Tag Archives: history

The Common Era: A Pet Peeve

The problem with being the type of person who regularly reads and talks about events that happened a really long time ago is that you develop pet peeves. Like mine about the terms BCE and CE.

BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) are touted as the politically correct alternative to BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini [Year of Our Lord]). Which is great! By all means, let’s have a common era.

But the problem with the BCE/CE system is that it isn’t any broader than BC/AD. Year 0 is the same. Taking one group’s system and changing some letters doesn’t make an unbiased system, it makes nice wallpaper. If you really want to create a common era, pick a year at random and make that Year 0.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’ve apparently become the go-to person at my office for questions about anything ancient. [Realistically, I was probably asking for it when I pointed out that a caption describing something as a statue of Julius Caesar (for unclear reasons—the text proper was only concerned with the church behind it) very much should have read Augustus.] But it’s all good, because if there’s anything I like being, it is definitely the go-to person for questions about anything ancient.

At any rate, a few evenings ago an editor asked if I had any idea who an old dead Greek dude named Androstene might be; the author insisted it was correct in Italian and the editor couldn’t find anything on the internet. I pretty quickly figured out it was a transliteration problem and sent the editor to Androsthenes—but by then I was down a research rabbit hole.

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Kindle: 1 Year Later and 400 Years Ago

A year ago this weekend, with quite a bit of trepidation, I bought myself a Kindle. I grew up in a house full of books and have always been a devout dead-tree type of reader, and working in publishing has given me a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to a certain company that starts with A. Buying a Kindle felt a bit like pinning said A (lowercase, upright, sans serif) in scarlet to myself. On the other hand, working in publishing also means a not-insignificant amount of time spent reading books before they’re actually physical books, which was getting impractical since I don’t read long things well or cheerfully on a computer screen.

So I made a compromise with myself that I could try a Kindle and just not put any paid content on it, and a year later I am very glad I did.

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A short and incomprehensive history of BBQ

Last weekend, I went to the National Pork Championship at a barbecue festival in Washington, D.C. I was a fish out of water: Barbecue in Texas doesn’t mean pork.

I told someone this. Her reaction: There are different kinds? Isn’t pork normal?

That’s not the first time I’ve heard that. If you’re from any of the major barbecue regions of the country and have ventured elsewhere, you’ve probably heard it too.

So, to clear things up, here’s a quick and dirty guide to the BBQ.

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Taking the Long View

This beaver will become relevant later in this post, I promise. Just take a leap of faith and hit "Continue reading." Photo by dw_ross via Wikimedia Commons.

This handsome beaver will become relevant later in this post, I promise. Just take a leap of faith and hit “Continue reading.” Photo by dw_ross via Wikimedia Commons.

If you pay any attention to environmental stories, you’ve likely heard the term “Anthropocene” bandied about, proposed as a name for a new geological epoch. Epochs are those long, long ago time chunks with the clunky names, the only one of which to ever be reliably remembered is the Jurassic, because I’m told there was a movie or something. The boundaries between epochs are written in stone, literally, and there is a committee in charge of them.

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On Fish, Fishing, and Over-Fishing

Sadly, the Bluefin Tuna Interpretive Centre was not yet open for the season. I wanted to learn how to interpret tuna! Photo by me.

Sadly, the Bluefin Tuna Interpretive Centre was not yet open for the season. I wanted to learn how to interpret tuna! Photo by me.

When I was little, seafood didn’t do well with my taste buds. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little less picky, but haven’t really explored seafood, and it’s still pretty rare for me to eat. There’s no sole (teehee) reason for that, but a big part of the picture for the past three years has been a better understanding of state of fisheries as a not-particularly-well-managed resource. It’s a tricky number to calculate, but the standard number thrown around is that nine out of ten fish have disappeared from the oceans. Particular fishing methods, especially trawling, long-line, and shrimp aquaculture are especially problematic (the first destroys oceanfloor ecosystems and kills many non-target animals, the second kills many non-target animals, and the third destroys mangrove ecosystems).

Usually my opinions on seafood are a pretty moot point, but when I started planning a trip to Nova Scotia, it was something I knew I needed to think about. Fishing was historically a key sector of the economy there, and it’s still a major cultural factor. I could tell I would get a different sense of the place depending on whether or not I tried the seafood.

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Six Degrees of John Witherspoon

I’m in this space primarily to write about biology and ecology, but as you may know, I’ve been traveling this past week. The trip gave me a couple ideas for blog posts on those topics, but they need some time to percolate. In the mean time, an earlier love, history, is calling me from a discovery I made on my trip.

The unexpected appearance of an old acquaintance.

The unexpected appearance of an old acquaintance. Photo by me.

John Witherspoon was one of New Jersey’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. He’s a decently big deal there, particularlyin Princeton (he was also president of the University when it was still called the College of New Jersey): my middle school and a main road in town are both named for him. Basically, if you’re in New Jersey and looking to go past the top-tier Founders, he’s the guy you turn to.

But you might not have to turn very far. I’d like to propose a new game: Six Degrees of John Witherspoon.

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