History Changed So Slowly I Almost Missed the Dragons!


Okay, I confess this is a phoned in post, mostly in the hopes of amusing you.  I’m not ragging on indie (scarily some of these weren’t even indie) or even on “writers who don’t do research.”  It’s more that in countries with universal public education, books available everywhere and more than a few historical movies (which are crap on the details, but not THAT bad in general) it’s amazing how little people understand of the way people lived just, say 100 years ago. Or 200. Which is not that far. Look, my grandmother remembered stories from her grandmother, and right there we’re at about 150 years. Granted these stories became complete hodge podges in my head, and I suspect grandma’s.  I think the Napoleonic wars were mixed up with the civil war, which in turn was mixed up with the deposition of the king.  But still. Enough came through I knew people lived very differently. Even if as a kid I had real trouble picturing doing dishes without detergent. And btw, having a regency maid washing dishes with detergent would be a MINOR violation for the stuff I keep running across.

Now, you’ll say, why does that matter?  Well, because without an understanding, at least on general lines, of history, people will believe crazy things, like roads are the result of socialism. Or your only alternative to communism is absolute monarchy. Or it’s the increasing erosion of individual rights that brings about technology. Or China is a successful state and people live well there. Or that our times are the most difficult and fraught ever.

That’s the real side of this post and “OMG, how idiotic has our teaching got?” and a wake up call for parents to try to give their kids a sense of what came before.

Now for the funny side.

When I first started making covers and my tools were limited, I subscribed to two or three stock photo sites, and mostly used the thing as was (you can still see it in the covers of Ill Met by Moonlight, etc.)

One thing I figured out very quickly: most of the people posting on these sites — who granted aren’t Americans. Most of them seem to be some variety of Eastern European — have no idea of history.  There is present day and then there is “middle ages.”

The middle ages searches will kick up dragons, witches, sorcerers and elves.  The illustration above came from a pixabay search for Middle ages.

Worse, the Middle Ages search will kick up everything THROUGH THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.

Now maybe that’s just me who stares at these things in open-mouthed wonder, but what the heck.

As some of you know I’ve spent the last month or so, since things were busy and often weird, without the spoons to give reading “seriously.” For a great part of it I read mostly Jane Austen fanfic, but then eased into other historical mysteries and such.

As part of this let me give some errors in no particular order:

  • No matter how much your teachers told us that “peasants” were mistreated by “noblemen: there is no way that at any time since at least the high middle ages, in England, a nobleman could kill a peasant for no reason in full view of other people and suffer nothing. Even in times of high lawlessness, at the very least he’d lose reputation.  More likely, he’d come under the purview of the law.
    In other times and places this might be honored more in the breach, and even in England people might not necessarily pay for the crime. There have always been corrupt lawmen and ways of evading the law if you’re rich and powerful enough (which is the whole point of noir mysteries) but it wouldn’t be “no one cares”.  Not in any Christian country, unless in the middle of a civil war or similar.
    Making this the centerpiece of your (trad pub, incidentally) mystery makes me want to scream. Or laugh. Or both.
    Peasants are not serfs, are not slaves. If you don’t learn the difference, you should stick to present day.
  • Duchesses didn’t do their own shopping. No, seriously, repeat after me. Duchesses didn’t do their own shopping.  Not for groceries. And if for some reason (the rest of the house plague stricken?) they decided to go to the farmer’s market (!!!!) they wouldn’t drive themselves in the family carriage.
    And if they did this, they wouldn’t be called “a proper Duchess.”
  • No one in the regency wrote letters on parchment. Unless, of course, they were very wealthy and eccentric (if they were poor, they’d just be crazy. Also, not able to afford parchment.)  At any rate, in the west, before paper became common, people were more likely to use velum than parchment.
    However since Shakespeare’s day (and that was roughly as far from the regency, backwards as we are forwards) paper was common, and there were PRINTED copies of books.  To have a young woman write a note saying she’s eloping on parchment is idiotic. I’d have thrown the book against the wall, except I was reading on my kindle.
  • Horses are not cars. You’re unlikely to go from one end of England to the other riding one horse without stopping. For an education on this, read Dumas whose characters kill horses with fatigue with wild abandon.
    Seriously. You. Can’t. Do. That.  You also don’t park your horse and go gallivanting around. They’re animals. They need care.
  • If you fought a duel in the regency and killed your man, you don’t just walk away. Killing people was illegal. You’d at the very least have to run off out of the country.  It’s not a “It’s okay, everyone does it.” Most duels were fought to wound, not kill, because of this.
  • If you’re a regency miss, you don’t go around, half cocked with no chaperone. And if compromised you don’t just say it’s stupid, and carry on with your life. Society exacted a penalty.
  • There was a war with France for most of the Regency. You don’t go over to France on vacation during the war. Not at the same time people are fighting Napoleon.
  • A manor house (the P & P movie, which I ASSURE you doesn’t exist is confused about this too) is not really a farm and the daughter of the manor worth 2k pounds a year does NOT go around barefoot or help slop the pigs. (DO try reading Austen. Consider Mrs. Benet brags that her daughters have nothing to do in the kitchen, meaning they have help. She certainly wouldn’t tell the girls to slop the pigs.) The manor might include a “home farm” which would be tenanted by a farmer family and give the manor family some percentage of the produce, eggs, etc. Arrangements varied. But the manor house is NOT a farm.
  • Peasants in the Middle Ages were no more likely to know how to read than they were to meet a dragon face to face (and let us be clear, there were no dragons. Ever, really.) There would be exceptions. Nota Bene Peasant is not the same as “not titled” and even in the middle ages there was a “middle class” for lack of a better term, which might well be educated and work as lawyers or accountants.
  • In Shakespeare’s time lower middle class might read quite well. The number of people who could read for fun was calculated at about the same as the number of people who are comfortable reading for fun now.
  • Cooking a meal involved a lot more than cooking a meal today. 1) They did not have refrigeration. So, no, they won’t have fresh meat in the house, just “put by”. The shopping has to be done every day. They might have preserved or salted meat, fish or vegetables, depending. You can at least extrapolate it.  2) I don’t have any proof of this, and I might be dead in the water here, but I don’t THINK that making bread was the duty of the least experience scullery maid.  Can’t prove it or anything. I just doubt it because it’s not that easy without mixers or packaged yeast, and it takes some finesse. I wonder why everyone thinks it is. 3) in the regency in a well to do family pastries would generally be purchased, certainly for a party. 4)In the regency courses don’t mean what you think they mean. What we call courses they called “removes.”
  • Going to the bathroom was more complicated. If you must go there, remember there were no bathrooms IN THE HOUSE for most of the time until oh, the 18th century (very, very rare, and only for what we’d call cutting edge geeks, who were laughed at by normal human beings) and really until the 19th century going to the bathroom in the night involved chamber pots. In the day, and if it was safe (it might be shared by several households) there would be an outhouse.  During balls in the regency, (and particularly before, when women wore these unwieldy gowns, including padded hips and who knew what else) the way women relieved themselves during a ball was to go to a room set aside for the purpose and use these vessels that to modern eyes look like gravy boats (you can tell they aren’t because they don’t have a pouring lip and are more “rounded” there) which they stuck under their skirts, to pee standing up.  No, seriously. And you think your costume for dragoncon/comicon was a pain!
  • Underwear is complicated, because it was all homemade, and might vary village to village or even household to household.  As might the wearing of it.  Some people say authoritatively that women in Shakespeare’s time wore no underwear, but when you deep dive into it…  well, it wasn’t always so. And as Foxfier pointed out there were things found that looked remarkably like bras from the 14th century. (And from drawings, there are suspicions of them among the Egyptians.)  So, yeah, you can get away with almost anything, provided you say it was this cunning design her grandmother had perfected/the local seamstress made/etc/etc.
    What you can’t do is have a man unzip himself.  Please. I mean, I don’t see a point in it, but even if I did, no. Just no.  In the regency it’s called a “fall” and it’s a panel in the front of the pants, which can be untied. Depending on time and fashion, it can be a narrow fall or a wide fall.  Going back further than that, you’re going to step into codpiece territory, and unless you really want to research that, just have the guy untie his breeches/underwear/whatever. Remember buttons, while older than zippers are relatively recent. You look at them and you go “it’s logical” right? Sure. But no. The Elizabethans had buttons but the concept of a button hole hadn’t occurred to them. So buttons were decorative, but everything was tied. [A friend who is a professional costumer informs me this is wrong. See, this is what comes of believing MY college professors. There was a course on garment construction and they assured us everything was tied on.  The inimitable Jonna Hayden tells me this is wrong, and I’ll assume she’s right. She said it’s “teaching from Victorian sources.  This makes perfect sense as vast portions of the college were still stuck in the Victorian era. The other half were hard core Marxists. Sometimes it overlapped.]
  • And speaking of clothes: in a time and place where laundry was a production, beds were aired.  Were the sheets washed between guests?  Uh… I’d say it varied, and you know what, just don’t go there.  Just say the bed was aired.
    Also, because washing was difficult, clothes were constructed of portions that could be changed more often and portions that were worn over and over.  And a minor spill/stain might doom an expensive garment.
  • Not everyone owned a carriage. Not even among the relatively wealthy in the regency. If you have carriages, research the various types.  I very much doubt you could pack a family in a high-perch phaeton or a curricule.  Not that this is my era. But anyway, don’t mess it up too badly.
  • Remember that books like “A writer’s guide to x” is the beginning.  The internet is yours.  If it’s important to your book, RESEARCH IT.  If it’s not and you can’t find exact information? Soft pedal it.
  • But above all, if writing about the Middle Ages? Lose the dragon and the elves.

604 thoughts on “History Changed So Slowly I Almost Missed the Dragons!

  1. Or that our times are the most difficult and fraught ever.

    Even ox not THAT slow!
    Today, as screwy as it is, is an Age of Miracles.
    The biggest Miracle of all is that we can get away all this insanity.
    Pretty much ANY other time, one or more of the Infamuos Four Horseman would be riding strong in this nonsense. Some humans have NO idea how astoundingly fortunate they happen to be… so far. *tick* *tick* *tick*…

    1. Absolutely correct about the Four Horsemen. We can only get away with our insanity because of our wealth (including our health) keeps historical consequences at bay.

      For example, there’s a reason that ‘ancient’ rich people didn’t build their homes on the coasts of major oceans. Nowadays we have subsidized insurance (that vast numbers of people can afford) so you can rebuild that 5 bedroom ‘cottage’ on the Outer Banks. With new lumber (instead of having to scavenge the old).

      1. Also absolutely correct about the “so far”.

        Even we can’t stop everything and in some cases maybe have abused some of the usefulness out of what we have. And that’s before we begin applying the “we forgot why we need it so we stopped doing it”. Wolfe wrote about that in “The Great Relearning” and as I pointed out gay men are starting to do that with HIV>

        1. So far? Not been reading about the outbreaks of typhus and other such diseases in our liberally managed cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, eh?

          It is amazing how quickly accumulations of trash and human feces in the streets and sidewalks can produce rats, fleas and communicable diseases thought long since defeated.

          1. I have. They have yet to escape the third world locations they are in to the first wold parts of the US.

            That is when I’ll give up on the so far. I don’t consider it a failure when people devoted to third world ideologies (ie Marxism, tribalism) have third world issues.

          2. But of course actually noting and discussing these threats to public health is raaaacis, because the people who use the word raaaacis are the ones whose mental model is raaaacis – thus trash and rats public sanitation and typhus and plague are objects on which the loons can project their own true inner beliefs.

    2. Speaking as a “Son of Martha”, the “Sons of Mary” can go on in ignorant bliss about how others spend their lives waiting “upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.”

      But if the Sons of Mary actively drive out the Sons of Martha, that ends either in the collapse of civilization, or in Morlocks and Eloi

  2. The reverse applies too. A well-researched author will not assume that outhouses were rare in a 20th century urban setting ‘because everone had indoor plumbng’. Not everyone even had piped water indoors! Nor that gas lights and oil lamps had been relaced by electricity in all towns. I remember all of these still being around, if not common, in the 1950s, as well as having to go to the town pump for clean water.

    1. I hadn’t encountered such for private residences, but my time is a bit later (despite what many might suspect). However the ‘school forest’ camp setup still had outhouse for relief in the 1970’s, possibly into the 1980’s.

      And a fellow I knew built himself a cabin in the 1980’s and was off-grid by choice (and he was no hippy, mind). There was power – all 12 volt. And gas light. This was NOT a hunting shack or such, but intended as his primary residence, at least part of the year (he had an annual migration). I no longer recall if he had any water besides stuff he trucked in.

      1. Quite a few people in Alaska are still off-grid to this day. We were, while living in Tok from ’87 to ’91. It’s not really that difficult or that much of a hardship if your house/property are set up for it. It’s just a bit more work than being on the grid and letting someone else do all the work for you, and you pay them for doing it. It’s a matter of choices — do you choose to be dependent and pay for the privilege, or do you choose to be less dependent and do more work yourself? Sometimes it comes down to physical ability, too — you have to be physically capable of doing the work.

        There’s also the matter of attitude. There are people (even some men) who would have a shrieking conniption fit if asked to live without their daily (or twice-daily) hot shower, for example. I’ve met a few of them. Ditto for raising your own food, or living with gas or propane lights, as Orvan’s acquaintance did in his cabin (and we did in my brother’s cabin in Alaska, until some druggie broke in and stole all the copper tubing out the place; then we depended on oil lamps, which don’t give off nearly as much light). You have to have the right attitude, a willingness to be happy with what you have and not always wanting ‘more, more’.

          1. LOL! For a lot of people, I think! We are doing sponge baths with water heated in the kitchen right now, because of the electric problems that this old farm house has (we’ve lost all but two electrical circuits; waiting to save up enough money to have the whole house re-wired). One of the things I most look forward to is being able to take a shower again. Of course, I could take a cold shower, but somehow that’s not all that appealing even in the middle of the summer!

            1. The old summer house that my Mother’s family just sold was built around 1917, and only spottily upgraded. When my Lady first visited it my Uncle Winthrop learned that she had some experience doing wiring and asked her to go look at the wiring in the basement, and tell him how urgent it was to get the long overdue re-wiring done.

              She came back up, grey in the face, and said, “Call the electrician, NOW!”

              It was old cloth covered solid wire, run on ceramic posts, with the positive and negative running on opposite sides of beams. The cloth had mostly rotted away. I think the only reason it hadn’t started a fire yet was everything in the basement was too damp.


              I miss that house, but what I miss is the freedom I had in it as a child. Visits as an adult were disappointing. Also, it was in The Peoples’ Republic of Massachusetts, and sooner or later some yammherhead was sure to designate the whole summer colony vital habitat for the pointy headed cow tick or something.

          2. For me. As is sharing a bathroom with strangers. i recently blew younger son’s mind by telling him that’s how hotels were in Portugal until very recently. Still are for the older ones. Bathroom per floor, at the end of the hall.

            1. “The past is another country.”
              And, of course, another country is another country.
              The past of another country? Nigh unimaginable to many.

              Heck, I *lived through* the 1970’s in the U.S.A. and I’m fairly sure that I’d be “made” in SECONDS if time travel were possible. Despite many having the (crazy) belief that I could “pass” in earlier decades of the 20th century. [I presume that the 19th is Right Out unless I wanted to see the inside of an asylum, or worse. And before that…OUCH! Cave dwelling hermit with excess interest in ‘blue bread mold’ might be close…if even THAT!]

            2. Had to deal with the communal bathrooms on my high school Europe trip. I don’t recall if it was Italy or France. It wasn’t so much the toilet stuff – we were all used to that bit.

              It was the being dressed to go take your shower, and dressing to go back to your room (the girls struggled with the wet hair issue) bit. Almost none of us had brought any bathrobes or anything else of the sort, but the guys at least could just put on a pair of shorts for the trip. Not so much the girls.

                1. I once visited a fellow and almost my first exclamation upon seeing the state of the .. restroom… was “We need to get some HARSH chemicals. NOW.” Consider what it was, I would NOT have turned down aqua regia. Yes, really.

            3. And in the US once upon a time, see It Happened One Night (1934) a film nobody watches anymore because black-and-white. In one scene runaway rich girl, Claudette Colbert, doesn’t realize that she has to wait in line for the facilities.

              1. We stayed in a couple of hotels in France – in 1985! In which the toilets/bathtubs were down the hall, or on the landing half a flight below. One of them was a gloriously quaint inn in Blois, which did at least have a sink with running water in the room. I’d guess that place had been an inn since medieval times, since there was a small courtyard, it was two-stories tall, and half-timbered, and the ground-floor rooms had rustic tile floors which were anything but level. The other was in Paris – a six-story townhouse.
                In a great many old small houses in Texas that I have visited, the kitchen-with-running-water and the bathroom with same appear to have been built into what had originally been a covered back porch. Made it easier, installing the pipes and drain, I presume.

                1. Lots of old houses here in Montana where plumbing was a later addition, fairly obviously because it’s only in a tacked-on part of the house. I lived in one (the core of which had once been a log cabin moved from gods know where) where a former porch had been converted to the kitchen, with the bathroom carved out of one corner of that. This was where I first learned the phrase, “What idiot put the pipes next to the outside wall??” as we strove manfully to prevent them from freezing. Thank G0d for the heater built into the ancient but wonderful gas range.

                  For extra fun, move a very old house onto an equally old foundation which is not the same shape, so the plumbing dangles outside the foundation proper. (Or why we have this creative winter pipe-heating arrangement in the basement of the rental house.)

                  1. While I was living in Oregon, a good part of the plumbing was *outside* the outside wall. In all my residence there it was only an issue a couple of times.

                    1. Yeah, seen that in California (in fact at my desert place, the water heater was outdoors) — when they built the place, they didn’t realise the high desert can dip to -10F. But for the most part it self-thawed well enough.

                    2. In the SF Bay Area, water softeners might be outside. Only had a hard freeze one December, but nothing in the house burst (backyard sprinkler system, not so much).

                      Of course, that was the December that HP did a shutdown. To dave money, they turned the heat off in the manufacturing buildings. Took us a while to dry and clean the IC fab area. Not sure how long it took to get rid of the tar and feather debris in the facility manager’s office.

                      Up here, I had a chunk of insulation knocked away from the under-house cutoff one winter that caused a freezeup. Thawed and replaced the insulation that day. I was *very* happy that was done, because the next morning we hit -28F.

              2. There are people who still watch black and white film (and, hell, silent ones) for reasons other than college credit. It takes some mental effort if you aren’t accustomed to it, but gets easier with practice. The best way to get somebody used to the idea is to expose them to something so good that it’s obviously worth the effort. MY MAN GODFREY or THE MALTESE FALCON. And for silents, THE GENERAL is usually a good bet.

                  1. Performed without stuntman, net, or thumb and index finger of his right hand (lost in an accident involving a prop bomb and concealed by a special prosthetic glove.)

                    Mind, I am still charmed by the phantasies of Georges Méliès, so I cannot claim full lack of bias when evaluating B&W films. I consider Buster Keaton one of film’s true geniuses and do not think the Marx Brothers would be funnier if their films were in colour. Frank Capra’s best works were done in B&W, as were the films of Ernst Lubitsch, Preston Sturgess, Rouben Mamoulian and Douglas Fairbanks*.

                    I can say much much more but I’d be preaching to the choir.

                    *Okay – some of Fairbanks’ films, such as The Thief of Baghdad employed hand-tinted frames, but they were essentially B&W

                    1. I never took to Harold Lloyd, but Keaton is MUCH funnier than Charlie Chaplan. Chaplan always struck me as a mean little sonofabitch, which judgement I gather his personal life affirmed.

                      Naturally the Intelligencia LOVE Chaplan.

                    2. Keaton’s kinetic play with the surrealistic aspects of two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional space could supply foundations of Doctoral theses (although, these days, that isn’t as high a standard as was once true).

                      TCM offers a variety f his films for online viewing. Go to http://www.tcm.com/watchtcm/films/?ecid=subnavmoviesondemand and set the drop-down menu for comedy. I particularly recommend Sherlock Jr. and The Cameraman, but all Keaton’s work is genius.

                      I recognize Chaplin’s genius but never took to him, as I found him too manipulative. Lloyd had a rare ability to make me laugh, while Keaton always left me in stunned awe. Chaplin as a director had a genius for his star; Keaton as a star had a genius for his director.

                    3. Two further notes: the Intelligentsia loves Chaplin because his work emphasizes emotion over intellect; he legitimizes “the Little Guy” taking violent action to “the Big Guys” rather than recognizing violence is as illegitimate for one as the other.

                      Delving a little more into TCM’s on demand:

                      The Great Buster: A Celebration
                      Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
                      The life and filmmaking career of iconic comedian Buster Keaton is celebrated in this documentary. Starting life in show business as a toddler in his family’s vaudeville act, Keaton rose to fame in his visionary silent comedies of the 1920s. The later years of his career, which were filled with personal and professional difficulties are also chronicled, but the film returns to highlights from his brilliantly productive period to showcase the creativity, fearlessness and physical talents that made Keaton a comedy legend.

                      2018 . 1h 43m . NR

                      Expires: August 27th

                      See it while you can

                    4. I can understand not caring all that for Harold Lloyd’s work as so much seemed the same story, roughly. I do recall the local still-then-fairly-new PBS station having a marathon evening of Harold Lloyd films, and I wound up watching most if not all. Due to a.. ‘slightly’ too-large reaction chamber and a charge of acetylene gas (carbide evolved..) there was an extended time of minimal hearing. Thus silent film worked well for that particular evening.

            4. As recently as 1969, we stayed in a brand new Hilton (not even entirely open yet, BTW in Denver) with shared bathrooms, having a door from each of two adjoining rooms; apparently this was regarded as innovative. And having one bathroom per floor was still fairly common, enough so that (most of my motel-staying having been pre-1973 and in tow of parents; on my own I sleep in my truck) I’m still a little startled by motel rooms with private baths. Likewise, dorms at my university (some built as late as 1970) had communal bathrooms.

              Having myself lived 24 years with outhouse or chamber pot, I must admit that now that I live in a real house like a real person, from sheer habit I sometimes forget to flush that amazing newfangled gadget, the toilet. 😛

            5. Yellowstone Old Faithful summer hotel is still, to this day: “Bathroom per floor, at the end of the hall.”

              Grandma & Grandpa’s house, mom informs me, did not have indoor plumbing, or a well on the property, when they bought it after WWII (I think ’50). Well was put in and pumped to the house not long after, with bathrooms going in in ’52-ish. Dad talks of grandpa being forced to put in a septic system well after the bathrooms, etc., went in. Being the new SIL, he got to help, dig the septic system and put in the drainage field.

        1. I was working the Delta Junction/Tok corridor in the summer of ’89 as the mechanic on a state forestry department-contracted (mostly) fire fighting helicopter.* I wonder if our paths ever crossed. Probably no way to tell at this remove.

          *It was a slow fire year, mostly due to (according to one fire official I overheard) the grounding of the Exxon Valdez (supposedly the locals could make better and easier money going down to Prince William Sound and washing rocks than starting and fighting fires in central AK) so we got seconded to some other interesting tasks by the state. They were already paying for us to be there, after all.

          1. Train stations and airports and convenience stores have squatty potties right next to “western” toilets nowadays. Sign on the door shows which one.

      2. In many areas of this country it makes no sense to live “on grid” because the house is much too far from any grid to make running wires sensible. Power lines cost money and require maintenance, while battery packs, propane or diesel generators can produce sufficient energy for necessary things.

        Assuming the availability of wood (such as in Maine or Michigan’s UP) one can produce distilled water at relatively low cost, and even provide for hot showers if the house is well designed (for instance, put a water holding tank in the wall above the fireplace.) In other regions, such as the high desert, a solar still will provide ample warm water for personal use.

        A simple visit to any decent camping supply store ought provide plenty of ideas as to what options for off-the-grid living are available.

        1. Out here in the Northern Peoples Administrative Region of the Glorious Peoples Bear Flag Republic, PG&E is doing all it can to make the electric grid unpredictably unreliable enough that the sane bet for any with resources is to equip homes to be off-grid on demand.

          Solar panels and battery packs, supplemented by a natgas genset, would seem to me to be the logic fit out for SF Bay Area homes of the future.

        2. And because getting grid to the backbeyond will cost between $25k and $75k per mile, depending on your terrain and whether it’s a local co-op or some out-of-state corporation. (Real numbers from 5 years ago.)

          1. Hell, getting 200A service to the barn (150 feet from the pole) cost $5000 in 2004, and I had to provide the trench, underground conduit, and the meter box. Neighbors had service to their house from the 12.5kV line; maybe a quarter mile. 2003, that cost (we were told) $30K. Your numbers look attractive. (Pacific Power, a Berkshire Hathaway [spit] company).

            1. I originally bought two lots (one with a well on it) in Klamath County, also Pacific Power, and was going to build on them, back in 2012. Got the driveway put in (expensive, even done by a retired contractor friend at cost, because of the steep drop-off from the paved road), and a trench for a pipe up from the well, which was at the bottom of the property. Then talked to Pacific power — there was a pole with transformer ON my property within a hundred feet of the house site. I was going to have to provide the drop pole, and all wiring from the drop pole to the house site. Cost? $4,000. I said thanks, but no thanks. Wanted to be off-grid anyway (and figured we easily could manage off-grid — at the time, we were living in an old fifth-wheel). I could have put in a very adequate off-grid system — low power needs, not a full modern house — for less than what they wanted just to drop a wire onto the property and then bill me every month for the rest of my life.

        3. Eh. The last time I looked at stovetop water stills, they took forever to get a batch of water done. I used an electric still until the heating plate warped, and it was fast enough, but the same outfit’s stovetop still gets uniformly bad reviews. Now I buy didtilled water. In a SHTF scenario, I’d do a solar still.

          OTOH, if you just need warm water, that’s easier.

    2. One of my favorite little details in from a YELLOWSTONE KELLY book, which describes the hotel doors as full of patches from when the hotel had to break into rooms where the guests had been asphyxiated from not knowing how to deal with gaslights.

      It may be utter codswallop, but it feels true.

      Author is Peter Bowen, btw.

        1. *sigh*

          Too bad, I kinda liked the thought.

          Book’s still good, all four of the Kelly books are fun. I don’t agree with the politics, but the man can write:

          “I could have shot Theodore Roosevelt any number of times. I could have sawed through ropes he was hanging on to, I could have let a couple grizzlies chaw him to death. I didn’t take any of the chances I had. Just folding my arms or pulling a trigger or not pulling a trigger would have saved tens of thousands of lives and me several attacks of gout and them wim-wams you get when you are sliding down the front wave of history in a very small boat. Someone should have shot him long ago, anyway, and I suppose I was waiting for someone even more exasperated than I to shoot him, but they never showed up and there I was, waffling like the stripe-ass poltroon I am. Well, it’s a job.”

      1. Err… Wouldn’t there be a hell of a risk from explosion, if people were asphyxiating themselves with gas from the gaslights…?. I can’t see them doing carbon monoxide poisoning, as poorly sealed (and, thus, very well-ventilated…) as old buildings were.

        That detail sounds really, really “off”. I don’t recall seeing a lot of people going down to carbon monoxide before the modern era, when homes started getting well-sealed from the outside environment. I grew up in a farmhouse that was build back in the 1920s, or so, and that place required constant heat to stay warm. If you let the fire go out in the wood heater, woe unto thee, for it was gonna be ambient outside temperature within an hour or two. And, no worries about stagnant air or smoke; that crap got replaced nearly immediately from all the unsealed cracks and crevices in the walls. I honestly doubt we could have managed to asphyxiate, absent also burning the house down. I remember how quickly smoke cleared when you screwed up the damper situation–You didn’t have to wait long for a full air exchange.

        1. Suicide by turning on the gas was the most common way to kill yourself, until they went from coal gas to natural gas. So the buildings must have been snug enough. (Half of all suicides in England were by gas. The rate fell by a third when they switched.)

          1. And coal gas has a LARGE CO (Carbon Monoxide) component as do the original lime lights for theaters. CO can be oxidized (i.e. burned) to form CO2. It really doesn’t take much exposure to high CO content to knock you out and thereafter you’re basically doomed unless somebody finds you quick and even then you may be severely mentally impaired (and perhaps vote Bernie in the primaries).

    3. My MiL spent the first part of her marriage in a house with no interior plumbing—in North Dakota. Had at least three of her kids there, too. So while my husband is enough later to be raised completely “modern”, I can point directly to people who were born in a place where using an outhouse in the winter was not only required, but potentially deadly.

      1. A couple years ago, I helped dig the pit for a new outhouse at a family ranch up in the hills. The buildings have a few working indoor toilets but when you have 200 people show up, 3 toilets get overwhelmed. So we have some alternatives.

      2. *blink* I used an outhouse in Montana for many years, and did not freeze my hiney or anything else. Nothing deadly about it, only chilly and inconvenient. (Sensible people carpet the seat, which eliminates Frozen Ass Syndrome.) Well, unless you’re somewhere that attracts bears, or skunks.

        1. I was blinking at that, too. We used an outhouse in Alaska at WAY below zero (fifty below, seventy below) and never froze anything off. The trick a lot of people up there use is to have a piece of styrofoam an inch or two thick to use in place of a toilet seat. We usually brought ours in the house, and took it back out for each use, but even if it was left out there, it never felt cold when you sat on it.

          1. Seen plenty of indoor toilets that were more unpleasantly cold on one’s tenders than my carpeted Montana outhouse. That portable styrofoam seat is a good trick. I’ve used styro for floor insulation in the trailer, you’d think it would have occurred to me… apparently not sufficiently unpleasant to motivate such creativity, and carpet was good enough.

    4. Indications are that the 1903 house we lived in (suburban Chicago) was built without a bathroom–looks like a bedroom was converted. OTOH, it was fairly likely that there was city water early on; the town had a brick water tower downtown. This was a fairly upscale suburb, established in 1885.

      1. The bedroom I was born in is now a bathroom. Fools. They’ll just have to change it back when they put in the historical plaque. (Yes, I AM in fact joking. Sheeesh.)

        1. I don’t know…they can put the plaque right above the shelf of favorite books you read in there.

          Much cheaper to change history than to remodel.

            1. I’m referring to the diner (Tom’s Diner) in Downtown Denver that the owner is trying to sell, but a handful of activists have persuaded the Hysterical Commision to designate it as a prime example of Googie architecture (circa 1967). This has killed a $4.8 million dollar deal. Now the property is frozen, and the retirement money is no longer there.

              Story reference: https://www.citylab.com/design/2019/08/denver-historic-building-googie-architecture-diner-landmark/595786/

              1. They’ve withdrawn the landmark designation…

                Can’t recall the citation for it, but I saw that as an update. Sanity prevails, for the moment.

                1. If they’re so worried about it, spend the money to move the building, or at least the signage. Surely there’s some park that needs a prefab museum.

                  Of course that wouldn’t give them the same feeling of control…

              2. There’s a similar scheme afoot in New York City, where a long-standing family bookstore is being assaulted by “preservationists” preventing the current generation of ownership from making much-needed improvements.

                Sadly, I cannot recall the name.

                  1. Heh – I had been thinking it was The Strand, but I’ve not paid attention to New York book stores in decades and thought it was simply a case of Sherlock Holmes being on my mind.

                    Sigh. I recall when the idea of visiting New York, Boston, Chicago or London for book stores was like going to Disneyland. Now? Amazon for the win!

                    As for the senator from Oregon having a NY bookstore owner as spouse … words fail me. Polite words, at any rate.

      2. I am fairly certain that this house, built in about 1930, did not originally have a bathroom. There are the remains of an old outhouse in the back yard (in the far back corner), and the bathroom is in what appears to be an addition to the house — the house itself is 26′ X 26′ square, and the bathroom is 8′ x 8′ attached to the side of the house.

    5. I’m 74 years old, and I grew up in a small town in North Dakota. We didn’t have running water nor indoor plumbing. Almost nobody did. I’m quite familiar with going out to the outhouse (biffy, it was called) in mid-winter. and pumping water from the cistern where we saved rainwater. Now I have 3 bathrooms.

    6. A certain small city in the Midwest banned the last outhouses in the early 1920s, because at that point everyone had access to a flush toilet, or should have. (Aaaand this is where the Marxist social historians start arguing about how it was unfair to the poor and an imposition of social control by the middle class and *yaaaawwwnnnn*.)

      1. The UK writer Peter Dickinson was the grandson of some stately homes noble dudes. They had chamber pots concealed in the beautiful wood paneling along one of those grand corridors with suits of armor and such.

        I am reasonably sure that at least one of the Victorian “secret rooms” shown in the old Doctor Who was actually meant for chamber pot usage.

      2. That sounds like not simply cultural imperialism but a direct assault on the Bear identity Movement (BM).

    7. John, I too recall using the “one hole” outhouse at our home that was well within the city limits of Macon, Missouri in 1952 and ’53. It was about 15 or 20 steps outside the back door, reached via a wood plank walkway. We’d say, “I have to go take a walk on the boardwalk”.
      We did have indoor plumbing, but continued to frequently use the John outside.

  3. *chuckle* Am reading a manga right now, an isekai where a knight and noble from another world is dropped into a Japanese farmer’s back yard, seeks shelter, and one of the things that she is shocked about is that the farmer has a surname. She apologizes for being rude and appends -sama to his name from that point on, even when he explains that everyone, even common people, have surnames. (and mutters in an aside that ‘well, that used to be true back in the old days, but…’)

  4. Phoned in post is more than adequate.

    Next you will tell me that the Romans didn’t use close air support with Willie Pete and napalm when they were clearing the indians to make Iberia habitable for civilization.

      1. Still, those romantic ahistorical notions are uneconomical. When you want to make a desert and call it peace, genetically engineer some plagues, inoculate your own people, problem solved. Veni, vidi, virii.

        1. Plagues seem a bit too hard to control to be a really reliable tool of selective mass murder.

          Our best bet seems to be a combination of nuclear weapons and infantry. Pure infantry mass murder against any really annoying modern population is prohibitively expensive. Nuclear weapons leave too many survivors. But there seem to be some serious unsolved problems that we may never solve.

          1. “Nuclear weapons leave too many survivors.” Now there’s a sentence you don’t read everyday!

            And for real skin crawling excitement, go see Cdr. Salamander’s blog from a couple days ago.

            1. Most people don’t spend a lot of time talking about the difficulties involved in mass murder. Almost like it is disapproved of socially.

              Racially targeted bio weapons have been a theoretical possibility for decades. Paper sounds like it is more alarmist than providing serious answers to any of the challenges. Many difficulties argue against it becoming a practical reality. a) Just a nuclear explosions do not necessarily provide an ideal distribution for the killing you want, you aren’t necessarily going to get an ideal result from the natural or unnatural spread of disease. b) Target humans are almost certainly still too closely related to non-target humans, for just about any combination you specify. c) The more generations your agent replicates, the more certain it becomes that you will get unplanned behavior. I’m certain we don’t have the biological tools and know how to design, make, and deliver a fail safe reliably targeted plague capable of killing a large population. I suspect we are also lacking necessary statistical tools and know how.

              1. Dear husband asks if you’ve researched fuel air bombs?

                Additional benefit of not needing to worry about cleanup so much.

                1. Probably ought to find the time to do that.

                  My intuition is that no matter the tech, relying on airborne sensors and weapons systems is going to miss people.

                  I think we have one or two weaknesses that aren’t merely a matter of systems development, or political and cultural will. We would definitely need an infantry based extermination doctrine we don’t have or want. We may also need an environmental destruction based doctrine.

                  If we simply drop a bunch of bombs without having those doctrines on tap, we risk missing so much of the populations that we wind up losing the follow up wars generations into the future.

                  1. His postage-stamp description was that it pops the windows out due to removing the air.

                    Which people rather need, hiding or not.

                    There would probably still be some survivors who don’t die from the trauma….


                    I think wars-to-end-all-war are a bad idea, exactly because the only way it will work is if one side is eliminated. (And then the remaining side is still going to split and have wars.)

  5. “There was a war with France for most of the Regency. You don’t go over to France on vacation during the war. Not at the same time people are fighting Napoleon.”

    Not sure I should laugh or cry.

    1. Well, there Were two short periods when people did go to France for a lark; the peace of Amiens and the brief exile on Elba. But the tenuous nature of these periods should be a major plot point…unless the characters are supposed to be imbeciles.

      Which, given the form of the Regency Romance is always a possibility. I like them, but they frequently make NO sense.

          1. yes. But he is NOT. I love that book, btw.
            DIL is starting to sound as a passable later-day Heyer. I shall link her new book here when she publishes. The kid is gifted.

            1. It bumfoozles me that the British have never done themselves the honor of filming Heyer. There were indications, for a while, that there might be a film of THE GRAND SOPHY in the works, but it seems to have fizzled out.☹️

              1. Well, there’s a reason. She sold film rights exactly once, to The Reluctant Widow, and apparently Rian Johnson is a time traveler and killed that franchise too. There is some beautiful photography, a very good hero, and the most horrible, arch, slutty heroine in the world. It is hard to watch, even on YouTube.o

                So yeah, after that, Heyer refused to grant film or TV rights to anyone, and bound her heirs to the same. She did allow radio dramas and audiobooks, so you can find them.

      1. Yup. But it can be a great plot point…the characters being stuck behind enemy lines and needing to escape Fouche’s gendarmes.

      2. To be fair, most books that are slotted into the “regency” category for romances take place somewhere between about 1790 and 1830. And the “Grand Tour” was still a thing for at least some people. I’ve also seen some where the Congress of Vienna was a backdrop to the romance story.

        Although, the ones where the heroine is just SO upset that they’re not allowed to be spies for trh Foreign Office are rather off putting.

  6. Reposting an older comment… as many here well know, through direct experience, much is living memory:

    Grandma told of the going to the well for water, the starting of the fire in the stove to cook, the “warming oven” in the stove/oven chimney for rolls & such… and she did at least once travel to The East (not coast, overseas) by jet, and watched the moon landing, and such. 1913-2004.

    Me? I grew up “in this modern age” of antibiotics, general vaccinations, plastics, color TV…

    I’ve waited for ALL the tubes to warm up.
    I’ve lived in a place that had no telephone.
    The eventual phone was rotary dial.
    The neighbors new pushbutton phone pulse-dialed.
    I’ve set the needle in the groove (as that’s how it was).
    I’ve threaded the tape – and the film.
    I’ve taken pictures with chemical photography.
    I remember flash cubes – and the InstaMatic.
    It was the THIRD place I recall living in (a trailer!) that had central heat.
    I recall when LED’s were dim and visible (except maybe red) was NEW.
    Red laser? HeNe… or HeNe. Alright, there was ruby, but… ruby?
    Lead in gasoline. And paint. Mercury in measuring instruments.
    And oh my the list of things legal “back when” that are not now.
    I read the “funnies” in the paper.
    And wrote letters with a pen, and more formally with a (mechanical) typewriter. And used White-out for its intended purpose (which could be bought without needing proof of age.)
    While I never used them, I saw cigarette vending machines in use.
    I used the card catalog – with three different cards for every book.

    And when one needed a 5 volt supply for TTL circuitry and that meant articles that included, “…obtain a small filament transformer…” it’s mighty strange and wonderful to see little 5 volt supplies for sale at almost every service..filling station convenience store.

    Automatic doors didn’t slide, they swung… triggered by an “electric eye” or a pressure pad.

    Yeah, it’s a different world. Some better, some worse, some just different.
    And… we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    1. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) was also born in 1913; she died in early 2011 at the age of 97 and a half. I myself have lived with an outhouse (most of my childhood and several years as an adult — with small children), and with hauling water either from the lake, when I was a child, or from someone else’s house, as an adult. We didn’t have a television until we moved from Alaska back to Oregon when I was ten in 1967 (and not right away even then – and we only got one channel, black and white, and the picture was so fuzzy you could hardly see what was on the screen most of the time. We still raced to the house after the school bus dropped us off to catch all but the first five minutes of Star Trek (the only thing we watched).

      I don’t know when Grandma first had electricity in her house; I suspect it was around WWII. I know that when she was born, there was still no road up the valley where her grandparents had homesteaded in the early 1870’s (on the Oregon Coast, near Florence); the local people used the river for transportation. The house they lived in when Mom was small was right next to the river for that reason — and subject to flooding.

      1. Dad has mentioned that, when they were kids, my mom’s house was considered “modern” because grandma’s “zinc” had the hand pump right there on the counter. Running water in the house!
        When he was 10 getting water required driving the Pontiac down the road a mile to the Demuse’s and filling a barrel.
        At 10 that was his chore.

        1. Fwiw, it looks like (not yet fully confirmed) that I’ll be visiting central WI again Sept 02-08 or so, I *might* be able to get there a bit before the afternoon of 02 Right now ALL is provisional. I should know with more certainty Tuesday… I hope.

            1. Is now confirmed. I’ll also have the 1st off, so I could travel that morning – or that night. I might need to depart on the 7th (late?) or early on the 8th. Those I am visiting have a trip of there own that starts on the 8th – and the schedule is inflexible.

              1. Due to the typical SNAFU at work involving trying to move my location, currently likely only off for the 2nd. other than the week ends.
                might know more tomorrow.

              1. Ehhhhh . . . too many Mormons. Not interested in a messy and prolonged suicide at the moment.

                One of the fellas from my maker space recommended, during a late night alcohol fueled discussion on what to do when the SHTF, that you just raid you Mormon neighbors’ stashes. I looked at him in disbelief, and informed him that (most) Mormons have guns, and know how to use them . . .

                1. Mormons have guns, and know how to use them

                  Perhaps if you had advised him that John Moses Browning was born in Ogden, Utah in 1855 and was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

                2. Tell your buddy he’d do much better to make friends with his Mormon neighbors–then we’d feel more compelled to share our stashes 😀

            1. Looking into it, $HOME to Denver is a 12 hour drive (plus fuel/food/relief stops) which right at the edge of what I can deal with in one day. And I’ll have a week of vacation time I’ll have to use up sometime Oct-Nov-Dec-Jan (I think). So a drive there, a couple days there, and a drive back would let me see things AND have some recovery time from the trip itself.

              Don’t care to push things in the nastier parts of Winter. Hrmm.. must think on this more.

              1. If in the area, the funicular to the top of Pike’ Peak is a must. Mom had a cousin in CS with whom we visited some years ago when he went into hospice.

        2. I saw a Kansas farm house that had “running water” in the kitchen from a cistern on the hill. The woman of the house wanted a screen on the cistern inlet. her husband said no, because of the risks of going into the cistern to clean the screen when it clogged. So she got cold water and the occasional snake when she opened the tap. This was until the early 1940s. And the neighbors were impressed, because they had pumps in the yard and carried water into the house.

          1. At grandma’s (well both grandmas) we had water in the yard. Paternal grandmother’s (where I grew up) was the wheel type. Very sophisticated. I loved pumping water as a teen.
            Maternal grandma had an up-down type pump, but it was so often out of service it was easier to drop the bucket in, then pull it up.
            Most of that house scared the heck out of me, frankly.

          2. Next year I’m actually going to do something like that for the kennel, as more cost-effective to occasionally fill a summer cistern (okay, a former fertilizer tank) with the hose than to run some unknown amount of deep-trenched pipe.

          3. My grandparents, after they moved from the riverbank house to one my grandfather built around 1950 on the hillside (less prone to flooding, LOL!), had spring water from a spring a little up the hill from the house — that was their water source until Grandma sold the property in 2003). We spent a few months in a cabin on their place when I was five years old, and the water got stopped up one day. Dad cleaned it out, and discovered a water dog (a newt, similar to a salamander) in the pipe. Mom was a bit upset about that, because some guys out camping somewhere in Oregon had died from drinking coffee made with water boiled with a water dog in it (dipped the water out of a stream in the dark and didn’t realize they’d gotten a newt in the coffee pot). I was trying to find the original source and location of that story recently, with only partial success, but I did learn that those newts — which we used to play with on a regular basis — have some of the most toxic stuff in the world in their skins. Never did get a snake in the water pipe, though (I think Granddad put a screen on the intake pipe after the water-dog incident).

            1. One snake, and almost daily frogs, came up the drain-pipe in the bathroom of the house I grew up in.

              I THINK that is because they’d shifted that graywater so it went into the lilacs.

            2. “which we used to play with on a regular basis”

              Yes. Every summer we spent at G-Aunt/Uncles cabin on lake with dunes behind. Poor water dogs got rounded up and corralled in sand castles moats. Guess the time in the water we spend diving for them off the dock counted as cleaning enough. Hey! It has been more than 50 years. Cabin either was swallowed by the dune or sold by the time I was 10.

      2. My mom’s parents were born in 1901 and 1905. Grandma was born in a covered wagon while the couple was on their way to great-grandma’s mother’s house so that she could help with delivery. After grandma and grandpa got married, they had the one phone in the area so they left their house unlocked so that everybody could use it. My grandpa had his first drivers license, a metal tag stamped with his name and brief information, on his key ring when he died.

        1. I got my first driver’s license in 1973. It was a printed paper card with my information typed on it. No lamination, no picture.

          After it went through the washing machine and had to be replaced I laminated it myself, with sticky-plastic sheet from an office supply store.

          My newest license is plastic, with two holograms, my digitized picture and signature, a bar code, a QR code, a mag stripe, and a chip.

          Nobody at the DMV was able or willing to tell me what was on the chip and stripe, or who or what might use them, so when I got home I ran the card through my Magnaflux machine. Before I got the Magnaflux, I used to use the microwave, but you have to be careful not to scorch the plastic.

          In the ~30 years the state has been putting magnetic data on the card, *not once* has anyone attempted to read it…

          They’re pushing hard for everyone to “upgrade” to the Federal RealID certified cards now. But I had to show my birth certificate to get this one, back in 1973. They don’t want to carry that forward, fine. I have no intention of ever getting into a flying cattle car again, and if the ATF or IRS need to meet with me, they can come down to the parking lot. If they’re nice, I’ll let them sit on the tailgate while we transact our business.

          1. My first driver’s license was also 1973. Turned 16 late ’72. Just needed my birth certificate. Didn’t get a SS # until I graduated from HS.

            Then in 2008 (?) had to take in my birth certificate, SS card, AND a certified marriage certificate to prove name change. Then got there and they dropped the requirement. I know grandma was freaking out. They were married in Montana, a long time ago, and the court house had burned down since then. Actually extended family was figuring this was a feature not the OMG freakout most were taking it, so we were a tad disappointed someone was going have to turn her in instead.

            Oh well. My certified marriage certificate came in handy getting my border card.

            1. Got my first Driver’s License sometime after June 17, 1972.

              Would have attempted to get it on my 16th Birthday but we were out of state on my birthday. (For some reason my parents didn’t think the State Of Illinois would issue me one before the vacation even if I promised to not use it until my birthday on June 17th. 😉 )

              For some unknown reason, my parents had me and my sister get Social Security Numbers long before High School.

              1. Got my SS# at 14, paperboy you know. Had to start ‘contributing’ once I was gainfully employed . . .

                Now they give ’em to newborns, WT ever-loving H?

                1. SS for newborns.

                  Prevents someone from applying in the newborn’s name, that shouldn’t be, then not having it be discovered for a decade or more.

                  1. IIRC – had to get it for infants to account them as dependents on parental income tax forms – sometime in the late 1980s. That’s when I had to get one for my daughter.
                    Who got all kinds of questions later on, when she was active-duty: why didn’t her SSAN acquisition date match her DOB? (Because she was born overseas, and I didn’t have to get one for her until it became mandatory!)
                    I didn’t need to get a SSAN until I was 16; something about a requirement to get paid for part-timing at the local newspaper, working the phone bank.

                    1. Didn’t need one myself until went to get driver’s permit, or then if I’d worked at somewhere the income would have been reported (baby sitting, inventory for relative’s store, didn’t count).

                      Had to get son’s immediately. He was born in ’89. Hospital handled it as part of the paperwork.

          2. They’re pushing hard for everyone to “upgrade” to the Federal RealID certified cards now.

            I suspect that the states that need RealID cards are *counting* on people refusing to jump through hoops and prices, so that they can confound attempts to catch illegals or seal obvious problems, such as voting.

            1. Problem to refusing to jump through hoops is then the entire state’s licensing or alternative Id eventually (if not current) means you need a passport to fly or take train, or even board a cruise that doesn’t go to other countries.

              I needed exactly the same documentation to get my last passport. For the passport renewal I just need my current passport.

              Mom, even tho she doesn’t have her certified marriage license, she has had enough passports using the same name, that to get her driver’s license renewed under the new rules she just needs her birth certificate, current address, and her passport.

              When the rules went in. Regarding Grandma & Grandpa. It was “oh, goodie, they can’t drive anymore.” Party time. Didn’t work that way. Instead someone had to turn them in. Now when you get your marriage certificate you fill out a form with your birth name, current name, what name you plan on using in the future. That becomes part of the certified record along with the certified marriage certificate. Also, both are automatically issued to the couple, once the signed, yes they really go married, certificate arrives at the county of issue. Those who have been married multiple times, where between marriages, have reverted to former names, would have long paper trails.

      3. There were a lot of people old enough to read about the Wright Brothers’ flights in the paper by candle light (no radio then…) who also watched the Apollo landing on a TV getting juice from a nuclear reactor elsewhere on the grid…

        Things moved FAST during the 20th century…

        1. My grandmother was one of them. She was born in the mid-1890s, on a farm in Pennsylvania. Lived from being able to read about the Wright Brothers … to experiencing her first-born dying in WWII as aircrew, to flying to Europe and to the Far East, and seeing a man setting foot on the Moon.

        2. Yes. I was just thinking about my great-grandmother, who was born in 1896 and died in about 1982 (I don’t remember the exact year, but she lived long enough to meet all three of my daughters, and my youngest was born in 1980). She saw a lot in her lifetime.

          1. Dad’s mom 1908 – 1987. Mom’s folks b. 1911 and 1913 – 2006 (died within 2 weeks of one another). All grew up in homes with no running water, and wells, on homesteads. Took buck board wagons to school, or rode a horse. Dad’s mom even talked about walking barefoot in the mud (Oregon) until getting on the wagon not cleaning her feet until arrived at school to save her socks and shoes. Mom’s folks didn’t have those stories, they grew up in Montana. All three were lucky enough to not loose siblings or their own children in childhood. But having a child die in their social circles was common. Dad’s dad (1899 – 1959) wasn’t as lucky. He wasn’t the only one to survive to adulthood of his siblings, but he was the only one to survive to have children.

            All three lived to watch the lunar landing. Dad’s mom even flew to Europe and Hawaii (her oldest and youngest had money, with a capital M. Took mom along.)

        3. 19th, too. Especially after about 1840. It REALLY shows in American Civil War weapons. A soldier could march into his first battle in 1861 carrying a smoothbore musket not far removed from the American Revolution…and into his last four years later with a lever-action repeating rifle.

    2. Spent two summers at a Boys’ Camp with outhouses. Saw my first luna moth in ‘em.

      Lived in a house with a party line phone. I remember this vaguely from adult conversations, but was too young to have phone privileges.

      I remember, barely, delivery of milk in glass, cream-topped, bottles.

      My parents only switched from a rotary phone when the phone company (s) started charging extra for it, as opposed to the other way around.

      My first stereo had tubes. And a ‘78 rpm option.

      (I’m cheating here, it was a hand-me-down from my Mother’s older brother.)

      I remember the assumption that all computers used punch-cards. And were the size of whole rooms.

      I remember long distance calls costing multiple dollars a minute.

      I remember when Playboy didn’t show pubic hair. No, I wasn’t old enough to but Playboy at the time. Since when did that ever stop boys?

      1. I recall Ma being astonished upon seeing an early TRS-80 or such. Computers, to her, were things that filled rooms, not things that fit on a(an admittedly large) desk. And a few years later we an ELF II at home.. crude, even then, but oh what one learns when the system is limited. Pointers? No big deal. After the 1802’s P and X registers, pointers were No. Big. Deal. And oh the number of time I had to explain that there was a difference between the pointer and the place… like the difference between an address/phone book and the physical property. And *ox* the slow one… _sigh_.

        1. An ELF II. That’s interesting, I’m in the process of building an ELF as a retro project.

          I had not been exposed to the 1802 until the past couple of years (I learned on 6502 based machines) and I really like the design. I have a core for one on an FPGA (not my design) I’m thinking of trying to move to a 16/32 setup a la the early M68k for a follow on retro.

          1. I have an Apple ][+ and a //e. I was thrilled to see the powerful instruction set of the 6502.. but after the 1802, it really felt register-starved.

            1. Yeah. The 1802 seems like a proto-RISC setup.

              That said, part of the reason for the zero page addressing mode on the 6502 was to allow page zero to serve as 256 registers. That maps to minis of the early/mid 70s where the registers were in memory. The TMS990 series (whose microprocessor version was the TMS9900 in the TI/99 computers) is an example. I have a couple of those in the bits bin for a project as well.
              Then again, I also have a pair of Harris 6210s (microprocessor PDP-8s) and some Z80s. The later are right now queued up for a Jupiter ACE clone and both were once intended for a laptop that was both a PDP and a CP/M laptop (the later providing a terminal to the former). I think that is arguably a box for writing (some code and definitely fiction) than a regular laptop.

              1. The “hi-res” screen(s) of the Apple 2 are triads of octets of octets of septets which make image flipping Rather Interesting. My first try was in Basic and it had a long runtime (20 minutes, as I recall). I added a machine code bit-flipper using zero page and got it down to 5 minutes or so. Putting the outer loops in machine code sped things right up to about 5 second. That is when, of course, $SISTAUR had to complain of the slow runtime. After a while I looked it over and managed to find a way to do the bit-flipping all in registers (and flags) and the runtime was down to just over a second.

                Why all that? I didn’t have a copy of Print Shop and wanted to do the crude greeting card thing.

                1. Orvan and Herbn, both of you geeks.

                  What does it say about me that I can understand every word (even if I couldn’t reproduce some of it.) Didn’t get involved with programming until Apple IIe. Even then never got into the hardware specs. Oh I can research it. Deal with it if I must. Otherwise … have fun boys.

                2. Gentlebeings I am impressed. Never had a computer of my own until much later, wanted a SOL-20 (S-100 bus, 8080 chip set) but even the $1200 kit (plus a monitor) was out of my league. One of my high school friends dad was a Doctor at Yale medical. He had all sorts of expensive hobbies including an altair 8800which we mucked with incessantly. I do enjoy messing with my Raspberry Pi 3 and simh. Keep thinking I want to load Tops-20 on it (just because I can) but the DEC-10/20 emulation on SIMH has NO networking so getting stuff other thanthe OS on and off it would be a pain as you only have terminal interfaces (via USB) and transfer over an emulated 9600 baud line via kermit or such like. There were some other Dec-20 emulators, but nobodies built them on a PI (or recently).

                    1. Thank you Orvan, I had never heard that but it was so true. Even stuff from the same vendor was a crapshoot.

                  1. We still have a running S-100 system in the house. I have probably the largest collection of running 2102 SRAM in existence: 60K worth, 480 devices.

                    I don’t fire it up much any more except to prove I still can. When I want to fiddle with CP/M on real hardware, I use a TRS-80 Model II, which made a damned fine CP/M machine.

                  2. I still want to build Hercules on a Pi and run a big honkin’ VM/370 and MVS setup on it, just to prove I can.

                    I managed the Hercules project for more than a decade. I know a thing or three about emulators.

                    And let’s see, where didi I put that picture of the ox’s Apple //e running as an MVS system console…?

                    1. It is interesting to see what you can do with the modern chips. The PI’s broadcom was a Broadcom BCM2837B0 kind of meant for low end STB and cell phone usage. But its 1.5 Ghz 4 core arm machine with a built in low end GPU (Please note said low end GPU would kick the ass of all of the high end Workstations I worked on in the late ’80 through the mid ’90s). Assembled into a board its $35. It is also nice that some vendors have released old OS and software to hobbyists so we can do these stupid things :-).

                    2. I got Hercules up and running. The only thing I have never really worked on is big iron and I suspect it is the closest I’ll get.

                      Although, having read the System 360/30 used an 8-bit CPU to implement the System 360 instruction set led to some rather fanciful notes about building a System 360/6502 using the venerable 8-bit to create a CPU.

                      I laid down until the desire went away.

                      I kept the notes though.

                  3. I would very much like to take measurements on a SOL-20 case (they were a tad before my time) for my longer term 1802 project.

                    1. Yep, I have that. I figured I could do what you said, but would still love to measure one.

                      It had a great case with those walnut sides. Very attractive. The only case I’ve liked that much is the original NeXT cubes. If I ever do my Jupiter Prism project I have sketches for an homage to hold it.

      2. remember the assumption that all computers used punch-cards. And were the size of whole rooms.

        Why have we quit assuming computers are the size of whole rooms? I know in the RPG world people rant about computers taking up a “ton” of ship size (the volume of a metric ton of liquid hydrogen).

        Those are completely reasonable.

        Let’s take my job. I do large scale mathematical modeling for a major bank. Everything we create several thousand scenarios of potential changes in interest rates and the resulting effects on the prices of an asset pool and it’s related hedge. The next day our traders use the results to interpolate the effects of market movements.

        So, it’s large set of mostly simple calculations.

        We have four clusters in three states. We have somewhere north of 24,000 cores in individual blades with attached NAS storage such that my normally held prior archives are 6+TB and we use 50-100GB for every day daily run in my subsection (calibrating the forward interest rate curve and shock surface). We’re the smallest of five major activities.

        Despite four small bedrooms of computing power and storage our process takes from 3pm to about 3am. Part of that is sequencing. My part (3-5pm) doesn’t run the systems full bore, but is a necessary first step.

        In fact, we can’t run everything overnight. Another activity is balance sheet calculations and projections which uses so much capacity it has to run during the day to not crowd out what runs overnight (the bs stuff isn’t needed for daily hedging).

        So, no, you don’t need a room sized computer to do payroll anymore, although a big enough company does. However, you want to be a hedge fund or a web provider you do. Just because they are built out of independent units, like a server farm, doesn’t mean the independent unit does the job. That server farm is one computer in a very real sense, just organized differently from a S/360 the year I was born.

        When we get to space travel and calculating warp jumps I will accept, in fact find more believable, room sized plus. Same for fire control solutions are relativistic speeds. Those calculations are orders of magnitude more than what I do and have to be done five orders of magnitude quicker (we take 40K+ seconds to do what they need to do in one).

        Shrinking the computers will bring that to room size setups on the required timescale.

        /rant off

        1. OMG, you introduced the Traveller Grognard Computer Wars to this blog?! ROFL!

          (Big Computer Grognards also postulate a return to things like tubes to not be as susceptible to the violent energy manipulations required transitioning to and from jump space.)

          I will not say more, as Sarah has a rule against religious wars. 😉

          *gives the BC secret sign to Herbn*

          1. LOL.

            Also, there is “the terminal to sit at requires half a ton of volume” argument when dates about to the early 80s at least.

              1. Yeah. Or some of the old IBM terminals in the AS400 shop I briefly ran.

                I think the argument was closer to human in chair took up most of the space. The assumption was a detected terminal was needed.

                1. After reading that last sentence three times, I’m guessing that was supposed to be dedicated terminal, not detected terminal

        2. Into the early-mid 1980s, Hewlett-Packard used a large-room sized Amdahl computer for both business and scientific calculations. By around 1985, the Amdahl was scrapped in favor of several HP-UX machines; long before blade servers were around. So, a large corporation could do its main computing with a bedroom full of servers.

          Dialing back to 1969, our large (4500 students) high school swapped out it’s Burroughs computer (8Kb worth of core, 4 mag tape drives) for an NCR Century series computer. Dual disc drives (5Mb each), a mag tape drive for legacy and backup), and about 128Kb worth of RAM. (9 bit, as I recall; needed a parity bit because the thin-film memory wasn’t always reliable.) That guy took up a living-room worth of space, though it could have been packed more tightly.

          1. So, a large corporation could do its main computing with a bedroom full of servers.

            That is still a room full, which was my point.

            Also, as odd as this sounds, I’m not sure I’d call HP a large corp in terms of computing needs. In the early aughts I worked for BCBSRI. We were reintegrating our HMO side which had been on HPUX and bringing it back to IBM big iron. I had been a “servers will replace big iron, who needs mainframes” until then. I saw what was missing in that calculations.

            Servers are replacing big iron, but multiple to get the required redundancy and through put. So, I see those servers as “one computer” in a business sense that still take up a room. The design, as individual units managed to run a mainframe type job environment, is more reliable and flexible, but it is still of full room to get that computing ability.

            That’s my big picture. You’re not going to turn what a big S/360 did into your laptop just because processors and storage are smaller. There is more going on than that.

            1. Yep. And it should be noted that the bulk of the scientific computing was done elsewhere. (Usually distributed in department workstations/smaller servers. Again, long before blade/parallel processing was big.)

        3. Any business that needs to do really serious number crunching will have access to a mainframe setup. I’ve consulted at both insurance companies and Colorado’s state welfare accounting group, and both still maintain a substantial mainframe footprint.

    3. Same thing, plus I built a tube radio. At 14. Well, I wanted my own radio and the answer was “go ahead. We have no objection.”
      Also I didn’t have central heat or color tv until I got married in 1985.

      1. I think I still have a few “colorburst” crystals… now obsolete for the original purpose. It boggles some that I have (and have truly used) a “straight key” (classic telegraph key).

      2. No, no, no.

        Sarah, you were supposed to say “Dad, I want to go to the moon.”

        Seems like you parents would have given the Heinlein response to that one, too.

    4. We were a bit better off; we moved to suburban Detroit when I was 2, and we lived in a new tract. Walking to school, we got to see tadpoles turn into frogs in a pond in a vacant lot. Garter snakes were common. Some of my friend’s fathers had K-rations stashed in their garage. (mid 1950s, then).

      My quantum electronics professor (still alive, now 90 years old) has the patent for the red LED.

      In the early ’60s, somebody from Bell Labs did a presentation on technology at our church, including a “laser simulator”. Ruby lasers were too difficult to take on a roadshow, and gas lasers weren’t a thing back then.

      8th grade, using graduation money, I bought/built a Heathkit shortwave radio; all tubes. My best friend built a CB radio (synthesized 23 channels; high tech for the time), and that was all tube. A few years later, I was gifted an obsolete console TV/radio. Didn’t have luck resurrecting the TV, but built a mono audio amplifier from the leftover bits. My first stereo speakers were built from raw speakers (Allied Radio) and lumberyard plywood.

      TV in Detroit included Canadian stations. Commander Cody SF serials were common, along with George Reeves Superman. (And Hopalong Cassidy, and Sky King.) We were adept at setting the tuning and vert/horizontal holds.

      Telephones were leased/rented from the phone company until the middle of the 1970s, when they were offered for sale. The phones in our house in the 60s were hardwired in place.

      Dad’s camera predated the flash cube. Kodachrome (ASA 25) was the default for years; Ektachrome came out later on, but had/has horrible color fading.

      1. I vaguely remember a trip to a junkyard in ‘The Flats’ in Cleveland, when my Father saw the first printing calculator he’d ever laid eyes on (in the office, paying). Texas Instruments had been making calculators for a while, but Father had no immediate need for one, so he hadn’t noticed.

        I don’t know how long after it was, but his reaction was to invest in companies that made batteries and paper. Worked out really well for him, too.

    5. All those… and I miss the card catalog. Can’t effectively browse the newfangled digital catalog, looking for alternatives to near-misses and not-quite-rights.

  7. it’s amazing how little people understand of the way people lived just, say 100 years ago. Or 200.

    I’ve heard it said that America thinks 100 years is a long time while Europe thinks 100 miles is a long way.

    As it happens, I just started Thomas Sowell’s memoirs “A Personal Journey.” He mentions folk in his family during his childhood who were the first generation born after slavery.

    Horses are not cars.

    The late Joel Rosenberg did an article whether in Writer’s Digest or as a chapter in one of the various “how to write science fiction and fantasy” books out there (I don’t remember). In it he raised the complaint that many fantasy writers treat horses like motorcycles. Yet push a horse too hard and end up with horse meat. It was somewhat later that I came across his Guardians of the Flame series and saw one of the characters make that exact comment while explaining to the others (transplants from a world essentially identical to ours) the limitations of horseback travel.

    Going to the bathroom was more complicated.

    I’ll admit, I mostly just don’t mention this. 😉

    <blockquoteand let us be clear, there were no dragons. Ever, really.
    Peter Dickinson might disagree. 😉

    I don’t do historical. The detailed research to get it right just seems like too much work for too little reward. Maybe someday if I’ve developed enough of a following that I can expect sales to justify the effort perhaps… The research involved in trying to get even pseudo-medieval fantasy right is enough for me. I can at least fudge things with judicious use of magic, activity of deities, and adjusting history and settings. Still, there are enough people who know how these things work that some effort to get them right, or at least have a reason why they’re different is worthwhile. (Why, yes, the main setting in my world has ships a lot more advanced than those of our world at a similar overall technical level, but there are reasons for that in back story.)

    1. And bit of an anecdote. Many years ago, I was playing an FRPG. We were doing character generation and buying initial equipment. One item jumped out at me “sleeping sack.”

      Um, to the best of my knowledge, people forced to camp out while on the road back in medieval times (and this was a pseudo-medieval setting) wrapped themselves in their cloaks (big, heavy, wool things) or in blankets. Best I can find the “sleeping bag” dates back only to the late 19th century.

      1. “The “Euklisia Rug”, from Ancient Greek εὖ (well) and κλισία (cot, sleeping-place), patented by mail-order pioneer Pryce Pryce-Jones in 1876,[”

        Wikipedia, but probably not wildly inaccurate as I can’t imagine a political angle to it.

      2. I think sleeping bags were something we picked up from the indigenous North Americans. (Probably indigenous Canadians or Alaskans, given the climate.)

        1. A sleeping bag requires considerable residual wealth in a society: an artifact with a single purpose, accomplishing what a couple of blankets could do about as well?

          There is a delightful sequence in John Ford’s The Quiet Man in which the locals are amused at their American “cousin” employing a bag for sleeping.

          1. I canna find the scene in the youtube, but IMDb provides the quotes:

            Michaleen Flynn: He’s a nice, quiet, peace-loving man, come home to Ireland to forget his troubles. Sure, yes, yes, he’s a millionare, you know, like all the Yanks. But he’s eccentric – ooh, he is eccentric! Wait ’til I show ya… his bag to sleep in – a sleeping bag, he calls it! Here, let me show you how it operates.


            Mary Kate Danaher: Father, could I… tell you in the Irish?

            Father Peter Lonergan, Narrator: [distracted, fishing] Sea, sea.

            Mary Kate Danaher: [very hesitantly] Níor lig mé m’fhear chéile isteach i mo leaba liom aréir. Chuir mé fuinneamh air a chodladh i – Ó, i mála codlata! Mála codlata!

            Father Peter Lonergan, Narrator: Céad é sin? “Bag?”

            Mary Kate Danaher: Sleeping bag, Father, with… with buttons! Más breá é, níor rith sé ar a shon. An peaca é?

            Father Peter Lonergan, Narrator: [exasperated] Woman, Ireland may be a poor country, God help us. But here, a married man sleeps in a bed, not a bag!

          2. Truly one of my favorite John Wayne movies, and so absolutely and profoundly not PC that nothing remotely like it could be made in today’s world. Of course much the same could be said about a classic from a much later generation, Blazing Saddles.

            1. And the chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara is magnificent. A hint that both were far better actors than folks want to give them credit for,

          3. A sleeping bag requires considerable residual wealth in a society: an artifact with a single purpose
            Or, it requires a society where that single purpose is particularly useful – say, a nomadic plains lifestyle. (To B. Durbin’s point about Native Americans.)

            1. Less “particularly useful” than a matter of blanket scarcity, I suspect, particularly where sheep were not kept. Ranch hands (in the vernacular: cowboys) employed bed rolls, after all, because they came from a society in which blankets were largely available.

            2. I have a society (de-technologized Earth colony. Sort of. yeah, sometime next year. It’s… 25% written) where bed rolls (sort of a mattress, with a heavy blanket or fur) are standard equipment of nomads who are AT LEAST 50% of the population, and maybe more. One of the characters keeps threatening to get his bed roll and and pack and leave the palace. And it’s precisely for the same reason. Mostly nomadic.

              1. My spacefaring nonhumans use footwraps, loinwraps, and in the rough, are likely to sleep rolled up in a cloak or blanket. And they go feral very easily. The veneer of civilization is sometimes a bit thin, being they’re only about 16,000 years from their animal ancestors, and not all of that was engineered out.

    2. Going to the bathroom was more complicated.

      I’ll admit, I mostly just don’t mention this.


      Although the button thing….argh!

      I’m having a heck of a time picturing my current protagonist lacing up his pants.

      1. I wonder how the first encounter went…

        “There are HOLES in this!”
        “Of course, the holes are for the buttons.”
        “Holes for buttons?”

            1. Fellow at work (sued to?) try to be/play “gangsta” and I, who am No Such Thing, was told, “You’re more ‘gangsta’ than he is!” which indicates just how amazingly badly he was failing at it.

              1. I was working in a Mall store one Christmas when I found my way back from lunch being obstructed by a young black Gangsta wannabe (how wannabe. His pants were pressed). I was tired and had scant patience, and what I had I proposed to keep for the customers, who surly needed it. I told him “Move or bleed”

                He moved.

            2. Foxfier, Jonna tells me I’m wrong, and there were buttons. The Victorians for some reason thought there weren’t, and therefore…
              So. It still was more like the front of a sneaker, even if with a button at the top, each side.

              1. Yes – I believe buttons were used to wrap the laces about, as with modern workboots.

                Note the upper fasteners.

                1. No. She says there were buttonholes as far back as the thirteenth century.
                  One of the things that historical books (as in learning, not novels) routinely fail at is everyday, mundane things, like say fasteners or cleaning or…
                  And apparently the Victorians muddied the waters, because, well, they did. In pretty much everything.

                    1. On the button front I ran into something at a tour of the servant quarters at Newport Rhode Island mansions. The late victorian Early Edwardian ladies LIKED to change outfits (conspicuous consumption). And heaven forbid they NOT be washed in between usings if at all possible. But buttons then are mad of glass, shell, bone or wood. VERY delicate, washing was rough even in the best of methods and would have turned the buttons into shards. So the ladies maids would strip the buttons off the blouse or other item. It would then be sent downstairs to be cleaned. When returned the ladies maid would reattach the buttons. With 2-5 changes a day I imagine this got seriously tedious. What mere mortals did (other than use studs or avoid washing) I don’t know.

              2. Easy enough to understand. The mention of buttons in polite society would have been verboten. One simply does not mention the unmentionable, and buttons would have been the gateway to that which must remain hidden. Much as with the use of “limbs” rather than the cruder coarser “legs.”

                1. Actually the ‘victorians didn’t talk about legs, much less sex’ trope is largely bushwa. To whatever extent it existed, it was limited to a few pockets of overly precious maiden-aunt types. Then it was seized on and run with by the Flapper generation in the inevitable generational war about sex and courtship. Later the Progressive Left perpetuated it in their constant effort to appear more reasonable than previous generations.

                  1. The US went Odd about “limbs” and “white meat.” England? Nah. Granted, this is based on an English book, so YMMV.

                    1. As I understand it, the British told the story about the Americans…and were about as spot on as usual, which wasn’t very. Americans MAY have told it about the British, which would also be par for the course.

                      To the extent it had any validity at all, it seems to be something that might spring up in a circle of would-be ‘upper class’ matrons in small towns in the US. I’m not familiar with the equivalent social strata in Britain at that time, if indeed there was one. In any case it would have been the result of a garbling of the ‘look how silly our cousins across the Atlantic are’ stories, taken seriously.

                  2. There may be more “overly-precious people” of this sort *today*, especially among the highly-credentialed, than there were during the Victorian era. A professor on an elevator at a conference was asked what floor he wanted by a female academic; he responded “ladies lingerie.” (old elevator joke, dating from the days when elevators had operators)

                    She filed a complaint against him, and a committee of the association which was doing the conference found that he had indeed violated their code of conduct. He was ordered to issue an *unequivocal* apology.


            3. Perhaps I’m not their target demographic, but I find it hard to be menaced by someone showing off his Spiderman underwear.

      2. Which is why, when I write things, I avoid the question of “what would character X be doing when they dress/undress” and just say “character X got dressed.”

        1. Of course you also have to figure out whether character X had to have help in getting dressed…

  8. In a similar vein, I’ve discovered a YouTube channel where a woman demonstrates dressing in period clothing. The first one I saw started with the overheard comment that it took women 2 hours to dress for the day in the Victorian era, and that was with a maid to help. So the woman times herself getting dressed – unassisted – in early and late Victorian garb. She starts in undergarments and stockings, but everything else – including the corset – she puts on herself. The one outfit was 10 minutes, the other 12.

    I appreciate them as a costume geek, but also as a reminder that a lot of people know a lot of horribly wrong things about the world.

    1. Prior Attire – a goldmine for costume geeks. She did one episode about how going to the bathroom was managed by women in full crinoline, corset, etc. Yes, there were ways to manage this – and the main thing was bloomers with an open seam along the crotch…

      1. My wife wondered about that very thing, so I went to Youtube and found that video. Which was quite decorous and informative. And my wife was very glad she lives in the modern West…

      1. The best explanation I ever heard was some comedienne who quipped that times women give for how close to being ready are given in “football minutes.” That is, sure there’s only 10 minutes on the clock, but that means MUCH more than a mere 10 minutes.

      2. Hair. It’s the hair that takes the longest, and that is speaking from years of theatrical experience. I love my hair for this production, since it’s in a snood—and since my hair is short, most of the hair in the snood is fake. But the girls curling their natural hair (with modern tools!) take at least 30 minutes for that part alone.

        1. Speaking of, email me at my two initials last name at hotmail. There is a fantasy series (probably won’t do it till next year, mind) that I’d like to have you on tap for art on.

        2. Hair yes. Not a problem for me (seriously, bald middle aged man, think a cue ball with a minor fringe). But my younger daughter has dense curly/wavy red hair. The stuff is beautiful to look at when it works but my lord is is a pain to maintain and can turn into an uncontrollable bush for no apparent reason. If she is going to wash here her and work with it were talking 90 minutes minimum.And she avoids straightening (very bad for her hair type it seems) which would add an hour at least to the process. As a male who’d always had short relatively straight hair, I had not a clue what a nuisance it was. Always was wondering what the heck was taking so long.

  9. Lose the dragons and elves?

    But Sarah, Dragons have always interacted with Humans!

    Of course, most of the time the Humans didn’t know that they were interacting with Dragons. 😉

    As for those elves, they kept out of sight if they knew what was good for them. 😀

    1. And now I think of the story of the FORTHer who somehow winds up in a magical world and manages to use a few ‘trivial’ spells to build up a complex system capable of astonishing things… and one side effect is that the new complexity attracts gremlins. The REALLY amusing part is that a Native is astonished that the creatures had a name and were “invented.”

      1. That’s not Rick Cook’s “Wiz” books, then… though his magic looked an awful lot like FORTH.

          1. Nod, the details of the Gremlins told me that it was Rick Cook’s Wiz books.

          2. Then they’re the source of one of my favorite quotes:

            “But that’s not a pentagram! That’s a circle!”

            “A pentagram is a circle, for high enough values of five.”
            – Rick Cook, “The Wizardry Unleashed”

            1. Yup Rick Cook’s Wizardry series. With Emacs as a demon with a little green accountants shade. And with seem REALLY odd occurrences do to Uncertainty principle.

    2. Drak, chewing on us may be interacting, but it is not desirable interaction (except perhaps for the Dragon)

      1. Chewing on Humans?

        Humans are too interesting for me to do that.

        Of course, the annoying Humans rarely taste good so for them it’s just a burst of flame unless I want them to suffer.

        Of course, nobody here is annoying. 😀

    1. Nod.

      Recently read a fantasy set in Modern England where the Main Characters had to deal with a baby Wyrm.

      No fire but acid “breathe”.

  10. without an understanding, at least on general lines, of history, people will believe crazy things

    Ha! As if an understanding of History will alter that!

  11. There is considerable evidence that dragons did, in fact, exist. Even flying and fire-breathing ones, amazingly enough. The flying ones that I remember reading about were Welsh and small — the local farmers complained that when a ‘flock’ (herd? nest? I don’t know the proper term for a group of dragons!) came in they were a danger to the poultry houses, on the same scale as a fox in the henhouse. I don’t remember if a color was mentioned, but I thought it amusing that the Welsh ‘dragon’ may have actually been a little chicken thief! Of course, there could have been larger ones; anything that posed a threat to human life, or a serious threat to their livestock, was killed off as expeditiously as possible prior to our current politically-correct era.

    Fire-breathing creatures analogous to dragons/dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible, and before someone disdains the Bible, it has been proven entirely accurate in all historical and scientific facts that are mentioned that can be checked. So I see no reason to assume that the things that can’t be checked were inaccurate. Early (Biblical era) ‘dragons’ were, or could be, quite large, but by the Middle ages the surviving ones seem to be rather small. St. George’s ‘dragon,’ for instance, was probably little if any larger than the largest lizards currently living, according to a near-contemporary account I’ve read (and it was evidently in the warmer climate of North Africa, not in Europe).

    The Chinese seem to have actually bred and raised ‘dragons,’ though they used them primarily as mascots and to pull carts in big parades — the forerunner of the big dragon kites which — since they no longer have the actual animals — have replaced them.

    There are enough legends of dragons or dragon-like creatures world-wide that there has to be some truth behind them. The stories get distorted, of course, when they are transmitted orally down to generations who have never actually seen the creatures. And modern fiction has distorted those historical creatures beyond all recognition in a lot of cases. But they were almost certainly real, once upon a time.

    I have several books about ‘dragons’ and dinosars; the first one I’m going to mention is by a man who, as far as I know, is a secular author. He simply compiled evidence from ancient artifacts of the coexistence of ‘dragons’ (dinosaurs in modern terminology) and man, or at least evidence that our ancestors — some of them not so far back — had personal knowledge of the creatures. This is Dire Dragons: Untold Secrets of Planet Earth (I think it’s a series), by Vance Nelson. Lots of pictures of artifacts.

    The other three are all by Christian Creationist authors.

    Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs is by Bodie Hodge and Laura Welch. This one is primarily meant for children, but contains a lot of information about legends around the world.

    Chronicles of Dinosauria, by Dave Woetzel, written on a high school to adult level, is by a cryptozoologist.

    And Dinosaurs, Marvels of God’s Design: The Science of the Biblical Account, by Dr. Tim Clarey, is also high school to adult level. He discusses dinosaurs from the beginning to their extinction after the Flood (well after the Flood in some cases).

    There are undoubtedly many more books on the topic; these are just what I happen to have in my library, since I find the topic rather fascinating.

    ‘Dragons’ were almost certainly real creatures, only gone extinct fairly recently in historical terms. And there probably were a very few still living during the Middle Ages, here and there on the earth. There is speculation that a few may even still exist in some of the most remote tropical regions (I’d love to see that proven, if so). They weren’t magical; any that could actually fly were almost certainly not large enough to carry a human as a passenger; they weren’t shifters (no such thing has ever existed); they probably weren’t any more intelligent than any currently extant lizard; and they certainly couldn’t talk (unless indwelt by Satan, as the serpent in the Garden of Eden was). But they did exist.

      1. Theory? Who needs a theory, they were the guys the Irish replaced!


        I had forgotten the half-evidence for dragons/dinosaur survivors/what the heck was that’s, thank you for reminding me!

        1. Actually, elves (perhaps not by that name, but the actual origin of the stories) goes back even farther. Remember people before the Flood lived close to a thousand years? Well, after it, lifespans began to drop, but by increments. Even by the time of Abraham, two hundred years or so still seems to have been an average lifespan. Shem, his several-times-great-grandfather, outlived Abraham by several years. So that, I think, is the original ‘nearly-immortal’ source of the ‘elves.’ (Elves probably originally meant something like elders or old ones.)

        2. Which Irish, Foxfier? 😉

          (I recall there were at least 3 sets of “irishmen” – the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha De Dannan, and the Celts. All in succession.)

            1. Tolkien elves?

              Nonsense, the Tuatha De Dannan couldn’t have been as tough as Tolkien elves.

              After all, they lost to the Celts and the Irish Celts lost to the English!

              Not That Tough! [Very Big Grin While Flying Away Very Very Fast]

        3. Yeah, and wait until the survivors band together and kick all the Irishmen out of the Elf Homeland.

          They only *thought* the IRA were tough guys…

          – TRX [supports the Elf Liberation Front [not the Front for Elf Liberation…])

    1. Here is a quote from Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs: Most peoples at some point in their history have believed that the dragon was real. Prior to the sixteenth century thousands of eyewitness accounts of dragon sightings were recorded. In the British Isles alone, in the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, the following towns reported encounters with dragons: Dornoch, Kirkton, Wantley, Osyth, Bisterne, Carpaptin, St. Leonard’s Forest, Ben Vair, Anwick, Ludham, Bures, Kingston, and Helston.

      I’m not sure that the names of those towns are exactly the same today, but they could probably all be located with a little research.

    2. Considering birds are basically latter-day dinosaurs, I don’t think it’s farfetched that within historical memory there could be oversized and semi-naked birds that we moderns would label “dinosaur” or at least “raptor”, which at least in general appearance is close enough to ‘dragon’.

      And who needs Jurassic Park? Just imagine a chicken 15 feet tall…

    3. I just found out something really cool, you can tell what dinosaurs were discovered by the Chinese.

      They all have Long in their name, like everybody else uses ‘saur’– that is, ours are lizard, theirs are dragon.

  12. Peasants in the Middle Ages were no more likely to know how to read than they were to meet a dragon face to face
    This depends entirely on how you define “middle ages”. A lot of folks don’t know when the middle ages ended and assume they ran right up through the Protestant Reformation.

    On the other hand, a lot of folks think no one but nobles (and maybe middle class) could read during the Protestant Reformation. (Probably, again, the not knowing when “thing described as middle ages” ends, and depending on criteria.) Criminy, Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible was in the 1300s and was NOT intended merely for the landed and merchant classes. Luther’s 95 Theses was a huge deal because someone took it down off the Wittenberg Church door and made oodles of copies and distributed them for the laity to read.

    1. The number of people who could read for fun
      Well, up until later years, there wasn’t much TIME to read ‘for fun’ for most folks.

      1. And books were expensive, so most families — even if they were literate — couldn’t afford too many books. But a Bible and an herbal for medicinal uses would have been pretty common fairly early on.

      2. Well, in Shakespeare’s time, pop-lit pamphlets were hawked in the streets. They were a luxury item, but fairly commonplace. In Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale, there is a scene with the rogue Autolycus peddling such pamphlets to a group of rustics who are flush with the proceeds of recent sheep shearing.

        1. Note, i did not dispute this. The percentage was the same (as far as we can calculate) as our “people who read well enough to do it for fun.”
          The difference is there were no movies, or games, so more people DID read for fun.

      3. And until printing presses books are HARD to make. Takes immense amounts of time of a very skilled laborer to produce. Whole Bibles are things that Emperors or kings command be made to show how pious (and rich) they are. Smaller books (books of hours, books of psalms, single gospels) are more common. Secular stuff is rarer still and some of the older secular items get reused for religious purposes, although modern techniques can sometimes reveal the original underlying texts. Even after printing and in relatively literate cultures (e.g. English colonists at Plymouth, Boston,Salem etc) it would usually be limited to a single bible (commonly Geneva at Plymouth, The KJV/Authorized version is distrusted by the pilgrims) and perhaps one to two others usually of a religious bent. Not that there aren’t Odds then who get everything they can afford/find.

        1. Printing press and 99 cents will get you a cup of coffee without (relatively) cheap paper.

          When a monastery wanted to copy a book, their first step was calculating how many ewes they had to breed.

          1. Hadn’t thought of it that way but very true. Mass market (i.e. more than one at a time) books are one of those things that depend on a whole bunch of advances. Miss one and everything gets delayed.

    2. There is a reason that the reformation took off in countries that had a much larger merchant class. Literacy sucked among the people until well into the 1500s

      1. Eamon Duffy’s _Stripping of the Altars_ goes into a lot of good detail about literacy in English and Latin, and about what printers sold. Lots and lots of images of St. Veronica’s Veil, among other things.

        I was fascinated to learn that in the late 1200s, Lübeck probably had a 60% male literacy rate, and 40% female literacy! (It declined after the 1340s, as did the wealth of the Hansa.)

        1. Yep. Trade towns had higher literacy, for obvious reasons. A Baen author who based ALL her historical studies on the Hansiatic league had some very weird ideas of the past.)
          I’ll note “land bound” was less likely to read and write (even in my childhood) because they saw no use in it and also because they didn’t travel enough for being able to read to make any difference. They weren’t IGNORANT and had vast stores of memorized information to draw on. They just weren’t literate.

      2. > Literacy sucked among the people until well into the 1500s

        …and, once declining in the USA, it has made a comeback.

        But it’s not English-as-we-know-it; Millennial stream-of-consciousness like some kind of written Tourette’s Syndrome, even in technical writing, and txtspk, which might as well be heiroglyphics.

  13. I wonder why everyone thinks it is.
    Because kneading dough is no fun. Well, for a little kid, it might be. But if you’re making lots of bread, it’s a rather tedious task. (Pizza dough is more fun, ’cause you can throw it in the air.) Perhaps you give that portion of the bread-making to the lower-class/skilled workers.

    Having said that, there are LOTS of tedious tasks in a kitchen before modern appliances. Stirring the soup/stew/gruel, for example. Kneading the bread, probably. Pounding out the schnitzel… not sure. Probably cutting the onions.

    1. Before automation (which in many cases simply means pre electric motor), life itself was FULL of dull, annoying, but necessary thing. One can argue about Edison vs. Tesla and all, but both, despite so much in one case or the other, are to be at least considered for sainthood. Yes, lights are great. And resistive heating for toasters and ovens are nice… but the electric motor is Modern Civilization. No motor, no pumps, no go.

      Hail Faraday!
      Hail Jedlik!

    2. I used to make all of our bread (by hand — no bread machines — and I never found kneading the dough to be tedious. I thought it was relaxing, and wish my youngest daughter and I could still eat ‘normal’ bread (we both have celiac disease). I also thought/think that hanging the laundry out, and milking the goats, were/are relaxing and peaceful tasks. I’ve talked to many other people who agree with me on all of those, so it isn’t just me.

      1. Yes, I loved making bread, too. And I still like washing clothes by hand. I can’t here, but it’s on the plans, building a little outdoor “gardening” tank, which I’ll use for wash, of course. But will be sold as a “Gardening sink.”

      2. Yes, but for how many people were you baking your bread? If you’re making it for enough people that a kitchen staff is required to prepare food, then it becomes something other than a leisurely activity. The same with laundry, milking, etc.

        The woman of the (non-manor) house may knead her own bread. The kitchen staff has someone who can do that simple task while more skilled folks salt the meat or season the stew or pickle veggies.

        1. My mother made bread for our family of seven, I made bread for our family of five. So not that many people. But, point one, it’s only a matter of scale. I made a six-loaf batch of bread once a week; in a manor house they probably made that much every day. And point two, kneading bread is a semi-skilled job. If it isn’t done right, the bread isn’t going to turn out very well. My suspicion is that it was not the least-skilled kitchen maid who got the job; it may have been the cook, or in a larger house with more staff there may have been someone assigned to the task of making bread under the cook, but they had to have some experience and know what they were doing.

          1. Thank you. And not semi-skilled if you don’t have reliable yeast. it was SKILLED. Where I came from, it was still skilled.
            The lowest ranking maid was the pot scrubber (people who have grown up without dishwashers and cleaned up after a party, even with detergent, can imagine what a HOUSEHOLD that might have 50 people entailed in dish washing.) I’ve actually read biographies of kitchen maids (or at least people who started that way) in Victorian times. They washed dishes and blacked the stove, set the fire, whatever, until someone trusted them with chopping vegetables, and then by incremental steps with cooking for the servants, and then eventually for the gentry. Baking was sometimes a separate track, and if not something ONLY the cook did, because it took “a hand” (i.e. a knack.)
            BUT EVERY ONE OF THESE, chick comes in from the street where she was a beggar, and suddenly she’s making bread. Or else, everyone else in the kitchen is ill/whatever, and the least ranked “only know how to make bread.” Uh?

            1. Agreed. In college, one of the papers published a recipe for pan pizza. My roommate and I decided to take that recipe and see if we could duplicate the taste of the best (in our opinion) pizzeria around. Every week, we’d do it, and after a while, we got a reliable rising crust.

              After graduation, I did the pan pizza occasionally (at that time, unknown in Silicon Valley) but stopped. Several years later, I tried again, and cribbed a french bread recipe from The Joy of Cooking. It was close enough to act as a start.

              Now, I’m seriously gluten intolerant, and $SPOUSE is full-blown celiac, so our pizza is a thin crust. (I’ve done a GF pan pizza from the Betty Hagman cookbooks, but it’s an astonishing amount of work, about 2X a kneadable dough takes.)

              Doing a loaf of bread is an art, definitely not for the lowest skilled workers. (On one of Rachel Ray’s shows, she mentioned that she was an intuitive cook, but that approach would never work for baking. I suppose one sufficiently skilled might (maybe) skip measuring, but nobody I know does.)

              1. Try the fat head pizza crust.
                And 23 and me says I’m likely to have celliac disease. Since I’m low carb it’s a minor concern, save for my birthday when I cheat. but I suppose I should be checked.

              2. *Raises hand*

                Not for everything baked, but for bread, yes, I don’t measure. Flour varies in dryness, so measurements are only rough anyway.

                1. Bows in respect.

                  I measured the ingredients, but kept some flour to adjust. I’d start a bit wet, so I wouldn’t have to add liquid.

              3. My mother, my youngest daughter, and I all have celiac disease. I strongly suspect other family members may have it, too, or at least are gluten intolerant. It can definitely run in families, and it is also strongly linked to auto-immune diseases and to autism.

                Gluten-free breads are much harder to make and have come out well than ‘regular’ bread made with wheat. And you can’t knead them (which takes half the fun out of it for me, LOL!). Once in a while I’ll buy some gluten-free bread at the store, but not very often because it’s really not very good and it’s horribly expensive (over five dollars for a small loaf). But I was just thinking the other day that I should make gf pizza one of these days — a small gf frozen pizza at Walmart was ten dollars.

                1. If you haven’t seen it, Betty Hagman does a GF bread book. It’s too hot to bake now, so we’ve laid in a supply of Franz GF bread, but I’m pretty sure that’s a regional brand. It’s less expensive than Udi bread. It’s pretty tasty. On road trips over the Cascades, I’ll get Trader Joe’s GF bagels and take one down to the DIY breakfast bar at the hotel.

                2. The Schar company does decent gluten free breads, cookies, amd pasta. Their Chiabata rolls are particularly good, both white and multigrain, and take the same time in the oven whether room temp or frozen.

                  Daiya does a vegan frozen pizza and vegan mac & cheese that my Lady favors. She’s gluten intolerant AND has something that isn’t lactose intolerance but puts milk and cheese off limits as if it were.

                  Just passing the word.

                  1. Amy’s does GF pizza, but at $8-10 for a dinner’s worth, we’ll pass.

                    OTOH, Kroger does a couple flavors of GF toaster waffles for a decent price. $2.69 for an 8-pack right now…

                    1. We found them mixed with conventional waffles in the breakfast section. They used to (might still, but expensive) sell Van’s; those were in the exotic frozen section.

          1. I haven’t done it, but I’ve watched it done. We had a wood fire stove with a special box in the back for baking bread and my mom would sometimes bake a few loaves there. And our family ranch was an old-fashioned wood burning range with a baking area that various relatives have used before. The home-grown yeast, I’m not so sure about, but I know others who have used sour-dough starters and similar things.

          2. I have done it — we used to make our own sourdough starter (the only time that didn’t work well was when we were in southern Florida for almost a year — the hot humid climate makes nasty wild yeast). And I’ve done quite a bit of cooking with wood cook stoves, and over open fires. Other than when we were in Florida, we never had any trouble getting our ‘wild’ starters to rise. But climate does play a big role. Alaska doesn’t have as much nasty wild yeast floating around, I don’t think.

            1. Yes, I figured YOU had. But when did you learn, and how much work did you put into it?
              Also England mostly moist and cold (by our standards.)
              And Colorado (altitude) required major adaptation. And yes, I used to carry my sour dough starter around like a relic from house to house.

              1. I am honestly not sure when I learned to make bread. Mom did it weekly all during my growing up years, but other than letting us kids help knead, and giving us our own chunks of dough to make our own little loaves with once in a while, I don’t remember that she ever taught me how to make it. And yet, when I went off to college at seventeen, I ‘knew’ how to make it (I did take her recipe with me, but was able to make excellent bread without any measuring cups in my college dorm kitchen). Mom won blue ribbons at the county fair with her bread, and as far as I can remember, mine was pretty nearly as good as hers right from the start. I must have absorbed the ‘how-to’ by osmosis, LOL! I actually don’t remember her teaching me how to cook anything, which probably explains why to this day I’m not good with cuts of meat like steak.

        2. Enough people were bad at making their own bread that bakers were a Thing even in the middle ages, or so I understand.

          1. Not so much bad at it as that ovens were a capital investment. I’m led to understand that away from town, the local lord was the only one who had an oven and the peasants/serfs would rent it as part of the agreements.

            1. And in town they’d drop off their stuff at the local baker, who’d use his oven to cook their foods.

              Or something like that — it’s been a long while, they were, IIRC, French so who knows what they put in their damned pies and I’ve got the commencement of a headache pestering me.

          2. Add in the factor that in settled areas, firewood got scarce and expensive, and needed to be saved for winter when it was *needed* as much as possible, and a lot of people hired out their baking if they could. Also, during hot weather, who wants to have a big mass of hot brick in their house? Let the baker deal with it!

            Personally, I like kneading bread dough, and LOVE the smell of fresh bread — if I didn’t have celiac disease, I could happily be a baker. If we could eat the stuff, I’d still be making my own bread (and once in a while I do make gf bread, but generally the results just aren’t worth the trouble).

        3. Interesting historical point: “lady” derives from “hlæfdige” — “loaf kneader.” (“Lord” is “hlaefweard” — “loaf protector.”)

      3. I found I wouldn’t *mind* kneading and generaly like making bread, BUT.. wrists get sore (and after at least close encounters with RSI… taking it easy, yup) so it’s generally avoided – even aside from carb. issues.

  14. “Horses are not cars.”

    This one gets me shaking my head. Anyone who has seen enough Westerns (movies or series) should know this. Scene in True Grit comes to mind where Rooster rides a horse to death. Many shows have plots around stage rides and rest stations, stopping to “get fresh horses”. Good grief, there is even a series [Laramie] set a stage coach relay station.

    1. There was one western where the calvary was walking for ten minutes every hour to rest the horses, per regulations the character said.

      I look at some of those TV shows, and I wonder if they had the time and budget (or cared) to get the clothes right, some of them looked modern to me. And you know that in the 19th century (post US Civil War—apologies to my military history professor) there would be old Sears Roebuck catalogs (and magazines from pre-war) showing clothes.

      Buttons as fasteners being as late as that is one that I wouldn’t have thought about. By the way, Army uniforms (BDUs) were button fly in the ’90s. I don’t know if that’s because buttons are quieter or don’t fail as completely as zippers or for some other reason, and anyone should be able to replace a button, but a zipper is more difficult.

      1. How many kids grew up thinking that Roy Rogers wore authentic “Western” attire. 😀

        I’ve wonder that myself, looking at how characters in Big Valley and Bonanza dressed.

      2. James Garner wrote about wearing Errol Flynn’s Dodge City costume when filming Maverick so that they could match long-range shots from the movie into the TV show.

        In fact, he had a lot of things to say about how cheap Jack Warner was in producing those westerns … when you stop to consider the quality of picture most sets provided, there were quite a lot of things they could get away with.

      3. Army uniforms (BDUs) were button fly in the ’90s.
        Depends, BDUs were after my time, but my Vietnam-era fatigues, jungle fatigues, and field trousers all had zippers. (Same was true of all the dressier uniforms, too.)

        1. Yes, BDUs were all buttons (the official versions, basic uniform). Zippers can get clogged with dirt, and velcro can be loud.

          Mind you, a lot of outerwear was zippered. Which you then had to undo to get to the buttons on the basic uniform….

        2. Going back from zippers to buttons for the fly (and elsewhere) was the result of a Vietnam War lesson-learned – zippers broke and stayed broke in the field, while buttons could be field-repaired with a needle and thread, or one button strategically done without through rearranging what’s left.

          Current issue infantry pants still use buttons for the fly as far as I’ve seen. Right towards the prior end of Iraq deployments some ground-pounders were using tan flight suits, which do use stout zippers. Not sure about tanker issue.

          The biggest problem with the issue stuff in Afghanistan and Iraq early on, besides the stupid Army not-actually-camo-in-any-known-environment pattern, was that it was too lightly constructed, ripping seams and routinely coming apart on extended patrol. I understand the newest stuff is finally better all around, which means it’s time to change the issue camo pattern yet again to one with yellow, bright pink and purple in it, for diversity.

          1. I got a surplus Air Force arctic parka in 1971. The double ended zipper went toes up quickly, while the single ended replacement lasted until I gave the coat away (had little need for it in Silicon Valley). Buttons with loops on the storm flap, over the zipper. Nicely warm in midwestern winter.

          2. The folks who design field uniforms for the Army are delightfully obtuse. The crap they come up with as justification for why they do what they do is absolutely mind-boggling–Those zippers you refer to on the old OG 107 jungle fatigues? OK, yeah… They failed. But, they were there specifically to keep leeches out, or so the training said. Then, the Army went to the BDU with button flys, because field repairable, but the damn things would let in the leeches if you were in that sort of environment. Just like the old jungle boots were canvas, specifically to prevent them melting to your skin in a fire, they forgot that little detail with the later generations, and now most of the boots they issue are hot-melt plastics… Uhmm… Guys? Do we read our own histories, the ones you put up on the internet from the “old days”, that explained the uniform choices they made…?


            Little hint of just how ahistorical these folks are: The old OG 107 jungles had a bit of an issue with the crotches on the trousers tearing out, and that necessitated a re-design of the crotch to make it reinforced. Then, the Army went to the BDU and HWBDU, which was the reincarnation of the old jungle uniform. Guess what? Recap of the OG 107 crotch design: They went back to the original failed version, and had the same issue reappear thirty years later. Which then was repeated for the BDU replacement, the ACU in the 2000s.

            MFers cannot, apparently, learn from history. It’s an Army trait; I did some work with a Brit exchange NCO who once made a rather pithy and pathetically accurate observation: “You lot have this Center for Army Lessons Learned, which you’re so proud of… But, from where I am looking, you really ought to call the place the Center for Army Lessons Identified, and then Bloody Well Ignored…”.

            Dude was right. I hate to acknowledge it, but he was right.

            1. The Good Idea Fairy has the places where field uniforms are designed on a regular revisit schedule.

              Another example was the brilliant idea to issue poly fleece jackets because it was cold in the desert, but poly fleece melts instantly and sticks to skin really, really well when so melted, and unexpectedly, sudden intense heat sources are a thing that happens in combat zones. The flame-resistant materials combat uniform campaign that was the result is a good thing, but the flame-resistant flight-rated-BDU uniforms that they have issued forever (long enough ago that they are in the old woodland camo) to flight medical staff on evac flights was already in inventory and would have worked just fine, but that stuff is too expensive for general issue, but how expensive are burn casualties?

        3. The Class As (which have been replaced by 1940s styled “pinks”) had zippered flys, and, certainly, other garments had zippers. The BDU coat (not the top) but the “Coat, BDU” had a plastic zipper, with metal riveted snaps over the zipper and riveted snaps on the pockets.

      4. I have some very old buttons. I’m not sure just how old they are, but they could easily be a couple hundred years old or more. They are simple generic shell and bone buttons, so probably impossible to date accurately, but farm wives, and other lower-income families, couldn’t afford to throw the buttons away when a garment wore out. They would (and I sometimes still do) cut the buttons off before the item went into the rag bag, or into pieces for a patch quilt. My bag full of old buttons came from my great grandmother, who was born to a farm family in Missouri in 1896. It’s hard to tell how many times they’d been used before they came into her hands, and then, eventually, into mine. I really need to get them back into use, instead of just sitting around in a drawer in my sewing cabinet.

        1. Mom and I made up a survival sewing kit when I went to college (still use it for quick repairs and such). I still have the small jar of salvaged buttons, though there was nothing exotic in that jar. Mom’s stash was much more interesting.

        2. Mom and I made up a survival sewing kit when I went to college (still use it for quick repairs and such). I still have the small jar of salvaged buttons, though there was nothing exotic in that jar. Mom’s stash was much more interesting.

          1. Buttons are fun. We used to love to poke through my mother’s button stash when i was a kid. Then I saw some genuinely antique buttons in a museum once and was amazed at the detail! Buttons from the sixteen and seventeen hundreds that were absolutely gorgeous works of art — probably only affordable by the wealthy, of course.

      5. And Bree, in The Horse and His Boy explained they were going to do alternating canter and brisk walk, and the humans would get off and walk during the walking part, because gallop, gallop, gallop all day does not work.

        I put some horses that do gallop like that in my latest work. They also jump large rivers in single bounds. . . .

        1. In one of David Eddings books, the main characters had to push their horses very hard. Fortunately, they were in “home territory” (and allies showed up) before the horses would have collapsed.

          In a later book in that series, the main character was shown using methods (non-magical) that allowed him to make good time without endangering his horses. Of course, he didn’t have hostiles following him. 😉

    2. This one gets me shaking my head. Anyone who has seen enough Westerns (movies or series) should know this.

      Those are mostly extinct genres and many people know not to watch things from before now because of lack of wokeness makes them evil.

      So I suspect a lot of them haven’t had that exposure.

    3. Anyone interested in life at the turn of the 19th to 20th century should read Mencken’s HAPPY DAYS, about his childhood in Baltimore. He was born in 1880.

      1. Readers interested in the first decades of the Twentieth Century might want to try Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times, a collection of oral histories of the early days of Major League Baseball and the culture from which it rose, told by the men who played it.

  15. “You don’t go over to France on vacation during the war. Not at the same time people are fighting Napoleon.”

    Of course not. You go over for a month’s visit to France two weeks before the Peace of Amiens ends, and spend the rest of the novel making a neck-or-nothing escape from the vile agents of the Corsican Tyrant.

    Cannot tell you how many novels set in the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic era use that plot. It is so predictable.

    1. Sure. I’ve seen those and shrug. BUT it’s the ones where you know, Napoleonic war is in full blow up, and yet, they go to France for their honeymoon that make me scream.

    2. It depends a lot on the era… If you went back to the period before French Revolution, you could pretty well travel Europe in complete disregard to the state of war between your countries–Or, so most of the military histories of that period would have it. The French crown was more worried about smuggling than civilians travelling, and the same with the British.

      French Revolution came in, and that was the end of what the Germans termed the Kabinettskriege, which mostly involved the professional military and the involved princes only. Average civilian could travel and go on with life almost as if there wasn’t a war going on between their countries.

      Things have not always been as they are, and what is the norm now was not the norm then, nor will it necessarily be how they do things in the future.

      It’s interesting that the French revolutionaries put a deliberate end to that period of “civilized war”, and brought on Total War. It’s a rather interesting thing to note the similarities between the Left today, and the French nutters then, and to note the similar lack of restraint and civilized adherence to the norms of polite behavior. Today’s left might want to reflect on just where most of those “ideologically committed” French revolutionaries wound up, and how well their lives went for them.

  16. Cooking – anyone who’s been on a back country camping trip with the Scouts probably has a better idea of what is involved in preparing meals during regency times; at least those who don’t do canned or freeeze dried. I can recall about 3 times when I was growing up that my mother made bread from scratch and used a yeast starter she kept in the fridge from the previous batch of bread. I suppose if you made bread every day that you could keep a new starter each day overnight without refridgeration; don’t know how long you could go without it going bad. And as beer makers know, different yeasts can give WILDLY different results.

    Bathrooms – Lots of camps with outhouses when I was growing up. Fortunately, none of our homes had any need for an outhouse. If the SHTF, the outhouse and chamber pots will come back into vogue. The closest I’ve ever come to a standing chamberpot was in South Korea in the early ’80s and many places had a porcelin slit trench for a commode. Yeah, I got laughed at the first time I saw one and said, “What the hell is that?” I imagine in regency times that walls got made use of frequently, as did bushes alongside the roads.

    And yeah, the Musketeers were murder on horses.

    1. When much younger (before celiac presented/got figured out), $SPOUSE said she was doing a “friendship bread” that used a starter kept in the fridge. She’d do a run each week, until it got so damned hot in her place that the thought of baking was intolerable.

      I tried doing my own yogurt; I could get a few generations of yogurt before having to start again, but it was pretty iffy.

      1. I never did have much luck with home-made yogurt. If there weren’t questionable organisms, it was still too runny. Kefir was much easier, as long as it’s dealt with correctly (and it’s *supposed* to be runny, LOL! You drink it, rather than eating it with a spoon), but forget to prep a new batch on time enough times and you can pick up some wild stuff in that, too.

    2. Backpacking. What outhouses? Go find a spot and dig a “cat hole”. If you are not in wilderness that is strict “Pack it in / Pack it out, including using poo bags.” (Rogue River trail)

      General camping. Even campgrounds are generally outhouses, not flush toilets. Even campgrounds that have locations to get running water.

      Backpacking cooking generally was freeze dried. But car camping wasn’t and could be either on gas Coleman stove or over a wood fire the scouts built. We had a lot of dutch ovens to use. Either belonging to the troop or to families. Made everything from cinnamon rolls to cake to chicken, etc.

      1. I never ran across the poo bag requirement in my backpacking days. OTOH, we’d do some of the more obscure/absurdly high pass trails, so the traffic was lower.

        State parks vary all over the map for the toilets. Michigan realized early on that there’s money in camping tourists, so the state park campgrounds (at least in the 1950s and ’60s) had full toilet facilities. Illinois didn’t see that (also, not as many nice places to put a state park), so the facilities were a lot more primitive. From the ’70s, Washington and California were relatively plush (though you best be tolerant of cold water showers). National Forest campgrounds, outhouses all the way.

        We’d bring a can of Spam for car camping. If we were going to backpack, the trailhead breakfast would entail Spam and eggs. That’s about the only time I actually enjoy Spam. We’d usually take a bit of hard salami for lunches, and if we were going to be on the trail more than a day or two, we’d take a half dozen eggs and fry some salami. We’d stay with freezedried for backpacking dinners. We did some Szechuan Beef for car camping once; I did the meat prep at home and stuck it in a marinade in the cooler. Came out well, though the “wok” was a heavy aluminum camping skillet.

        1. I don’t do well on the freeze dried, as it turns out; too much salt for one, not sure what else (I can’t keep it down). Good news is I had enough Breakfast Bars for the rest of the trip. Better news … lost 15# on the 10 day trip … (yea, no, not so good).

          But, yes. Heavy reliance on freeze dried for the youth (co-ed scouts with venture crew. Adults usually experimented more sharing result (report) with youth. Sometimes the older youth would research and out do adults. One trip it was pre-prepared “Honey Bucket” stew. Frozen. Theory was stew would be defrosted by the second night to warm up … 🙂 It wasn’t. Took forever to cook in pots on multiple stoves (fire restriction so …)

          My meals were combination of packaged soups, jerky and beef/salami sticks, cheddar cheese, crackers, cereals, and breakfast bars. Those baby carrots are good to pack too.

          Troop/Crew backpacked stretches of the PCT from Waldo to Mt Hood. Overlapping a couple of sections over the years we participated. Not the whole stretch in one year. None of those wildernesses require poo bags; just the standard cat hole appropriate distance from water and trail. Just know the Rogue River trail, whether backpacking it, or river rafting it does require the poo pack out.

          1. I used to work with some avid backpackers (including some nuts who thought backpacking as cross country run was fun).

            One guy and his backpacking buddy would freeze steaks at home before driving to Yosemite Friday night. By the time they got to their camp on Saturday, the steaks were ready to cook. I’d rather live than try that in grizzly country, but the Yosemite black bears were usually after sugar and/or trail mix. (One bear got a group-camp’s sugar supply, 5 pounds worth. Another favorite trick was to bite water bottles in case they had Wyler’s lemonade therein.)

            Years ago, somebody was selling freeze-dried “Saturday Night on the Trail” formal dinners. Included a tiny candle and freeze-dried ice cream, along with a couple-three courses. More amusing than practical…

  17. On Duels.
    A guy I used to know came to this country when his ancestor won a duel with the duke’s son. Upon winning the duel he immediately went down to the docks and got onboard the very next ship that was leaving. Didn’t even go home first.
    That ship took him to American, where he settled.
    So yeah, winning a duel where the other party died meant you left town before they caught up with you.

    1. Which begs the question, “If you were going to have to leave town anyway, why didn’t you just go, and not bother killing the fellow?”

      My reply would probably be, “Because I wanted to make sure he didn’t follow me?”

      Reminds me of that Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Five Orange Pips”, and “The Sign of the Four”.

      1. Short answer, because he needed killing.
        Other possibilities, Duke’s son had violated the winner’s sister or girlfriend and had he just left that might have continued or at the very least remained unpunished.
        My own grandfather left Germany in 1910 at the age of sixteen, but that was as a younger son of a farmer with relatives already established in the American midwest. He never actually said, but the impression I got was he left about a skip and a jump ahead of the Kaiser’s press gangs.

        1. Or the winner didn’t mean to kill the ninny. Seriously. Most people tried to WOUND, not kill, and most duels in fact had no injury.
          But since they used guns and the guns of the period were not that easy to aim… (At least I’m going to assume they used guns if it was an accident to actually kill. With swords it’s harder to “accidentally kill”. Not impossible, mind. And wounds often became infected and killed, but it took more time than “didn’t even go home.”)
          My favorite story of a duel is earlier in France, where two duelists pinned each other through the CHEST in such a way they couldn’t escape (I don’t remember the exact circumstances. I know one was pinned to a wall.)
          They were like that for over a day.
          Both survived. Became great friends.
          Only reality can be that crazy.

          1. Both survived. Became great friends.

            Makes sense — hanging about together with nothing to do but chat is a great relationship builder.

            1. Yeah, but I have this image that people had more respect for each other back then, even enemies. It may be a false image though, part of that “Golden Age” of myth the socialists try to sell.

          2. OK. Now I have to speak up. A proper duelling pistol has sights. Front and rear. And they are quite accurate. A well-made dueller with a proper load will comfortably shoot a group under 3 inches at 25 meters. Those are flintlock smoothbores…the later rifled percussion guns are more accurate.

            I compete with the original guns at the World Muzzle-Loading Championships…and you would be shocked at just how capable they are. The real headache is reliability of any pre-percussion firearm. As a competitor, I expect a 10-15% misfire rate.

            And there were a wide range of ways to fudge things. The seconds could prime, but not load. Or load with very light charges. As you mentioned, the purpose of most duels was to display courage, not kill the opponent. With swords, this led to First, Second, and Third Blood…a duel to First Blood was not serious, one to Third Blood was likely to be fatal.

              1. If they weren’t wealthy or high enough status, it wasn’t a duel, but a common brawl. Duelling was for gentlemen.

                I’ll add the observation that these days, people will try to pass off almost any pair of pistols as “dueling pistols”. No. An honest-to-goodness case of duellers were top-quality guns. Expensive, well-made, deadly accurate. And frankly, a delight to shoot. I own three originals – one of which is the pistol I’ve shot at the World Muzzle-Loading Championships for the last decade. Managed a 7th-place finish with that in 2010.

      2. Family history (take with a large grain of salt) said one ancestor was a steward to a country squire. They couldn’t prove anything, but suspected he was stealing the grain from the animal stores and selling it. Ancestor sent his family on the next boat to America, sold the last of the grain, and caught the following boat.

        One presumes if he’d been a bit slower, I would have been Australian.

  18. Oh, another quick point. I had relatives in the country who had an outhouse. They didn’t get indoor plumbing until sometime in the 70’s.
    That was here, in America in Pennsylvania. That was my first encounter with chamber pots.

    1. The “past” is LOT closer than many realize.

      I am still amused by the ‘kid’ who asked me if I could imagine a life with smartphones. He was NOT ready for, “Don’t need to imagine. Lived it. There was a time before them, you know. And for a years, we didn’t even have a landline – and that was before ANY cell phones.”

      “What if.. something happened?’ “You dealt with it.”

      1. I’ve been amusing people by flashing my flip phone at them. “Why?” *demonstrates by dropping the phone*

        Then I tell them that my husband works for [major tech company] and see their jaws drop.

        Pity; I’m going to need to get a smartphone soon. The youngest is in kindergarten and more and more things need apps, like Scout popcorn sales.

          1. I have one. Worked until we got DSL, in the late 2000s. They don’t make a DSL filter for the outlet. Presumably still works, but just puts out static now.

        1. Get yourself a tablet (’cause then you can read, too), or get a smartphone without service and just use it on wi-fi.

          (My phone is higher tech than yours. It’s a slider. And the only reason I went with that is because I wanted to have email and texts. The email hasn’t worked in ~8 years. I have a Kindle (8″) for my portable computing needs.)

          1. Eh, I have some devices for reading and such. We also have old phones around to use as audio devices. It was the trail tracking app that really caught my attention, on the hike where we got lost. (Not lost as in a real problem, just lost as in we were definitely on the wrong trail and the challenge was to get back to camp without missing lunch or having to retrace all of our steps.)

              1. Heh. Part of the problem with that hike was the map was *wrong* and sent us off on a trail that was not, in fact, connected to the rest of them. The value of a trail app is that you can then chart a GPS-accurate map to update the paper ones they hand out.

                1. There is also the “I know where I am, the map is wrong” bias. I’ve witnessed two adult scouters who I know, know how to read maps, and properly use compasses. They BOTH teach it, for crying out loud (to not only youth, but other adults too).

                  PCT trail. Came to a trail without any signs. Didn’t look used. So here are these two experts trying to figure out where the group was on the map based on where they “thought we were”. Which didn’t show any trails branching off in the trail direction. Now, they are both very good about determining how far they and the group in question have gone on trails, based on initial plotting of trek (and treks were plotted to the inch). Me? Not so much. So, since (in general) map is going to more correct than me. (For the record, I can’t not determine how far I’ve come on a map just from initial plotting. I have to re-orient the map (generally) every time I check it. It bugs the heck out of one of the “experts” in question (he whom I am married to).) This time I looked at the map, the trail conditions in question, and stated “Have to double check it (duh), but I think we’re here.” Further up the trail. Their argument. “Can’t be that far. Group hasn’t been moving fast enough.” They did the map orientation process … they had to say “D is right.” (FWIW. Expensive GPS units could be had, group didn’t have one. No, smart phone GPS. I think this was 2004).

                  Most people who do get lost (if they have map with them). When they state “the map is wrong” it is rarely the map. Can be, but not In general. It is because they refuse to believe what the map is indicating. They think they are somewhere on the map other than where they really are. They try to make the map FIT that perception. Doesn’t work that way.

                  If you do not know how to orient a map to the ground (with or without a compass, compass just makes it faster and easier) or you “know better than the map”, and don’t bother, you can get yourself, and those with you, in trouble. Now people have phone GPS to counter that bias. BUT, what if GPS can’t be acquired? Batteries die. Especially if it is cold, they die fast. Love the technology, it is cool. Rely on it? Uh, no.

                  1. In this case, the map showed a trail connection between two points that doesn’t exist. The actual connection is between two different points, and we were not, apparently, the first folk to go up this particular trail (which goes to the horse overnight camp) looking for the connection. Hand-drawn map. Definitely in need of an update.

                    1. “Hand drawn map” Okay.. Those can be easily inaccurate.

                      We were using USGS maps. Trail we were looking for was a major trail for getting off the PCT and back down to 242 (or an access from 242 to the PCT). Sure didn’t look like it. Plus Signage was removed, down, or hidden.

                      FWIW, it was the correct trail we needed to take. Once past the first bit, it became clear it was suppose to be a major trail. However, it was also obvious it’s usage was “down”. Multiple large trees down across trail might have been a huge factor. It was an interesting down hill obstetrical course trail scramble.

          2. > just use it on wi-fi

            So it’d be the same as a cordless phone on the land line?

            I only have to go a few miles and there’s no cellular service, much less wifi…

            1. Yes. Oregon. Every highway between I-5 over the Cascades. Every highway between I-5 and the coast. You don’t even have to get off the highway. Even Hwy 97, the main corridor on the eastern Oregon high dessert has stretches without cell service, let alone WiFi. Ditto with I-5 south of the Willamette Valley. There are stretches along Territorial Road (runs along the west side of the valley) where cell service is iffy at best.

          3. I use my Fire for reading mostly. Occasionally use it for e-mail or skyping to wife when I’m traveling, some browsing. Every so often I use a fencing scoring app on it.

            WiFi in hotels hasn’t been a problem. WiFi at sporting events is iffy, too many places want to charge you for it, even after you’ve paid a fortune to get in.

        2. You might want to consider a tablet, instead– you can even get one of those on-demand service ones so it doesn’t screw with your phone.

          1. But check to see if App will work on tablets. Have ran into a few apps that won’t and there is no reason they shouldn’t.

        3. Our LG Tracfones were going obsolete, so we had to upgrade. There is a minimally smart flip phone, an Alcatel Myflip. It’s *not* Android or iOS. A bit bigger than the LG, but the benefit is a slightly larger screen. (It has a camera, haven’t used it beyond accidentally.)

          I don’t have any apps on it; I’m one of the crusty sort who thinks of phones as something for talking…

          1. I got my first cellular phone in 1995… and I’m *still* amazed Paramount never licensed an “official Star Trek Communicator” version to someone…

            It’d be a hard sell now that 5″ touch screens are the standard, but back in the MicroTAC and candy-bar days they would have sold well unless they were priced out of the market.

            1. Paramount has been so stupid, for so long, that I can’t even figure out a theme on that.

              Seriously, they can PRINT MONEY but all they every do is a few very obscure, over priced toys.

            2. It’d be a hard sell now that 5″ touch screens are the standard, but back in the MicroTAC and candy-bar days they would have sold well unless they were priced out of the market.

              Bluetooth connector.

              Like the earphones I’m wearing right now– but you flip it open, it answers the call on speaker phone.

              Sell them for impulse buy territory– the headphones only cost $10, so make this $20– and you’d need buckets for that. It wouldn’t even have to be that sturdy. I’d be buying them for all of my uncles ,for heaven’s sake, even though they’d already HAVE one and probably their wives would buy more.

              1. (my headphones do all the functions of the Star Trek communicator, plus can control music, turn up and down volume, has HD radio and are nice enough that they actually cancel noise; a TNG or later chest communicator would be even easier)

      2. We had a phone. Across the street. In the general store. If there was a big enough emergency, we got a phone call. If we needed to make a call, we waited in line. No booth, so you’d better be able to say whatever in front of everyone.

        1. Lots of “Uh-huhs” and “You too” sometimes? (Unless you just switch to Vietmenese like that guy that lived on my floor in the dorm. What made it weird was he was blond & blue-eyed and baby talking his future wife.)

            1. Heh-heh. Who was it that said that English originated from Norman men-at-arms trying to talk to Anglo-Saxon* barmaids?

              (*And Jute, too, I guess.)

        2. Scotland in the 90s still had the options of “phone in only”, “phone out only”, and “phone in/phone out” otherwise known as standard service in the US. We had a “phone in only” phone in our flat and had to go to the pub down the street to make any emergency calls.

        3. We didn’t even have a phone across the street (no street to go across — the nearest phone was probably in ‘town’ about sixteen miles away at that time). I suspect my mother would have really liked to have a phone available the winter we almost froze to death. She’d burned everything outside the house, including the outhouse and the fence posts around the yard, and was preparing to start on the furniture when Dad’s boss came out to check on us. She heard him coming way down the road, and had stuff tossed in bags and was ready to go by the time he actually got to our cabin. I am pretty sure she was scared sick that we were going to die out there that time (Dad was hauling fuel without break from the terminus in Valdez to Fairbanks due to the cold snap — this was before the pipeline, of course. So he wasn’t able to even get home to check on us.) Then later when she and my step-father lived in Christmas Valley in Eastern Oregon, they didn’t have a phone there, either. We have gotten so used to being able to communicate with anyone, anywhere, any time — when you can’t get ahold of someone, you worry about them, especially if you know they can’t call out for help if they need it.

          1. We often travel where cell coverage is “iffy” at best. To non-existent.

            Just got back from Banff/Jasper (CANADA) We put our phones in Airplane mode to prevent texts, calls, and data, as our carrier doesn’t have reciprocal usage with any Canadian coverage, under our plan, or a way to add it, even temporarily. So, Roaming Fees. Really didn’t want to see my kid enslaved to pay for charges, so we prevented them (okay, maybe not that bad, just expensive). I triggered the WiFi phone option and we called to check in that way. Plus text. When WiFi was available.

            I thought “No problem. Where we going, other than town, no coverage anyway. Staying in hotel with free WiFi. Not like we had communication before cell phones when we did this type of stuff. No problem.” Next thing I know, my husband, Mr. Technophobe took forever to get him into a cell phone let alone a smart one (after my 84 year old mother by the way), says “I hate being out of communication with home…” … Wait! What??? That is out of communication with our son. WHO. Is. 30!!!!!

      3. I used to dream of the day I could get rid of my cellphone. Then the new house doesn’t have landline service (thank you frontier!).
        Eventually I want to switch to a flip phone and leave it home most of the time.

        1. My cell is a flip-phone; I don’t leave it at home because the primary reason I have a phone at all is so I can call for help in an emergency, and those are as likely to happen away from home as at home (well, maybe not, but still….). What I DO do, though, is forget the phone in the truck until it’s lost all charge. Or leave it in my purse and forget to put it on the charger. I really should (and honestly intend to) carry the phone when I go outside to do things, but seldom remember, and hate to have it in my pocket, anyway. Maybe a phone in a wrist-watch would be a good solution for people like me, I don’t know.

          1. My brother bought my Dad a cellphone for “emergencies.” Dad would leave it in the truck until the battery went down.

            This caused some strife until I bought him a charge cord to plug the phone into the cigarette lighter…

    2. I grew up with stories of chamber pots from my dad, and his parents had a functioning outhouse in the late ’60s or early ’70s. I don’t when they got indoor commodes. His cousin used an outhouse until they couldn’t get around good enough.

      And there is the old joke about city folks who cook outside and use the bathroom inside.

      1. My grandparents’ farm in southern Indiana had an outhouse and multiple hand pumps for water in the 1960s. They also had full indoor plumbing, so these were leftovers from the earlier times, but they were still functional and I used them more than once when we went to visit.

        1. We had pitcher pumps on the shallow wells washed-down to water the garden in, oh, the ’80s; “priming the pump” isn’t just a metaphor—and sometimes had to be done to electric pumps.

          1. Still an issue in gas centrifugal pumps. The pump in my fire trailer sits below the tank to avoid that problem. Running it unprimed or dry would be very expensive.

      2. I have an aunt and uncle in Alaska (both in their eighties now) who still use an outhouse. I’m not sure if they have grid power now or now; at least up until recently, their power was from a generator. They’ll never have running water there, though, because the house is sitting on a granite dome at least three hundred feet thick. From their back porch, you look out over a broad valley full of little (shallow, sitting on top of permafrost) lakes, but they can’t put in a well on their own property. They still haul water with a big tank in the back of a truck, and pump it up to another tank where it can gravity feed to where it’s needed in the house. But no toilet.

        1. Lot of cisterns here in Montana, either because water is too deep or too much rock between, or when you get to it, it’s too alkali. And sometimes because a 700 foot dry hole will cost you $40k regardless, so let’s just spend a couple grand on a tank and trailer and be done with it.

          1. Yes, that’s the case in quite a few locations where we used to live in Eastern Oregon, too. We looked at property in one (very) rural subdivision where the whole community had pitched in to put in a community well, because otherwise they would have been hauling water from a long way off. We were warned away from other areas because of the water situation. I ended up with two wells on the lots I bought; one was about 130′ deep with good water, and the other was about 250′ deep, also with good water. Those wells were the chief value of those lots.

    3. Grandparents on moms side had an outhouse until mom paid for them to get indoor plumbing around 1973. It was ~100ft from the house and you had to climb over a fence and dodge the pigs. Then the wonderful odor and flies.

      1. Grandparents on mom’s side had an outhouse until grandma moved into our house after grandad died (she was bed bound and had alzheimers, so living alone was out of the question.) The outhouse had a wooden floor that had to be replaced routinely as the “fumes” ate at it. Sometimes it collapsed under people. Hearing the stories ALSO made me hold it in as long as I had to. Or “Why UTIs were a way of life.”

        1. Lol, yeah we all held it in too. And the eventually went and gagged the whole time. The other part that kind of relates to medieval life was sleeping on feather beds that had been slept on for decades by kids. Don’t know whether it was the bed decaying or decades of bedwetting but the smell was of old urine. My brother and I fought over who got to sleep with their face pressed against the window screen. 🙂

          1. Use fireplace ashes to kill some of the stench of the outhouse when you didn’t have lime to throw on it.

        2. My uncle had one, and anyone with a cabin in my area. There was a little bucket of lime and gardening-type of shovel to sprinkle some stuff in. I wondered if that kept the smell down or if it was lime.

      2. Proper outhouse has little smell… vent properly, and throw in a handful of sawdust after yourself, and voila, no worse than a public toilet.

          1. Yeah, lots of not so good ones… but one place I lived, 7 years with the same outhouse and you could barely tell it’d been used. Most don’t vent enough and are too shallow.

        1. Yes, this is how to do a *good* outhouse. Unfortunately, far too many people either don’t know how to do an outhouse correctly, or can’t be bothered. Ventilation and sawdust (or peat, or shredded leaves, or finely chopped straw) also are what makes the indoor bucket toilets work.

  19. I’d have thrown the book against the wall, except I was reading on my kindle.

    Perhaps Kindle needs a function, especially for Kindle Unlimited (since, IIRC, they’re already tracking your page count) which drops a note to the author along the lines of:
    Dear Writer,
    I stopped reading your book as of Page# because [Drop Down Menu].

    Sample Menu items:
    Historical inaccuracy
    Gross historical inaccuracy
    Accumulated historical inaccuracies
    Historical inaccuracies so great as to insult my intelligence
    Accumulated historical inaccuracies so egregious as to try the patience of a saint
    Anachronistic [Submenu: characters, behaviours, clothing, devices, practices, events (choose all that apply), other]
    Behaviour Contrary to History
    Research FAIL
    You dress your characters funny

    1. I have seen it claimed that one can get away with an awful lot, but if you screw up guns, horses, and perhaps boats, you’re done. After that, there are still issues, but the wall-trigger threshold isn’t as low.

      I will admit I have read books that got things right, but I had to double check the publication date as the ‘dated’ tech. was then-current and it fit.

          1. Given that precious little is actually taught in schools these days, and most of that rewritten to the current narrative, not all that much.
            And as well, modern education does its level best to destroy any native curiosity the student may possess thus eliminating the risk that they might take advantage of the incredible content available at their fingertips and research history on their own.

            1. Heh. Don’t teach Shakespeare in school. That way you can file off the names and anachronisms and sell it as an original. How many times and how many versions of Romeo and Juliet under a different title have you seen or read in your lifetime?

        1. I admit that I don’t really know what a “four-in-hand” is, nor do I know the colors for horses (roan?). Little Joe had a pinto; Hoss’ horse should have been a Percheron (well…).

          1. Oh! Pick me! *jumps up and down, waving her hands*

            Four in hand is a team of four horses for pulling a carriage. Usually they’re hitched in pairs; the pair closest to the carriage is called the wheelers and the leading pair is called the leaders (duh). If you have a six horse hitch in three pairs, the middle pair is called the swing pair.

            Roan is a solid color (black, chestnut, etc) mixed with white hairs. A roan horse will often start out mostly solid colored and become more roan with age.

            If you really want to find out more, go to Mad Genius Club and search for a post called “A Post. Really. It Even Has Links,” which will bring you to all of the Writer’s Guide to Horses series. Make sure you have a few minutes to spare; it’s damned long.

            1. More like a good hour. Those horse posts are something you want to have stashed in your personal wiki. Just send the author’s a nice green thank you.

              1. Thanks! I’m going to turn them into a book at some point, but finding diagrams that I don’t have to pay for has been a little iffy.

            2. That’s ridiculous! Everybody knows that the Four-in-hand is the most popular knot for men’s ties.

              Sure, some like the Windsor with its variants, but the four-in-hand gives a good, well-formed symmetrical knot.

      1. I don’t believe that’s true. The number of mysteries and thrillers that screw up guns is astounding. Glocks don’t have safeties. People who are shot don’t dramatically flip over backward. They seldom drop dead on the spot. Cole Younger survived being shot something like 11 times at Northfield. In the 1986 FBI shootout in Miami, the one bad guy sustained multiple wounds, including one that would eventually be fatal, but continued to wound and kill agents.

        Horses? Dear Lord. You can’t believe the garbage about horses pretty much anywhere they’re referenced. Writers can’t even get colors right, much less basic needs, and conformation. How about all those Westerns where the cowboy carries the heroine off in the saddle in front of him? Take a good look at a man in a Western saddle and try to figure out where she is. On the horse’s neck maybe? While you’re at it, try to figure out how anyone can pet a saddled horse on the withers (the highest point of the shoulders).

        1. How about all those Westerns where the cowboy carries the heroine off in the saddle in front of him?
          You might see that in the movies on occasion, too–usually in close-up (or extreme long-shot) so you can’t see how it was done. You can see lots of i-thought-that-was-impossible (except to a contortionist) in the movies. 🙂

        2. I’ve carried a little kid on the front of a Western saddle; it’s possible to sort of straddle the horn, resting your thighs on the pommel, but it’d be pretty uncomfortable for anyone over the age of three. And if the horse lurched or stopped quickly? Ouch.

          1. Good point. Horse saddles never seem to look like a HD seat build for the cyclist and a passenger.

            1. There USED to be pillion saddles, meant for two riders (usually hubby sat astride in front, while the goodwife sat sidesaddle in the pillion seat behind him). That’s about all I know about those, though — as far as I know, they haven’t been used for a long time (now I’ll have to go look them up!). It’s harder on the horse to carry the extra rider behind the saddle — their forequarters are the weight-bearing portion, while the hind-quarters are for propulsion. It’s not just a combined weight issue, it’s where the weight is located.

              1. Carrying someone off across one’s saddlebow usually meant she was prone, carried crosswise, and often bound hand and foot. It was not supposed to be comfortable or romantic… But even then, I think the kidnapped person usually got slung behind the rider, like saddlebags or luggage.

                I have no idea how you would carry off a grown woman by seating her in front of a cowboy, especially with the higher old style saddles or Spanish saddles. Maybe if you were riding bareback and both parties were skinny and underfed.

                1. I have no idea how you would carry off a grown woman by seating her in front of a cowboy, especially with the higher old style saddles

                  Welllllll … you see, there’s this alternate saddlehorn attachment, from 5 – 7 inches high and several inches in diameter that was used …

                2. Oooh, I actually did that a few times!

                  See, you start with a not-yet-puberty kid in an adult saddle, then get her little sister up….

                  (we fell off. A lot. Granger should be a horsey-saint.)

                3. Across the saddle-bow was laying across the front of the saddle, in front of the rider. Horn in the belly (VERY uncomfortable) if on a western saddle, English-style saddle wouldn’t be quite so bad. You can’t have a person laying across the back of the horse behind the rider unless they are tied on — they would quickly fall off. And then there is the weight-on-the -wrong-part-of-the-horse issue. They tire much more quickly with extra weight behind the saddle.

    2. My commonest reason tends to be “I read a sentence that was grammatically or stylistically so bad as to be actively offensive.” I copy edit for a living; I’m not going to read inept prose for free.

      I stopped reading Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit on page 1 because there was a sentence there that was stylistically dreadful. . . .

      (On the other hand, there was the comic book in a historical setting with a reference to the 48 states—set in a year prior to the admission of Arizona and New Mexico)

      1. Oh, yeah, that’s another post.
        Young authors have issues that are directly related to whole word. Or having taught themselves to read (I say this because older son used to have a lot of these issues. His spelling is sometimes still weird, but mostly he’s over them. ANd we didn’t know he’d learned to read until he was just three and I caught him reading my biography of Julius Caesar.)
        For instance collaborate CONSISTENTLY used instead of corroborate.
        Surly instead of surely. (And it was hilarious to read “Surly, Mr. Darcy.” My thought being: Well, accurate, yes, but dear lord, how impolite.) Etc.

        1. Weary for wary! Unlike some substitutions, this one is a grammatical fit, so it frequently takes me until the next sentence for me to realize one person is supposed to be uneasy about someone else instead of getting tired of them.

            1. You know how some people say “I don’t need to run this past an editor; I went to public school, so I know how to spell”? Yeah. There they’re their own worst enemies.

              1. Sigh. My eyes sooooo wanted to read that as “own worst enemas.”

                So damned many mangled phrases! I tend to suppress them, which somewhat makes their appearances more jolting but also makes it more difficult to offer any examples. The only one surfacing at the moment is “Tow the line.” No, dammit, just no! it is “Toe the line, T. O. E. the line; have you never thrown darts?

        2. Surly you jest!

          Some things I write off as bad typing and reliance on word processor for finding spelling errors, but there is a limit as to how many times a page I can tolerate before putting the book down, walking away and forgetting where I put it.

          And some things I pause, question and decide it isn’t worth looking it up, such as in the current audiobook, WEB Griffith’s The Lieutenants when a character refers to seeing a Humphrey Bogart or Alan Ladd movie in 1946 and I think, hmmm … when did Bogart start playing leads at Warner Brothers, and wasn’t Ladd’s career just breaking out about then? Then I shrug it off as a minor detail and excuse it with a thought that he probably realized his audience wouldn’t recognize the actors playing leads in B-movies back then, so substituted Bogart and Ladd.

            1. And the Maltese Falcon was shot 1941in #; that does not mean those were starring roles at Warners; Ronald Reagan was originally cast as Rick, for gosh sake. Cagney was a lead, Robinson was a lead, Errol Flynn was a lead. Bogart was a supporting actor in “A” films who could play a lead role in a “B” picture, such as 1943’s Sahaara. I don’t think his career really moved up until the late Forties, with films like Dark Passage, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, and The African Queen.

              Maybe in 1944 with To Have and Have Not, but even then its dicey whether his films would be showing in Germany so soon after the surrender.

              As I say, I could be wrong — I wasn’t around back then. But my impression of his career is that he was still not viewed as one of Hollywood’s stars until slightly later.

          1. Surly is consistently used not just in that one book but throughout all of the author’s books (author is good enough I ignored the quirk and read all the books). Like older son’s insistence on spelling “conquer” “conquor” that’s not a typo, it’s something the author thinks MUST be so.

          2. It must be an OLD book. Today’s kids would go Bogart? Ladd?? who are they? Same as Steve WHO???

          3. Okay. Should this week’s wrighting assignment be two right as ridiculous a story as possible using the worst spelling, punctuation, and grammar as u can and still have it make sense?

        3. Otto Corrupt. “Medieval society was organized into the futile system. Under the futile system…” I thought two profs were going to need medical assistance, they laughed so hard as one of them read that paper aloud.

      2. Concur. Though, for me, fewer have to do with style, and much more with just not proofreading. Dropped words, words that are not what they intended (lightening vs lightning), lack of punctuation. I had one e-book with an entire duplicate paragraph, three paragraphs early (so it made no sense – until I forced myself to read on).

        While Grammarly might be a decent aid, nothing substitutes for putting it down for a week, then coming back and re-reading what you’ve done. Or hand it to a literate friend. (I realize it might be difficult for some to have someone who is both….)

        I can handle a bit of that. But when you’re encountering it more than once per page for any stretch (or averaging 1/5 pages, say), it gets annoying.

        1. Some that I seem to be running into a lot lately:
          tenant instead of tenet
          breath instead of breathe
          taught (or taunt) instead of taut

          Irritating as hell, these things are.

                1. Mirriam-Webster has 4 entries, actually

                  Yawn has entries #1 and 2. (noun and verb)

                  #3 is a dialect version of “gaunt” (going around the circle….)

                  #4 gets interesting
                  : to make thin or lean by insufficient feeding

                  “I rode two nights and ganted a mule looking for a place to sleep”— Alan LeMay —often used with up

                  In that case, would a gantlet could be starving a mouse?

            1. Point of order — the people who actually survived running the gauntlet, at least in Ohio and Kentucky, generally spelled it “gauntlet.” Since the Shawnee believed in testing one’s bravery by beating the heck out of one as well as by throwing things, the relationship of gloves to reception line was probably a strong one.

                1. The comments on the grammarist article are hilarious. According to the linguist Hoosier Daddy, PhD, “gauntlet” became an acceptable spelling for “gantlet” because so many people were using it. 🙂

        2. Unfortunately, so much blame for spelling and grammar gets dumped on the authors while giving the publishing house a free pass.
          Sarah and others have stories about house editors “correcting” proper terminology by inserting heir own wrong versions of words or phrases.
          I’ve done an number of copy edits on books reclaimed from trad pub to be re-released as indie, books that had gone through the full publisher treatment, or so they claimed. Generally ran at least one typo or grammatically incorrect phrase per page, and that separate from the artifacts created through file format conversion.

            1. “… thought the Girandoni air rifle was a bb gun!”

              ((eyes cross deeply))

              Yeah, sure, about like the Brown Bess was a pea shooter…

              Having researched the Girandoni Military Rifle (its full original name, early 1800s) a bit for a hard-steampunk / alternate Civil War Between the States story — it not only gives good performance with no gunpowder (thus no nitrates and even no mercury for a percussion cap), it’s also a good 20-30 shot repeater (20 full velocity, 30 effective) before you have to change the air reservoir (which is the screw-on stock). Apparently good enough for Napoleon I to threaten a full-scale beat-down of anyone (country) who used them in the field…

              Actually a pretty scary-effective gun, even for an 1860s setting. And if you do a few things like add a follower spring for the ball magazine, so you don’t have to tip up the gun to reload, it gets even better. (Fire. Work the breechblock by pushing it sideways & letting go. Pull back the hammer 3 clicks. Ready again.)

              Never seen one, much less held or fired one, but — wow.

              1. Didn’t Lewis and Clarke take a pair of them on their cross-country trek? I seem to recall reading that in some National Geographic magazine years ago.

                1. The expedition took one which they always displayed upon first encounter with a new group of indians. They wanted to imply that all their guns had the same multiple shot capability. Unfortunately the Girandoni was terribly expensive and quite fragile in comparison to the more traditional flintlock weapons.

            2. Well, that editor has always been a bit off, or so it has appeared to me.
              And depends on your definition of bb gun.
              The Girandoni air rifle fired .46 caliber 146 grain spherical lead balls at 500 feet per second, up to 30 on a single full air charge.
              But then trad pub has a plethora of opinionated know-it-all editors who cannot be bothered to conduct the least bit of research. Far easier to simply declare themselves all knowing and brush off the stupid author.

    3. The one that REALLY annoyed me was in the Marvel Ultimates universe, which I was liking. They bring back Captain America from being frozen and he’s SURE Nick Fury (retconned to Sam Jackson even before the films) is a fake because “there are no Black Colonels in the American Army!”

      Now, I knew goddamned well that wasn’t true, but I’m the son of two history teachers. So I looked it up in THE OXFORD BOOK OF AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY, and then checked online to see how hard it was to find the first Black general.

      Benjamin O. Davis, promoted 1940, btw. Wikipedia search, not hard.

      They were so goddamned SURE that they never friggin’ looked.


      The first Black Colonel was Charles Young, promoted in 1916.

  20. Cooking a meal involved a lot more than cooking a meal today.

    Persons interested in historical practices for cooking with open fireplace are advised to watch A Taste of History, in which Chef Walter Staib
    demonstrates Colonial Era techniques, ingredients, preparation methods and more. Available on many PBS and Cable channels and even on Youtube!


    1. There is also that series of 18th Century cooking on the Townsends channel on YouTube.

    2. Our Colonial Heritage Festival held around Independence Day here, has real demonstrations of cooking, carpentry, bullet making, blacksmithing, paper making and printing, lace making, spinning, weaving, etc. I don’t know if anyone has done videos of them, but it is fun to go see and help out some.

      1. There are Rendezvous on the style of old western frontier fur traders before multi-shot (black powder), that occur locally around the region. There are groups that will go to events like BSA gatherings to setup tepees, and other stations, then sit in character to tell stories about what is in front of them … stretched furs, tanned furs, making paper, cooking over fire, etc.

  21. As to privies or equivalent – medieval castles had “garderobes” – a closet with a seat with a hole draining to the outside wall. This only worked with medieval castles that had high outer walls (after cannon came in, fortresses had low sloped walls).

    Other details were different, too. Rabelais has an entire chapter on the merits of different ass-wipe techniques, some quite absurd.

    And even fairly recent times had differences it’s not easy to follow. For instance, in a caper novel from 1965 or so, a character says of French police, “They can also get rougher than cobs.” It was years before I figured out what he meant.

    But generally: depictions of the past seem to veer in two directions: either too nice or too nasty. The routine hardships are often omitted, but known faults are often exaggerated.

    Or things are just wrong. And it’s not just contemporary authors that screw up. One linguist has found a lot of anachronistic language in Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel The Age of Innocence, set in the 1870s and acclaimed for its authentic setting.

    1. And there is even issue in utter non-fiction. I admit there are some places in the Amateur Telescope Making books (especially the first two, from the EARLY 20th century) where there is an “everyone knows” assumption that thus need not be and is not explained, that caused me issue. I no longer recall what those were, but they were there. The third book, from the 1950’s or so, was “recent” enough that that issue didn’t really happen. Or perhaps I could ask people who had been there/then.

      1. My ATM 1,2, & 3 books are mid ’90s editions, and I gather that they were extensively reworked to avoid such situations. Of course, the market has changed–I have a bit of pyrex, but no kits from Willmann-Bell anymore…

        (I’m starting to get back to thinking about it–have a mirror I roughed to F6.0 in 1995 that keeps calling my name. I went to Mel Bartel’s website and one of the first thing I noticed was that he’s now ignoring computer control of medium speed telescopes in favor of manual control of really fast scopes. Not sure I want to try a F2.5 mirror, or if my eyes could take advantage of such. OTOH, I have a Zerodur blank salvaged from a semiconductor projection aligner that’s a F0.9. Rather than going for medium, I could gin up a fast tool. Might be fun, but after the F6.)

        1. I do recall the ATM books were re-edited for such things. I bought mine in the 1980’s sometime (probably through Willman-Bell, yes) and #1 was jarring as it was “thrown together” – the section that would logically be at the beginning (“Here’s the beginner’s guide how to make the thing we’re talking about.”) wasn’t until well into the book.

      2. The “Young Experimenter” books I had as a kid had lots of projects that required “A” or “B” cells for power. Such things having moved from “historical curiosity” to “never heard of it” by the late 1960s… and that was in California.

        1. “B” batteries could be had at that time, but usually at a major electronics store. My aunt had a portable tube radio in the 50s that used such. I think I recall an IEEE article on the first transistor radio, circa 1957.

      3. If you’ve got interest in actual “vintage” non-fiction, check out Lost Art Press. Reprints / translations of tradesman books from the 17th century forward.
        Another great one is the Boy Mechanicks books, from the early 20th century, which were reprinted about 20 years ago.

        1. Lindsay Publications ceased doing business in 2012, but they did a great amount of republishing old technical non-fiction, generally from the 1890s onward. They also carried the late Dave Gingery books, including the Make your own Shop from Scrap series. My understanding is that Dave’s son (Vince) is still selling those books.

    2. Anachronistic language is the pastime of anal retentives. No, seriously. If you use accurate enough language for the time, you risk throwing the reader out. It’s the same as alluding to a foreign language without working exclusively in it.
      I give the anachronistic language idiots one great big raspberry.
      Now, it is important not to use anachronistic concepts. The musketeers wouldn’t even think of the subconscious.
      But that’s something else.

      1. Nod.

        I think of any fictional story set in the past as being translated into the language of today.

        Mind you, having characters talking in “Valley Speech” would be “going too far”. 😉

        But yes, using “modern concepts” would be a killer.

      2. “Anachronistic concept” is what I mostly mean by “anachronistic language.” For example, there was the novel set in Tudor England where the hero assured another character that he was not a sadist. . . .

        1. “Sadist” — not an anachronistic concept at all, at least not in the casual use of the word. The notion that people enjoy causing pain to others is ancient. The Marquis simply gave use a useful handle for the notion. As far as linking it with sex, unless THAT was context applied to the hero’s assurance, again, not a problem.

              1. Or even, “I don’t inflict pain on other people for the fun of it … that’s just a happy by product.”

      3. David Drake took flak for having his Roman soldiers cussing like present-day GI’s. He pointed out that actual Latin cusswords would be incomprehensible to the reader, and that translating them literally would produce something that had no emotional punch, because we moderns don’t have the cultural reference points. Hence the f-bombs and G*dd*mns which carry the point “soldiers turning the air blue.”

        1. Yep. Swearing is ABSOLUTELY cultural. And if you don’t have the emotional connection, it’s not swearing.
          Weirdly, in my acculturation, I went through about ten years where English swearing wasn’t “real” which means I talked like a sailor, because there was no emotional taboo FOR ME. (despite my not swearing, PERIOD, growing up.)
          As English replaced “native tongue” and cultural norms INSIDE changed, my language cleaned itself up again, and right now if you hear me drop an f bomb it’s a “I’m trying really hard not to berserk” warning.

        2. … actual Latin cusswords would be incomprehensible to the reader
          No point in actual Latin cusswords unless all the dialog in is Latin. Tolstoy could get away with writing a novel in Russian with large bits if the dialog in French (or so I am told) because is audience was bilingual. I don’t think any current author could manage anything like that. Certainly not for US mass-market.

          1. The Sherlock Holmes stories have a bit of French phrases in them. I haven’t read the compendium since Before Internet, but it drove me crazy (I learned German in high school, and that’s a poor preparation for anything French.)

            1. Chuckle Chuckle

              Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Novels (especially Busman’s Honeymoon) had French Phrases as well. Still enjoyed the stories. 😉

              Of course, in Busman’s Honeymoon I suspected one character’s advice in French may not have been PG13 but he was writing to his nephew (Lord Peter) who was about to (finally) get married. 😀

        3. The producers of Deadwood made the same argument, by and large. No, the real-life inhabitants of that town would not have used such words — but the words they would have used are so mild by today’s standards that using the authentic language would provoke laughter from a modern audience.

          OTOH, there were words used causally back then which would require trigger warnings and trauma teams nowadays. Nobody back then would have called anybody an African-American or Latinx, for example, nor would anybody using the temporally correct words have meant any dire insult.

      4. I always try to strike a balance between “clear enough so the modern reader can understand” and “not blatantly anachronistic”. So nobody in the Dark Ages saying, “Wait a minute” or talking about loosing arrows as “firing” or using “hello”.

        1. Right. Because those are anachronistic concepts.
          Sorry, had an idiot copy editor insist pony tail was anachronistic and forcing me to use Queue. Queue has a specific cultural meaning and it’s not the west. and I don’t care if pony tail didn’t appear in print till the 50s. It is called that in every language where there’s HORSES. PFUI.

          1. This really is a conundrum, worthy of its own MGC article at the least.
            An author endeavors to be historically accurate and true to the period in question, yet they are communicating with readers of the current day.
            IMHO one must strike a balance and err in the fashion of telling the story most clearly and understandably to the reader.
            In a nutshell, sometimes you have to use modern terms that the reader is familiar with if simply to avoid turning your tale into a dictionary of archaic terminology. Or take everything to an extreme and only write period pieces in middle English with quill on vellum.

            1. And sometimes you can prove a term is historical, but that and 99 cent will get you a cup of coffee.

              You can have a character come in from casting seeds broadly over the garden, to the alehouse, but he can’t speak of how Widow Witless is broadcasting her rumors.

    3. Well, it could be worse, the world of the Demolition Man.

      John Spartan: I’m happy that you’re happy, but the place where you’re supposed to have the toilet paper, you’ve got this little shelf with three seashells on it.
      Erwin: He doesn’t know how to use the three seashells!

  22. Going to the bathroom was more complicated.

    I cannot cite the provenance of this story, but director George Cukor apparently liked t relate the time Katharine Hepburn, during production of a historical costumer came chortling up to him to declare, “George! I finally figured out how to use the bathroom in a hoop skirt!”

    Writers ought consider that an outhouse was very like a modern port-a-potty without the benefit of chemical solutions.

  23. Ox slow. Took ages. Ox finally figure it out, maybe.

    Other(s) have explained this Reality is a Low-Probability timeline.

    Well… he is /(they are) right:

    This ‘Reality’ is a Low-Probability timeline.
    THIS one is not random chance, no. It’s…

    People: “Things cannot possibly get sillier.”
    Universe: “Hold my beer and watch THIS!”

    Yes, this is the ‘Hold My Beer’ Timeline.
    Of all the Multiverse, this ‘verse is “Florida.”

    1. Jesus Taurus!
      I think you might be on to something, or is that just on something?
      If so, do you have any more of it? 😉

    1. Yes, I highly recommend the Townsends channel on YouTube.
      Collection of videos of re-enactors performing so very many common 18th century tasks. Focuses heavily on foods and food preparation, but not limited to just that.
      Figure the technology was quite similar to English Regency, if more rustic and skewed by a combination of frontier necessity and oddly enough more abundant resources in many cases.

      1. The Great War, and C&Rsenal did some colabs that were great. TGW has “finished” and Indy has moved over to work on WW2 the same week by week way. Sparty at Time Ghost and Indy created The Great War and sold it to the production company that is still putting out some post war vids. Time Ghost has Between Two Wars about to finish up, and they also work with the band Sabaton on Sabaton History, going over the background of their songs. Spartacus does War Against Humanity, on the WW2 channel . . . The TimeGhost crew did a live stream recently about their being demonetized by YT over their History videos. YT apparently hates accurate history.
        C&Rsenal is still deep in the WW1 arms history. They and Forgotten Weapons had a real good “Operation Lightning” series where they tested the light machine guns used in WW1.
        Othias says he wants to do Shot Guns, and maybe WW2 stuff later.
        Further back history, I like to listen to History Time. He does vids mostly with maps and stills, so they are great for eating time while doing stuff around the house.

        I guess I need to add another to it with Cap and Ball.

  24. This makes perfect sense as vast portions of the college were still stuck in the Victorian era. The other half were hard core Marxists. Sometimes it overlapped.

    Well, given when Marx lived, wrote, and theorized I would hope they overlapped. You need one of the hypenated versions: Marxist-Leninist or similar, to get out of the Victorian era.

    I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but quite serious. Marx is very much a product of mid-18th century Europe and a lot of Marxist thought is ossified there in a really weird way. Probably because they’re still confused as to why WWI didn’t bring about a Marxist revolution and the only Marxist revolutions have been in basically agrarian societies (which is unpossible according to Marx).

    Remember that books like “A writer’s guide to x” is the beginning. The internet is yours. If it’s important to your book, RESEARCH IT. If it’s not and you can’t find exact information? Soft pedal it.

    What I don’t get is why people don’t just do that because its fun as well as a better story. I learned a lot more about how a Mongol horde moved when I researched it for my Horseclans knock off because it was fun.

    1. Unless you count the Russian Revolution as a Marxist one. Because WW1 did help bring that one about.

      In the West, they were a bit too tired (lots of their folks dead and economies ruined) for a real revolution.

      1. Yes, WWI did, but I don’t consider it Marxist because it occurred in a non-industrialized country. Remember, Marxist is an arrow of history system and you have to go through steps.

        That’s why the USSR was Marxist-Leninist. It needed Lenin’s theory of a vanguard to have a Marxist revolution at all in an agrarian country without industrial workers who created added value.

        But WWI, period, defied Marx. The workers were supposed to have transnational solidarity and refuse to fight such a war for the capitalists. The mere mobilization should have caused revolutions. In fact, a labor leader in France was working up to that before being assassinated in July 1914.

        The utter failure of the workers of the world unite is how you get Gramsci and his theories like false consciousness on one side and the national socalism of Mussolini and Hitler on the other. Both were trying to explain why Marx was wrong and WW1 happened.

      2. I just found out about the Poland Russia War 1919-1921. Some things happening BUT one of Lenin’s things was he wanted to get to the German border so that the Red Army could help the German Communists, then the French, then Italy, then England. The West failed to help Poland because many UNIONS wouldn’t load or allow stuff to be shipped to Poland. Naturally THEY supported their fellow communists. The Poles squeaked it out. Just think of Russia (Red Army) helping the communists of Europe in the 1920’s.

          1. Imagine the potential for kinder, gentler “far-right” Communists. (/sarc).

            Had the Red Army (commanded by Trotsky) won against the Poles, ’tis probable that Trotsky would have had enough support to push out Stalin, rather than the other way around.

            1. Had the Red Army (commanded by Trotsky) won against the Poles, ’tis probable that Trotsky would have had enough support to push out Stalin, rather than the other way around.

              ….you know, I was aware that “Animal Farm as the grand total education on Communism” was a pretty pathetic failure, but you’d think “invaded Poland” would be a little more important than “lost favor with Stalin and was killed.”

            2. How about this for an alt?

              The train that the Germans used to send Lenin back to Russia derails, leaving the bolshies not *quite* as much of a merry band of sociopaths as in OTL.

        1. See, things like this are why I have to wonder at what they cover in schools across this country–I got the post-WWI stuff in like 8th grade, and they covered the details late on in high school. But, I keep running into people who’ve never heard of anything from that region in that entire period, and who think that it was peace and tranquility all across Eastern Europe from 1919 on to ’39.

          What’s really sad is that I’ve run into guys in the military who had military history minors in their degrees, and who didn’t know about the various interventions in Russia, the Russo-Polish War, or any of that crap at all.

          I dunno… Maybe I was just weird, and managed to remember this stuff, and then did a bunch of other reading. I hear people say they never got this stuff in school, and I’m just like “What? How could they not have mentioned any of this…? It’s what led up to WWII, along with Versailles, and was why the Germans who weren’t communists were so damn paranoid…”. I mean, seriously… How the hell could you do a course about WWII and not mention the interwar years, and what contributed to the rise of Hitler?

          1. A lot of the problem is selective listening, or hearing stuff and it goes in one ear and right back out the other. Another huge part of the problem is courses that try to cover so much that they barely touch on the highlights and skip over even a lot of those. Anyone who is actually interested in history will keep reading AFTER school is done and continue educating themselves, but they may (like me) be hit and miss in their reading; heavy on certain periods and areas, and completely miss others. One reason I like this blog and another forum I’m on is because I’m constantly learning, and finding new areas to research and read about.

            1. Mostly, what I ran into was “pick out three or four ‘representative’ bits and focus entirely on those; without even bothering to explain where they fit into the general scheme of things.”

              1. I ran into “There is apparently one teacher in the school system who can get through a syllabus without falling behind, and he doesn’t teach history.”

  25. I would point out, in terms to not understanding history, that many educated people will tell you how the evil whites intentionally gave blankets they knew were filled with small pox germs to Native Americans to kill them off.

    Then 15 minutes be haughty about how superior they are to people from the same period because those people didn’t understand germs caused disease.

    It’s a variant of a personal hobby horse when people get arrogant about how ignorant people were in the past for believing the earth was the non-moving center of the universe. I have a couple of question I then request they answer to prove how much more they know as opposed to parroting what they were told.

  26. Nice essay. Only question: I thought that vellum was a type of parchment and usually a bit nicer? Or did I miss something?

    1. Wikidiff:
      As nouns the difference between parchment and vellum is that parchment is a material, made from the polished skin of a calf, sheep, goat or other animal, used like paper for writing while vellum is a type of parchment paper made from the skin of a lamb, baby goat, or calf.

      So it seems that vellum is a narrower term, referring to parchment made from baby animals. Probably more plentiful as people generally culled herds.

      1. Hmmm. For some reason I was thinking parchment was made from animal intestines, not hides; but both were tanned before using. And wasn’t vellum actually leather that was split?

    2. You are correct, actually. For some reason even though what the book used was “parchment” and I reproduced it here, what my mind held was “papyrus” which I’ve also seen for “same as paper but historic” (well, it’s closer than parchment) but which was rare and expensive in the west. (And to be fair I haven’t seen it used in novels recently.)

  27. I remember going to my mother’s parents house. Outhouse, yes. Franklin stove, yes (coal or wood, don’t remember. Hand pump at sink for water, yes. Granddad later made an indoor toilet, a bench over a bucket. That was late ’40s. He built a modern home in the early ’50s. Had a TV, too.

  28. My grandmother was born in the late Nineteenth Century. She told us about their version of sanitary napkins – homemade from rags – and they washed them by hand.

    She once said, “We must have smelled bad in those days, but I don’t remember it.”

    I was born in 1945, and our family vacationed on a farm owned by relatives – outhouse, running water was a hand pump over the kitchen sink. Phone was a big box on the wall. I don’t remember a crank, but you picked up a thing like a metal cup on a wire and that went to your ear. The speaker part was on the box. When I was a kid (in NJ), we still picked up the phone and said, “Operator please,” and told a real person the number we wanted.

    The lack of knowledge of history in today’s young isn’t just of physical things, but of attitudes and beliefs. One of my western romances has a hero whose mother was Cheyenne. One review says, “I can’t believe they were so mean to him.” Snowflakes who think a careless word indicates racism have no idea what real racism looks like – or any of the other isms and phobes.

    1. I used “sanitary towels” until I got married. Yep. Washed by hand. There were pads available, but my mom refused to buy them because they were ridiculously expensive. I bought them when I traveled. They were not only expensive but very uncomfortable. Nothing like what’s available today.
      Panties to be worn during that time had little buttons front and center to anchor the towel, which had buttonholes.

    2. We have a phone just like that on our wall. It’d be working if there was anything to connect to it. Great-Aunt and Uncle had one. One of dad’s siblings has it.

  29. Blinks. Either I’m too forgiving of a reader or the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is working in my favor.

    I’ve always considered different levels of realism for different types of stories as well. Similar to the scale of science fiction hardness, ranging from Historically accurate and well-researched to “well, it’s really more of a Roman empire aesthetic in Spaaaaaace if you know what I mean”

    For example, in The Enchanted Forest chronicles Cimorene serves dragons chocolate mousse and cherries jubilee and I don’t think those desserts overlapped with knights in shining armor and castles.

    I guess I’m more forgiving of technology anachronisms than cultural anachronisms. I just don’t believe all Regency heroines were fourth wave feminists, abolitionists, and socialists. Or the fact that people have always see the problem with them being slaves but other people being slaves is someone else’s problem.

    1. Yeah, but if a book already has dragons, i could live with with that.
      It’s more the duchess going shopping level of insanity that stops me. Oh, and I don’t read “the main character is a feminist” books when main character is 18th century. Main character asks for “affirmative consent” book gets metaphorically walled.

      1. Fun story. SCA Duchess and entourage enter HEB, full outfits. The manager sees us and walks up and asks the Duchess if he can help. She says of course and takes a basket from one of he ladies and gives it to him and says first we need some bread, where is it. He tells her and then he tries to keep up. She is sending people off to look for this and that. Finally she is finished and then with the unencumbered walks straight out the door thanking the manager in passing. The rest put the stuff on the counter and it is rung up and I pay for it. Pulling my wallet out of my sporran. The Manager STILL looked dumbfounded.

      2. I too tend to be forgiving of anachronisms or common misconceptions, either as errors in good faith or elements of style in good fun. I’m more annoyed at lapses in internal consistency, particularly in sci-fi and fantasy. Or rather, I’m annoyed when it becomes obvious that the authors never even tried to have a consistent setting in the first place, and keep changing the rules to get out of whatever corner they’ve written themselves in.

        Thing is, try and mention that (as Charles Stross did, regarding the Star Trek staple of “teching the tech”), and cue the online literary experts going on about how these are just minor details that don’t really matter, and it’s all about “character development”, or “sending a message”, or “important human themes”, or whatever other buzzword they got spoon-fed in that one creative writing class they went to.

        Bottom line is, they don’t see a story as an organic continuity of events that happen in a fictional setting, historically accurate or otherwise. No, to these creeps it’s just a sequence of scenes, with no logical connection needed, so long as it adheres to some arbitrary standard of writing (*cough* theherosjourney *cough*) or otherwise appeals to their personal fetishes or political stance. Actually trying to imagine a time and place different from our own – who needs that…

        1. > it’s just a sequence of scenes, with no logical connection needed,

          That’s most movies and too many books after the late 20th century.

          Stuff happens, things blow up, repeat until the budget runs out.

          That’s why so many people are happy to “watch” a movie while hammering the channel selector like a rat at the kibble dispenser. They don’t mind missing half the movie as they timeslice through the other offerings; they don’t *expect* the movie to make sense in the first place.

          I first realized that about the dozenth time I asked a person what a movie was about, and their answers were all about the special defects.

      3. Well, there WERE feminists in the 18th century, or at least there was Mary Wollstonecraft. But they weren’t the same kind of feminists we have now.

      4. Main character asks for “affirmative consent” book gets metaphorically walled

        So, you reject the Austen fanfic where upon first meeting, Darcy and Elizabeth get into a heated argument over proper pronouns?

        1. I suppose one could argue whether both were close enough to use “tu” or “du,” or whether the kids should be allowed or discouraged to use “thou”. (Some country people still used it, up until Victorian times, and I think folks in Yorkshire stopped in living memory. Elsewher, the Quakers kinda finished it off by making it political and religiously dissenting, all at once.)

          1. Yeah, in German class I used to wonder how couples negotiated that stage of courtship …

            He: Wouldst allow me to call on du tomorrow?
            She: Who are tu calling du, buster? And watch that hand!

            She: I had a lovely evening with du …
            He: Oh my, I forget to tell tu – the regiment is shipping out tomorrow …

      5. Depends on whether they see the rest of the connections through. Or are comic enough to make us overlook them.

        But a world where the dragons love their hoards of gold and silver and copper coins, the humans are either going to have use a different medium of exchange, or develop bills earlier.

        The great red dragon with the gold of three kingdoms? Here’s your note certifying you own three of the gold coins. We just have the dragon guard it, and don’t have to carry it about. (That’s one dragon no dragon slayer would want to kill.)

        1. The great red dragon, Neoproxim, prepared to defend his multi-billion dollar horde from the IRS SWAT team. As he let out a massive blast at the intruders, it suddenly occurred to him that maybe lying on a 20 foot tall mound of greenbacks wasn’t that good of an idea after all.

        2. I just had this vision of a world where dragons manage the currency system, sitting on hoards of gold they hold in trust like so many Fort Knox depositories. Your kingdoms currency depends on the strength and health of your dragon, along with its ability to defend its hoard.

          Now posit the dragons getting the idea of stock exchanges, investment banking, and fiat currency: What happens when your kingdom’s dragon goes all-in on a Ponzi scheme? Or, you find out that you have a draconic Bernie Madoff…? What do you do?

          Are your knights-errant the equivalent of the IRS and the FCC? What’s your recourse when a flying, fire-breathing dragon turns out to be a fraudster or prone to falling for Nigerian schemers?

          It’d be an interesting idea: Dragons farming humans and human endeavors in order for the humans to get them gold… Humans relying on dragons to run the currency and safeguard the gold reserves, with the dragons being a de-facto international clearing house. Maybe you’d have the dragons hoards being traded such that the dragon never lost the gold, just the “ownership” of it would transition between humans… And, the dragons would humor us by providing written bank drafts recording which humans had theoretical possession of whatever the dragons were sitting on top of.

          You could even posit a two-tier system, where the dragons owned the gold and transferred it between dragons, while the same gold was also owned by humans, and transferred between them. All you’d have to have was a good written accounting system, and there’d be no reason for dragons or humans to fight over the stuff… Hell, you could even say that the royal regalia was “on loan” from the hoard, and vice-versa…

          Maybe I’m overthinking it all, but it would be funny as hell to do up as a story… Dragons as venture capitalists, investment bankers…

          And, if you made a pitch to them that they didn’t like, as in so many TV shows, maybe you’d get eaten…

          1. That concept was very briefly alluded to in the Shadowrun game books; where the great dragon Dunklezhan (sp) was an investor, venture capitalist, and eventually, briefly, President of what was left of the U.S. just before he was assassinated.

            Only way I can think of it working is if humans and dragons were able to co-exist in a mutually assured destruction balance; since neither humans nor dragons play well with weaker species.

            1. Dragons don’t invest, they hoard. Theirs is essentially a Marxist view of money.

              Dwarves, on the other hand, understand the concept of creating wealth, both by developing natural resources and by value added through craftsmanship.

              Trolls are their debt collectors.

  30. *Giggles* Sorry. I’m excavating my Medieval history notes and such for the next Merchant book, and trying to sort out what really is medieval vs what is 18th century commenters saying was medieval. *facepaw* And then you get the 19th century people who think they knew what technology was not used in the 1300s-1400s… (But when you remember that no one deliberately did medieval archaeology until after 1965 in Europe, a lot of strange stuff makes sense.)

    1. Coins. Do not get me started on “that’ll be two silver for a room for the night and supper, sir.” Set around the year 1000. Arrrrrrrgh!

  31. One of the ones that got me was someone assuming that Debrett’s or Burke’s (Debrett’s first published 1769, Burke’s 1826 but people will still put Burke’s a few decades early) was sufficiently small enough to pack into a band box full of all sorts of other things and when the bottom dropped out of the box, the book was sufficiently light enough to skitter across the floor.

    Or that firearms the size of a derringer were common and easy to come by and easy to hide in the form fitting formal clothes of whichever era that was usually set at least a decade before firearms that size were actually available.

    Or Jane Austen was known as the author of her books well before her identity was known to the world.

    I’ve run across the travel problem before. I’ve seen elopements to Gretna Green take less time than the Royal Mail coach would take, and they had automatic authority to pass through toll gates, get first dibs on horses at the stops and had back-up of something went wrong.

  32. I believe I may have mentioned it before, but there are two crucial developments in music since the Middle Ages that I don’t think I’ve ever seen addressed in either Historical or Historical Fantasy Fiction. They are musical notation and equal temperament. Western civilization is the ONLY one to develop an abstract method for writing down music, and didn’t do so until the eleventh century. Equal temperament did not begin to spread until the sixteenth century, though it had been discussed earlier. Musical notation makes the composition, preservation, and spread of long pieces possible. Equal temperament makes the harmonious use of multiple shifts in key possible.

    For a more detailed explanation than I am capable of, you should try to chase down the BBC series HOWARD GOODALL’S BIG BANGS, which also discusses the importance of the piano, the opera, and recording in determining the global supremacy of Western music.

    Equal temperament, btw, is why authentic Medieval music sounds off to us.

    1. Really? And yet harmonic sequences are the centrepiece of the quadrivium subject of “Music”. I know the subject wasn’t about performance art, but was there no practical crossover? The quadrivium had been standard curriculum in the west since the sixth century or so.

      1. While the intervals may remain consistent, certain key tunings have changed their frequencies over time. This was the basic insight of the “Early Music” movement in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, of which Sir Roger Norrington was a leading conductor:

        Norrington is best known for historically informed performances of Baroque, Classical and Romantic music. He is a member of the historically informed performance movement. Norrington has advocated a limited or no use of vibrato in orchestral performances, which has brought him both acclaim and criticism. He has strictly followed Beethoven’s original metronome markings in his symphonies, despite critical comment that these markings were “miscalculated”. He has conducted recordings of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Bruckner, and Mahler on period and modern instruments. In particular, Norrington makes very sparse use of the vibrato, often uses very fast tempos, and varies the placement of the instruments on stage. Especially with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra Norrington has developed a very individual sound, which is often dubbed by the trade press as Stuttgart Sound. This refers to the synthesis of historically informed music making with the means of a modern and flexible orchestra. Symphonic cycles which Norrington interpreted in recent years with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra have received worldwide acclaim. However, Norrington’s performance practice is not without critics among other musicians; for example, the violist of the Melos Quartet, Hermann Voss, drew two tough caricatures to Norrington’s vibrato-free string sound in 2005, adding: “Except for the Stuttgart Feuilleton, the New Stuttgart Style finds only contempt and scorn.”

        In particular, IIRC, the tuning of the First Violin was sharpened, moving the A to a higher frequency.

        To tune a violin, the A string is first tuned to a standard pitch (usually 440 Hz). (When accompanying or playing with a fixed-pitch instrument such as a piano or accordion, the violin tunes to it.) The other strings are then tuned against each other in intervals of perfect fifths by bowing them in pairs. A minutely higher tuning is sometimes employed for solo playing to give the instrument a brighter sound; conversely, Baroque music is sometimes played using lower tunings to make the violin’s sound more gentle. … The A above middle C is usually set at 440 Hz (often written as “A = 440 Hz” or sometimes “A440”), although other frequencies, such as 442 Hz, are also often used as variants. Another standard pitch, the so-called Baroque pitch, has been set in the 20th century as A = 415 Hz—approximately an equal-tempered semitone lower than A440 to facilitate transposition.

        Items in blockquotes are courtesy of Wiki.

        Note: the above is mostly drawing on vague recollections from a period several decades ago and may reflect a near total misunderstanding of facts.

        1. Thanks, but I took cspsychofield’s comment not to refer to tuning, but to the use of harmonic sequences (which is what “equal temperament” means). My objection was that those had been at the heart of the academic music curriculum for a thousand years, which is a little more than “had been discussed earlier”.

  33. I was fortunate in that I was a kid in the 1950s. As such, my grandparents home was heated by a coal furnace. I liked learning how to shovel in just the right amount of coal, and how to bank the coal to keep a slow fire going all night long (and so you didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to stoke the fire!). My grandmother also made her own noodles, and dill pickles, and sauerkraut (which we of course called kapusta). Their home had originally been built for gas lighting, but was converted to electrical lighting by the electricians who pulled wire through the gas pipes, using those pipes like conduit. My grandfather was a carpenter, and I still have some of his old tools. He taught me some valuable skills about carpentry.

    My mother was an antique dealer, so I became familiar with all sorts of devices that few modern-day people would have a clue as to what those devices were for. Things like (cast iron) butter molds, kerosene heaters for ironing clothes, and lots more.

    Since some day I hope to write western fiction, I have been accumulating a treasure trove of first-person journals that were written by folks who settled the west. Those journals go into some detail about how wagon trains made camp, cached water, dealt with river crossings, wagon repairs, and all sorts of interesting stuff. Needless to say, a lot of what is portrayed in the movies about the mid-1800s is totally wrong!

    I also hate watching a modern movie that is supposed to be in the 1930s (for example), but there will be cars from the late 1940s and early 1950s in plain sight, not to mention the wrong telephones and other items.

    1. Mom, in the sixties, used a coal-filled iron to iron. Yes, the house had electricity, but it was so limited that connecting even one iron could take it down.
      So mom and grandmother ironed with irons that opened, and you filled them with coal.
      Since dad wore only white shirts to work (and mom mixed the starch too for the collars and cuffs) I remember many a time when she failed to wipe the bottom quite well enough after filling/refilling the iron and all the work was to do again.

    2. Oh, yes – practically anything you have seen on TV and in movies about the mid-19th century is wrong …
      I actually cannot watch any of these any more, without the hazard of my daughter walloping me about the head and shoulders for b*tching about the errors.
      I suppose the nadir was reached in this offering … I give you my review of “The Road to Hope Rose”.
      “It wasn’t a bad movie, just a profoundly mediocre one. Careless gaffes abounded, from the heroine’s loose and flowing hair, her costumes with zippers down the back and labels in the neckline, and the presence of barbed wire in 1850, when it wouldn’t be available in the Western US for another twenty-five years, neat stacks of canned goods (?), some jarringly 20th century turns of phrase – and where the heck in the West in 1850 was there a hard-rock mine and a cattle ranch in close proximity? Not to mention a mine-owner oppressing his workers in the best Gilded Age fashion by charging them for lodgings, fire wood and groceries, as if he had been taking lessons from the owners of Appalachian coal mines. It was as if there was no other place of work within hundreds and hundreds of miles – again, I wondered just where the hell this story was set. It passed muster with some viewers as a perfectly good western, but to me, none of it rang true. Whoever produced it just pulled random details out of their hat – presumably a ten-gallon one – and flung them up there. Hey, 19th century, American West; it’s all good and all pretty much the same, right?”

      1. Westworld is probably the only show I’ve seen make this kind of thing work, because it deliberately isn’t meant to recreate the American West but rather the Hollywood version of it. So I can just enjoy the “that’s cool” factor of the player piano playing covers of the Cure or The Man in Black’s custom LeMat that has one barrel for nine cartridges and a second for a 20 gauge shotgun shell. So every time someone does something historically stupid (like a super pale blond riding around the whole second season with no sleeves but also no sunburn) you can just chalk it up to the park’s creators going for cool instead of real.

  34. When I was in High School (late 60’s) I found, in a second hand shop, a Wire Dictaphone. Yes, it used steel wire to record. I tried it with speech and music and it really was much better than expected. It was write only. But I found that any wire about the right size would work. I had seen them is some OLD movies. Neat tech.

      1. I’ve USED reel-to-reel tapes. My parents had a Curtis Mathis stereo set…big cabinet with a record player, AM/FM radio, and a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

        1. Even a so-so reel-to-reel usually had better fidelity than a 4-track, 8-track, or cassette. If you wanted high-resolution archival storage of your music, you went reel-to-reel.

          The convenience of the cartridges (particularly for automotive use!) put reel-to-reel into the “audiophile” market until it finally faded away. There was the Elcaset and some Beta and VHS attempts at new tape formats, but the Philips Compact Disc body-slammed them out of the market.

          The record companies used to *love* new formats; it meant some percentage of customers was going to re-buy the same music they already had, just to keep up. But physical media is way down for new sales, even if vinyl LPs have made an unexpected comeback…

          1. The VHS for audio was a bit of a thing for the pro-audio market in the ’90s. IIRC, one version (Alesis, I think) was good for 8 channels, presumably with better fidelity than the 1/4″ 8 channel analog. That was about the same time as the 48kHz DAT 2 channel format came out, causing much trouble, since home recorded CDs used 44kHz. The Musenet compilation one year was *interesting*.

          2. There used to be two SKUs for DAT tapes; “audio” and “data.”

            The “audio” tapes carried a built-in “piracy tax” that was supposed to compensate RIAA members for some predetermined number of pirated copies of their intellectual property. So as far as I was concerned, the Fed had already gone along with the idea that I was a criminal, and was making me pay for a crime I hadn’t committed.

            The “data” tapes were actually even more expensive than the “audio” tapes, because they were “enterprise backup solution” bits, and the sellers figured their main buyers didn’t care what they cost.

            So, I watched DAT come and go from the sidelines. I had a couple of employers who used DAT for backups, but I never spent any of my own money for them. The piracy tax poisoned the whole format as far as I was concerned.

      2. Yeah, I had one prerecorded tape; marketed as the high fidelity alternative to 8-track cassettes. (Das Rheingold In college, I copied a bunch of LPs from friends. I had a really good intern job one summer and splurged on a ReVox tape deck. Kept that several years, but it as wearing and it wanted new heads. Sold it to (no kidding) Honest Bob’s Used Stereos in Berkeley, CA.

  35. Irrelevant to the subjects at hand, our local theater group is doing a version (I gather it’s flexible) of Austentatious. They describe theirs as another small theater group with a curiously similar name putting on a production of Pride and Prejudice. The trainwreck level is turned to maximum; the rep group does farce well, so I’m looking forward to it.

    (They do 5 shows a season. $SPOUSE vetoed Our Town as a) too grim for current circumstances, and b) ADA pain in the tail, but we expect to catch the other 4, all comedies.)

  36. I’ve often thought of writing a book…”How People Used To Live.” Basic stuff like how they got food, recreations, etc. My experience has been that the young people are curious about history, but very poorly educated.

    Which is a tragedy, because history is one of the subjects that can really be self-taught. Even more so today…$100 will buy you 100 old books on Kindle.

      1. It sounds like a project that would work well as a series of web pages, possibly compiled into an eventual book. I’m not sure how you’d monetize it, however. Maybe look into Amish advertisers?

        1. Actually, there are lots of historical reenactors. BIL does some cowboy stuff, and there are the Civil War types.

  37. And don’t get me started on the duel. This is a subject I have studied extensively. It was tolerated…somewhat. Depended a lot on the era, and whether or not somebody had been killed. The victor in a fatal duel normally found it advisable to travel elsewhere for a while.

    Ireland was a special case, it was a lot more accepted there. The French dueled more, but were very careful to ensure that both parties came out with no more than a scratch to impress the mademoiselles. A SERIOUS duel, to kill, was quite rare. Go look up the procedures for a German Mensur and you’ll get the flavor.

  38. Holy crap, this one has really blown up. 365 comments already. Well, 366 now.

    1. The dialup network I (still) use for email has/had a forum post called “The last person to post wins!”. I haven’t looked at that forum in a while, but it was going on for years.

      Eng-tips has had a multi-part thread on the FIU bridge disaster from 3/15/2018. They have to start a fresh part every 200 posts, and they’re now well into page 12.

  39. Late period, well, after the 11th century, having roving bands of pagans and Druids (which I read a book where the Druids were one group, and pagans were the other group, and yet another group of non-Christians, and anot…) practicing openly in a very Christian world… Unless it’s an alt-fantasy. But not in a Christian setting. Except maybe amongst some hose-heads playing around, in some weird club or something, maybe. Until the authorities and/or the Church of whatever branch is local find out.

    As to things that should not be… My father, who grew up in a house with spotty electricity during the Depression and war years, would holler at he TV or a movie when some character turned down a flaming wick in an oil lamp to ‘turn it off.’ He gave us a demonstration why one should not turn down a flaming wick to shut it off. One turns the wick down and then blows the lamp out. Else you run the risk of a smoldering wick falling into the oil reserve.

    And yards. Big grassy yards. Huge lawns. Yeah, unless you’re rich enough to hire a bunch of people, grassy yards and lawns were just not so. And the reason for big grassy lawns was more defensive for a long time than for appearances.

    Dirt yards. Dirt yards are what most people until recently had.

    Then there’s the people who wax on and on about friendly farm animals, and how cute the household pig was… Not. Read an analysis of deaths of young (under 2yoa) in England pre 17th Century and Wilber was a routine cause, because even tame-ish pigs will eat anything.

    And then there’s movie fighting. Gather your troops up into formed ranks, march them into the battle, then suddenly break out in a wild screaming charge and run 3-4 ranks deep into the enemy before breaking out into thousands of individual combats… Yeah, no. Not at all. It is like no-one has ever heard of a shield wall.

    I could go on, but this is your blog.

    1. Lawns — a huge pet peeve of mine. I grew up with dirt yards (and weeds, and a huge vegetable garden, but mostly dirt). I think a neatly mowed green lawn looks nice, but I don’t have the cultural history to have the skills or the ‘want-to’ to have and care for such a lawn. In this country, short-mowed grass around the house does have the benefit of providing less cover for poisonous snakes (not an issue most places I’ve lived; definitely an issue here in copperhead country), but other than that, no. Just no.

      And as for the friendly farm animals — my dad, grandpa, and a friend of theirs had a dairy farm for a while when I was small in Alaska. To use up spoiled milk/milk that couldn’t be sold, they got a big sow. The first thing my dad did when we visited the dairy after they got that sow was walk us over to her pen and strictly warn us to stay OUT of her pen. She would eat us, he said. Even my mischievous youngest brother never challenged Dad on that one. I don’t think we ever were afraid of the cows (mostly Holsteins), but the sow and the bull had our respect.

      1. My daughter and I have a strictly-vegan friend, of whom we are quite fond – but said friend is a strictly-city girl (from England) who as absolutely appalled to learn about pigs having omnivorous tendencies… all stemming from a period when said friend was house-sitting in the Hill Country to a menage which included several horses, an emu a flock of geese and a rather bad-tempered and not very-large boar pig.
        She was worried about having fed the pig a non-vegan leftover taco, and I repeated a line from my farm-girl grandmother about a farmer having gone for a leak “and the pigs et him.”
        Yeah, vegan friend was absolutely horrified to learn this. I don’t think she ever went into the pig enclosure again.

        1. Yeah. Pigs and chickens, the easiest way to get rid of anything remotely edible on a farm.

          Heck, my dad told a story of a dairy farmer near where he lived who slipped in the barn and got trampled by his cows.

          Farms , even modern hobby farms, and especially the further back in history one goes or the larger the farm gets or both were always and still are, very dangerous places to be. So all those stories and songs about how easy a farmer’s or a farm hand’s life was, I start ranting. Subtle hint, it’s the summer, and living ain’t easy…

          Or one of the most dangerous jobs on a farm with a silo? Sweeping out the silo, as grain dust is explosively flammable, and will act like coal dust in lung tissue. So who fits into the grain silo for cleaning purposes? Small boys… Yeah, my dad lost a friends to a grain silo explosion. Fortunately dad had just gotten out of his silo when his friend’s blew up.

          As to those large pastoral lawns at manor houses. Ever notice that at most old old manor houses the yard slopes away from the house? Easy to walk up, but carrying a load or running (like when attacking) it’s quite a bit different, all the time the person is exposed to people on the 2nd level… Hmmmm…..

  40. Oh gosh, I so needed this. I checked out a historical romance from a very well known author and I doubt I can finish it. It’s driving me crazy as it’s set during Tudor era. The protagonist is whining and crying how it’s sooooo important everything be printed in English because NO ONE could read Latin. What the ever loving???? Up until a century ago, when high school stopped being an institution you had to test into, high school grads could read and write Latin. You know more about Tudor than I do, but this sounds so freaking “wrong”.

    Add in the protagonist, also, crying that she never wants to marry because it’s literal slavery! It’s so much better to just screw around and be FREEEEE!!! Free to be her own woman and have her own bookstore!

      1. Oh, the deity lend me strength.
        Actually, over the next few months I am scribbling the next WIP; a novel set in the ACW – and I have a female MC turning down a proposal of marriage, for several very excellent reasons: she is fortyish, has been left a substantial income over which she has control, and doesn’t want to give up the independence she now has, is exceedingly wary of the odds of her even surviving childbirth, respects the gentleman although she doesn’t love him … and he is an owner of slaves and she is a militant abolitionist.
        So – one can do the independent woman thing for narratives set in previous centuries … but the perimeters have to be set out.

      2. Argh. Well, if you had a bookstore in Tudor times in a major city, you probably had either an open press (which meant sucking up to the king or queen, and/or the official with publishing okay powers), or you were doing everything on the downlow and had no open bookshop. (Maybe you pretended to sell something else.)

        England was big on needing government permits to print stuff, including music.

        I don’t know that they had used bookstores back then, unless for college towns.

    1. My Grandfather went on a trip to Italy when he was smallish, and discovered that the language he shared with the Italian boys he wanted to play with was Latin. 😆

      He graduated High School passable in Latin, ancient Greek, and French. He was also into basic Calculus. This was a Public school in New Jersey.

    2. In Tudor times, people were still writing in Latin.

      Mind you, that was when they were killing it — C.S. Lewis covers it nicely in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama) — but it was so living at the time they didn’t even notice.

    3. My grandfather, who only went to school through eighth grade, learned Latin in his little one-room-school in the Oregon Coast Range (also known as the Appalachia of the West). By the time I was in school, they weren’t teaching Latin any more, which was really too bad.

  41. 1) There has to be a market for a website of “what was it like in (insert decade here)?”, very similar to Atomic Rockets and it would deal with things like what the average person in the various classes would eat, wear, do, etc, etc, etc every day, holidays, that kind of thing.

    Hell, you could just do one on the 20th Century and surprise people.
    2) At some point, I’m going to have to write that Victorian-era magical girl story. My main character is Middle Class, and that’s going to be interesting to see the world from that perspective on both sides…
    3) I have written more book reviews than I care to think about that can be summed up as “LEARN THE MOTHERF(YAY!)ING HISTORY! BEFORE! YOU! WRITE!” in “accurate historical pieces.” ‘Cause the past is most certainly a different country…

  42. History? I’ve read too many books where the author didn’t understand (or had forgotten…) how “long distance” worked.

    For much of the USA, the per-*minute* cost could exceed the *hourly* pay for many people, and “direct dial” was mostly regional up into the 1970s…


      My parents remember when a long-distance call from California to Oregon was either a once-a-week special event or a massive emergency.

      The “joys” of payphones…

      And, why secretaries are important…

      1. It was 2005 before I got a cell phone, and that was because pay phones were going extinct. I really needed to make a call that day from town, and after a couple hour’s search, found one. The next stop was the cell phone store.

        1. I got one in 2004, because the only company that was supporting pagers (Motorola, I think) was closing out their pager services. And, I could only pay my bill at their office in San Francisco. Went with Sprint, because the local Radio Shack was willing to give me an employee discount (which I still have-hey, it’s $10) to buy a phone. Got an iPhone in 2012, and looking at getting another iPhone this year.

          I’ve owned a total of three cell phones, only getting rid of them when I couldn’t get replacement batteries.

          The last pay phone I saw that was working was at a bus stop in Santa Rosa two years ago.

          I can still remember pagers and pay phones and places putting up “will not accept calls” signs on the pay phones…

          1. I checked into pagers a few months ago. They’re still a thing, but local marketing is exclusively to the medical industry, and coverage is minimal. There are also “pagers” that piggyback on the cellular network, which would defeat the purpose of not carrying a cell phone…

            Battery life on my 12-year-old stupidphone isn’t so good any more; even the new battery I put in last month only lasts a week instead of three-to-a-month like the old ones. But I popped the phone open and looked at the battery, and the manufacture date of the new-in-the-package battery was 2009, about the time the phone went off the market… I guess a week isn’t bad for a ten year old battery.

            1. I’ve had luck with Batteries Plus for cellphones. I don’t know if Radio Shack is still alive, but we lost our local store.

          2. A decent number of the rest areas between Peoria and Des Moines have them, too.

            I was going to post a picture of one yesterday, but I forgot.

        2. There are still pay phones along the Trans Canadian Highway One and Ice Parkway between Banff and Jasper. Pretty sure they are spaced along Highway 5 & 7 too. Lack of cell coverage … Not only that we turned off Sirus because we got tired of it cutting in and out as we lost satellite coverage.

          Don’t know if I should confess this. But we witnessed a vehicle roll off one of the overlook pull offs as we were approaching the pull off. We immediately pulled over. Of coarse no cell coverage; for anyone, present. The ONE thing neither of us thought of ??? … we have a new Santa Fe, with Blue Link, with an SOS button.

          It was happening quickly, and almost immediately a group of private trucks carrying better trained emergency personnel with radios pulled over when they noticed the commotion. They immediately took over. Someone was injured. But no one went down with the vehicle. Would like to think we might have considered the SOS button eventually. OTOH who knows if the satellite would been picked up.

          Per the ranger we talked to later, vehicles over the side are not “frequent” but not unusual either. One difference. People usually go over with the vehicle. In this case the person was trying to get back in to stop it from rolling over. She failed (obviously), and let go, or was knocked away from the open door, as the vehicle went over. Vehicle back tire rolled over her, but cushioning from vegetation saved her from fatal or super serious injuries. Report when we stopped back by on our way back, Ranger said (car was still over the side) that she was going to be okay.

      2. And when you had a long-distance telephone conversation, it was like speaking a telegraph message. You tried to cram as much info in as little space as possible.

        Not to mention… hanging on the phone for hours like people do today? I grew up with a 3 minute personal phone call limit, because we only had one phone, with no call forwarding, no messaging, no call through.

        Having the police show up because you’re on the phone and your parents are trying to reach you really teaches you to stay off the phone.

    2. We lived in Illinois when Mom’s kid sister lived in Michigan. A lot of the family phone calls happened after 9PM local because the long distance charges became less extortionate.

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