The Dead Guy Spreadsheet (x.x)

6 09 2010

Aw. Poor dead guys. As I say around here when people accuse me of being excessively happy about someone’s death, “they are all dead. Mine just died on the job.”

I’ve got quite the collection of them now. I wish I knew more about them, like what they looked like and that sort of thing. But I can tell a lot about them just from what they owned:

For example, I can tell the difference between indentured apprentices and middle-class apprentices from the amount, type and quality of the things they owned. Most indentured young men own next to nothing, even very few clothes. Rich apprentices have things like large book collections and writing desks. Now, a working-class autodidact might have lots of books, but it took years to accumulate the types of libraries I’ve seen, and even if the indentured apprentice had a thirst for knowledge, he sure wouldn’t have the funds or space to keep many tomes.

You can also tell career men from their transient counterparts from books: entry-level working men with instruction manuals in their possessions often indicates that he was upward looking, in terms of promotion. And I do often find men who are the other kind of upward looking, with bibles and prayer books galore, though these men lived in the nineteenth-century, so I’m not surprised. Although, on account of the horrible reputation these men had during their lifetime, contemporary middle-class men and women might have been.

Gee, I Wish I was There When This Inventory was Taken

So enjoy the new Dead Guy widget I’ve put up. I’ll try to keep it up-dated. And yes, really: women’s silk underwear. I hope it was a gift.

Alone in the Archives II

30 05 2010

Not quite ALL alone today. Techguy is here and is expecting Techgirl at any moment.

But to the picture … Anyone remember playing Myst back in the day when it was cutting edge gaming? Remember that empty wind sound that was the musical score of the WHOLE game that made you feel so damn alone? Yeah, that’s what it sounds like here today. And yes, I feel pretty damn alone.

My goal today is to peruse my accumulated transcriptions and the xeroxes my super provided me with and start writing, hopefully tonight but tomorrow at the latest. I also decided yesterday that I’m going to discuss focusing my sample on one particular and common–no. I’ve changed my mind. I just realized that the particular type of occupational accidental death I was going to focus on perpetuates a class, age and occupational difference which would single out inventories of the young, inexperienced workers who do particular tasks. I should focus on disease since it knows class less (though cleanliness and age are still obviously factors here).

Great. Now I have to go pull another data sheet and redo my samples. Gripemoan.

Anyway, I never beat Myst without the help of a walkthrough guide but then again, I was quite young when it came out and it was probably pretty significant that I even played it. I was always really intrigued by the story and the beautiful scenery, which have been the main factors of my gaming selections ever since (Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus). I think it was one of the first game I ever played with multiple endings and I was impressed by the idea that you could be trapped in books. Trapped by knowledge: swallowed by things that usually are the tools of man. Ironic.

Well, I better get some work done.

UPDATE: I just had the best discussion about Jane Austen with Techguy. This has made my life, especially since I brought up Austen movies with PCW and was indigently rebuffed as though How dare I think ze has watched such drivel!

Jane Austen for the WIN.


x.x Dead Guy Watch x.x

One of the men whose inventory I currently am transcribing owned A History of England. That’s the best thing ever.

Alone in the Archives

29 05 2010

All. Alone.

Guess how went to work instead of having fun? Meeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Working away at transcriptions, which is pretty dull. I like material culture and consumption history but these inventories are just … well, they are lists. I guess I like better know how people felt about their clothes, what they thought about when they put them on, what they read in the clothing choices of others… I’m not really concerned with how many.

But I’m just sayin’, not complaining. Alright, that might have been a complaint, but I’m not getting ready to mutiny or anything. I’m just pointing out that I’m really not that into the original economic lean which consumption history had before the cultural historians got their hands on it.

x.x Dead Guy Watch x.x

Generally, though, I get no context to the clothing. Usually what I get is this:

List of effects 1 black Coat 1 [work] coat 1 pair canvas Pants 1 pair Drawers 1 Under Flannel 1 Waist Coat 2 Neck Ties 1 Bag 1 [work item] 1 Miniature [Signed by Supervisor]

Not a lot of stuff, really. And besides the black coat and the under flannel, I have no way of knowing what fabrics or colours anything was. Maybe this guy splurged on a paisley necktie. Where his drawers linen or cotton? And at first I though the “miniature” might be a statuette but now I think it might be a painting. Who’s to know? What is it of? A mother, daughter, lover?

Really, though, I should stop wondering too much because it’s just going to make this whole process more painful.

Back to the ol’ drawing board I guess…

You’re a Gh-gh-gh–

29 05 2010


xx Dead Guy Watch xx

So yesterday I found 2 inventories in a single document, which was awesome. But the handwriting was so bad, I might as well have been dragging my eyes across the paper. It was awful. I can usually transcribe one whole document in an hour or so, depending on how much was recorded and how much formatting I have to do to make my typed transcription look at much like the original as possible,* but just the inventory alone took the same amount of time! It was worth it though. One of them had values of all the objects AND who bought them, which I’ve never seen (and done with this one inventory in the document). A third fellow died too but apparently owned nothing, which is interesting too.

My super comes back midweek so the next few days I will be focusing on having something for hir to see. I will probably go into work today at some point, which is a sad story except that I have a couple parties to hit up tonight. Or I might go down to the shopping district and check out the antique shops which are never open after work.

Yeah, that’s probably going to have to happen.

... Next Time!

Also, I am dealing with some Amorous Issues right now, in the form of crushing on someone very smart and funny, but shy. It’s very frustrating because I’m shy too. So we’re just going to go about in circles and never get around to anything. Anyway, last night I invited hir to a party and ze couldn’t come, which I might have been upset about if ze hadn’t ended the message with an Inspector Gadget quote.

Yes, that’s right: The presence of “Next time, Gadget” at the end of the message has brought this to a whole other playing field. I am going to have to stop being shy, dammit, because this person is so right for me.

I hope.

Anyway … maybe I should have breakfast?

*I come from the Carolyn Stedman type of transcribers. See her wonderful book The Radical Soldier’s Tale. She has quite a wonderful discussion about the problems with correcting grammar and punctuation and rearranging paragraph structure and how this effects the meaning of the transcription.

RETURN showing the Number, Ages, Ratings, and Causes of Death

27 05 2010

xx Dead Guy Watch xx

Yep yep yep. I’m in the archive and I’m having fun looking at stats about my dead guys. Lots of crazy deaths here. For example, did you know that if you lived in 1866, you could die of Mortification of the Ear (1) or Toe (1)? How about Black Vomit (1)? Or Urine Retention (2)? Some of them are not so ridiculous, but are somewhat surprising. Can you actually die from insanity (2)? How exactly do you expire from Dysentery and scurvy (1) at the same? What the frick is Thunderstroke (1)? Some of them are archaic deaths … few people these days pass from Lock Jaw (7), consumption (163) or measles (3). And there are huge numbers for occupational deaths; 1219 men were killed by a particularly hazardous reality of their job.

All in all, 4866 men died in 1866.

There are some problems with these stats, obviously. Firstly, there is no context. While the table is broken down between tasks and age, there is no similar context for how many men were actually working. Secondly, who is declaring the cause of death? Some of them are probably overlaps, like Excessive Drinking (7) and Atrophy of Liver (1). And finally, there is the whole Unknown section, which accounts for nearly 1/5th of the deaths. That is a lot of question marks.

But still, these are great to have. And I know that in 4 out of 5 cases, someone was trying to figure out what these men died of and made sure to record it.

PCW is having a grand time with the legislation. Ze is currently dealing with the heaps of abbreviations and such attached to all our primary sources.

Quick PCW, hand me the The Project Legislation Repellent Spray!

Oh dear. Well, that will do.

We All Fall Down

27 05 2010

I’m listening to Waxwing by the Parkas. Quite good.

Now, I have posted for awhile because, well…

Because I just graduated! Yes, I am the happy holder of a BA (Hons) in History! So basically for the last couple of days I’ve been taking my parents and my grammie around Colour City (no, there were no walking tours … well, there was that one, but I was the appreciative recipient in that instance). So yeah, no post.

I put them on the plane today and I’m pretty relieved they are gone. Not that I don’t love them or that I didn’t enjoy the time they spent here, but I was a whole lot of running around, whole lot of headaches and a whole lot of telling my father to put away his iPhone. In restaurants, no less. Nice restaurants. Just because you have your phone with you doesn’t mean that you have to answer it.

Also too much time away from my dead guys.

I did take them to archive, though, before my convocation and they quite liked it I think. My Project Co-worker (PCW) gave a nice tour when I asked hir, which was great since I don’t know as much about the actual collection as I should.

Also, my supervisor airmailed me a card from Britain where ze is currently visiting. This is just one of the many considerate things ze does for me and I’m very lucky to have hir as a mentor.

Tomorrow’s edition will be more comprehensive, I’m sure.


Still “Editing”

18 05 2010

Yep yep yep … guess what I’m doing? What’s that? Editing? Are you ca-razy? It’s quite obvious that I’m currently writing this blog entry which can only mean one thing …

Procrastination for the NATION!

But I really need to get this done. Today the great annoyance has been trying to find a citation for an image which was sent to me by the son of the artist. A scan of what I think is an original was sent to me and I have no idea how to deal with it. Anyway, I’ve had no reply from the son about permission so I’ll have to call him tomorrow, which is exciting! He’s nice and excited about my work. Also he might be visiting us here in Colour City, which is a fun thought now, but I’ll probably not be quite as delighted when I have to do research for a walking tour of the city.


So, I’m doing research into dead guys (have I said this before?) and I’m using bureaucratic documents to find inventories of their stuff and today on my hunt I found only one inventory. BUT what I did find was a whole bunch of living guys with “desease vererial” and I think I might have discerned the word “Clap” in one of the entries. Which is awesome. It is not uncommon to find these records as these men where fined for venereal disease as it was considered preventable , but these are the first I’ve come across. I also keep running across mistakes in the database I am using to find these documents, but today was especially funny because I pulled a fellow who supposedly died an accidental death but wasn’t dead at all! And I can’t quite figure out how that mistake was made since accidental death was not very common.

The real reason I am rotted with the database is not because of such mistakes, however. Those are to be expected, especially when dealing with the heaps of information in the archive where I work and the years it took to create it. What really bothers me is that the project managers assumed that they would have time to enter the whole collection (within certain national boundaries since it is a transnational archive) within their timeframe. Of course, they were a little optimistic, and what was supposed to be a complete database turned out to be only a 25-50% sample. This bothers me for three reasons:

1) 25-50%? Hello? That’s not a small margin!

2) I have no idea when they switched from entering 100% of all data to only a sample. I do not know what they started with (which might be more complete) or how they subsequently picked their samples. Since no one was expecting to have to legitimize their sampling methodology (as there was supposed to be no sampling) there are no records at all of how this was done. In the ’80s. Yes.

3) When the decision was made to cut some of the data, it was the working men’s entries which were ditched. So in an annoyingly hilarious twist of fate we have this huge archive full full full of information on working men (and some women but, alas, don’t hold your breath), and yet when push came to shove it was their information which was cut when time constraints became apparent. So instead of having too much information on these ordinary guys, there is now too little!

Arg! I’m a possibly missing out on 50-75% of potential inventories!

They put everything into neat little piles … Neat little piles of chaos Mr. B! CHAOS!

Which is exactly how I feel. At face value, the database is wonderful. But as I’m sitting there, trying to interpret the statistics which it is producing, I have no idea how to read what the numbers seem to be telling me.

>>Liquor Alert!<<

Okay, so my roommate had some out of town friends over and I might have spent the rest of the night downstairs with them talking about dogs and crazy in-laws (not that I have either) and I may have not finished the article and also had a couple glasses of wine.

C’est la vie. Tomorrow is a new morning! (Ugh … I hate mornings).