Money is Everywhere

I’m in several book clubs. One of these is engrossed in the reading of David Graeber’s Debt: the first 5000 years. One of the topics there is the evolution of what coinage or currency is, how it attains its value, etc.

Of course, once you see one thing, you see it everywhere. From Catherine Nicholson’s review of a book on Tudor era childhood (emphasis added):

As the archaeologists discovered, the hollow resonance chambers running beneath the choir stalls, designed to enhance the acoustics of the space, had become a convenient repository for floor sweepings, food scraps, and all manner of childish possessions: wooden-handled penknives and inkwells fashioned from chunks of the crumbling sandstone walls; tokens used in teaching arithmetic; arrowheads for target practice; animal bones from midday meals; belt buckles; a metal mouth harp; a few clay and stone marbles; the frame for a pair of spectacles; and a single molar, considerably worn but with root intact, lost from the mouth of a child between the ages of nine and twelve.

But the bulk of the Whitefriars inventory, by far, consisted of tiny pieces of metal: dozens of hooks; hundreds of tags, aglets, and lace ends; and an extraordinary quantity of pins—1,575 in all—ranging in diameter from fine dressmaker’s pins to sturdy tacks. In a report on the excavation, one of the archaeologists notes that similar stashes of pins had been found in sites in Southampton and Rickmansworth, “but not in these quantities,” and concludes, “It seems likely that they relate to the wearing and pleating of ruffs.” In his new study, Tudor Children, the British historian Nicholas Orme advances an alternate theory. Lacking access to coins, he argues, children in sixteenth-century England invented currencies from what was at hand: pebbles, nuts, cherrystones, seedpods, and any available bit of metal.

Bloomsday

John Naughton, in his Memex blog has a nice celebration of Bloomsday post. Within he includes a lovely section of a talk given by Sally Rooney who then goes on to quote Anne Enright

Apart from everything that you could possibly imagine, nothing much happens in Ulysses.

Very true. It reminded me of a couple moments in the seminar on Ulysses I took from Robert D Newman (then TAMU professor, now President and Director of the National Humanities Center – how our lives and ambitions and dreams lead us).

The first was when he summarized the book (himself or in quote). “It’s just about a single day. Not much happens on that day, and everything happens on that day.”

The second, and this was during a crest of the textual analysis waves, where the Gabler edition had recently been published, was when he came into class a minute or so late and said somewhat breathlessly “I’m sorry I’m late, I was on the phone with John Kidd, who was counting commas.”

It’s never too soon to pick up Ulysses. It is about a single day. It is about everything. It’s reputation for depth is earned and shouldn’t be a deterrent. Let the language and tale sweep you through the day, and let the references flutter past like the leaves on the sidewalk you’re walking along. You can rake them up later.

Life shifts

You know you’re moving on, not just when the house is sold, but when the social signals and badges begin rolling away.

That said, an honor to lose this to a mensch I’ve been reading for donkeys years!

Looks like he’s doing good work at the Ostrom Workshop, another community to learn with.

3 hours covering 25 years of Kottke blogging: https://daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/2023/03/11/ep-370

Learning Problems

One of the issues with learning is that many times one interesting nugget will lead to another, and another. This is a good thing – it’s how chains of awareness form. But for one also concerned with focus, or with the challenges of focus, it can manifest as new fodder for those challenges. A blessing of sorts, but one’s list of "hm…" things grows longer.

The honest approach is to mark and capture these things, and then allow them to settle. Review in due course to see which have developed and which can be weeded. David Allen and his research (and fellow followers) would argue that the capture is key – for if one doesn’t, the idea will linger as a distraction rather than an idea…

Manifested this morning by John Naughton’s Memex reference of a new book "Slouching Towards Utopia" on the history of Capitalism by Brad Delong. It’s got all the catnip – an interesting precis, an intriguing bio-blurb from the Atlantic($), and a reminder that DeLong is a oldschool blogger — his site (pre move to Substack in 2021) was on Typepad!

So yes, added to the TBR list.

On Learning Modes

Of late I’ve been returning to the contemporary writing of protoblogger, developer, gadfly, irascible-in-love-with-life Dave Winer, attending to his thoughts via the SMTP cheap-seats of his email archive each day. It’s been a good reminder of the early blogging days, when the concept of putting things out on the net was often based on a sharing of what you were learning, doing, reading and what you felt might be of some benefit to the other brains (and keyboards) who were also learning, thinking and doing.

And also of note in this morning’s transom was this lovely piece by AJ Jacobs reflecting on 40 years of teaching. Partly a "the more they change, the more they stay the same" but also a lovely capture of a moment of connection and the experience of shared revelation. It brought further to mind the work of my Father, now these 30 years gone. I suspect that he would have believed that what Jacobs was able to do with the student to bring together humanities and a wonder at the human experience with their scientific ambitions and endeavors was not dissimilar to his believe that in a university the goal should be to help minds developing to merge both book and lab learning with the experience of crafting research itself – that our minds approach the world best when they have more than one tool to hand, and at our times of discovery – for those who have the university in that process – we can structure experience of these different modes relatively safely.

It was this interest in seeing experiential and intellectual learning developed in partnership that led to my father establishing the Fox Glen Fund, which provides a modest contribution to this effort for students in the Biology department at IU. I see that this year’s recipient once again is moving in areas more complex than my own mind can comprehend beyond buzzwords.

Meeemories (Hi Ev!)

In cleaning out some files, I came across an intriguing artifact of the early days of blogging. At some point, the original blogger.com sent most of their early adopters (or maybe just those of us who asked?) a small drop of swag – some fine stickers.

I kept ’em in an envelope, which resurfaced during some cleaning recently. I memorialize here for your edutainment.

“amphetamine for your website”

Kanye Living

It’s difficult for me to get a grasp on Kanye. Some great work, some disruptive breaks, some need for space and patience.

GQ published a long interview earlier this year with him "Inside Kanye West’s Vision for the Future", which didn’t do much to help but did do much to flesh in the large outlines.

He’s a man who clearly thinks big and marshals resources effectively – but also so polymathematic that it seems hard to see them all coming to fruition. But the work described herein – a new buffalo – smacks of many references, not least of which to me was Arcosanti.

Still to watch.

City Living

Sadly (but promotionally!) hidden behind a paywall, but Tim Flannery‘s piece on Cities "The First Mean Streets" in a March NYRB is intriguing. Playing off two books against one another the piece effectively shifts this reader’s perception of early cities from post agricultural mercantile and social aggregations to maintaining something potentially more sinister. Were residents citizens or serfs? Were the walls to keep out, or keep in?

Further intriguing thoughts on how parlous the first cities were, what the options available to individuals may have been, etc.