I started this blog on this day back in 2007. I have now reached my 17th blogging anniversary. No one is more surprised than me!  That I have survived as a blogger this long is due, in no small part, to readers like you. Many of you have followed and supported me for several years. That is a most humbling thing and I am grateful. 

My thanks also goes to the many designers who have graciously allowed me to showcase their wonderful designs and tutorials over the years and to the sponsors who have provided me with the materials and tools to inspire others. 

Every purchase you make through the links in my blog posts helps not just the designers and sponsors but also goes towards supporting my blog so I can continue to create content which you like, find useful and informative and occasionally, entertaining. As many of you have already noticed, I do like to combine a lifelong potpourri of all my interests into this blog - history, science, crafts, trivia, books, music etc. I am curious by nature. History particularly captures my attention because learning about the past often puts context in the news of today. 

I am so appreciative of this little community of mine when you consider that there are over 1.5 billion blogs worldwide.  About 30-32% of those bloggers are in the US. Canadian bloggers like me comprise of 4% of that total.  I am also in the 7.1% group of bloggers aged over 50Over 7 million blog posts are published every single day! 77% of internet users read blogs. 

I am old enough to remember depending on letters for communicating and going through hard copy encyclopedias and journals for information. The speed with which we can communicate with each other or find information today is an astonishing thing. 

The official birthday of the internet is January 1, 1983 although it wasn't until 10 years later, in 1993 when it became available to the public. My first email address was for work shortly after that date. I remember using the terrible Alta Vista search engine because Google did not come along until 1998!

The first blog is thought to have been written in 1994. The word blog began as "weblog" meaning a web based log or journal.  The Beading Gem is a blog and every separate feature or tutorial  I write about is a blog post. With time though, blog has become a verb as well as the noun for the blog post.

Blogs started to become popular in the early 2000's. In 2007, when I needed a website, I decided to go with blogging as it was a more dynamic format. I was showing off my jewelry making students' work a day at a time, using a really awful compact camera for photography. 

Then to my astonishment in  December 2008, my very first tutorial for a tree of life pendant attracted much more attention. It was then when I knew I could fill an unmet need. There were tons of people out there looking for useful information and help in how to make things. Not many DIY blogs existed then, so I was fortunate to  start a niche blog at the right time and kept it up.  Writing became a creative outlet for me.

Facebook was founded in 2004, Youtube in 2005, Twitter in 2006,  Pinterest and Instagram in 2010, and the baby of them all, Tiktok in 2016. We are looking at a span of just 20 years! It was around 2012 that I really noticed a huge rising tide in social media engagement and content creation. I no longer had to explain what a blog was! 

Today, blogging is still flourishing and growing. People still like to read and when you read my blog, you are reading everything I personally researched, wrote and published.  My blog posts are always there for you to find unlike the fleeting nature of social media posts. 

I use email subscriptions and scheduling apps to auto post to individuals and to places like Facebook and Instagram as many readers still enjoy using those platforms. Scheduling means I am able to better manage my time. With a huge stock of useful posts already published, I am now publishing 3-4 times a week , depending on the time of year, to give myself more time to do other things I enjoy and to create.

Short History of Communication

We take so much for granted these days. We forget it took a long time to get to this point where we can disseminate information quickly. The process took thousands of years.

Ancient people used swift footed couriers. The modern marathon is inspired by the long distance run by a legendary Greek herald or courier, Pheidippides, to inform Athens of victory at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) against Persia. This man, who had already ran 150 miles twice in 2 days, then embarked on this run, supposedly discarded even his clothes to reach his final destination, give his news, then collapsed and died.

Painting of Pheidippides delivering his message by Luc Oliver Merson (1869) 

The Inca Empire (1438-1533) and other cultures in the Andean South America, in the absence of a written language, used quipu (khipu) to store and share information for thousands of years.  Elite couriers would carry these quipu over vast distances and hilly terrains. 

A quipu is a collection of natural fiber cords knotted at strategic intervals. The knot structure, color, direction of knot hitches and ply of each cord also matters. Numbers were in the decimal system but other non-numerical information was probably binary or phonetically encoded. No one is sure how but  people are working on solving this mystery. 

Quipu in the Machu Picchu Museum, Cuzco. Picture source

Faster than foot couriers are the relay post riders which were deployed by many ancient empires such as the Mongol Empire (1206-1368), the world's largest contiguous empire ever.  The Mongolian pony express called the yam system was established by Genghis Khan to manage his vast kingdom because information is power. 

Mongol Empire

A yam is a way station with many, sometimes hundreds of horses. At its peak, there were something like 10,000 yams in the empire. Mongols were renowned horsemen - their army had no infantry, just cavalry. Their mounted couriers generally rode hard between stations - so furiously they had to tie themselves onto the horse to stop from falling off! Couriers rode day and night, covering distances of 200-250 miles per day. Urgent messages meant the courier had to wear bells on his belt to alert the next yam to have a fresh horse and messenger ready.

Mongol Soldier

But the yam system couldn't save the Mongol led Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) in China founded by Kublai Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson. Humble mooncakes contributed to their downfall.

Traditionally, mooncakes were (and still are) served during the Mid-Autumn Festival - similar to harvest festivals. A rebellion which later led to the founding of the Ming dynasty (1368-1634), was coordinated with messages hidden in the cakes to indicate the day of uprising - despite a ban on large gatherings. The rebels' ingenious idea included a planted rumor about a deadly plague spreading and urging people to eat these special mooncakes to save and empower themselves. This meant the special mooncakes were quickly distributed.

Picture source : Lotus seed paste mooncake 

The Chinese were the first to invent block printing but the movable type printing press invented in 1455 by German Johannes Gutenberg, truly changed the world. Before then, only the very rich could afford hand drawn books. Printing made books accessible to the masses which in turn spread news, new ideas and thinking.

Early wooden printing press (1568)
Literacy, though, lagged.  While the first weekly printed newspaper started in Antwerp in 1605, for a long, long time, many illiterate people got their news from a broadside (single page news printed only on one side) posted in a public space or hawked in populated places.  These were read out by the literate. Broadsides were also early advertising flyers. Sometimes, a popular tune would be indicated on the broadside to prompt the reader to sing the words. These were known as broadside ballads which were typically about recent crimes, tragedies and disasters.

18th century tragic ballad

People enjoyed ballads for many centuries, not just for the music but the narratives. 

Stories from this oral tradition changed, becoming distorted and embellished over time. For example, there are many Robin Hood ballads but most historians believe, there was no single popular hero in Robin Hood. Instead the moniker appears to have been used in different forms by various outlaws over time and in different places in England. The myth of the do-gooder was just that, a myth. Some of these outlaws committed terrible crimes. 

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood

Some of these ballads were sung to spread news about certain events. Murder ballads are a peculiar subset where crime stories were "reported". The infamous Maria Marten/ Red Barn murder in Suffolk, England in 1827 was a real historical crime where a poor young woman was killed by her lover. It triggered numerous newspaper articles  - including early investigative journalism - songs, plays and ballads such was the public's intense, ghoulish interest in all the lurid details. Such crimes over the past 100- 200+ years eventually morphed into true crime journalism, social media armchair detectives, mystery writers and the CSI style dramas of today.

People and their behaviors have not changed, but the speed in which information spreads, has, especially with the internet. That dissemination is now much faster than before. Like ballads, not always accurate.

Historical references
Lucy Worsley's A Very British Murder (book) - you can also see her accompanying BBC documentary series on Britbox, Prime Video or search online. 

The pace of communication inventions and related innovations really sped up in the 19th and 20th centuries. Samuel Morse and others invented the telegraph in the 1830s and 1840s -  vital for long distance communication.  The postage stamp came along in 1840. The radio was invented by Marconi in 1895. Moving pictures was first shown by the Lumiere brothers in 1895 in Paris. John L. Baird gave us television in 1925. And as mentioned above, the internet arrived in the late 20th century. 

The social media landscape is evolving rapidly and not always for the better. Easily created AI (artificial intelligence) content will only increase the racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and all the other biases and bigotry already out there, making people angrier and angrier. And some of the online generated anger and hate can translate to real-life tragedy as the case of a radicalized 22 year old Canadian man who was found guilty last November of killing 3 generations of a Muslim family out for an evening walk. 

What promised as easy connectivity has sparked a growing movement away from being constantly plugged in.  Social media is also no longer about connectivity but has turned into a huge entertainment source and with that, a burgeoning $6.5 billion social media influencing industry. Content creation is king. 86% of young Americans say they want to get into social media influencing! That sure is a change from the usual career goals of doctor, fireman, astronaut, nurse etc!

AI is the technology to watch as it is expected to transform our workplaces and the world. Prompt engineering and the selling of prompts are popular right now.  This is the latest form of communication where you prompt or ask AI programs with specific terms to get the information you need or get a variety of tasks done. 

Logan Kilpatrick, an developer advocate at OpenAI (the company which launched ChatGPT) was quoted here, ""The reality is that prompting AI systems is no different than being an effective communicator with other humans."  Think about how we talk to someone, in anger or in pleasant ways  and so on. The words we use, the volume of speech, our body language are such that the recipient generally gets the message and its tone.  Reading, writing and speaking skills are even more important in the future. We will need these, as humans, to be better than the increasingly intelligent robots as AI rapidly evolves.

What awaits us in the future is unknown. But what is clear - there needs to be some governmental oversight. Last November, a global AI global safety summit saw several nations meeting to acknowledge this need to keep control of the most dangerous aspects of AI technology. 
Historian and Sapiens author, Yuval Noah Harari said :  “AI is different from every previous technology in human history because it’s the first technology that can make decisions by itself, that can create new ideas by itself and that can learn and develop by itself. Almost by definition, it’s extremely difficult for humans, even the humans who created the technology, to foresee all the potential dangers and problems.”

“With AI, what you’re talking about is a very large number of dangerous scenarios, each of them having a relatively small probability that taken together … constitutes an existential threat to the survival of human civilisation.”
Technological Singularity or Singularity is the technical term for the hypothetical point when computer intelligence surpasses that of humans beyond our understanding and control leading to unforeseeable changes to humanity. It could trigger, for example, an unintended global financial crisis. An overly dramatic example perhaps is the murderous computer HAL on 2001: A Space Odyssey (trailer). In the movie, though, the human astronaut manages to disconnect HAL.

Experts differ on when or even whether we can reach technological singularity. This recommended short video explains the Seven Stages of AI with AI singularity at Stage 7. We are currently at stage 4, poised to move forward to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) where AI intelligence equals human intelligence. 


Sometimes I yearn for the old days before social media and cell phones, back when we used to write much more personal letters. My mother's weekly letters from home certainly helped when I was a homesick international student in the UK. My family also enjoyed reading about my new life faraway. 

Some of our family and friends wrote memorable letters which we treasured.  An eccentric and elderly British uncle-in-law wrote letters where the stamps were sewn down because he didn't trust the stamp glue. Once, he forgot a needle and attached thread and they arrived, still in the envelope!

Today, there is a popular movement relishing the age old hand tools of writing - beautiful fountain pens and specialty inks.  Many now enjoy the feel of putting pen to paper, be it for writing letters and postcards, making notes, writing journals or keeping a hard copy calendar. 

Personalized Metal and Wood Retro Pens from GiftMartUSA 

Diamine Fountain Pen Inks from Inkversum

The art of literary correspondence is celebrated by LettersLive, a series of powerful live events which brings attention to the very best of letters written by all sorts of people from the unknowns to the famous. 
As well as celebrating the pain, joy, wisdom and humour expressed in letters, Letters Live has from the outset been committed to promoting literacy and to fund-raising for literacy charities.
Here are three of my favorites - humorous ones - from their Youtube channel.  All three were requests and not surprisingly, all their wishes were granted. 

Claire Foy (The Crown) reads Phyllida Law's (mother of Emma Thompson) letter to her mother-in-law whose feelings were very hurt. 

Benedict Cumberbatch reads Canadian, Nick Burchill's 2018 apology letter to the Empress Hotel in British Columbia, asking them to lift an 18 year ban on him. 

English comedian, broadcaster and writer, Alan Carr, reads the accompanying letter for an insurance claim to a New York company regarding a sticky situation. The author, as you will soon understand, remains anonymous. 

All my best for another year of crafting - be it handcrafts or writing in the year ahead!

Before You Go:

jewelry making supplies


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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM