The Oldest Companies In Each Country

February 18, 2020

Here is a fascinating chart of the oldest companies still operating in most countries of the world.  Click on the image to get the full scale.

 

My favourite is probably Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House in China said to have been operating since 1153.

Found at the Business Financing Co’s website.


Frisbee Through The Universe

February 12, 2020

Some of the good guys die old.  Ten years ago this week we lost Fred Morrison, the man who gave us the Frisbee, at age 90.

His original was called the Pluto Platter and had the names of the planets embossed around the edge;  which goes some way to explaining his odd outfit in this 1957 publicity shot.

May his soul sail softly through eternity.


Hand Dryers: A Portrait

February 2, 2020

From the always interesting Creative Review comes this look at the work of Samuel Ryde and his epic collection of images of hand dryers in public facilities.

This is just a small selection:

“London establishments are evidently quite concerned about what their hand dryers say about them, with many vying to turn this piece of equipment into an installation or disguise it within a shrine of decorations. Pubs and eateries in other cities seem less bothered. Petrol stations anywhere in the world? Absolutely, categorically, do not care about their hand dryers.  These are some of the implications of documentary photographer Samuel Ryde’s new photo book Hand Dryers, which takes us on a tour of the many places he’s visited by way of the hand drying equipment found on the walls of public bathrooms.”


Wither Punctuation?

January 29, 2020

There is a very good article in History Today by Florence Hazrat on the history (and possible future) of punctuation.  She notes that:

“In classical times there were no punctuation marks or spaces between words. Since punctuation determines sense (‘Let’s eat, Grandpa’ versus ‘Let’s eat Grandpa’), scriptio continua allowed scribes to offer their masters a clean text, waiting to be interpreted by those higher up the social ladder. Writing was merely a recording of, or preparation for, speech: any punctuation that was inserted had oratorical, rather than grammatical, functions, indicating the degree of pauses upon delivery only.”

When classical texts were being rediscovered and copied in the early Middle Ages, scribes added various pauses to assist comprehension and these eventually developed into the comma, the colon, and the full stop.

“The 15th century saw a boom of inventive punctuation, including the exclamation mark, the semicolon and brackets (or parentheses). New marks arise when a lack of clarity needs to be redressed, communication controlled and sense disambiguated, an emergency perhaps stemming from greater reliance on written diplomacy as well as the newly fashionable art of letter writing.”

The semi-colon made an appearance first in 1494; while the dash and the ellipsis had to wait until the 18th century.

She concludes with a warning and a suggestion:

“When constant availability makes us minimise the effort and time we devote to messages, one may assume that punctuation is doomed. After all, December 2019 saw the demise of the Apostrophe Protection Society, because the ‘ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won’, according to its former president. Yet studies on the use of the full stop in text messaging have shown that we do care about punctuation, even in a medium that promises endless continuation. When is it time to not send another text back? A full stop, the study suggests, comes across as aggressive and cuts conversation short. Perhaps a new mark is necessary?

 


Free Speech Is Key To Freedom

January 28, 2020

In view of the latest fuss about “controversial” speakers at VPL, I thought it worthwhile to republish this piece I wrote about five years ago:

* * * * *

Regular readers will be well aware of my absolute antipathy to censorship. And I mean absolute. I can conceive of nothing that anyone could think or say that should be disallowed simply because someone else thinks it somehow “wrong” or “dangerous.” Even Nazis, pedophiles, and Rupert Murdoch should have the right to peddle their ghastly trash.

Given my position on this, it is more than disappointing to read that so many students at Oxford and Cambridge have decided that censorship is no big thing and should even be encouraged to protect, they say, the weak or different (their definition) from being distressed. A debate between abortion legalists and pro-life activists was cancelled:

“Christ Church’s student committee, aka the Junior Common Room, voted to ‘inform College Censors about the mental and physical security issues surrounding the debate’. And it seems the College Censors agreed, stating that they were keen to ensure ‘students’ emotional wellbeing’ by ‘avoiding unnecessary distress, particularly for any residents who may have had an abortion’ …

“Here’s the president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society, Tim Squirrell, explaining in the Tab why free speech isn’t very important: ‘I’m proud that we’ve started to consider the social impact of debates on those that they concern, rather than believing them to be academic exercises which happen in an intellectual vacuum… It’s about time we recognised that and started thinking responsibly and considerately about freedom of speech.’ Here’s McIntyre making a similar free speech-qualifying point: ‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’

What he is saying, of course, is that these “marginalised” groups are too stupid to understand the point of debate and therefore we should keep them in the dark because “we know best” and have to protect them. This is just another version of the Trotskyite vanguard mentality — “we know best what the working class needs and so we will rule and control them.”   Very dangerous bullshit, especially when it comes from what are considered to be the cream of the next generation.

My grandfather lived at a time when socialists had to set up their own newspapers because they were banned from writing about their “pernicious and devilish” ideas. And even then their presses were attacked and destroyed. In my own lifetime, LGBTQ folk were not allowed to spread their “perversions” and “filth” through mass media or through the mails. It took us a long time and much pain and effort to overcome those two censorships.

Now these effete so-called intellectuals want to throw us back into the dark ages of barbarism and elite control. Well “fuck them!” I say.


Our Media Bubbles

January 25, 2020

The latest Pew Research reports include a detailed look at US Media Polarization. The divide in the trustworthiness of various media sources between those tending to the Republican side and those tending to the Democratic side is extraordinarily wide.

Select image for a better view.

As this survey looks only at mainstream media (newspapers, TV, radio), I would imagine that the functional divide is even greater once one factors in the noise from social media.

This is a worthwhile reminder to us all — as we all tend to be guilty of siloing — that the media bubble we choose to exist in is NOT the only one out there.


Crime And a Lack of Confidence

January 10, 2020

I subscribe to a number of neighbourhood email lists, and talk to residents every day, and from this anecdotal evidence alone, it is clear that a wave of break-ins and thefts has swept over parts of Grandview recently. On Venables Street, for example, a number of households in a single block were hit night after night with burglaries and robberies. A man was caught trying to break into my own building last week, thwarted by a neighbour who called the police. It does have locals concerned and talking.

And this local concern seems to fit into a general pattern across the region (shootings in Metro, etc) and indeed the country.  According to a recent Angus Reid report, crime has increased from a low in 2014, ticking up slightly each year since:

 

Along with that comes a fall in the confidence that Canadians have in the various parts of the justice system:

 

I don’t offer any opinions on what this all means; just wanted to share the data.