Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some old advice that is still useful

On top of the piano in a fraying Egyptian basket filled with ocarinas, I discovered a tiny red leather diary of 1920 that once belonged to Joseph Swan, grandfather of CSB. We have no idea how it got there.
On January first Joe Swan was in Yokohama, partying with Messrs. Kerman, Evans, Kelley and Brooks.
In the tradition of so many diaries that begin in January with a literary flourish and arrive at December with a blank page, Joe Swan’s last entry was on February 2nd: “Dreary day. Edward and Wanda stop by and ask me to come to Astor Tea Dance. Miss Bremer there. Return to work til 9. Mrs. Winter kindly had boy get dinner. Letter from Mother and Louise.”
But that is not all.
This very useful diary came with many useful tables, charts and bits of advice. For instance:

• In 1920 £1 was worth $4.85 or 25 Belgian francs; in China “the Mexican dollar is in common use; it is worth ¢50 US.
• The ANTIDOTE for arsenic is “freshly precipitated hydrated sesquioxide* of iron made by adding magnesia to any iron solution.”
• In case of MAD DOG OR SNAKE BITE – “Tie cord tight above wound. Suck the wound and cauterize with caustic or white-hot iron at once, or cut out adjoining parts with a sharp knife. Give stimulants, such as whiskey, brandy, etc.”
• As for BUSINESS LAW: Contracts that are made on Sunday cannot be enforced.
• THINGS EASILY FORGOTTEN includes the size of your Hat, Gloves, Hosiery and Drawers.

*Lest you, like me, are unfamiliar with sesquioxide: it is an oxide containing 3 atoms of oxygen and 2 atoms of another element. More importantly, sesquioxidizing, meaning the creation of a sesquioxide, is the highest scoring word that would possibly fit on a Scrabble™ board, for a possible 2044 points. If I ever get to use this word, I feel confident that I will beat my beloved and extremely competitive Scrabbling son. The word does not appear in the official Scrabble™ dictionary, but it is in the OED, which is surely what really counts.
This, however, does not address the question most pressing to one suffering from arsenic poisoning, which is: where do I acquire freshly precipitated sesquioxide and why would I have it in the first place? By which time the arsenic has turned one green.

On April 18, 1926, an announcement appeared in the paper that J.E.C. Swan was admitted to the Shanghai Stock Exchange and had opened a brokerage house.

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