Monthly Archives: December 2010

Interurban newsletters

Some titles available in Google Books; there's certain to be more.

Electric Railway Journal.  v.33, 1906. v.42, 1913. v.45, 1915.

Street Railway Journal. v.21, 1903.

Electric Railway Service (Detroit United Lines). 1917. This last one is remarkable as an in-house PR newsletter, full of editorials railing against the Detroit Evening News, and with notably precise accounting for the delays (and causes thereof) on streetcar lines. "The Lying Evening News Still Continues to Lie" was a headline from 1914.

Print archives include the Plymouth (Michigan) Historical Museum, with a finder's aid available, and the University of Michigan Transportation History Collection.


Thorstein Veblen, cranky economist, on handmade goods

For future reference, since I end up immediately thinking of Veblen when I read about artisanal tofu. This from Theory of the Leisure Class is on hand-made goods (emphasis added).

The position here taken is enforced in a felicitous manner by the place assigned in the economy of consumption to machine products. The point of material difference between machine-made goods and the hand-wrought goods which serve the same purposes is, ordinarily, that the former serve their primary purpose more adequately. They are a more perfect product—show a more perfect adaptation of means to end. This does not save them from disesteem and deprecation, for they fall short under the test of honorific waste. Hand labor is a more wasteful method of production; hence the goods turned out by this method are more serviceable for the purpose of pecuniary reputability; hence the marks of hand labor come to be honorific, and the goods which exhibit these marks take rank as of higher grade than the corresponding machine product. Commonly, if not invariably, the honorific marks of hand labor are certain imperfections and irregularities in the lines of the hand-wrought article, showing where the workman has fallen short in the execution of the design. The ground of the superiority of hand-wrought goods, therefore, is a certain margin of crudeness. This margin must never be so wide as to show bungling workmanship, since that would be evidence of low cost, nor so narrow as to suggest the ideal precision attained only by the machine, for that would be evidence of low cost.

The Gutenberg edition of Theory of the Leisure Class is a convenient edition, since it's all on one page; it also has those honorific marks of hand labor, including exhortations at the end to give the reader "Plain Vanilla ASCII" upon request.

With the passage of time, of course, the details of the relationship between man and machine also change. Goods produced on an old machine, ideally one for which parts cannot be obtained except by manufacturing them yourself, obtain the high status of handmade goods. The more obscure the equipment, the better, and imperfections in old equipment provide the same "honorific marks" of handmade goods. 


Related articles

Bitcoin, conspicuous consumption, and conspicuous waste

delicious ketchup

As an exercise for wanting to keep enough bookmarks in delicious, or more likely its crowd of descendants, I provide to you some delicious ketchup.

The problem with a general Google search for ketchup is that there is so much ketchup out there – so many recipes, so many products, so much Heinz everywhere.

The delicious search for ketchup for me was a directed search; I knew that one of those interesting magazines that comes from New York City had a story about ketchup once, and how it was the perfect food.

What I was really after, and what I found readily (since 34 people have bookmarked it on pinboard) was Malcolm Gladwell’s 2004 The Ketchup Conundrum. After finding that, I readily found Meg Favreau’s Playing Ketchup and Johan Lehrer’s Ketchup from The Frontal Cortex.

As for recipes (other than “buy a bottle of Heinz”), try

One of my search strategies in finding things that I had previously known about is to search for them with my name attached, e.g. a search for “vielmetti ketchup”. This is less about ego and more about retrieval; you can do the same with your favorite prolific blogger or news source (“kottke ketchup” generates an equally interesting set).

I wonder if you’ve been getting enough ketchup.

(Prairie Home Companion “ketchup” skit went here, but it loaded soooo slowly.)

Alas, poor delicious, you knew us well

The scuttlebutt is that delicious is going to be axed by Yahoo. 

Once upon a time, I bookmarked everything interesting that came across my path to delicious (back when it was  It was part of my routine, and a daily summary was posted through to this blog.

Delicious was from the tags era of the Internet, where in addition to noting that a thing existed you could add your own tags to describe it. Sometimes these were straightforward tags, like the 1533 pages I marked as "annarbor". Others were idiosyncratic, like the 5 pages I marked as "attention-to-irrelevant-details".

There are other, better ways to bookmark things so that lots of people see them. The facebook "like" button gets more page views without consuming any cognitive overhead about how to tag, whether to tag, and what you've tagged before. Actually writing about something is quite a bit better than just bookmarking it, because you get to be yourself for a little while and not just an automaton forwarding on links automatically.

Every bookmark I ever did on delicious, up until now, is archived for posterity here: . As I review it, there really should have been more of them marked "attention to irrelevant details". It's hours of reading, though some of it goes by fast because the site that was linked to has disappeared, leaving only the bookmark and whatever clipping I managed to care about.

edit: now with more cognitive overhead

more delicious:

Les Orchard, Let a million bookmarks bloom. "Use the web. Host your own, pay for it, or find someone who values your data."

Stephen Hood, We can save Delicious, but probably not in the way you think. "The Delicious user community could organize to save the data themselves via a coordinated harvesting project." 

Edward Vielmetti is

clean your dishwasher with the breakfast drink of astronauts

I’m sure there’s a cheaper way to clean a dishwasher than to put heavily marketed, sugary “breakfast drink” powder into it. Tang is citric acid and sweetener and artificial flavor that tastes like moon rocks.

The dishwasher is cleaner, though, which is a good thing.

Other suggestions for cleaners include vinegar, straight citric acid, borax, and baking soda. None of those have the astronaut cachet.

cayenne in your socks

An old, old recipe to keep your feet warm: sprinkle cayenne in your socks.  

The powdered capsicum slightly dusted in the socks of persons subject to cold feet will generally prove a salutary means of overpowering that unpleasant sensation. (The American Dispensatory, 1823)

Not recommended to keep your fingers warm.

An illustrated example, from The Cooper Family: Warm feet in the snow.