mindstalk: (Default)
"Jumping spiders can see the moon." Awesome eyes, apparently. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/jumping-spiders-can-see-the-moon/529329/

Cabbage white sex life https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/butterfly-cabbage-white-vagina-dentata/530889/

Papa John's peppers https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/papa-johns-pizza-peppers-pepperoncini-pepper

What happened to the Greenland Vikings (2015). Leans toward the settlements existing for the walrus ivory hunt, and being abandoned after the rise of elephant ivory, the Black Death, and oh yeah, a century of cooling climate. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-greenland-vikings-vanished-180962119/

Hearing voices and how culture can affect dealing with non-standard neurology. (Psychic, weird, or schizophrenic?) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/06/psychics-hearing-voices/531582/

10 year old article on "positive psychology" http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

11 year old article on behavioral economics http://harvardmagazine.com/2006/03/the-marketplace-of-perce.html

Decline of front bench seats in cars https://jalopnik.com/why-front-bench-seats-went-away-1776706852

1660s air pollution https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fumifugium

Jared Diamond on hunter-gatherer childrearing. http://www.newsweek.com/best-practices-raising-kids-look-hunter-gatherers-63611

Suffragette martial arts http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/suffrajitsu

Nice table of Gospel events https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_harmony#A_parallel_harmony_presentation

Mussels that live on asphalt volcanoes https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/the-mussels-that-eat-oil/530775/

How New Zealand got PR elections http://www.sightline.org/2017/06/19/this-is-how-new-zealand-fixed-its-voting-system/
mindstalk: (lizsword)
9k word essay on writing women into fantasy "without quotas"; mostly it's a catalogue of the diverse role of women through history.

http://www.tor.com/2016/03/23/writing-women-characters-into-epic-fantasy-without-quotas/

Some random notes I took:

1300s Lollards insisted on equality of men and women

Napoleon’s civil code restricted married women’s property rights, for
example

In tenth century Saxony there is “plenty of evidence that women
accumulated, transmitted and alienated predial estate"hi

In medieval Valldigna, Spain, Aixa Glavieta “went to court six times
until she forced the Negral family return to her the terrace with two
mulberry trees”

Zhou Daguan on Cambodia: "The local people who know how to trade are all
women. So when a Chinese goes to this country, the first thing he must
do is take in a woman, partly with a view to profiting from her trading
abilities"

Anglo-Saxon Chronicles has king's sisters witnessing founding of a
monastery.

A woman of high birth in any stratified society will have companions and
servants commensurate with her position. ..She will also usually retain
important ties to her birth family, and will be expected to look after
their interests.

In many cases the one person a lord, prince, king, or emperor could
absolutely trust was his mother: only she, besides himself, had full
investment in his success.

[Alexander] appointed [Ada] to the governership of Caria as a whole.
This woman was the wife of Hidrieus—and also his sister, a relationship
in accordance with Carian custom; Hidrieus on his death-bed had
bequeathed her his power, government by women having been a familiar
thing in Asia from the time of Semiramis onward.
mindstalk: Tohsaka Rin (Rin)
I'm no TV historian, but after a bit of research, I find:

I Love Lucy (1951), white woman/Cuban man. This hardly even registers as interracial to me, but the executives then were worried.

The Jeffersons (1975), white man/black woman.

Dynasty (1983), mixed-race woman, daughter of another character and his black mistress; would have mixed romance of her own.

Robotech (1985), white man/black woman.

***

If you're thinking "you suddenly realized Robotech was odd in that for 1985, and wondered if it was in fact the first mixed couple on US TV", you're right, that's exactly what I did. Someone on rpg.net had pointed out that a certain cosmopolitanism is part of the Macross formula, at least for the original series and Macross Plus. (Mixed race couple, diverse cultural origins, apparently diverse clothing styles in Plus.) And the answer seems to be "no, wasn't first, but was pretty early, and possibly first for children's cartoons. Though who can tell, it's not like the lists I found mentioned Robotech."

This is one thing I'm not sure Macross Frontier propagated, though I guess to Japanese sensibilities Alto/Sheryl might also be mixed-race (Japanese boy, white girl.) (There are also human/Zentraedi pairings and offspring, but "alien who looks just like us" isn't as radical as "actual different-race human".) Robotech did: the second series has the black Bowie Grant running off with the pale skinned Musica. (Macross Frontier does have a diverse cast, including an openly gay male; I just don't recall if it had a white/black couple anywhere.) And of course all Robotech series were based on existing anime, so Japan was a few years ahead of us -- granted, without US racial hangups, but with a lot of racism of their own. Though I suppose they might not care whether whites and blacks hook up, that's just non-Japanese people doing their thing. Japanese/non-Japanese couples in anime might be more interesting to track, there.

links

2016-Oct-01, Saturday 22:46
mindstalk: (Default)
Perspective of an ex-neo-Confederate.

Weekly church attendance by state.

Barcelona's plans for superblocks.  And Barcelona transit: crazy trains but hyperrational bus grid, with lines labeled as H2 or V5 ,for Horizontal or Vertical.

Paris turns the bus stop into major transit infrastructure.

Save a biker, use the Dutch reach in opening car doors.

Not sure if this is correct or just plausible, but words on why Europe, or cold climates in general, doesn't have many venomous animals.

The mythology of "Irish slavery".

mindstalk: (Earth)
James Nicoll recently seemed to recommend Tekumel. I've known of this for a long time, but never gotten into it. Someone linked to tekumel.com and I started reading its history... then stopped, it wasn't that exciting to me. But it's got the common huuuuuge numbers. The world was settled 60,000 years after our present, time passed, disasters happened, now the 'currently' oldest written records are 25,000 years old. I read something about how some century was full of specified events, then the next 500 years were full of petty infighting.

Not unique to Tekumel. Game of Thrones has 12,000 years of alleged history. Eberron has hundreds of thousands of years, maybe millions. Dragaera has 250,000 years.

On the one hand I would like to believe in the longevity of intelligent beings, so at some point you 'need' deep timelines, but I feel they also fit science fiction and far speculation better, rather than fantasy stasis. And either way, authors will have trouble filling the time plausibly.

Tolkien's comparatively modest, with 6500 years since the Noldor returned to Middle Earth, and 1400 years for the Shire. Exalted has 5000 years since the Primordial War, and only about 750 since almost everyone died and half the world dissolved into chaos.

Then there's Glorantha, which in the RuneQuest III box set, is introduced at the end of its Third Age, 1500 years after the invention of Time itself. There's overlapping and contradictory myth stuff 'before' that, but actual history is 1500 years. (I'm assuming they started with writing, from the myth/hero age.) No wonder they're still using bronze! I don't know that much about the history, but the second age was dominated by two magically powerful empires, that lasted for some centuries. And not millennia.

In the real world, the oldest written symbols are from about 3500 BC, but the oldest coherent texts from 2600. Those are about earlier times, somewhat, so let's say history starts around 3000 BC. What does 1500 years get us?

In Mesopotamia, the Sumerians have come and gone (though Sumerian remains a literary language, alongside daily Akkadian), and Hammurabi of Babylon was a few centuries ago. Iron and the Bronze Age collapse are a few centuries in the future.

In Egypt, both the Old and Middle Kingdoms have passed. The pyramids are ancient history to Egyptians.

I don't know anyone else for that period. Advancing to the 'historical' eras of other places: 1500 BC to 1 BC in Greece gets you the high Bronze Age and Myceneans, Bronze Age Collapse, dark age, whatever happened that became the Trojan War stories, Homer, weird art most people don't know about, the Classical period, the Hellenistic Age, and conquest by Rome.

Rome itself only starts around 750 BC, 1500 years takes us to 750 AD. So kingdom, Republic, Empire, fall in the west and displacement to the east, the rise of Christianity, the advance of Islamic Arab armies. Dark Ages and Charlemagne in the West, well past Justinian in the east.

In China, 1600-100 BC covers the Shang, Zhou, Warring States, Confucius and other philosophers, Qin, and Han. Okay, so most of us probably don't much about those periods beyond museum pieces, still the names suggest change. 100 BC to 1400 AD covers the Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming, and the invention of much of what we consider "Chinese": civil service exams, porcelain, paper, gunpowder, the compass, printing...

The history of England is about 1500 years if you count from when Roman support left and the Anglo-Saxons showed up. From 1066, not quite 1000 years.

Japan barely even *has* 1500 years of written history; we can go back to some Chinese mentions in the 200s, or spotty Kofun era records before 500.

Trinidad surprise

2016-Sep-10, Saturday 13:00
mindstalk: (lizqueen)
I've been reading a book of Caribbean history. So, in the 1800s slavery started getting abolished, and it was hard to still find workers on sugar plantations. Paying ex-slaves enough to work made the sugar more expensive than slave-produced sugar, and they were frankly not very enthusiastic about doing sugar work at any wage, preferring to be independent peasants, and who can blame them? There were various adaptations, for example Haiti tried inventing state socialism way early, conscripting the population into sugar work -- replacing private slavery with state slavery, woo.

Down in Trinidad, they somehow found it economical to import indentured laborers across the world from India. After 10 years the workers got a subsidized trip back to India, but many stayed; as a result Trinidad is now plurality (Asian) Indian, (38% or so), and also 18% Hindu. (Also 5% Muslim, and noticeable minorities of Bahai and Sikh.) I vaguely knew something like this had happened but not that there was a significantly Hindu-minority country south of the US. I feel kind of like when I discovered, in senior year of high school, that Belize existed and spoke English.

(I would swear that it simply never came up in my MacNeil-Lehrer watching childhood, unlike every other Central American country. And my parents' old globe probably had "Brit. Hond.")
mindstalk: (Earth)
I expect most of my readers know that Columbus didn't "prove the Earth was round", but an interesting question is how widespread knowledge of the globular Earth was, e.g. among the uneducated. Hard to answer for sure. But this reddit thread gives some interesting quotes about elite knowledge, including citing the Venerable Bede quoting Augustine, and someone writing in 1170s about longitude and time differences (from the observed local time of eclipses.) And:

"the key piece of evidence with regard to unlearned people is a book of sermons published in vernacular German and translated into multiple languages which mentions a spherical Earth multiple times as a metaphor; that is, something ordinary people listening to a sermon would understand and relate to."

Bad news for any Ars Magica campaigns that assume people believing in a flat Earth...

This post discusses the Treaty of Tordesillas; no, a line dividing up the Americas didn't mean they thought the world was flat.

Finally, this blames the 19th century for creating the myth that medieval people thought the world was flat. Not the only historical bullshit that came out of the 19th century...

Turkey context:

2016-Jul-15, Friday 18:20
mindstalk: (atheist)
Turkey's military is sworn to uphold secular democracy. This might be the sixth coup since 1960.

Turkey joined NATO in 1955: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO#Members so being a NATO member with a coup isn't new. For that matter, Portugal joined in 1949, and was run by the dictator Salazar until 1968. Greece was run by a junta of colonels from 1967 to 1974.

Erdogan has been undermining democracy, going after opposition MPs https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/08/erdogans-draconian-new-law-demolish-turkeys-eu-ambitions and prosecuting more than 1800 people since 2014 for "insulting" him.

And this weirdness, from what I'm told is the third largest newspaper in Turkey and legit: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/no-one-should-do-politics-in-turkey-except-erdogan-says-chief-adviser-yigit-bulut.aspx?pageID=238&nID=100501&NewsCatID=338

'With President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the helm in Turkey, there’s no need for anyone else in the country to engage in politics, presidential adviser Yiğit Bulut has said.

“There is already a leader in this country and he is engaging in politics. There is no need for anyone else to engage in politics. He is engaging in politics both at home and abroad. Our duty is to support the leader in this country,” Bulut, Erdoğan’s chief economy adviser, said during a program on state television TRT Haber on June 14.'

'Bulut, a former news anchor and editor-in-chief of the private broadcaster 24 TV, was appointed as then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s chief adviser in July 2013 during which time he unraveled a vast and nefarious international conspiracy to assassinate Erdoğan “using telekinesis.” After Erdoğan’s election as president in August 2014, he was appointed as his chief adviser on economics.'

_First Contact_

2016-Jul-10, Sunday 14:41
mindstalk: (Earth)
1987 book I just finished, by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson. It's about the contact between white Australians and highland New Guinea in the 1930s, mostly done by Australian gold prospector Michael Leahy, with Leahy's 1930s photographs (and some 1980s ones, by the book's authors.) It's main sources are Leahy's diaries and 1980s interviews of both surviving Australians and highlanders. So we get views from both sides, though most of the surviving highlanders were teens or kids at the time, naturally.

First half or so of the book is a step-by-step following of the initial expeditions, but it later pans out to further developments and reactions, closing with independence for Papua New Guinea in 1975.

Notes:

* The highlanders seem to have been extremely isolated from the coast. They can't have been entirely so, because shells filtered up as highly valuable prestige/trade/moka items, but OTOH they hadn't heard of the white men who'd been on the coast for 50 years, and on first viewing thought the whites were relatives returned from the dead. The highlanders themselves say that.

* Pretty isolated from each other, it seems, or more accurately a person's radius of experience was pretty short, hemmed in by hostiles tribes.

* Volatile mix of racism, paternalism, and humanity among the whites. Michael could readily go for a lethal show of force to "kill before we're killed" while objecting to the bloodfeud killing of the natives or gratuitous killing by his own coastal native 'gunbois'. One brother went half native, taking two native wives and never leaving; a friend from the Administration went full native, being accepted by the highlanders he lived among; Michael turned into an Angry Old White Man, disappointed at not getting wealthy and ranting to his grave against the independence movement.

* Both major Out Of Context problems and rapid adaptation by the highlanders. Took them a while to figure out if the whites were human and not spirit, but quickly taking advantage of the wealth they offered and assessing the physical danger they posed.

* Highlanders somewhat balking at independence, as they had less negative experience of colonialism than the coastal New Guineans, and feared being dominated by the coastals. A Liberian UN commissioner was really surprised at the feelings he ran into. "Development, then independence." Of course, most of the Australians had no intention of developing NG into economic independence, that's not what colonies are for.

* Examples of both benign and imperial introductions of money and trade. The early prospectors weren't that violently rapacious, though killing a fair number of people to establish "don't mess with our stuff"; they brought in lots of wealth of shells, axes, and other goods to buy food and labor with, but the workers weren't losing their own land, and had a real choice to work. Administration and the coastal colonists didn't like independent labor though, and instituted poll taxes that had to be paid in Australian money.

(The prospectors might have been worse had they ever found major gold prospects to dredge. Happily they didn't, and coffee plantations ended up the main means of wealth extraction.)

* WWII was a push toward independence. No mention of attitudes wearing off from the Japanese or the fact of their pushing out Australia, but the returning US and Australian soldiers are claimed to have been relatively egalitarian, a shocking contrast with the pre-war colonists.

* Colonialism probably really did bring down the violent death rate, here.
mindstalk: (lizqueen)
I saw a claim that this was Morocco. On researching, it seems a bit complicated.

* In 1776 some Dutch port gun-saluted a US-flagged warship, so "recognition".
* In 1777 Morocco formally recognized the US
* But we might not have found that out until April 1778, due to communication times, by which time I think we knew France had recognized us.

So Morocco seems to have been the first sovereign government to make the decision to recognize us.
mindstalk: (glee)
I was reading about the Darien Gap, nigh-impassable swamp at the south end of Central America. Moderately interesting on its own. But the page ends with "It is also mentioned in John Keats' poem 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer'"

So I read the latter page, which has not just the poem, a paean to Chapman's translation opening Homer up to those who don't know Greek, but analysis of the poem's allusions.

"Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific — and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

new planet -- Uranus
Cortez -- actually Balboa
Darien -- Darien

I'm not new to classic poetry referring to modern (for its time) science; I used to be really into John Donne, who had a lot of this. But I'm still impressed by such things.

I also realized that for all my timeline work, I had no real idea when Keats lived. Connecting him to Chapman and Uranus didn't really help, either, though I would have guessed Uranus discovery to be mid-late 1800s. Nope! Keats 1795-1821, poem 1816, Uranus 1781. Which also sounds familiar, hmm. Clearly my art and history time sense needs work.
mindstalk: (Homura)
This is largely mnemonic notetaking for myself, no guarantees of interest to others.

Periods of Japanese history, with distinctive features, and all the reliability of "I read Wikipedia pages last night".

Jomon: 14,000-300 BC. Sedentary hunter gatherers. Ainu anatomy. Some of the oldest pottery in the world, pre-dating the Middle East by millennia, recently beaten by 18,000 BC pottery found in China. Named for the cords used to imprint decorations on their pottery. Contemporary with, uh, everything, from the Ice Age through to Hellenistic times or China's Warring States period.

Yayoi: 300 BC-250 AD. Full-scale rice farming, bronze and iron tools, population changes to more like modern Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese; one could reasonably thing most Japanese people are the descendants of Korean farmers from this time. Chinese documents start referring to 'Wa', as a chaos of tribal communities. Contemporary with Alexander, Punic Wars, Rome's height; Warring States, Qin dynasty, Han Dynasty. Named for an archeological site.

Kofun: 250-538 AD. First part of the broader 'Yamato' period. Yamato dynasty ends up with hegemony over Kyushu and much of Honshu by the end. Named for giant 'keyhole' shaped tomb-mounds. Haniwa (clay tomb offerings.) Contemporary with late antiquity and the early Dark Ages of Western Europe, and general chaos in China.

Asuka: 538-710. Second half of Yamato. Buddhism introduced. Country name changed from Wa to Nihon. Lots of Chinese borrowing including writing, Taoism, and models of strong government. Imperial family claims equality with the Emperor of China and the title of Tennou. Named for I can't tell. Contemporary with the Dark Ages, rise of Islam, and beginning of the Tang Dynasty.

Nara: 710-794. Named for the capital being at Nara, Japan's first urban center. Writing spreads, with Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, and waka poetry. More Buddhism, and building of Todaiji.

Heian: 794-1185. Named for its capital, now Kyoto. Peak of Chinese influences, and hyper developed court culture, coupled with shitty popular conditions. Real power largely with the Fujiwara. Rise of the samurai class. Tang Dynasty government model. War against the Emishi of northeast Honshu, probably heirs of the Jomon and parent/cousin to the Ainu. Hiragana and katakana developed. Tale of Genji. Breakdown of strong government and rise of feudalism. Beginning is contemporary with Charlemagne (crowned HRE in 800), Haroun al Raschid, and Tang; period spans 1066, start of the Crusades, much of the High Middle Ages, and rise of the Song Dynasty.

Kamakura: 1185-1333. First shogunate, by the Minamoto family. Named for the de facto shogunate capital. Double figurehead: Minamoto shogun wields power for the emperor, and Hojo regents wielded power for the shogun. Zen Buddhism arises, among many other sects. Mongols invade, kamikaze. Contemporary with High Middle Ages, Black Death, and Mongols.

Muromachi: 1336 [sic]-1573. "It gets its name from the Muromachi district of Kyoto.[3] The third shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, established his residence on Muromachi Street." Openly military government that was nonetheless weak; things get even more feudal, with rise of the daimyo, passing into the Sengoku (warring states) period. Shinto resurgence, spurred by the kamikaze. Europeans start visiting in 1543, bringing pumpkins and guns. Contemporary with Hundred Year's War, Gutenberg, discovery and conquest of Americas, Yuan and Ming dynasties, War of the Roses, rise of Protestantism, fall of Constantinople, Elizabeth I.

Unification period. Most of Shakespeare's career.

Edo/Tokugawa: 1603-1868. Named for capital or ruling family. Very strong shogunate, "sword hunt" of guns and non-samurai swords, stratifies but peaceful and prosperous society, probably the world's best attempt at autarky. Starts in the same year Elizabeth I dies. North American colonies start. Seclusion (sakoku) starts in 1640s, along with Thirty Year's War and execution of Charles I. Ukiyo-e, kabuki, sushi. Rise of literate and mercantile society. Perry visits in 1853, followed by crisis and opening.

Meiji: 1868-1912. Rapid Westernization, industrialization, nominal democracy, end of formal feudalism. More Shinto resurgence, State Shinto, emphasis on Imperial divinity. Defeats of China and Russia. Named for the Emperor (as will be the rest.)

Taisho: 1912-1926. Democratic peak, in between chaos and militarism. WWI and expansion into Asia. First commoner as prime minister. Fear of Communism. Rise of pan-Asianism.

Showa: 1926-1989. Modern history.

Heisei: 1989-. Starts the same year the Berlin Wall falls. Economic stagnation, worldwide appeal of anime.
mindstalk: (Earth)
Do we live in a time of accelerating progress, or one of slowdown and diminishing returns?  I used to think the former, for years have thought the latter.  It seems to boil down to whether you pay attention to computers or to everything else, like speed or energy use or the general conditions of life.

Krugman reviews a book arguing most of the big transformation happened between 1870 and 1940.

For support, I add Tom Murph's old post, comparing 1885 to 1950 to 2015.

And finally, a 2013 article talking particularly about America's great slowdown.  It invokes both the 1700s first industrial revolution and the late 1800s second revolution, saying the second happened to pick up right as the first tapered off, so by sheer luck we had an extended run of rapid growth.

Edit: I'd note this isn't a claim that there'll never big transformation. True AI could well be big, though not necessarily positive for most of us. Advanced biotech could be cool. But they're also distant. I'm not seeing anything analogous to electrification of the home, people moving off the farm and then out of the factories, etc. LED lights are neat, but they just lower electricity bills a bit, they're nothing as radical as going from candles and oil to the electric bulb.

Cool timelines

2016-Jan-24, Sunday 18:09
mindstalk: (12KMap)
The blog "Wait but why" has some cool timelines of people.  Not exactly a new concept, so there's IMO an excessive amount of verbiage describing them, but the charts themselves are neat.

He's also a neat version of zooming out on time.

mindstalk: (Enki)
Following my posts on England and the Byzantines.

Copying from the first post: "I'll put in codes at the end of lines. P for Peace, in my opinion; p for challenges to the rule. I don't count foreign wars, or extra-familial foreign invasion. I for the succession passing as Intended, i for not. The latter probably implies a peace failure before or after. ? for ambiguity -- are plots caught by the secret police worth counting as a threat to the peace? If the crown passes to the rightful heir because the heir took it by force I count that as 'i', since no one intends to be killed or deposed."

Hongwu, founder. Chosen son died of illness. -I
Jianwen, grandson. Fought uncles, was overthrown by one. pi
Yongle, uncle. PI.
Hongxi, eldest son. Died very quickly. PI
Xuande, son. PI
Zhengtong, son. captured by Mongols, so brother took over, but he refused to abdicate on return, Zhengtong eventually over threw him. pI?
Jingtai, brother regent-usurper. p-?
Chenghua, son of Zhengtong. Concubine aborted or killed most of his children. P?I
Hongzhi, surviving son. "the sole perpetually monogamous emperor in Chinese history". PI
Zhengde, son. Died childless. PI
Jiajing, grandson of Chenghua. So cruel his concubines plotted to kill him. P?I
Longqing, son. short reign. PI
Wanli, son. Political fight over succession that undermined governance. PI
Taichang, son. died after a month. PI
Tianqi, son. Illiterate carpenter. Uprisings, sonless. pI
Chongzhen, brother. Rebellions, Manchu invasion. pi

I have to say this does seem a lot more stable than the other two. Given the number of sons from concubines, surprisingly little interfamilial fighting. Caveat: Chinese pages probably get less Anglophone attention than English ones, so it's possible there's a bunch of rebellions not mentioned in the short biographies, turning some P into p.

I didn't make many notes of these because it wasn't the point here, but cruelty and incompetence got mentioned a lot, as did emperors going on strike and refusing to do their work, or at least show up personally for meetings.

It's possible Chinese heavy civil service and other institutions add a lot to monarchic stability.
mindstalk: (Homura)
A deleted paragraph from the Wikipedia article on bow shape:

"There is a section in Homer's Odyssey when the suitors attempt to string Odysseus' bow and are unable to do so, whereas Odysseus is able to string it without standing up. A reflex bow is almost impossible to string unless one knows the technique and is easiest to string from a sitting position. This passage has been suggested as evidence that reflex bows were just beginning to spread into the Aegean area at the time of writing."

I think I'd always found it odd that "wily Odysseus" was suddenly supposed to be superstrong at the end of his story. Seems more fitting if it were more a matter of his knowing the right trick.

links

2015-Sep-13, Sunday 17:31
mindstalk: (Default)
Dzungarian Gate, possibly Herodotus's Gate of Winds, with China as Hyperborea. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzungarian_Gate

For my Ars Magica game, I tried looking up medieval church services, which turned up this interesting thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/2dc68y/in_medieval_england_how_mandatory_was_it_for/

The Emishi, apparently a people of northern Honshu, transitional between the Jomon period and the Ainu; the Japanese learned horse archery tactics from them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emishi

Ryukyuan religion: similar to Japan and Shinto in some ways, but with a much stronger role for women, with women priests and even priest-queens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryukyuan_religion

Benedict Arnold apparently said he betrayed the US because we were too friendly with Catholic France. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/americas-true-history-of-religious-tolerance-61312684/?all

***

Turkey apparently had banned some letters of the alphabet, for their association with Kurdish names. http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-pm-unveils-reforms-to-increase-rights-of-kurdish-minority/a-17128423
Turkey, ISIS, and the Kurds http://www.vox.com/2015/9/12/9312137/turkey-pkk-conflict

***

Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour's new leader http://www.vox.com/2015/9/12/9314779/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leader


***

Bernie Sanders vs. Black Lives Matter, leftism vs. liberalism on race and class
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/08/bernie-sanders-black-lives-matter-civil-rights-movement/
The black organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and
Freedom (it is telling that “Jobs and Freedom” are no longer part of
collective reflections of the march)

Sanders socialism
http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/27/434872755/exactly-what-kind-of-socialist-is-bernie-sanders
mindstalk: (Default)
So a while back I went through the kings of England from William the Conqueror on down, to see how well the principle of hereditary succession worked to keep things stable and predictable. Answer: not very well at all, until Parliament took over and drained the Crown of real power. As with the "emperors" of Japan, no one bothers stealing a ceremonial office. I will grant though they managed to keep it in the extended family: all the kings are descended from William, and after a couple generations they're all from Alfred the Great, too.

I'd wondered how other other places would stack up. Happily for me, for the Eastern Roman Empire someone has already done most of the work. Definitely not in the family here: a quick eyeball shows most dynasties lasting either a few years or about 80 years, almost on the dot. The Macedonian is an exception, listed at 200 years... though that's kind of an artifact of decision making. 50 years in we get Romanos I: "After becoming the emperor's father-in-law, he successively assumed higher offices until he crowned himself senior emperor." OTOH, he was overthrown and succeeded by the sons of his predecessor, so I guess he's more hiccup in the succession. We get another such hiccup with Nikephoros II and nephew.

Even within dynasties, succession is often to a brother, nephew, son-in-law(!), or adopted son(!). The first two are traditional enough, the latter less so. Succession is often not peaceful, either.

One big difference from the 'real' Roman Empire: a fair number (relatively speaking) of women in power. Empresses-regnant Pulcheria, Irene, Zoe, and Theodora; also a fair number of regencies by mothers, or in one case, a sister.
Female regents mentioned: Sophia for her insane husband, Martina for her son, Irene for her son (whom she then usurped), Theodora (different) for her son, Zoe (different) for her son, Eudokia for her son, Maria for her son.

The Komnenids seem second longest, at 104 years... ooh no, third; the final dynasty, the Palaiologans, went 192 years, and their founder had blood or marriage connections to the two prior dynasties. But this is still including civil wars, usurpations in the family, and accessions of maternal relatives.

To be fair, I've read that hereditary succession was never an official principle of either Roman empire, it was just a default, whereas having the right magical blood was important to the English.
mindstalk: (Default)
"The second myth is that in its appetite for death as spectacle the Triple Alliance was fundamentally different from Europe. Criminals beheaded in Palermo, heretics burned alive in Toledo, assassins drawn and quartered in Paris -- Europeans flocked ot every form of painful death imaginable, free entertainment that drew huge crowds... In most if not all European nations, the bodies were impaled on city walls and strung along highways as warnings. 'The corpses dangling from trees whose distant silhouettes stand out against the sky, in so many old paintings, are merely a realistic detail,' Braudel observed. 'They were part of the landscape.'"
-- Charles Man, 1491

Mann estimates England had twice the per capita execution rate of the Mexica, and France and Spain were even more bloodthirsty.

And the Mexica had had a bigger and cleaner city than any in Europe, that dazzled the conquistadors; public water projects more like those of the Romans than anything in medieval Europe; a developing philosophy; compulsory schooling for boys and girls alike...
mindstalk: (12KMap)
I was at Harvard's Semitic Museum (free!) today, and looked at a map, and had a thought:




So, the 'equator' of the Roman world runs NW-SE, from Britain into Egypt. Rome is practically right on the line. Tarentum, Athens, and Alexandria would also be good candidates. If you wanted to move the capital eastward, toward more of the people and wealth, then Greece, Crete, or Egypt look like great places. (Egypt's where Rome's grain was coming from anyway.) Maybe Syria or the Greek/Aegean side of Anatolia (Turkey)

Byzantium? Seems on the ass end of things. Note there's two narrow straits between the Aegean see and the Black Sea, and Byzantium is on the outer one, right on the Black Sea. And not much empire beyond it. Imagine trying to sail from Rome or Syria to Byzantium, seems rather a hassle, compared to other locations.

One thought is if Black Sea trade were really significant, much more so than I imagine it as the edge of the Mediterranean world, such that controlling the strait is important.

Wikipedia just says it had a good harbor and "Constantine identified the site of Byzantium as the right place: a place where an emperor could sit, readily defended, with easy access to the Danube or the Euphrates frontiers, his court supplied from the rich gardens and sophisticated workshops of Roman Asia, his treasuries filled by the wealthiest provinces of the Empire."

And obviously the defenses ended up being first rate. But still, it seems a weird place to pick as "eastern capital".