Category Archives: Neat Stuff

Thing-a-day 16: Knights and Snails

The British Library posted a wonderful group of images of marginalia featuring knights facing off against snails, almost all from the 14th century.

Knight v Snail II: Battle in the Margins (from the Gorleston Psalter, England (Suffolk), 1310-1324, Add MS 49622, f. 193v. More at Knight v Snail.

Got Medieval also touched on this subject some time before, but with fewer illustrations, and at pre-Gébelin Tarot History, Michael Hurst explored it (mainly about halfway down).

Smithsonian also took it up, gathering a couple of these and other references, and Homo Ludditus expanded on the subject, adding a few more. Strange and wonderful.

Thing-a-day 12: Bench Progress

Posting to my blog every day for the month of February is only one commitment I made this month. The other is do a cycle of 5/3/1, a weightlifting program developed by Jim Wendler. There are several programming volumes for 5/3/1, which you can have calculated for you at a wonderful site called Strength Standards, whose front page asks you a few questions and predicts your 1-rep-max weights for the 4 major barbell lifts: bench press, deadlift, squat, and overhead press.

I’m doing the lightest volume of 5/3/1 – just 6 sets of each of the main lifts, each on separate days. I enjoy strength training, and I’d like to have a total of over 500 lb (that’s the total of your max in bench press, deadlift, and squat). I’m close, at around 450, but I’m in no hurry. I am more of an endurance athlete by inclination, and hitting each major lift once a week is plenty for me. I am finishing Week 2 of this 5/3/1 cycle, and it suits my goals perfectly right now.

I took this photo in the Arboretum in Seattle in 2008.

Right after I graduated from college, I started going to a gym, looking to gain weight, and when the trainer asked me my blue-sky goal – something I’d always imagined but never thought I’d be able to do – I said “I want to bench press my weight.” We got me there – on a technicality. I benched my starting weight once, for 1 rep. (The real success was that I’d gained almost 20 healthy pounds.) Then I gave up the bench press.

Over 20 years later, I’ve taken it up again. There are other lifts that interest me more, and for more than 6 months, I just didn’t bother with it at all, because I could do other lifts at home but didn’t have a bench. But I got a new rack and bench last fall, and I’ve been pretty consistently benching once a week.

The 5/3/1 programming is based on percentages of your theoretical maxes, and it’s been telling me my bench is higher than my last test (in October, at 102.5 lb). So tonight I tested it again. And I benched 110. So close to that 120! But my strength is much less brittle now, and I know I’m going to blow right past it this time.

Thing-a-day 11: Medieval E-cards


Valentine’s day is this week, and while sites like someecards have the cynical market locked up, you might be looking for something a little sweeter to share this year. How about this image?

13. (ff. 21v-22r): Calendar pages for April; a full-page miniature (f. 21v) of a man and a woman courting, standing next to a fountain in an aristocratic garden, with, in the border below, men playing a game with a bat and ball….

From Add MS 24098.

Well, OK, that’s not the most romantic way to put it, but the point is: it’s a couple courting. More in their “Love” section.

Thing-a-day 5: Food Geometry


The weight-loss trapezoid is pretty similar to MyPlate, the US replacement for the Food Pyramid, except without the grains. (You can keep the grains and still lose weight, but the combo above tends to leave people sated with fewer calories, and grain-based foods tend to require more vigilance to stay within a calories limit.)

But, wow, that Happiness Paper Hat. I want to go there. Second star to the right and straight on till morning, right?

Disapproval matrix


The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you. —Ann Friedman