone for an hour or two from about that age. We couldn’t. Leaving them alone in the house while I ran to the store was “child neglect.”
          Overnight… people got charged with child neglect/abuse when they left pre-teens alone in the house. Again, we could have done it, but we had to leave friends with them, even though that was a ton of work for everyone, and the kids hated it, particularly when we had to leave them at friends’ houses.
          Why? Laws. My kids were as capable as I was. more so, in some ways. And they had cell phones. BUT laws.

          1. Here, it depends. As young as five, and it might count as child neglect here too. A few years older, not necessarily. There was an accident a couple of years ago, a boy had been playing alone in a tunnel the kids had dug into a pile of snow, and it collapsed. He died. As far as I remember he was either 8 or 9, but I don’t think there was any talk of anything but an unfortunate accident. Younger kids here play on the local cliffs, and almost every year, especially during winters there is at least one story of somebody who fell or got stuck somewhere and have to be rescued by firefighters, again, I don’t think I have seen any stories of the parents getting into trouble with child protective services because of it. So our kids are still allowed to be somewhat more free range. But, as said, not as quite as free range anymore as they were a few decades ago.

          2. You have no idea how much I hate those laws in question. My parents entrusted me to care for my sibs at the age of 7-8. My 14 year old and 7 year old can be expected to stay out of the kitchen and stay in the house, but noooo. e_e

            Buuuuuut… given the two oh so champion calls we’ve gotten so far tonight I … can see why they’re coming up with those laws now. *headdesk headdesk headdesk*

  15. Here in Western Md my 64 yr old father grew up alot like you did. They didn’t have electricity until he was around 12 and that was just one or two bare bulbs. At the age of 15 he was still getting clean by using a tub that they had to hual water from the creek. The same creek that the outhouses up and down the valley were beside ne uase know one had indoor plumbing. This is an area that is only 2hrs from Pittsburgh Pa where they had all of the modern conviences and my mother :). My fayher doesn’t want to go back to those times.

  16. I’ll give you a simple slightly anecdotal longevity statistic. How many great grand parents do you know?

    I know a bunch. and I’m not talking about someone who is on her deathbed holding up a newborn baby. I’m talking about great grand parents who are still active (driving cars, walking, living on their own) playing with children aged 6 or so. I don’t recall that at all when I was growing up.

    I also know enough centenarians that making it to 100 isn’t *that* special, as Sarah says 114 is the new 100.

    [Part of the reason why those “peasant crones” are so surprisingly strong is that they are in fact only 40 and not 60+ which we think they are based on their wrinkles and bent back.]

    1. I have an uncle who’s a grate grandpa AND a firefighter(vol) and is self employed as a plumber. all that and in his late 70’s. seven brothers and sisters in my dad’s family (uncle an’t the oldest by the by) 3 were lost in infancy/childhood in the “old” day’s off the 30-40 but only one has actually died of old age. don’t get me wrong there’s been cancer and cardiac problems and sickness and accidents…..but there’s also been dang fine medicine to deal with ’em.

      1. I am so sorry but you made me laugh with your misspelling of “great.” I was thinking of a grandpa who lifted out grates or even liked grating cheese. Thanks for the image and the laugh.

    2. My parents are great-grandparents, come to think of it. I don’t remember their parents…

    3. My great-grandmother recently passed. She had the chance to meet my children a couple of times before then. She was a few years short of 100 (I can’t remember exactly), and even my mother agreed that right up to the end, she didn’t seem to have changed much in my lifetime. Oh, she walked a little more slowly each year, and needed a walker sometimes in the last ten years, but she was still very mentally active, involved, and never had any serious problems until right at the end. I don’t remember what it was that did for her, just that she went quietly; more like she was just quietly, contentedly finished than anything else. What a blessed end compared to the norm in human history! How lucky I am to live now, when such things are commonplace!

    4. I knew two of my great-grandparents: my Granny Williams, who lived to be 106, and my Grandpa Dulaney, who died when I was about five or so. Today, I’m a great-grandpa! My great-grandson is about 18 months old. I have about a dozen first cousins that are great-grandparents.

      1. I knew well only one grandparent. I think that has to do with being the youngest child of a youngest child–on my father’s side. My paternal grandfather died right before my eldest sibling (sister) was born. My paternal grandmother died at 62, when I was 6. Everyone except my father’s youngest sister were immigrants.

        I knew my maternal grandmother and her second husband.

        1. Same. My father was the youngest child in his family, my mother in hers, and they married in their mid-30’s. Only my maternal grandmother was alive when I was born, she died when she was a couple of years over 70 and I was a bit over 10. My great grandfather on my father’s side supposedly died in his early 90’s (if the church records were right), dad’s father lived to about 80 but his mother died when he was 9, and my father will turn 91 this summer if he lives that long. There have been several other long lived people on that family, but my mother’s side on the other hand has mostly been people who have died fairly early.

    5. My mother met 5 of her great grandchildren. And it wasn’t a case of having children young, either – The ages between generations were 23, 23, and 33 years to the first g-grandchild, whereas I know a woman who is, I think, 43, who has a grandchild at least 10 years old.

    6. My great grand parents had passed by the time I was born. My husband’s great grandmother passed away a couple days ago. My son’s great grandmother used to babysit him before she died, very unexpectedly, a little over a year ago. We have pictures of 5 generations together on his side of the family. On my side, my parents have already lived past when their parents died, for which I am very grateful. It gives me hope that I may make it to see my own great grandkids.

    7. You realize that someone can be a great-grand parent in their mid 40s if they do it wrong, right?

      1. So, think what it would be like if it became customary to marry young and start having first kids in late teens and early 20’s again. We might have to start figuring out shorter new names for great great somethings. 🙂

      2. well yes. But I don’t know many people who are in families that give birth at age 14 generation after generation. Most people seem to spawn in their mid-late 20s. Meaning that to be a great grand parent you have to be 80+

        1. You need to go to a “worse” part of town then.

          Truth is in those parts of town it’s more like 16 or 17, but even then you’re a grandparent by 50.

          1. I horrified my supervisor at my first command in the Navy when something about age came up… and it turns out my parents are several years older than his grandmother. (First class Aviation Technician, only not a chief because… well… he was a big red headed bruiser by inclination as well as appearance.)

    8. My kids have been held by three of theirs.

      On their dad’s side, but my parents were last kids who were “never going to marry” age before they even MET.

      Blows my mind, I tell you.

      1. I’m the youngest child of a youngest child and both of us were born when parents were in their early thirties. My child was born when I was 28. He missed meeting his great grandmother on dad’s side by about two months, and he met my beloved grandmother, who got hold of him and wouldn’t let him go for days, except for letting him nurse and sleep. She spent hours cooing and whispering to him. Weirdly, except for gender and different time and country, he could be grandma come again. You know all those little ticks and things people have that you don’t know where they came from? His came from grandma. She was perfectly healthy and in full command of her faculties. Yes, she died about a year and a half later — but it was a rapid stomach cancer.

        1. I don’t know about my mother’s parents, but my father’s father had great grandkids that were older than me. And he didn’t marry until he was 40. My father says the old man was a complete bastard, but damn, was he a tough old bird. I never met him. He died before I was a year old, at the age of 93.

        2. Ah, now we see – the “greedy grandmother grasp” as my own mother calls it, is actually a method of transmitting cultural and physical and familiar information direct from the grandmother to the impressionable infant brain, collecting and connecting in into that mysterious and unmeasurable state called “the family”, “the lineage”, “the tribe”…

    9. The only reason I didn’t know my ggrands was because of youngest child married late and married late. She knew more than 100 of her g-grands. I do know a person, because of second families or late marriage jumps straight back to the Civil War where his grandpa fought in it.

      1. She knew more than 100 of her g-grands.

        How does one have “more than 100…g-grands”? I’d thought eight was the traditional limit…

            1. That’s gross.

              Be careful what for you ask. You have boys; they could easily produce a couple hundred grandkidlets for you if they were not particular.

            2. As a professional teller of tales you get away cheap on birthdays and Christmas. “For your birthday this year, my darling young’n, I shall kill you in a most spectacular way!”

        1. Ten is the traditional number of children a woman had, if she lived through her childbearing years. That would give you a hundred grandchildren and a thousand great-grandchildren.

          Consider Yitta Schwartz. At the time of her death, she had 2000 living descendents.

          1. Grand*children* makes sense. I’d interpreted the original comment as referring to grand*parents*. Hence my confusion:-)

  17. I saw a book a while back which claimed agriculture “hijacked civilization”. I wonder if the author realizes that you can’t have civilization without a large, stable food supply?

    1. I wonder if it was _Against the Grain_. That one is so . . . interesting that most of the enviro history and ag history people sort of did the polite applause, “very nice. Thank you. Good luck with your future endeavors” and sailed the book into the donation bin.

    2. At least right now the archaeological evidence is that large settlements pre-dated agriculture. Now, that may just be because we can’t find the evidence of their agriculture (how do you distinguish hunting wild cattle from raising their barely domesticated cousins? ), but it’s a rather interesting and odd idea.

      1. I was taught that there was a tendency for even somewhat domesticated animals to be more gracile, in that they have lighter bones, and if there is a specific pattern to the ages or sexes of the animals slaughtered that indicates herding instead of hunting. The first is from the inborn “I’m gonna kill that bastich bull/cow” reflex selecting for less confrontational critters, and the other is from killing by preference young bulls and old cows to keep the calves coming. This should show up as your hunting strategies move from hunting to herding. And, yes, this could be evidence also of hunting older and inexperienced animals and hunting less sturdy animals, but the first level of Jericho shows a culture that is still not at agricultural levels, and how do you hunt for a city without hunting out the area around the city? That indicates herding.

        1. There’s a fair amount of evidence that people herded some odd food animals before they settled down to the usual suspects. Deer, for instance. Onagers and horses and wild donkeys have been herded for food, too.

          They actually have a really good history course on Audible right now in the Great Courses (of which some are really lame and some good). A guy named Harl who does Byzantine history ended up putting together a course on all the steppes peoples throughout history up to modern times, and it’s fascinating. It turns out that the archaeology indicates it was a big innovation for people to decide to herd horses instead of just hunting and eating them, and the horses seem to have mostly died out everywhere except the steppes and wildernesses before the herding idea came along. And even then it took a while for people to start riding horses to use in herding other things, instead of just keeping horses for winter food on the hoof.

          1. Anyway, the point was that being a horse nomad wasn’t really an unsophisticated hunting and gathering life; it was really a technological development out of herding; and that it may have even shown up after crop agriculture had already started (albeit not long after).

      2. In Japan, large settlement did predate agriculture. The thing was, they were a sedentary hunting-and-gathering society — and since they didn’t have to lug about everything, they invented pottery. Population explosion ensued.

    3. Could you get me the guy’s grid coordinates? Somebody’s in desperate need of an orbital cluestrike.

      1. If we’d orbited anything that could do that it would be completely out of ammo by now.

  18. I grew up as a kid on a farm in rural East Texas in the 60’s. I was always glad to see my birthday (Sep 28) come, as it meant that most of the really labor intensive chores; planting, harvesting, chopping wood, gathering hay, etc., were over for a while until next spring.
    Being the oldest of nine, with a ten year gap until my younger brother came along, meant my six younger sisters learned to do physical things at an early age. I joined the Marine Corps on my seventeenth birthday, and when I came home on boot camp leave, my oldest sister said to me, “I didn’t realize how hard you worked before I had to take on your chores.”

    I will quite happily live in the now, with all its gadgets, as I’ve seen how hard it is to make a living off the land.

  19. My family used wood heat during the winter. It took us 14 cords of wood to get through a winter. I hated getting the wood–up before light, out in the woods doing heavy, dirty work falling trees, cutting them, splitting the logs and stacking them in the truck (which held 1 1/2 cords). It was a good way to use up a Saturday.
    I would have been dead, twice, before adulthood if I lived in the good ol’ days–pneumonia when I was 2, appendicitis when I was 15. Modern medicine for the win.

      1. I’m a big proponent of sustainable heating. Helium cooled pebbled bed reactors are very sustainable and make a lot of heat, and if you do it all you an turn most of it into electricity that will move over wires to houses where it gets turned back in to heat. And I bet you could do things with the “waste heat” like desalination etc.

        Also there’s some promising cheap fusion projects going on. Those would be sustainable AND produce more helium.

          1. Would some of you be so kind as to get some reactors going on the Front Range so that I can go home?

            1. I’d love to. First we have to kick out the Denver ninnies though. I plan to invade in the next year or so. One of me should change that city for the best. One of me accounts for a million or so of them, right?

                  1. You could follow FrankJ’s plan for when he wins the White House: Win the election and then go back to writing.

                    Maybe spend 15 minutes or so after the inauguration to write an executive order forbidding state employees from enforcing any regulation (not law), then go back to writing.

        1. I’ve heard good and bad things about pebbled bed reactors. I haven’t researched them well enough to know what to believe.

          Personally, I like one of the methods proposed for spaceship nuclear reactors: Keep the nuclear material as a gaseous compound which requires a relatively high pressure to be concentrated enough to sustain a reaction, then use something essentially like a refrigeration unit to pump it into a pressure vessel where it reacts and heats up, with coolant on the outside of the reactor walls, and cycle the gas through to have the reaction products removed, and the remaining fissile material recycled back to be used again. Completely safe, assuming you build enough layers of containment to keep the gaseous material from escaping, no matter the calamity.

  20. I know of no funnier takedown of the “farm live was better meme” than this book, which I am happy to shamelessly plug (I am friends with the author):

    You’d think the pun in the title would be a giveaway, but no. The lone 1-star reviewer complains that he was expecting an actual book on beginning farming.

    Darwin help the person who tries to take up farming based on reading a “Farming for Dummies” book. Which, ironically, is an actual Amazon title.

    1. I think you can probably sum up this book (and for that matter a bunch of the original post) by the following quote:

      “As Adam’s family populated the earth they strove towards the ideal of growing food, namely, if you can get someone else to grow all the food while you take it easy, that’s ideal”

    2. Hey, ‘Farming for Dummies’ might be useful for a writer. Plus maybe not that bad an idea to have on shelves, just in case. I would not start farming voluntarily, but you’ll never know, and in that case anything which would be helpful… hey, maybe it might at least help you to bullshit convincingly enough that some actual farmer might consider taking you on as a worker rather than some other city dummies who obviously know nothing at all. 🙂

      1. Ayup. Y’all farm dummies. Idjits are more temperamental and should be grown in gardens. Lib’rals are an invasive species and need to be pulled up by the taproot afore they ruin your crops.

    3. I have no idea about that one, but some of the “For Dummies” books are pretty good. The “User Interface Design for Dummies” is good, but sadly most UI designers seem to consider book larnin’ a bad thing.

  21. I suppose a big part of the Left’s problem with agriculture is their embrace of eco-doom scenarios. Feeding large numbers of people isn’t a problem . . . unless you regard large numbers of people as a problem.

  22. I think that the desire to go back to nature or paradise is not so much technology related as social. When I was young, life was simple, bones break, chores are necessary, fights happen but its all on the surface. As a grown up the social pressure becomes something that takes away all the joy and pleasure that life, still simple, provides. My uncles, union men, were Democrats, my father was non-union, Republican. But, I didn’t know it when I was nine because, politics were not the hammer we have now. You could watch tv (when it first became popular) and didn’t need to filter. Now, we are supposed to feel guilty about anything and everything. I have loved motorcycles since I was fifteen but what I like most about them is that- alone, on the road, I’m free. It’s not the technology that makes us long for the past but the fact that our society has taken the simple joy out of our world.

    1. Red tape. When it seems that you need to fill several forms in triplicate before you can do anything – and while there are no nobles who’d hang you or put you into dungeon if you forgot to bow now some bureaucrat can still get you into trouble years later if you misplaced a comma in those forms – the idea of making a living by milking cows or hunting deer can start to seem rather liberating, especially if you have never actually done it. Modern life may be easier, physically, but it does have its own problems.

  23. I remember my mid 40s thinking “that colonoscopy procedure is so intrusive, I’m glad I don’t have to get one until I’m 50.” Then I got sick, had anemia, stomach cramps, they scoped me at 46 and it wasn’t that bad. The cancer was bad. The surgery was tolerable and the chemotherapy was like having the flu for six months. And when the cancer came back, the chemotherapy was a little worse. But that was over 10 years ago and I’m alive. My mom died at age 52 of cancer in ’79 and she spent the months in chemotherapy in hell. Then died. So, we’re damned lucky to be in this age where I can reasonably expect another 10 or 20 years of life.

    Death by misadventure? My grandparents came home after church and were hungry. Grandma started to heat some food. She stirred the coals in the stove, then poured in some kerosene. Except somehow the kerosene can had something more volatile (gasoline?) in it that caused it to explode. Grandpa and my uncle Dave survived the fire. Nowadays, we set the microwave to 60 seconds.

    You are spot-on, Sarah.

  24. I wonder if those who promote the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as easy have ever really looked into it?
    -Anyplace warm enough to provide wild food, year round is usually infested with disease carrying insects.
    -As are the cold places
    -You will have to go a long time without food.
    -You may even have to triage who is going to eat the little food there based on how useful they are
    -Being old is not an automatic basis for being useful
    -There are only so many places where food lives and grows, and others are going to want to camp there too.
    -And no, you can’t share, because you would soon exhaust the entire food supply.

    1. Not to long ago I ran into an old BBC history series, called The Ascent of Man. One of the early episodes they visited a surviving culture of nomadic herders. Ever spring the herders had to cross a swollen river to take their flocks to their summer grazing lands.

      For the young men, herding the sheep across for their first time was a right of passage into adulthood.

      For the elderly, those who couldn’t make it across under their own power stayed behind on the far bank.

  25. Technology just might include knowledge – e.g. Tom Brown starting with nothing in the Pine Barrens and doing just fine. He knew it was a self-set problem e.g. The Village – he might well be able to walk out at need – or maybe not.

    I suppose a long long lifetime of knowledge – and Buck – made Happy Valley work for Lazarus.

    I had one grandmother who went west in a covered wagon – afaik she was content though she too had a privy in the backyard till the day she died and running water in the kitchen was hand pumped. 11 children who died variously – in WWI and during the Spanish Flu and of cancer at 91 – her husband died of typhus.

    One grandfather died of heart attack younger than he might have after dragging a calf in from the boonies on a sled all by himself in the middle of winter because all the young men were fighting WWII.

    I’d say For Children of All Ages is a useful discourse on the choices people made.

    The apparently long summer vacations and access to travel do sound nice. Even today some folks some places distinguish between summer people and year round residents. What sort of places did the summer people go back to?

  26. I largely agree with you, but as to hunter-gatherers, while they didn’t live an easy life, and weren’t likely to live to be three score and ten, they really did have some advantages over farmers; there is evidence from skeletons and otherwise. Hunters could be free; farmers usually ended up paying tax and/or rent to kings, nobles, or bureaucracies. Hunter-gatherers typically had a more varied and protein-rich diet; farmers often got most of their calories from one or a few crops, and this meant they were liable to come down with various deficiency diseases.

    1. I think your argument of hunting v farming is more an argument of kings and nobles v freedom, and stated like that I have to agree with you fully.
      I know the meme is that hunters and gatherers went straight from utilizing hundreds of critters and plants to raising two or three, but I haven’t seen any studies that supports that. Today when a farmer focuses on a cash crop it is because he can get more by selling the crop that he would get from raising just food. Other situations would be that the farmer needs the cash or crop to pay off someone to leave him alone, or the owner of the land has a buyer and will not give credit against the lease unless the farmer grows what the owner can sell. So, yes, free farmers can profit better from their labor than can oppressed ones.

    2. One major problem with hunter/gatherers is that they need a lot more land to live off than a village of farmers (or pastoralists for that matter) and they tend to have far fewer reserves – so a bad spring can wipe them out whereas the farmers will need (say) two bad years of drought.

      This means that when the farmers want to expand into the land used by the hunter/gatherers the H/Gs cannot mount an effective defense because they are outnumbered and fail on logistics. Yes they may be fitter, stronger and better at killing but they have to kill orders of magnitude more and in a war they don’t have the time to replenish their supplies. So typically they will kill a few and then retreat or get massacred if their current camp gets identified by a canny farmer leader.

      Much the same argument applies again with the city vs farmer. More bodies and less dependence on a base or particular supplies. I have a fantasy concept I’m writing occasionally that tries to get a realistic situation where a bunch of HGs can take on the equivalent of a Roman Empire which is based (loosely) on the Ligurians.

      [ In real life the Ligurians outlasted the Roman Republic which kind of bypassed them while conquering France & Spain, but eventually the desire to run aroad through their land meant that the Romans Emperors got around to conquering them. Logisitcs played a major part in that conquest because the Romans could get food for their legions from all over while the Ligurians were stuck on their own.]

      Its hard to come up with a way to keep the HGs winning, in fact the only way I can come up with is for them to inspire a rebellion inside the empire that splits it into smaller states and then take advantage of the chaos.

      1. Actually, they have the easiest reserves of all — their feet.

        Someone studying the !Kung during a drought discovered they worked about forty hours in a week — which includes all the chores and errands we do as well as the jobs.

        It’s the population pressure that gets you.

        1. One advantage of Hunter-Gatherers (not quite an accurate description, as most engaged in some form of short-term agriculture) is the fact they have less capital invested, holding them in one place. Their ability to move with environmental shifts can prove critical in an era of rapid catastrophic environmental changes. Flexibility offers a particular strength against certain types of onslaught.

          For a H-G culture competing with a settler society I would look at the Southwestern Apache. Their fluid military tactics were highly effective in an environment where three to five warriors could water at a seep but a cavalry troop would overwhelm the resource base. Guerrilla warfare is effective over a certain range, especially if the Creator writer has given them a sufficient arena of operation.

    3. You are assuming hunters could be free. This is romanticization. Hunters had to hunt in a group and besides, a single man was prey for every group. In fact, being exiled from a group was death. How do we know that? All the early sagas that have roots in that time.

      1. I guess it might be pretty similar to (small) kingdoms. You are lucky enough to have a good and smart king, or with a hunter-gatherer group a good and smart leader and you get along with and like most of the other members and yes, good, maybe even great time and place to live (as long as there is enough food and other resources and no big natural catastrophes or enemy action and nobody gets badly injured and there is no major disease).

        But if the next king, or band leader, is incompetent, or an asshole, or combination of both, and living there is living in a hell.

        1. Also, in small bands, most people are generally related to the leader. Yes, there’d be people who’ve married into the band from other bands, but even they have personal ties, and are somebody’s wife/husband/mom/dad/etc. So there are strong interpersonal reasons to get along with subordinates instead of just lording it over them.

          As social units get larger, interactions become more impersonal, so it becomes easier (both psychologically and socially) to treat people indifferently or instrumentally, rather than as someone who matters. Of course that’s a gross simplification, and there are a lot of other factors playing into it as society becomes larger and more complex, and even in small groups there are certain kinds of unpleasant dysfunction that can stay just under the level that would lead to the destruction of the group, but make life a living hell for the people in the subordinate roles.

      2. Well, it depends. No one living in human society is entirely free from social constraints, I will grant. In band-level societies, the band is not really a nation-state in miniature. Individuals or couples can drift from band to band, according to which band’s territory has better resources this year, or because of a quarrel with someone in a first band. Hunter-gatherers can’t be kept in chains, and they don’t usually have substantial immovable property which it would be a grave hardship to abandon.

        I’ve read Homer, and the Saga of Burnt Njal, and they don’t describe H-G societies; also, in those tales, it isn’t necessarily death to be expelled from a group, although it may dangerous. But that’s an aside.

        In larger scale H-G societies, like the Plains Indians, or the Mongols, although they were mostly herders, there are powerful chiefs and more social structure, so one usually can’t just leg it away from one band and join another. Even there, hunters often saw themselves as free, and looked with contempt or pity on farmers who were bound to the soil and a life of tedious labor. The farmers sometimes agreed; slaves, serfs, or peasants were known to run away to join the nomads.

        1. Individuals and couples can drift, but they rarely do. You know most bands were family, right? Some of the worst tyrannies I’ve seen were within families. This idyllic idea of drifting across is interesting, but in practicality, neither modern primitives nor ape bands do this. Could they? Doubt it. Have you ever lived in a tribal or insular society? “Foreign” is a word for “not related for two generations and lives over the ridge.” My uncle came from a village five miles distant to court my aunt. My dad had to intervene to keep him from being beaten unconscious.
          And don’t say “nomads/hunters-gatherers wouldn’t be like that” because all the HG societies are EVEN MORE tribal/insular.

          And as for nomads pitying the settled people and vice versa — good heavens man. People run away to join the Roma or the circus. Just as surely some nomadic people settle.

          You’re also assuming the conditions of feudal life backward in time. A slave? Tied to the land? Doubtless some places. Others? An association of families farming the same rough area.

          Don’t idealize either society. They were all humans. Tyranny and freedom are always constants of human societies, regardless of the economic basis of them. the whole free like the wind nomad with his horse that ran faster than moonlight is one of the most stupid noble savage myths, and that’s saying something.

        2. As for them “looking down” — how the hell else are you going to keep the young men and particularly the young women in the band, when the villagers are better fed and better dressed?

          1. Have you read James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed? That’s mostly about the highlands of Southeast Asia, where the people may be hunter-gatherers in some cases, but he primarily writes about swidden-farming “primitives” in the hills vs. padi-rice cultivators in the river valleys. To condense the book, ethnic identity could be flexible, and when river valley states offered people a fair degree of peace and order for relatively low taxes and other burdens, they were likely to take up rice farming. When governments demanded too much, and delivered few benefits, people often took to the hills to get away from them. The hill people were apt to be better nourished, eating a variety of foods instead of getting most of their calories from rice.

            And I have read a bit of anthropology. People have relatives in their current band, but they also have cousins and in-laws in neighboring bands. Band-level hunter-gatherers are not usually committed to one band for life.

            Have you read about the Comanches and other Plains Indians? Settled people may have led more comfortable lives in some ways, but the Comanches — men, women, and occasional juveniles captured by whites — didn’t want to imitate them; they did their best to keep up their hunting and raiding lifestyle until the buffalo were pretty much all killed off, and the U.S. Cavalry had finally crushed the warriors of the plains.

            1. Sigh. Of course they didn’t want to imitate them. Are you more comfortable than the average Arab? Yet the Arabs don’t want to imitate us. Human culture is a complex, complex thing, and motivated by more than material goods. And part of the reason the ones who stay with the culture hold on SO tight is that we do lure the occasional youth away — and settlers lured more than the occasional Amerindian.
              Yes, there are areas where being a HG is more successful for a time, in a certain place — but you have to assume your ancestors are not total idiots, okay? If HG were that much more wonderful, then EVERYONE would be a HG. For one, if they had more kids/were healthier/lived longer, they’d overwhelm the settled populations.
              This seems to be a creation myth of Libertarians, akin to what communists and feminists have. “Government is so evil it spontaneously appeared and succeeded because evil!” — pardon me, I’m rolling my eyes.
              And yes, I read anthropology and archeology. I’m perhaps better equipped to do it having studied philosophy and psychology. The more you read anthro and archeology the more you see the same thing as in the rest which boils down to “all meringue, no cake” and “whatever is fashionable in my tribe.” Human life expression is so varied and what we have of the past so fragmentary that you can read anything you want into it by cherry picking.
              Me, I assume two things: not everyone in the past was mentally retarded. AND the form that is prevalent must have something going for it beyond “eeeeevil.”

              1. Sigh. Of course they didn’t want to imitate them. Are you more comfortable than the average Arab? Yet the Arabs don’t want to imitate us.

                For that matter, and without having to leave the shores of this country, see: Amish (Or the pocket enclaves of other cultures being allowed to flourish today). None of them want to imitate us.

                With some, it’s a conceit that their way is better, or more pure, or that their way makes them stronger, or whatever. Heck, individually, some of them might truly make them stronger, but at the cost of higher attrition for those who don’t cut it.

  27. There was an extensive article last year or thereabouts talking about the health issues of, say, Civil War veterans, and how much everyday pain they were in. If you got to the age of forty or fifty, maybe you’d survived a dozen childhood diseases of the sort we have vaccines for today, had nutritional deficiencies such as rickets or pellagra, had injuries that we couldn’t treat for, or even just had a diet that was unsuited to your health and gave you gout or kidney stones. An unmarried woman of forty was a gray-haired spinster*; a man in his fifties probably had the health profile we associate with an octogenarian today. Heck, I’m in my mid-30s, and when I was a kid people in their 70s were OLD, as in unhealthy old and likely to be in nursing homes soon, whereas now my MiL is in her late 70s, looks to be in her 50s, and is complaining that she’s slowing down amidst her junkets around the country and gardening.

    The point doesn’t even have to be that we’re living longer. The point is that we’re healthy much longer, and consider it almost an insult if we feel things like arthritis before the age of 60, or any other age-related things. (I started graying in my mid-20s, which *is* an insult, but at least it’s common in my family line.)

    *I had to explain to several young participants in a production of The Pirates of Penzance that Ruth, the aged and impossibly old nurse who tries to trick her young charge into marriage, is all of forty-seven… which was supposed to imply complete decrepitude to a Victorian, in spite of the counter-example of their queen.

    1. and a goodly many of those diseases are making a comeback because folks listen to a moron like Jen McCarthy instead of doctors who know better.

      1. Unfortunately that is probably a self-repairing problem. Just wait until we have the first epidemic of something which kills a lot of people in some area, especially if it kills lots of kids, and would have been easily preventable with vaccination which not many enough had given their children because they had listened to the anti-vaccination groups.

      2. I defense of moron flibbergibbets: it wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have a huge influx of utterly unvaccinated people coming in.

        Herd immunity is a nice thing…but the flip side is that some of those who take the risks of vaccinating– and they do exist, though not in the form of some modern idiots’ fantasy– aren’t totally protected.

        1. the other thing they ignore is much of the “New diagnoses” are due to giving something a new name or making a minor difference something entirely different as well as adding to autism conditions that used to be ignored or just dealt with as a personality issue. I went to school with kids who today are fine and functional (well most of them) members of society who today would be medicated to their ears for one of these many “disorders” supposedly onset by vaccination.

          1. I *do* have an autistic child who would have been diagnosed with a personality issue thirty years ago—which we know, because my husband is basically the same. However, this is a good thing since the “prescription” is behavioral training, something my husband wishes he had been given rather than having to figure it all out himself.

            We vaccinate, because we have living relatives who have been through the days of no vaccines and all of the horror stories thereby. Oh, and my husband—though vaccinated—did suffer through pertussis as a toddler, because that’s a vaccine with a lower success rate. Basically, people who don’t vaccinate don’t just put themselves at risk, they put people who *have* been vaccinated at risk, and they put people who *can’t* be vaccinated at risk. I mean, how many infants and elderly and chemo patients and people with immune deficiencies have to die for OTHER people’s stupidity?

            1. ” I mean, how many infants and elderly and chemo patients and people with immune deficiencies have to die for OTHER people’s stupidity?”
              to some of these folks, that’s a feature, not a bug.

        2. I truly, dearly wish that the Western people who so oppose the polio vaccine could be taken back in time to see the wards of children and adults in iron lungs. I watched an interview on TV 20 or so years ago with a woman who was (at the time) still in an iron lung. Her greatest fear was power outages, because someone would have to come running and start pumping a bellows so she could breathe. My parents recall seeing a few people still in the units in New Orleans and Waco back in the 1960s.

          Measles and diphtheria were no fun, either. Something about watching children choke to death as their own bodies strangled them (diphtheria) upset parents at the time.

    2. A 30 year old with only three kids might knock something over and break her foot in a way that can’t be fixed without good binding material, and in that case would only extend her life by a year or two….. Not to personalize it too much. (The break didn’t hurt, but a few days later? Wow.)

  28. one of the few things they did that I could find no fault with was arrange to have showers installed in the nearby school, and to have them open to the public every Sunday with hours for men and hours for women.

    Haven’t we had enough of that sort of hetero-normative, binary sort of thinking? When did the Gays and Lesbians get to shower. much less the transgendered and male-identifying-as-female and female-identifying-as-male? I suppose it would be far too much to ask them to make arrangements for villagers who were male-identifying-as-female-lesbians-identifying-as-gay-males.

    1. I suppose it would be far too much to ask them to make arrangements for villagers who were male-identifying-as-female-lesbians-identifying-as-gay-males.

      One thing I loved about Larry Correia’s recent rants is his abbreviation LBGTWTFBBQ… BBQ is probably what they be used for in an Aztec world

      1. As far as I can tell, the Aztecs pretty much would sacrifice anybody: enemies, friends, bad people, good people. Everybody got taxed by the gods.

        Well, there were some American tribes (like the Lakota) where there were gay or transvestite guys. As long as you were okay with living like a woman, wearing women’s clothes, doing women’s work, and being available to the guy you lived with as one of his women, you had a place. If you wanted to do something else, I guess you had to be good at convincing other guys to dress like women (and you still would have multiple women as wives) or resign yourself to living alone and being extremely poor (because the wives did huge amounts of work).

        There doesn’t seem to have been any similar plan to deal with women, so I guess you either got married against your will or stayed in your parents’ place all your life. Either way, you were probably going to spend most of your day working like a dog.

        1. To the best of my knowledge one tribe, one, the Lakota, had this custom for males who wanted to be females. Why is this used as “proof” that only Evil White Men have, or ever have had, a society where sexual orientation was expected to conform?

            1. Actually, there were several tribes that had systems for men living as women, some that had systems for surplus women to live as men, and some that had both. There were also many tribes who would either ignore the situation, or do bad things to you about it.
              There are too many Native American belief systems to really generalize, and of course people are always trying to generalize in a way they prefer.

              As in many societies, being different in some conspicuous way would either be regarded as being touched by the gods and spirits (and hence to be facilitated or let be or ignored), as evidence of witchcraft or insanity (to be cured, killed, or driven out), as evidence of illness needing help and medication, or as a sign of something lucky or unlucky.

              The Zuni and the Apache also had men living as women, some of which made a good thing out of helping anthropologists. The Zuni We’wha was friends with a very unobservant or charitable anthro lady who didn’t figure out for years that her friend We’wha was a man and not just a tall ugly woman, although to be fair, neither did Washington DC or President Cleveland when We’wha visited DC on a goodwill tour. (And yes, I’m sorry I’d never known that factoid until today. That’s hysterical.)

              1. … (And yes, I’m sorry I’d never known that factoid until today. That’s hysterical.)

                Yes indeed.

  29. I’ve inherited a lot of family tree data; I enjoy digging into it… usually a complete waste of time. One very interesting thing I noticed, though, was change in the age at death. My ancestors went from frequently dying before 60 to frequently living past 80. What changed was their location: they moved to North America. Since the move was in the 1600’s, the only thing I can attribute it to was the diet.
    Imagine if you could add 20 years to your expected life span just by moving.

    1. That still happens. Consumption/tuberculosis patients were regularly told to move to dryer climates because it helped. Allergies and asthma can often be relieved by moving to different places. I was on at least three different medications for asthma back in the North East. Moved to the Rockies and I’m on one or two on occasion.

  30. The invention of indoor plumbing and septic tank sewage / sewer systems was the single greatest extension of life expectancy. US life expectancy at birth increased by 30.5 years, from 47.3 years to 77.8 years, between 1900 and 2005. There were of course many different reasons for that as many different causes of death were reduced in effect but reducing water borne disease was probably the greatest single of those many reasons.

    1. I’ve heard it said that plumbers in the 20th century have saved more lives than all the doctors since Hippocrates.

  31. This is the same thing that has led people to SERIOUSLY claim that hunter-gatherers were healthier.

    Oh, gads.

    Yeah, that drives me up a wall.

    I’m somewhat familiar with both– although the intense familiar comes from looking at cows that THINK they can winter on the range.

    My folks are ranchers. Two hours ago, dad went out to walk through the first-time mother cows. In an hour, he’ll go again. In three hours, he’ll go again, because this is an easy night. Mom’s job is to make sure he’s up. They’re both about sixty something, and can easily outwork myself and my husband combined.

    Also, winter is the easy season. Just calving, right now, and we have tractors to haul the hay to be forked off. And the hay was gathered via machine, too, so you only had to do a lot of work, instead of a huge-group-of-men work.

    I think folks could live to our number of years, but frequency? Oh, gads. And yes, childhood death pulls the stats down– but that’s also a modern thing, especially with the question of “does this breathing child count as a birth or not.”

    1. You can argue that H-Gs are healthier than early agriculturists IF, and (as you can see it’s a big if) you narrowly control what you mean by healthier. H-Gs do tend to have better teeth, stronger bones, less evidence of spinal degeneration (from repetitive stooped labor), and a different suite of parasites. The rates of epidemic diseases are also lower for H-Gs (because of reduced exposure since they do not live in towns). But once you start defining healthy more broadly . . .

      1. As in, to include “the weak aren’t killed”?

        I consider “the survivors are more likely to show these signs of health in their corpses to be kind of silly. It means that healthy people were dying….

        1. Everybody dies, whether healthy or unhealthy. What that does seem to point out though is that hunter-gatherers were far more likely to die a quick and sudden death, without the lingering ill health so commonly seen in farmers corpses.

          It is one reason there are less hunter-gatherers than farmers, they go through a more rigorous culling process, so yes those left alive do tend to be healthier and stronger on average. But there are a lot less of those, and while if they have someone to take care of them in their old age they likely can outlive farmers (less degenerative diseases, accumulated physical damage, etc.) but they are a)far more likely to die in their prime b)very unlikely to live healthily to such an age that they have physically went downhill AND have decendents that have both the resources and the will to take care of them.

          1. I guess I didn’t say it right…. “If all your bodies are young, healthy folks– your lifestyle sucks!”

            You elaborated it much better with the “old and sick get taken care of” point.

            The fanfic author Vathara had a horrifying but enlightening digression on what “mental health care” meant in a tribal society, be it hunter/gather or bare subsistance farming.
            It involves killing them before they hurt too many people, and the diagnosis isn’t very precise.

  32. I occurrs to me that modern society could be separated into farmers and H-Gs with a little creativity. Modern H-Gs are cultures like the gypsy (romany.) The move from place to place, gathering up resources, and move on. The working and middle class are more like farmers, tied to a particular place to go and harvest their crop (the pay that results from whatever work they do in that one place.) The farmers invest time and effort in a particular PLACE, hoping to reap the rewards of nurturing their relationships, etc. The H-Gs spend their time and effort on a particular action (or set of actions) – selling meat out of the back of white pickup trucks, doing shoddy roofing work, scams involving blacktop and tar (we’re doing your neighbors driveway tomorrow, why don’t you let us do yours??) The H-Gs are rewarded by moving to a new place and finding a new set of suckers, the farmers are rewarded (typically) for longevity and stability in their place.

    Of course, the H-G’s don’t need to be scammers. Modern Ex-pats, project based workers, independent contractors, etc are all H-Gs under my idea, going where the resource is to extract it (pay check.)

    Migrant workers, the bands of men (hobos) who moved around during Depression I, people flocking to the oil and gas boom towns, all examples of modern H-Gs.

    In a collapse of the social order, I think we will see the world favor modern H-Gs. We already see this in the new world of work, with temporary teams coming together for a project, then splitting up. Shorter stints with a company, and moving to where the jobs are are examples of the changes in the workplace too.

    In a world without law, farmers (those tied to jobs) are vulnerable, and MUST stay to defend, while H-Gs are free to attack or flee, moving to wherever the resources are.


    1. Which makes me a modern H-G. Though a H-G with rather more resources to keep me going in times of hardship than the traditional one

  33. sour is not so much the issue. Edsel Ford is one fairly well known person whose death was associated with undulant fever – what some times and places is said to be called Malta Fever where it was hard on the British Army.

    a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals or close contact with their secretions

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