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May 08, 2013

Gutenberg went broke printing his bibles, lost his press to debtors

The bits about using different type to approximate the many hands that went into handwriting a bible is a new detail to me. delanceyplace.com 5/8/13 - gutenberg loses his printing business
"Neither Gutenberg nor any of his immediate followers could conceive of the streamlined mechanical print-like font appearance so familiar in the modem world. They strove, rather, to produce volumes identical to those the scribes had copied and illuminated for a millennium. Therefore, Gutenberg designed and manufactured 290 different, and, to the modem eye, ornate, typefaces of varying sizes for his Bible. "Historians have determined from legal documents that by about 1454 he had manufactured six presses. Since each page contained approximately 2,750 characters, and at least two sides of a folio had to be set at anyone point, Gutenberg needed approximately 100,000 bits of cast type to keep the day-to-day process running smoothly. Further, to keep the six presses in operation, he had to hire at least two dozen typesetters and pressmen to finish the 230,760 impressions required to make 180 of the 1,282-page Bibles. Historians estimate that each press could make not much more than a dozen page impressions per hour, so this would take, allowing for some wastage, about two years. The 40 vellum copies consumed about 3,200 calf hides, and the 140 paper Bibles required the purchase of approximately 70,000 folio sheets, a massive expenditure in those days. ... "Printing thus required a huge capital investment, magnified by the long time period separating the initial purchase of labor and material and the subsequent cash flows; this regularly led to litigation between the printer and his creditors. That Gutenberg had particular problems in this area is suggested by an earlier venture in the year 1438 or 1439, when he produced 32,000 mirrors for a pilgrimage to Aachen. As far as we know, these were of exemplary quality, the only problem being that the pilgrimage did not start until 1440. Gutenberg would need help with funding, and to his misfortune he turned to Johann Fust, a brilliant, ruthless financier. Fust knew that the Bibles' production would tie up his money for two years, but the selling prices of the Bibles -- fifty gulden for a vellum copy and twenty for a paper copy, at a time when a skilled craftsman earned about twenty-five per year -- meant that they would sell slowly and thus send Gutenberg into bankruptcy. "Fust consequently demanded draconian terms for the project's financing: Immediately upon publication in 1455, he demanded that Gutenberg repay his loan, and when Gutenberg defaulted, the courts awarded Fust the presses and [letter] punches. Perhaps even more valuable to Fust was Peter Schoeffer, Gutenberg's chief pressman and punch cutter, who brought with him a set of his most advanced punches and counterpunches. Schoeffer eventually married Fust's daughter Christine and inherited the business. The courts allowed Gutenberg to keep an older set of punches, but from this point on he was lacking his own presses, his best technician, and his most advanced punches, and his career sputtered out. (Nor did it help that a decade later Mainz, where he had returned after the catastrophic judgment, was sacked.)"

May 03, 2013

Drugs, Sex, and #Risk

I was in a coffee shop last weekend where they...

May 02, 2013

Here's a term new to me: Gaslighting

Gaslighting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.[1] Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term "gaslighting" comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations. The term is now also used in clinical and research literature.

April 30, 2013

28,000 rivers have disappeared from China

28,000 Rivers Disappeared in China: What Happened? - Angel Hsu and William Miao - The Atlantic
As recently as 20 years ago, there were an estimated 50,000 rivers in China, each covering a flow area of at least 60 square miles. But now, according to China's First National Census of Water, more than 28,000 of these rivers are missing. To put this number into context, China's lost rivers are almost equivalent, in terms of basin area, to the United States losing the entire Mississippi River. Why have these rivers "vanished" from the maps and national records? Official explanations from the Chinese government have attributed the significant reduction to statistical discrepancies, water and soil loss, and climate change. "The disparity in numbers was caused mainly by inaccurate estimates in the past, as well as climate change and water and soil loss. Due to limited technology in the past, the previous figures were estimated using incomplete topographic maps dating back to the 1950s," said Huang He, China's Deputy Director of the Ministry of Water Resources, in an interview with the South China Morning Post. While this explanation seems plausible, Chinese web users, an active and formidable force for raising environmental issues with the Chinese government, are not satisfied. One user named Yami Laoliu, writing on the popular Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, voiced skepticism: "I am surprised to learn that 28,000 rivers have already disappeared in the map. Is it natural disaster? Or man-made mistake? I think both played a role, but it was mainly a man-made mistake."