Category Archives: Research

Hidden Libraries?

So, researchers have found a way to look at hand-written pages which were hiding in the bindings of antique books.

When the printing press made its debut in Europe in the 15th century, hand-written manuscripts went the way of eight track tapes and CD players—becoming unfashionable in the face of new technology. So early book binders cut up some of these older texts and used the paper to reinforce the spines and covers of the newfangled printed books.

That practice has put researchers in another type of bind: To get to the valuable fragments built into these early modern books, they have to tear them apart. But according to Dalya Alberge at The Guardian a new technology is giving researchers a peek at the manuscript fragments without damaging the printed books.

This is really awesome. I can’t wait to see what this research turns up. Maybe some answers to questions we didn’t know to ask about history. Because, of course, it would be the unpopular books which were “pulped” in this way…..

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The History of the Violin

Well, a video of it anyway. This has some incredible playing by Charles Yang. It follows the trail of the violin through the years — all the way up to modern use.

This is a video that’s meant to be a video. It is not a documentary that you can listen to and get all the information out of.

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Meet the debt collectors…

This is a fascinating article on how the debt collection business works. Obviously, it’s a profile of just one agency, but it’s still a great read with lots of good information.

Some of the deals Siegel made were hugely profitable, while others proved more troublesome. As he soon discovered, after creditors sell off unpaid debts, those debts enter a financial netherworld where strange things can happen. A gamut of players — including debt buyers, collectors, brokers, street hustlers and criminals — all work together, and against one another, to recoup every penny on every dollar. In this often-lawless marketplace, large portfolios of debt — usually in the form of spreadsheets holding debtors’ names, contact information and balances — are bought, sold and sometimes simply stolen.

Stolen. This was the word that was foremost in Siegel’s mind on that October afternoon. He had strong reason to believe that a portfolio of paper — his paper — had been stolen and was now being “worked” by one of the many small collection agencies on the impoverished and crime-ridden East Side of Buffalo. Using his spreadsheets, this unknown agency was calling his debtors and collecting debt that was rightfully his. The debtors, of course, had no way of knowing who actually owned the debt. Nor did they have any reason to suspect that they might be paying thieves. They were simply being told they owed the money and had to pay.

This was not a problem Siegel was used to handling. There had been no classes at Simon Business School on how to apprehend crooks who appropriated your assets. He could, of course, call the police or the state attorney general, but by the time they intervened, the paper would be picked clean, worthless. His problem was more fundamental, more pressing. At this point, he didn’t know exactly how many files had been stolen, but he knew he needed immediate intervention.

Fortunately, Siegel had someone to call — a fixer who knew just what to do. (NY Times)

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How to Escape from Zip Ties

Zip ties are used not only by police and government enforcers. They are also used by kidnappers, terrorists, home invaders, rapists, and other nasties.

The need to escape from these ties is therefore something people should know.

The Art of Manliness created an infographic on how to escape. How to Escape Zip Ties from Art of Manliness (Art of Manliness)

ITS Tactical has an article and a series of videos here: Here (ITS Tactical)

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From here until December

So, I’ve started this blog three times now.

I’m trying to figure out why I haven’t made this more of a priority.

So, I’ve been looking at the psychology of self-doubt and authenticity and mastery. I’m not going to delve into all of the invisible scripts and things that are in my head.

You’ll want to check out this post from Ramit Sethi at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. (Not actually a scam. I’ve used his book and love it.)

The things that are actually holding me back is this stupid indecision of how I’m going to approach my career as a writer and what I’m going to write. I am going to be a hybrid writer. I’m going to author-publish some items and pursue traditional publishing as well. Can’t hurt right?

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway was very helpful to me. I recommend it greatly.

The goal I’m putting on this blog – I will have four posts a month. Large, small, whatever. At least four a month. Maybe it’ll be a video post. Maybe it’ll be links to something I’ve found interesting.

Or maybe it’ll be something that grabbed my attention and could easily be twisted into one or more stories. So, expect to see some interesting tidbits about the period after the first World War up to the Depression. And a few tech specs that are easy to twist into conspiracies or crimes.

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A note about research

So, I’ve made a point not to talk about writing and publishing here, even though those are things I do spend a lot of my time doing and researching.

But researching isn’t the same to me now as it was in high school. I don’t sit down with a stack of books as high as my head – okay, that’s a lie – and go through with a stack of index cards to glean out bits and pieces of information. I’m not writing non-fiction. I don’t feel the need to keep all my resources straight and my files in proper order.

I read. I read a lot.

Right now I have a stack of food-history books sitting at the base of my stairs waiting for me to get to them. I blame Mark Kurlansky for this. I read his book Salt and I’ve been hooked on food history ever since.

The thing is, these food-history books aren’t just about the food. They’re about culture and history and currency. They drift through centuries and recipes to modern restaurants. And that’s the thing. Nothing in the world is unconnected. And when you read natural histories (One Good Turn – the history of the screwdriver. Find it.) you find wonderful rambling stories that move from place to place through time. You end up thinking about things that you never knew you were interested in – say the history of the Basque.

That’s what I love most about research. That wonderful immersion in a world that has so many connections and tangents that you never know where you’re going to be next.

I also read blogs. Lots of them. Feedly is my new addiction now that Google Reader is RIP. I read through articles on evolution and electronic freedom and the new invisibility cloak that some grad students who grew up on Harry Potter are making come to life.

Part of those histories and blogs normally include the personal. They discuss the musty libraries or other blogs or interviews they’ve had with fascinating people. Those little glimpses into how someone researches are often as interesting as the research itself.

So, you might wonder why I’m as interested in the mechanics of firework colors as I am in the conditions of poverty in Victorian London, and it’s all because I never know what is going to spark a new track. I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but I do enjoy the journey. The fascinating world that authors don’t always talk about because they think that everyone is as interested in the glittering ballrooms and jewelry as they are. I’m just as interested in what happened below floors or in the coal mining facilities or in the furniture trade. I want to know about the apprentice chimney sweeps who used to climb the chimneys and developed odd medical issues later in life. I want to know that while the ballroom was crowded with people, you had to dodge the drips of candle-wax melting from the chandeliers.

My research is haphazard in a way. I’ll read one book that will lead me to read another one. I’ll read one blog post that links to a new blog, that links to an article here or there. This blog is not meant to be Wikipedia. But it is meant to build connections and maybe to find a few new things that I’d never thought about.

There will be some articles that I wrote in college going up. (All properly footnoted and stuff.) Those I’m mostly saving for research themselves, but feel free to tell me what you think and what’s changed in your opinion.

What is your favorite method of research? Do you like blogs? Podcasts? Interviews? Books? Magazines? Trade journals? Do you wander from section to section or do you do a deep dive? Let me know your favorite resources down below.

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