Ben Crowder


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Occupations in 1292 Paris

I just finished reading Life in a Medieval City, by Joseph and Frances Gies, and in the notes on page 236 I found this interesting list of occupations taken from the Paris tax list of 1292:

  • 366 shoemakers
  • 214 furriers
  • 199 maidservants
  • 197 tailors
  • 151 barbers
  • 131 jewelers
  • 130 restaurateurs
  • 121 old-clothes dealers
  • 106 pastrycooks
  • 104 masons
  • 95 carpenters
  • 86 weavers
  • 71 chandlers
  • 70 mercers
  • 70 coopers
  • 62 bakers
  • 58 water carriers
  • 58 scabbard makers
  • 56 wine sellers
  • 54 hatmakers
  • 51 saddlers
  • 51 chicken butchers
  • 45 purse makers
  • 43 laundresses
  • 43 oil merchants
  • 42 porters
  • 42 meat butchers
  • 41 fish merchants
  • 37 beer sellers
  • 36 buckle makers
  • 36 plasterers
  • 35 spice merchants
  • 34 blacksmiths
  • 33 painters
  • 29 doctors
  • 28 roofers
  • 27 locksmiths
  • 26 bathers
  • 26 ropemakers
  • 24 innkeepers
  • 24 tanners
  • 24 copyists
  • 24 sculptors
  • 24 rugmakers
  • 24 harness makers
  • 23 bleachers
  • 22 hay merchants
  • 22 cutlers
  • 21 glovemakers
  • 21 wood sellers
  • 21 woodcarvers

The Society of Creative Anachronism has a more detailed page listing the French occupation names and a breakdown by gender. For example, there was one male hangman (bourriau), one female mole trapper (taupiere), four male pike-makers (piqueeur), one female tart seller (tartriere), one male log floater (atireeur de busche), etc. Fascinating stuff.

The tax list was published by Hercule Géraud in 1837 in Paris sous Philippe-le-Bel, which is conveniently on Google Books (the list itself, “Le livre de la taille de Paris pour l’an 1292,” is a bit later in the book).


I don’t think I’ve talked about my spondylolisthesis yet on here, so prepare for some not-very-gory medical stuff.

For the past year and a half, if I stayed in bed longer than a few minutes after I woke up, my lower back would hurt and the top part of my body would be shifted to the left. After an hour or so, things would go back to normal. I thought it was a little weird but figured as long as I got out of bed immediately each day, I’d be fine.

In December, however, it got worse. The lateral left shift went full Pisa on me (my shoulders were three inches to the left of where they should have been, which is, you know, a problem), and then one day I could barely walk, hobbling along at a slow, painful gait I didn’t expect to see for fifty more years.

An X-ray revealed that I have grade II spondylolisthesis — the L5-S1 vertebra in my spine has slipped forward a bit, basically. I don’t remember any trauma that could have caused it, so it’s looking like I was born with it. Either way, it’s here to stay for the rest of my life.

At the moment, I do stretches and exercises morning and night to keep the pain at bay (mostly), and I can walk normally, a thing I had taken for granted. I have to avoid heavy lifting and repetitive bending (if I don’t, believe me, I feel it), but other than that it’s life as normal.

Someday, however, the exercises won’t be able to keep the pain away, and at that point I’ll probably need surgery, where they weld my spine to a brace. But hopefully that’s not until I’m old and decrepit.

Mormon Audiobooks Project

I don’t know how many of you remember my Mormon Texts Project, but it’s coming along well and is in good hands.

Today I’ve got a new (but similar) project to propose: the Mormon Audiobooks Project, making old public domain Mormon books available for free in audiobook format.

It makes the most sense to do this through LibriVox, an already-established platform for free audiobooks (the equivalent of Project Gutenberg). They have a good process in place that includes book coordination and quality control. Volunteers would sign up through their system and record however many chapters they feel like doing.

It also makes sense to use the Mormon Texts Project catalog as a base. That way the source books are available to all volunteers.

These obviously would not be professionally produced audiobooks, but a free audiobook is almost always better than no audiobook. (For some of the books there are already commercial audiobooks by professional voiceover artists, of course.)

The hitch with all of this: I…don’t really listen to audiobooks. Usually they put me to sleep, and if they don’t, I get distracted after about sixty seconds and miss big chunks of the text. (The same things happen when anyone reads to me in person.)

So, I’m probably not the best person to run this. I think it’s important, and I’m willing to help with process and moving things along, but it really needs someone who loves audiobooks at the head of it. If you think you could be that person, let me know.

Also, if any of you are interested in the project, either as listeners or volunteers, leave a comment or let me know.

Update: I’ve put up a page for the project with volunteering instructions.

Projects Soli and Jacquard

Google ATAP has two interesting new projects:

Project Soli is developing a new interaction sensor using radar technology. The sensor can track sub-millimeter motions at high speed and accuracy. It fits onto a chip, can be produced at scale and built into small devices and everyday objects.

Project Jacquard is a new system for weaving technology into fabric, transforming everyday objects, like clothes, into interactive surfaces. Project Jacquard will allow designers and developers to build connected, touch-sensitive textiles into their own products.

Quite cool.

Xcode 7 apps on device

I was excited to see this: with Xcode 7, Apple now allows people to run their custom apps on their own devices without having to pay the $99/year membership fee:

Now everyone can get their app on their Apple device.

Xcode 7 and Swift now make it easier for everyone to build apps and run them directly on their Apple devices. Simply sign in with your Apple ID, and turn your idea into an app that you can touch on your iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch. Download Xcode 7 beta and try it yourself today. Program membership is not required. (link)

This is perfect for me. I’ve long wanted to write apps for my own use, but because I don’t have any interest in selling them, the $99/year felt like a superfluous cost. (I also have a strong aversion to monthly subscriptions.)

Time to learn Swift…

“In Egypt, for example, archaeologists have even taken to reburying objects in the knowledge that they will survive better and longer, for future generations to look at, if entrusted to mother earth rather than to museum cellars or warehouses.” —Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction, p. 14

I am not dead

Oh, right, I have a blog. Ha. I have a barrel full of excuses for why I haven’t been posting anything, but I won’t bore you with them. Consider this a “yes, I’m still alive” post.

I just finished reading The Crucible of Doubt, by Terryl and Fiona Givens, and it is excellent. I highly recommend it. It’s largely about unwarranted assumptions about the Church leading to unnecessary angst. Lots of good stuff. I wish I’d taken notes while I was reading it so I had a quote for you, but the whole thing is enlightening.

I’ve thought about posting about the Hugos controversy (Sad/Rabid Puppies), but I’m not sure I want to open that can of worms. And I’m not sure I actually have anything to contribute to the conversation anyway.

I think I posted a while back about reading only two books at a time. Well, things got out of control, and…now I’m reading nineteen. I’ve got a better system in place for making sure I actually finish books, though.

As for my reading goals, I’ve been doing fairly well at expanding my horizons and reading more nonfiction. I need to do better at reading sf&f classics, though, and my progress on War and Peace is still pretty slow.

Anyway, I’m back, I hope.

Life sketches in Family Tree

I’ve been doing more family history lately (more on that soon), and one thing I’ve started doing is writing simple life sketches for each ancestor and putting them in Family Tree. For example, I took the data for Manuela Gandara Cobo and wrote this:

Manuela Gandara Cobo was born around 1811 in Setién (Marina de Cudeyo, Santander, Spain) to José Gandara Valdecilla of Ceceñas (Medio Cudeyo, Santander, eight kilometers from Setién) and Josefa Cobo of Setién. She was the second oldest of five children that we know of (she had an older brother, Manuel, younger sisters Nicolasa and Vicenta, and a younger brother Remigio).

She married José Fuentevilla Fuentevilla when she was 18 and he was 20, in his hometown of Polanco (around 36 kilometers from Setién). They had nine children (seven girls, two boys), three or four of which lived to adulthood. Their first child died within the first year, Josefa died when she was two, Francisca died when she was almost eight, Maria Dolores died the day after she was born, and José Maria died when he was six months old.

Her mother died at age 47 in 1836 when Manuela was 25, and her father died at age 71 in 1853 when she was 42.

Manuela was 68 years old when she died in 1879, a year after her husband José died. (Incidentally, she died just ten days after her older brother Manuel.) At her death she had had ten grandchildren through her daughters Maria Remedios and Maria Isabel.

The prose is far from poetic, and it’s just a restatement of the basic facts of her life (and as you can see, the information I have is somewhat death-heavy), but I think it has a couple benefits: it’s a story, so it’s more parseable and memorable, and including ages and context makes the dates more meaningful. For example, seeing that Francisca was born in 1835 and died in 1843 doesn’t convey the same weight for me as reading that she was seven years old when she died.

I’m haven’t added these for very many ancestors yet, but I plan to do it for all of them, even the ones we know next to nothing about.

Update: My friend Barney Lund recommended adding world events as well. I haven’t done this yet, but I like the idea a lot. I’d probably add a paragraph at the end listing the major events that happened during Manuela’s lifetime (and probably how old she was and what her family composition was at that point).