Things I learned this week #14

Happy Friday 13th. I hope it’s spooky and magical.

  • This Roman Beverage: I’d imagine the Romans were pretty thirsty. The Mediterranean is warm, and you’d work up quite the thirst inventing a whole number system, apartments, a calendar, and like a million kinds of war machinery. Not that I’d know. The Romans bloody loved posca: a mix of vinegar and water (or diluted wine), seasoned with herbs and salt. It was incredibly popular in both the military and with citizenry an. The acidic nature probably helped sanitise the water at the time, but unfortunately we’re not 100% sure exactly how it tasted - recipes, ingredients, and proportions having changed some over the last 500-2,000 years. I personally don’t love the idea of mixing wine, water, and fennel seeds but maybe that’s why I’ve never built a trebuchet (source)
  • These hunter women: Growing up my understanding of our women in prehistoric times was that they gathered and gossiped - which is some of the reason language and social bonds are so ingrained in us as humans, and why caring and communicating are typically seen as ‘feminine’ traits. A recent study of some 400 bodies from over 100 sites across the Americas, dating 6-12 thousand years in age, repeatedly found women buried with large-game hunting tools. Previously, when we’d found women with these kinds of tools, we just assumed that they were used for scraping or cutting - not hunting. But the study found women buried with projectiles and large stones - so they were either grinding some big root vegetables, or hunting big game. Just a reminder that sexism here and now projects onto things in the past (source)
  • This reason they’re called Roses: It’s pretty established that Roses, the Cadbury’s variety box of chocolates, are the taste of Christmas. Maybe they’re not quite a bougie as Celebrations, but at least they’re not Quality Streets. If you think Quality Streets are better than Celebrations then you should take a look at yourself and ask why you’re so poor at judging chocolates. Anyway, here’s the fact: did you know that Roses are called Roses after the name of the machinery which wraps the chocolates? (source)
  • This word: Milquetoast, which means timid or weak or feeble. The meaning comes from the 1920s cartoon character Caspar Milquetoast. The character’s name is based on the American dish Milk Toast - which is toast served in warm milk. So a character was given a name after a dish which represented his weak character, and now we use a gallicised version (we Frenched it up a little) of that dish to describe those characteristics. Isn’t language cool?

What I’ve had on rotation

  • Something New: Some Kind of Peace by Ólafur Arnalds (Contemporary Classical). I’ve always found Arnalds’ music incredibly peaceful. This new album is pleasantly organic and calming, and doesn’t sound exactly like anything he’s made before. (links)
  • Something Old: Eagles by Eagles (Rock and Roll). I’ve been digging into classic rock and roll figures over the past couple of weeks. Eagles are one of my dad’s favourite bands, so it feels nice to be among my musical heritage. (links)

Cool Reads

  • Labors of Love; The Hidden Burdens of a Romanic “Love Padlock” Tradition by Kurt Kohlstedt for 99% Invisible. The first time I ever went to Venice, there was a brigade of men in high-vis jackets cutting the padlocks off some of Venice’s famous bridges. This article covers some of the practicalities involved with this phenomena of engraving your name in a padlock, then locking it to public property and throwing away the key.
  • Car-free neighbourhoods: the unlikely new frontline in the culture wars by Tim Lewis for The Guardian. As an avid cyclist and London-resident my gut reaction is that we should get rid of all the cars we can. Ban ‘em. Burn ‘em. We don’t need them. I’ve had a bike totalled and another one run over by cars. Lewis does a good job at introducing the counter arguments to this way of thinking - a reminder that cities are shared spaces, lived in by many