Social media 1860s style – The logbooks of Joseph Munnings

You might have heard of people who keep a diary of their daily lives, recording their thoughts and special occasions. Some of us still do, and have little interest in using social media to share our most intimate thoughts and what we had for dinner with friends, workmates, friends of a friends, and that random stranger who you talked to once and ‘friended’.

I’m fairly certain that when Joseph Munnings wrote an account of his daily life he couldn’t foresee that it would be available for public scrutiny 150 years later – or that it would be of interest to anyone else. But it is. We are very fortunate to have the digitised copies of his ‘Log Books’ that date from May 1862 to November 1866 available for us to have a sneak peek into his world.

Diary, May 1862 to May 1864, Joseph Munnings. ANZC Archives. CCL-Arch971-01-002
Diary, May 1862 to May 1864, Joseph Munnings. ANZC Archives. CCL-Arch971-01-002

Joseph’s Log Books served to answer some questions that I didn’t know that I had. Like how did people of the time spend Christmas and New Years? Strangely he didn’t mention that he liked one particular gift over another and there were no plans to return unwanted pressies on Boxing Day! Maybe it was because he had to work – his shop was open six days a week and he was busy on Sunday teaching Sunday School before he went to evening services. He did however mention that he spent Christmas day with the Harringtons and some time at the Lunatic Asylum and there was preaching involved – his words not mine! Okay so that poses more questions than it answers.

I particularly enjoyed his account of the post-Christmas 1865 Bazaar that he both worked at and patronised in a paddock at Governors Bay. There was casual mention of his soon-to-be-betrothed being in attendance and a marquee was erected to house the food, refreshments and Christmas tree. Some 400 people were brought out to the event via Cobb and Co. coach or cart as well as numerous trips from Lyttelton by the steamer Betsy Douglas. They ate well – fowls, ducks, pigeon pie, ham, beef, mutton, lamb and spiced beef. Well, that kept all the carnivores happy but they also had salads, cucumbers, cakes, fruits of all kinds – and it was all washed down with ginger beer, lemonade, tea or coffee. “Sixpence if you please” for your cup of tea. Sounds divine – I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Amusements were provided, balloons sent up, quoits were played and “kissing in the ring – a favourite with the young”. No doubt!

My romantic side has read between the lines on this occasion and decided that as his ‘beloved’ was also in attendance. I think it’s possible he proposed marriage to her as he was asking for her father’s consent to marry her by the 4th of January 1866. Next question: A Saturday wedding in spring with a honeymoon to Kaikoura or Akaroa? Time to put aside such romantic notions … how about a midweek ceremony in late July instead – and they were by all accounts still entertaining guests past midnight. Well, at least there was the honeymoon to look forward to … except Joseph was back working in his shop by Friday. However, I think we can rest assured that there was romance between them because his wife featured quite regularly in his log and they had 11 children over the years.

Maybe this is where we get the impression that they lived a simpler life back then. Joseph was simply grateful to have made it to the year’s conclusion and then wondered if he would see the new year through to its end. A noble aspiration methinks.

You can read more about Joseph in the The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District] available on NZETC.

Joseph Munnings
Joseph Munnings The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District], NZETC
So, if you’re like me and would prefer to read about historical life events rather than how someone else had a better weekend than you, then make sure you have a look at:

For those of us that like pictures because it makes it brings it alive on a different level – Geoffrey W. Rice has some amazing books to take a look at.

Ways to think about the bottom line

db-EconomistArchive-CKEY897144There are people with money, who know what to do with money and think about money. I am not one of them. My foolishness started early. “I will go to university and get a degree in history not accounting”, I said at 18. My student loan will have 9% interest from the minute I borrow, but I was not concerned as they told me that with my degree I would be making more money. Did I think to query this advice? No. At 28 I was still poor despite my education but was told what you need is a post graduate qualification to get ahead in your career. Did I think to query this advice? No. Two and a half years later I completed by distance my Masters. The investment in my education came to $55,000 according to IRD which took over 20 years to pay back and I am still no richer. So where did it all go wrong? Did I invest badly? Did I heed the wrong advice? So far yes on both counts. My own advice? Never doubt it is all about the bottom line. Being broke all the times loses its charm quickly. To learn about this bottom line we have:

colored backgroundBoth these eResources are available from home or in libraries for you to learn about money, business, finance and investment. The Financial Times (sober reporting) will tell you of events and the Economist (loud opinions) will help you interpret and learn from that event. The two archives are cross searchable via Gale NewsVault making comparisons and carrying out research easier. Delve into these two and learn from my mistakes!

Literature, culture, economics, and history anyone?

KTT Four into the eResource foldWho doesn’t like something new? These four wee beauties are online portals to authoritative information about a huge range of subjects. They were on trial and were popular enough to be made permanent residents of our collection. So from now on, you can access:

The Economist Historical Archive, 1843-2012The Economist has been highly regarded for providing independent global, economic and political analysis since its first publication in 1843. More content will continue to be added;

Listener Historical Archive, 1929-1991The Listener was a weekly magazine established by the BBC to reproduce and expand on the content of its broadcast and television talks. It is regarded as the premier cultural studies magazine of the mid-20th century;

TLS_Cover_Septembe_1074419a (194x250).jpgThe Times Literary Supplement Historical Archive, 1902-2010 – (TLS) is the world’s leading newspaper for cultural studies. It offers comprehensive coverage of the most important publications as well as reviewing theatre, cinema, music and exhibitions;

19th Century UK Periodicals – a collection of often rare online British magazines, journals and specialty newspapers that aim to provide an in-depth view of life in the Victorian age.

All of these eResources are accessible from home or in libraries and can be searched individually or as part of the wider content included in Gale NewsVault.

So if you are looking for a answer to a query or feel like reading something informative and interesting then these newbies are a great place to start.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal

CoverAmericans love the idea that an ordinary individual can achieve the extra-ordinary – the American Dream! So it’s no surprise that American youth were enthralled with the Facebook story when details of its gnarly conception started to emerge. Author Ben Mezrich did well to cater to this interest and capitalize on it early on. In The Accidental Billionaires, he attempts to reveal the behind the scenes creation of Facebook starting at the start – Harvard University. Mezrich was a Harvard student himself, so he has insight into Ivy League culture.

The narrative basically begins around 2003 with brilliant Harvard students Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg – supposed social outsiders – were excommunicated from the perfect and polished cliques of Harvard. Eduardo and Mark are depicted as being obsessed with social acceptance (most importantly with girls), which they try to achieve by either getting accepted into exclusive fraternities, or via devious computer creations.

Cover of Think like ZuckDespite Eduardo having fraternity ambitions, Mark seemed to find it much more thrilling creating contentious computer platforms to allow Harvard students to compare the school’s female students against each other and decide who are the most beautiful – a platform known as Facemash, which almost got Zuckerburg kicked out of Harvard due to the rage it provoked among the female student population. And then there was the wee issue of Facemash crashing the Harvard computer interface due to its popularity. Whoops.

Facemash, however, earned Mark a degree of notoriety, upon which two esteemed Harvard athletes approached him for help in building an exclusive Harvard dating site. However, upon working on the dating site, Mark’s ideas around social networking evolved, with Saverin helping out with the business side of things. It was all moving toward what would initially become “The Facebook”. But, TheFacebook was allegedly an adaptation of the athlete’s dating site idea. Upsetting the two 6’5 athletic giants greatly.

From here on in there were significant divisions and sneaky tactics, undermining and brinkmanship, all of which makes for very interesting reading. How could it not be, with such a cocktail of competitive individuals vying to control a burgeoning social networking site: venture capitalists, lawyers, sports people, fellow IT geeks and beautiful girls – all trying to get theirs.

What follows is a sad story of legal wrangles and friendship fall-outs which are a bit eye watering. The way the narrative goes has echoes of the Great Gatsby, except the subjects aren’t the Nouveau Riche but supposedly the Nouveau Popular. And eventually very Rich. The book has a raciness about it, and this thrusts the reader into the glamorous and clamorous environment of the Harvard fraternity culture.

This book is a bit speculative. One of the primary subjects, Mark Zuckerberg, wasn’t interested in talking to the author. So were left to read between the lines about what really happened. But we don’t like that, do we. As a society we expect people to be more forthcoming with mouth-watering portions of slanderous and scandalous material. So by default, there’s lots of scope for Mr Zuckerberg to be vilified. Which he is. In the absence of his side of the story.

There are some genuine messages to be taken from this read: fickle human nature, success changing people, or bringing out the worst in them. Don’t trust your counterparts upon entering a business relationship with them etc etc. So the story goes …

The Accidental Billionaires gives insight into competitive American college and business culture. Give it a go.  We have the book, eAudiobook, as well as the movie The Social Network which was based on the book.

Standards are important

My standards are pretty low when it comes to personal aspects about myself. I could straighten my hair in the morning and put on some lippy, but that would mean I would have to leave bed just that bit earlier. Maybe it is not so much about standards but priorities, and being asleep is my favourite thing to do. Don’t get me wrong I am clean, but I am not high maintenance. In other areas of life, dropping standards is not an option. In Christchurch we are living through what is called “the rebuild” – an understated term for such disruption and stress. A massive part of this is making sure standards are enforced. Standards are agreed specifications for products, services, or performance. They are there to improve safety and quality and meet various industries best practices.

Business people

To help anyone involved in this process you can come into any of our community libraries (in library access only) and you can search Standards New Zealand Online. Our library subscription entitles us to online access to all New Zealand (NZS) and joint Australian & New Zealand (AS/NZS) standards that are available in PDF format. I would hate to think how many changes have been made recently to building standards alone. To help, you may download a single copy of a Standards New Zealand document for viewing purposes only. The retention of any downloaded Standards New Zealand documents, whether in hardcopy or electronic form is expressly prohibited by copyright law. Christchurch City Libraries also has print copies of standards and other help available for those who need to adhere to standards regardless of how much they would like to stay in bed. Just ask!

Business for busy people

People who do history degrees in my experience very rarely get to scale the heights of industry and make a lot of money. I am one of those unfortunates who decided to do what she enjoyed when she went to university rather than doing something that would later pay the bills. Oh the decisions made by youth! Well there are no excuses as at Christchurch City Libraries we cover the full range of information needs online 24/7. This includes access to multiple Business and Management eResources which have full-text coverage of all business disciplines including accounting, economics, finance, marketing, management and strategy, as well as business theory and practice.

One of the new business eResources is called Gale Business Collection which combines the old databases of General Business File ASAP and Business and Company ASAP into a single flash new platform. It is even mobile friendly so you can search it with ease on your phone.

I guess at this point with such resources at my fingertips there is no real excuse not to go back and learn some new skills and build an empire. It is just when I get home from work I tend to collapse into myself and can barely keep my eyes open long enough to make dinner let alone take on the business world. Oh wasted youth!

The evils of inequality

Cover of The spirit level: Why more equal societies almost always do betterThe gap between the rich and the poor has become one of the most topical issues in many countries post GFC (Global Financial Crisis) and post Neo-Liberal economic reforms. More and more people seem to feel that the rich (particularly the super-rich) don’t pay enough tax and have managed to sneakily get away with taking no responsibility for the GFC while the rest of us languish in our lacklustre lifestyles working squillions of hours per week…and all the while paying our fair share to keep society running! Or so the Russell Brand sentiment goes.

So its against this backdrop that The Spirit Level should be read, I guess…

The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone is among a handful of cornerstone works for anyone who is interested in 21st century political and economic thought. I reckon. In fact, I’d almost argue that it is a grand thesis which seeks to give policy advice on how to solve (or markedly reduce) a catalogue of society’s ills through its recommendations and findings.

Inequality = poor outcomes

The key message that authors (and epidemiologists) Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett want to drive home is that the more “unequal” a society is, the more likely that society is to manifest higher degrees of illness, mental illness, drug abuse, widespread poor educational outcomes, obesity, social mobility and cohesion, violence, teen pregnancy, among other societal ills such as rapacious consumerism.

The focus on “inequality” is really on Income Inequality – the income gap between those at the top, middle and bottom. The argument being that countries with larger income gaps experience more societal ills.

International research

Their claims with regard to what drives poor outcomes in terms of societal well-being are backed up by some quite robust research comparing and contrasting various developed countries (and comparing States to States in the USA). Lots of graphs, statistical data etc drawn from reputable organisations such as the United Nations and the World Bank (among many others).

However, not all variables are taken into account which might frustrate some people – claiming rates of obesity are higher in the USA compared to Japan because of the USA’s rough private healthcare system is a bit unfair when you leave out factors such as Japan’s healthy and entrenched culinary traditions, and genetic factors (skinny genes).

More tax…good?

But, it also seems that countries which have higher income taxes and high levels of wealth redistribution (i.e gather large amounts of tax revenue to pay for generous education, welfare, healthcare and maternity leave programmes) are more “equal” than countries which have low taxes and far less social spending – we see less of the aforementioned health and well-being problems if we practice the former!

However, the authors seem more concerned about Income Inequality (even if the average income is quite good but the top income markedly better), not so much tax. But what is outstanding is that pretty much all of the “most equal” countries have really high income tax regimes (Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway).

So you are kind of left to draw your own conclusion about which is the most important – income equity or high tax rates, or both?

Sadly, New Zealand and Australia rank really highly in terms of inequality according to the authors, and therefore, this is what drives a variety of problems here and in Oz. Not just “people being lazy” etc.

Don’t be put off the by the academic sounding nature of the book, it’s really well written which makes all the technical sounding stuff really palatable.

Why are some countries prosperous, and others not?

Cover of Why Nations FailWhy Nations Fail is pretty much a must read for anyone interested in why some countries are prosperous and liberal, and why others aren’t. That doesn’t mean that I espouse its blatant and latent prescriptions or agree with the entirety of the historical narrative that it provides. However, this book deals with the moot and divisive questions which have been rousing academics and lay persons for a long time now: why are some countries rich, productive and (mostly) safe, while others are poor, unproductive and unsafe (internally and externally)?

Economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientist James Robinson attempt to provide answers to these questions through a relatively intensive historical, economic, legal and political exposition. What they come up with is intriguing and fresh. First, the authors attempt to debunk the familiar theories of progress (or lack of) which claim culture, weather and geography are the underlying reasons countries and people groups sink or swim economically and socially. Their primary thesis for what enables countries to enter prosperity rests on what they label and describe as “extractive” and “inclusive” political, legal and economic systems of exchange, but with this comes a focus on institutions, as it is institutions which are pivotal in fostering or hindering political and economic development and innovation.

“Extractive” systems are loosely defined as exclusive political and economic systems where power is centralized and where there are few checks and balances on that power – thus keeping those in government and the elite of such systems free from legal processes which might undermine their monopolies on power and industry. Therefore, such systems don’t foster competition and most importantly innovation, because if citizens in such economies pioneer certain innovations, then they may loose the rights to be partakers in the dividends that such innovations provide due to elites hindering their involvement as economic actors.
Fundamentally, these systems don’t protect private property rights as there is no real legal provision for such rights, or the multiple institutions to keep corruption at bay simply don’t exist (like a Commerce Commission or a State Services Commission). These systems basically restrict wealth creation as those in power want to slow technological progress so that their sector of the economy remains under their control. Essentially innovation among citizens equals competition, and competition brings about instability for an illiberal regime.

“Inclusive” systems, however, distribute power to more citizens because individuals have the ability to amass wealth through innovation and development, and those ruling and overseeing various sectors of the economy don’t hinder their progress because there are numerous legal processes and stipulations in place which prevent them from doing so. What flows from this inclusive institutional framework is incentives: incentives to study, work, save, create, share and innovate, because such toil will not be in vain, and will provide rewards. This framework fundamentally comes down to such rights being embodied in laws, as humans cant be trusted, a typical constitutional theory which simply isn’t manifested in many countries.

All this might seem a bit simplistic, or even obvious. But the authors draw on centuries of economic and social history to get their points across, which actually leads to 500 page readerthon in which the authors communicate their core messages through different points and examples – typical of the academic requirement to produce lots of evidence so as to ward off scrutiny. This includes some fascinating stuff from the history of post-Renaissance Europe, the Americas, the two Koreas, Africa. They consider the divergent paths taken by the English and Spanish colonial super powers in their acquisition of new lands and the processes they set up for governance which led to (a degree of) inclusion or exclusion today. The authors provide clear historical links between the colonial era and now which flows nicely and doesn’t seem disjointed.

Further, they make a bunch of predictions. China, they claim, will not be able to sustain its massive economic growth (8.85% over the last 4 years), because they do not have the requisite inclusive political systems. Their economy is like that of Soviet Russia which sustained massive periods of growth from the 50s to the 70s, but simply could not last due to individual citizens not being able to take control of their innovations in a constrained environment.

I still feel factors such as climate and geography have a significant bearing on a country’s ability to become prosperous. But the findings in this book reveal a dimension critical to the discussion of economic, political and human well-being. This dimension is so fundamental that aid, culture, trade, geography and climate are all contingent on there being inclusive institutional frameworks.

In New Zealand, while we aren’t a perfect country, we arguably take our democratic and economic institutions for granted. It is fair to say that many (most?) countries throughout the world don’t enjoy the liberal framework that we do. This book demonstrates how and why this is.

The Orange Chair: “Women and Money”

Girls Just Want To Have Fund$Whether you fastidiously check your internet banking after every purchase so that $3.99 doesn’t go unaccounted for, or simply plonk everything on your plastic, secure in the knowledge that it will all be affordable somehow, money is an ever-present concern for all of us, as evidenced by the boundless popularity of books centred on financial advice.

As part of the series of “Orange Chair” public conversations being held at Parklands Library – Te Kete Wānanga o Waitikiri, one such financial advisor and author, Sheryl Sutherland, will be seating herself in the famous hot seat next week at 6:00pm on Wednesday 30th October to share her wisdom.

Sheryl’s background is very impressive, with three books on financial success under her belt and over three decades’ experience in financial planning. She is especially committed to helping women better manage their money and investments in what is often a male-dominated world, so this particular Orange Chair is a must-attend for any woman looking to better balance her budget.

But what, there’s more! Call (03) 941-7923 now to secure your place (numbers are limited) and you’ll go in the draw to win of two prize packs, each consisting of Sheryl’s three books, which will get you started down the road to freedom from debt and empower you to make wise investments.
Smart MoneyMoney, Money, Money, Ain't it funny

Global business insights at the library

Business Insights GlobalI have to admit when I think of  business I get all bored and my mind starts to wander – this may explain why I am poor. For those of you more interested in the subject we have something new and exciting –  Business Insights: Global contains 24/7 online access to:

  • More than 2 million investment research/brokerage reports;
  • Thousands of detailed financial reports, market research reports and industry reports;
  • SWOT reports (updated quarterly);
  • Thousands of interactive live charts for economic and business indicators;
  • Nearly 500,000 detailed company profiles and histories;
  • Links to related content and statistical data in all industry and company profiles.

New Zealand companies are also included such as  Fonterra, Telecom, Kiwibank and Mighty River Power.

Here at Christchurch City Libraries we do have many business information sources if you do not find what you are looking for with this new electronic resource. From career advice to company information and global trade we have something for everyone.