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The sort of ideas that come to me at 1am: a deeply detailed, historical, world census 2014

Drifting to sleep, maybe asleep and resurfacing to wakefulness my mind was flitting around from idea to idea, from memory to memory. What I remember and was left fully awake with was two things: Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' stuck in my head and the notion that it ought to be possible to create a deeply detailed census of the entire world population at a point in the past, provided that point was recent enough to be reached by many genealogists, but not so recent that the world population was in the billions.

Now, the more recent a point, the more accurate the data and the greater the likelihood of living descendents, but also, the more daunting the project (due to the number of individuals described) and thus the less likely of enticing participants to join in the grand adventure.

As interested as I am personally in the year 1600, I know from my own genealogical and historical research that it is distant enough to be problematic. Jumping forward to 1750 would give an estimated world population of 700-825 million people. Or, by other estimates, of 629-961 million. That's a lot, but not an insane number of nodes. For example, using the former range, it's about the number of articles in Wikipedia in Chinese or in Portuguese.

1750 has also got the inspirational benefit of a big anniversary coming up within the probable lifetime of the participants or their children—300 years in 2050.

So, how to begin?

Infrastructure is vital. It must be incredibly robust and flexible. It must have profound internationalization support. It must allow for advancement and diversification separately of its data storage, software interfaces, and human interfaces.

Data will come in in many forms and must be clearly associated with its source, so that later conflicts on details can be weighed based on their respective supporting data.

Detail will vary wildly from broad guesses of total population in a country to general counts of categories of individuals (e.g., heads of household, taxpayers, members of the military) to detailed nodes about a specific person (both the famous and the genealogically derived).

Eventually, participants will no doubt be interested in assessing the relationships between individual nodes, thus it would be helpful to be able to retain data details (e.g., membership of an individual in a particular tracked category such as "the 12th regiment of Lord So-and-So's light horse", or "household at 123 Elm St, Anytown, New York, USA", or "inventory of the slave ship blah-de-blah", or "signatories of proclamation X".)

Such detail nodes will, of necessity, be much greater in number than the number of individuals alive because merger of them as applying to the same individual will be a more gradual and difficult process. This is a vital factor in infrastructure design.


So what do we know about 1750?

It's used by some sources as a baseline year for the end of the pre-industrial era; rather nice as a stake in the ground for pushing back our knowledge of individual human participation.

The population of North America is only about 2 million, thus forcing U.S. participants to think about the world outside their borders (which I think is always a good thing). It also makes an enticing early goal for "near complete description", which is the best I'd expect we can hope for in any region.

Sweden begin taking a census in 1749, one of the very few countries doing so in the mid-18th century, and is thus a logical target for another "near complete description" goal. Conveniently, it's also a good country for online project participation with its highly tech-savvy population. The 1750 estimated populations of Sweden (which I'm presuming refers to its territory then, not its smaller borders now) 1.7 million or 1.78 million. (Pleasantly for me, it's also where I am pretty certain I have personal genealogical data for 1750. Been a while since I was working on my paternal grandmother's line, but I recall it going back that far and farther thanks to the good data there.)

Iceland is also promising for early population data and participation.


Now, what haven't I considered yet?



Thought which came to mind after I went back to bed:

Every part of this idea needs further definition, but particularly the area around what defines a counted individual. Chronological confirmation of someone with a citable source is a big part of it; that is, an individual for whom we have a specific record of them being born, dying, marrying, becoming a parent, or otherwise being specifically one of those alive at some point during the year 1750.

However, those records may actually be less evocative of human experience than the categoric description associated with what I'm calling, for lack of a better term, 'unmatched individual details', or 'unmadeets'. Whose story would you be most interested in, the confirmed individual "Mary Jane Smith born 1750, later the mother of Winifred Harding", or the unmadeet "one of 350 purchased slaves who rebelled on the ship King David at 5a.m. on May 8, 1750"? Which says more about what was going on in 1750?

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 02:15 AM in creativity, history, random synaptic firing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oh historians, you crack me up 2012

“...some historians have linked the vagrancy problem with demographic changes, above all population growth and migration. It is true that migration was one step down the road to vagrancy, but whether by the time of their arrest most vagabonds were migrants is doubtful..."

- A.L. Beier, Masterless Men: The Vagrancy Problem in England 1560-1640

One step down the road! *snork*

It's stuff like this that gets a writer through edit after edit, though many if not most of these in-jokes must be cut by the final version.

Posted on August 9, 2012 at 11:49 AM in history, writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alack! 2012

Sooth, transcrybing Elizabethan documentes again, I see where cometh myne uncommone straunge misspellinges & tendencie for trailing Es.

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 03:52 PM in am I a freak?, history, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Turtles all the way down... 2012

Meta moment in a cafe researching Elizabethan servants (on 5/26): Conversation at next table rises in outburst “Even the maids have maids!”

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 05:16 PM in history, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Domestic Servants in Elizabethan England' rises again 2012

OMG academic libraries are so frickin' excellent. I'm back at UCSC's McHenry Library 25 years later updating & expanding my senior thesis.


Why is Google Books good for scholars/writers? Because books don't have complete indexes. Combing a 750 pager for keywords by hand is slow.

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 07:31 PM in Books, history, tools, tweets, writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why isn't there a BBC fan page? 2010

I am *loving* A History of the World in 100 Objects. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/programme

I would pay $75 a year to subscribe to BBC audio/video/text/apps.

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Posted on March 20, 2010 at 09:10 PM in history, linky goodness | Permalink | Comments (0)

at Nopa 2007

Original Jerry Thomas recipe for Manhattan - including recreated Abbott's Bitters


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A great treat at Nopa. Neyah has made his version of Abbott's and they're absolutely  amazing.

Ward Eight


with Neyah's own grenadine which has now spoiled me for any other.


Posted on November 25, 2007 at 09:42 PM in Food and Drink, history | Permalink | Comments (0)

Terrazo outside The Ruby Room on 14th St in Oakland 2006


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Posted on December 9, 2006 at 12:00 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, history | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joe admiring the city map in the BART station which was so old it still showed the Embarcadero freeway 2006


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Posted on November 16, 2006 at 12:02 PM in history, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another interesting exhibit at SFO 2006


Only later did I see the No Photography sign. Whoops. Well, also "whatEVER".

Posted on October 16, 2006 at 12:02 PM in history, San Francisco, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

A walk around Chester 2006

The George and Dragon

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Walking round the wall in Chester

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Simon! Squirrel running away with a nut!


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Christianity is pretty dang weird sometimes.


















big magpie



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Walking round the wall in Chester - the bit where the wall didn't survive



[My recollection (as I add these to the blog in 2014) is that this was a bit of a race against both the setting sun and a dying camera battery or camera memory filling up.]




Car park with building with sod roof

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Suddenly, 3/4 of the way round town, there's my hotel


Queen's School

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old stained glass in a Chester window


Cool spooky old bricked up church in Chester


The ivy has grown over the sign on the side so it now reads "Go Care For You".

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Booze-like water packaging design makes it appear I am drinking the complimentary Absolut in my hotel room

Posted on September 11, 2006 at 12:01 PM in history, the big room with the blue ceiling, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

British Museum 2006


Aphrodite surprised at her bath

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Lion killing its prey

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writing in the babylonian or assyrian area


It's so tragic to think how much of this human heritage and probably lots of archaeological evidence that had never been explored has been lost in wars.

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Dogs (Assyrian or Babylonian, I think)

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Rameses III




in the Egyptian room



ram's head


discus thrower on grand staircase

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The Great Court



Book I noticed in the shop of possible interest to Jinx


Nice reproduction papers of some gorgeous patterns. The cover image of Nasturtiums was particularly nice.

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Japanese ivory carving of a falconer


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fully articulated iron recreation of a lobster, Japan

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Noh mask


ceremonial shield from (iirc) Danish Britain


The Enlightenment Room


desktop orrery

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orrery, from about 1750


John Dee's ritual stuff, for John Mabry

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Posted on September 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM in creativity, history, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

in Tokyo 2006

[Pretty sure these are all photos taken and captions by Dinah, despite coming from Joe's Flickrstream]

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Posted on September 5, 2006 at 12:00 PM in history, travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

sights of Washington D.C. 2006

man on rearing horse, cannons, nuclear weapons protester, White House, big phallic symbol


lovely entryway


flopped lions
these sprawled guys are a bit more like the real lions I saw in Africa than the usual doorway fare...


Dedicated To Art
?Renwick Gallery? Can't remember where this was...

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The DAR would not approve

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my reflection among the names of the dead
Vietnam War Memorial


"Dad" says the card beside a small box
Vietnam War Memorial

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Vietnam War Memorial
Ah, pity this washed out. It was a note to friend listed on the wall, recalling good times together - "that deer hunt in 1964" - and saying "I miss you."


Reflecting Pool


Lincoln Memorial

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Freedom is not free.
Korean War Memorial



cherry buds, tidal basin, Jefferson Memorial


Washington, D.C., tidal basin, Washington Monument, cherry buds


the tidal basin & the Jefferson Memorial and one enthusiastic cherry tree


FDR Memorial 

Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men.



No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally it is the greatest menace to our social order.

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I propose to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work. More important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work.

To the right of this fine idea a group of park rangers, black & white, cleancut & long-haired, were working to clean the fountain and laughing and talking together as they did so. Good work.


Roosevelt's support for the arts, expressed at his memorial

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We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.

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I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives.



The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.


That's a cute little statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, first U.S. delegate to the United Nations, on the right.


Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Worship

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Fear

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Jefferson Memorial, cherry buds

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tidal basin, Washington, D.C. 

I really liked this tree.


Washington Monument from the mysterious little bridge on Ohio Drive near the Jefferson Memorial

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Strange little laughing guy on the mysterious bridge on Ohio Drive near the Jefferson Memorial
I asked a park patrol guy and googled, but can't find the story. Anyone know?

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Jefferson Memorial

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Tasty wine with dinner: MacMurray Pinot Noir 2003
Yes, that MacMurray. Fred MacMurray's ranch, apparently.


Posted on March 23, 2006 at 12:00 PM in Food and Drink, history, politics & philosophy, the big room with the blue ceiling, travel, warnings & kvetches, worry vs. clarity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dickensian Dinah 1984

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[Photo from December 1984, photographer uncertain.]

Posted on December 1, 1984 at 12:00 PM in creativity, history | Permalink | Comments (0)

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