Marking time

Marking time in December 2013

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Woodford demographics

I have been at the Woodford Folk Festival for a couple of days, giving a little presentation about researching environmental issues.

Instead of the usual bring-your-own-tent arrange­ment, I stayed in Tent City. This is an area where somebody else has already put up the tents before you arrive, and has put comfortable beds in them. There is also a communal tent with a cold room, tables, chairs, and boiling water on tap​—​and a table with mains power where campers can charge their phones. When I looked, the table was covered with a mess of Apple iPhones, and very few other types.

A jumble of cables and phones

I used my iPhone to take this photo of the rat’s nest of power-boards and chargers, as you do.

I counted 33 iPhone chargers (89%) and 4 other sorts (11%). The pre­pon­der­ance of iPhones surprised me, so I wondered why:

Is Tent City the habitat of a concentration of iPhone-using pseuds and trendies?

Do iPhones have weaker batteries and need more frequent charging than other phones?

I doubt the statistical significance of this single observation. A definite conclusion would require more observations. Am I going to do it? No​—​life’s too short.

Something interesting might be revealed by a comparison with other charging locations at the festival. Am I going to investigate this? See above.

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Monday 16 December 2013

The keeper’s Christmas dinner

I have sent out my email Christmas card for 2013, the third in a series illustrated with a wood engraving. Again, it’s a sentimental subject involving Christmas, a rowing boat, a lighthouse, and a lighthouse keeper.

This one is from the American magazine Harper’s Weekly, but the tone of the picture is similar to ones from the Illustrated London News I used in 2012 and 2011.

The picture was drawn by the Scottish-American artist Milton James Burns. Burns was a seaman before he became a pro­fes­sion­al painter and illustrator. His work reveals an ob­ser­vant eye for maritime subjects, such as the scene in our en­graving. All the details of the picture look right​—​a breaking sea tossing the open boat with its lug-sail furled, the crew­men in oilskins working at their oars, the delicate operation of hoisting the bas­kets of goodies up to the lighthouse balcony​—​ex­cept for the lighthouse keeper meeting the boat in a boat­swain’s chair. That looks wrong to me​—​a gratuitous risk that a real light­keeper would avoid.

I guess that the lighthouse in the scene is meant to be the one on Minot’s Ledge near Boston harbour​—​one of the few American off­shore towers built of stone.

M J Burns (1853-1933), ‘The keeper’s Christmas dinner’, wood engraving published in the 5 December 1891 issue of Harper’s Weekly.

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