Happy New Year!
For the very first time, this newsletter is going out to people I don’t know personally. I’m nervous of course, but also excited to break out of this bubble. Thank you for subscribing!
Quick introductions: my name is Robin, I currently live in Berlin and work as a software engineer. I’ve started this newsletter to explore different interests, and to experiment with writing.
Please send any thoughts or feedback my way: I’m pretty new at this and would love to hear from you. The easiest is to just hit reply 😊
This week’s wanderings: 2020 in data, and Corsican vendetta knives.
📊 2020 in data
As I wrote in the last issue, I spent some time over the past few weeks reflecting on 2020, and writing my annual review. I loved the process, and I can’t wait to share my review with you!
There is one thing that I felt was missing from the template I followed: data.
Let me explain.
The first step in the annual review template is to list major life events and milestones that happened throughout the year.
My list featured things like working from home (March to December), and some trips I took (Brittany in September).
I also listed the first loaf of sourdough bread I ever baked (January 6th), and my first time bouldering (January 14th).
Can you spot the difference?
Taking a trip is a major, one-off event. In contrast, my first time bouldering is not a milestone in itself. It only became one because bouldering ended up being a significant aspect of my year.
This distinction is important. Listing milestones is a great way to reflect on major life events, but not so great for reflecting on day-to-day habits and behaviors.
Data can help balance this out, and give a more accurate picture of the year. Sure, 2020 was the year I travelled to Brittany, but it was also the year I:
- went bouldering 71 times, often three times a week between lockdowns
- baked 74 loaves of bread, once every five days on average
- wrote roughly 80,000 words in my logbook, making it longer than the first Harry Potter book
- read 15 books, and way too many newsletters from 111 different authors
- watched 103 movies and 178 TV episodes
This list gives a completely different impression of my year.
My 2020 in milestones tells tales of exiting travels and discoveries.
My 2020 in data speaks of a year spent largely inside, watching movies and TV shows, reading, cooking.
The travels were the exceptions, not the norm.
Another benefit of data is that it can help us understand and improve our habits and behaviors over time.
For example, in 2021, I’d like to improve my information diet, read more books and fewer tweets, more stock and less flow.
If I want to know that I’m improving, I need to measure what I read, the time I spend on social media, and so on.
So here’s my piece of unsolicited advice: look at your resolutions for this year, and ask yourself how you could measure them.
At the end of the year, when looking back on the major event of 2021, you can complement them with data, and reflect on changes in your habits and behaviors.
🗡️ Corsican vendetta knives
The other day, this is what I saw on my Twitter feed:
It was retweeted by Valentine McKinley, the author of one of my favorite newsletters, and someone you can always trust to lead you into new, exciting internet rabbit holes.
Of course, I was suddenly fascinated by Corsican vendetta knives, and yearned to know more about them.
Luckily, one of the replies on the tweet linked to an article going in depth on the topic. The author had done some research and, to my surprise, concluded that:
There are only two problems with calling them ‘Corsican vendetta knives’. One, they’re not Corsican. And two, they’re not vendetta knives.
As it turns out, Corsican vendetta knives are souvenirs for tourists.
When you think about it, it would be weird if a real vendetta knife had a little Corsican coat of arms painted on the handle. But if you see these knives as a kind of pointy souvenir spoons, it makes total sense.
It was interesting to read that the text on the blade is actually written in Italian, not Corsican. They’re closely related, but not the same:
- Che mia ferita sia mortale (Italian)
- Chì a mo ferita sia murtale (Corsican)
Corsican is closest to the Tuscan dialect, because of mass immigration from Tuscany when Corsica was part of the Republic of Pisa, in the early Middle Ages. And if you were also wondering, this is what it sounds like.
All of this doesn’t mean that vendetta itself is a myth, though.
Travelling in Corsica in the 1850s, historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote that there were no less than 4,300 murders on the island between 1831 and 1852.
Or, as he beautifully puts it:
If this island of Corsica could again give forth all the blood which in the course of centuries has been shed upon it — the blood of those who have fallen in battle, and the blood of those who have fallen in the Vendetta — the red deluge would inundate its cities and villages, and drown its people, and crimson the sea from the Corsican shore to Genoa.
❄️ Picture of the day
To end this on a slightly lighter note, I’ll leave you with a picture of the snow we had in Berlin today: