Human Alarm Clocks

human alarm clockI’m one of those people for whom it’s hard to get out of bed early, especially when I didn’t sleep enough. Setting an alarm clock makes little sense because I turn it off and go back to sleep. Setting multiple alarm clocks throughout the apartment might work, but it bothers the neighbours and I will still wake up too late. The only foolproof solution for me is a human alarm clock, but unfortunately this is not always available, or reliable.

Enter the professional human alarm clock, or knocker-up. Before the advent of reliable and affordable alarm clocks, British and Irish workers were woken up by a person who made sure they could get to work on time. The knocker-up used a baton to knock on clients’ doors or a long and light stick to reach windows on higher floors. Others used a pea-shooter.

knocker up with pea shooterThe knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until it was sure that the client had been awoken. People would agree verbally, in advance, or simply post a preferred time on doors or windows. There were large numbers of people carrying out the job, especially in larger industrial towns such as Manchester and London.

Generally the job was carried out by elderly men and women but sometimes police constables supplemented their pay by performing the task during early morning patrols. Larger factories and mills often employed their own knocker-ups to ensure labourers made it to work on time. The profession lasted at least until the late 1920s and in some regions until the 1950s. Bringing it back would not only make me reach early morning appointments on time. It would also create new employment, foster social cohesion, and save energy and resources.

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4. Thanks to Cynthia Hathaway.

How Beneficial is the Sharing Economy?

“Uber is part of a new wave of corporations that make up what’s called the “sharing economy.” The premise is seductive in its simplicity: people have skills, and customers want services. Silicon Valley plays matchmaker, churning out apps that pair workers with work. Now, anyone can rent out an apartment with AirBnB, become a cabbie through Uber, or clean houses using Homejoy. But under the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.”

Read more: Against Sharing. Thanks to Sarah.

Barbers are Back

Barber In France, a profession that until recently seemed a sure victim of disposable razors, is suddenly on the comeback trail. New barbers are opening up shop every day, and the shaving ritual is again being adapted to current tastes. In the French capital, people have started emulating the classic Alain Maître Barbier (Alain, the Master Barber), a shop situated in the Marais district. Two new Les Mauvais Garçons (The Bad Boys) barbershops have recently started greeting customers, on rue Oberkampf and in the BHV department store for men.

The only major obstacle standing in the way of rapid expansion is the difficulty in finding qualified staff. The art of being a true barber is not as straightforward as it might seem. First, aspiring barbers must learn how to properly use a straight razor, by practicing on rubber balloons. But mastering the blade is not enough for becoming a true “saloner,” says Michel Dervyn. “These are professionals who, having made their career in the barber trade, have acquired the art of conversation.”

Barber movements 2 Is all of this just a passing fad? Maybe, but apart from the quality of the result – which is far superior to a bathroom shave at home – going to the barbershop also expresses men’s desire to “get together and pass down the ritual to the next generation,” says Michel Dervyn. “Men are often accompanied by their sons or grandsons,” he notes. After years of forced integration of the sexes, the barbershop is once again a place where “men come to socialize. It is like English clubs or tailor shop,” says Hélène Capgras, a consultant at Brain for Beauty. “It is a place where men go without their wives.”

Source: “In France, barbers are back“. Original article “Le Retour des barbiers“.

Related: “Exercices for barber apprentices“, Arthur Mole, 1917

Obsolete Occupations: the Jobs of Yesteryear

obsolete occupations of yesteryear

Overview of endangered professions at the National Public Radio (via Obsoletos): “As computers and automated systems increasingly take the jobs humans once held, entire professions are now extinct”.

I would like to add to this: As fossil fuels run out, some of these professions might return. And then I want to become a River Driver. Previously: the panorama of professions and trades.

The Panorama of Professions and Trades (1837)

Panorama of professions and trades What do you want to be when you grow up? In the 19th century, this question was easier to answer than it is today. There were 87 possibilities, according to Edward Hazen, author of “The Panorama of Professions and Trades” (1837). The book was also published as “Popular Technology; Professions and Trades” in 1870, Part 1 and Part 2 – these are better scans. Every profession is explained and illustrated. Find the table of contents below. Via Doug Berch, musician and dulcimer maker.

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