Monthly Archives: April 2014

It’s not paranoia if it’s true

Upon becoming President Richard Nixon felt that many departments were against him. He felt that the CIA were Ivy-league intellectuals and the State Department was run by too many liberals. He appointed William Rogers as Secretary of State because he was a good administrator and lacked any knowledge of foreign affairs. He tried as best as possible to keep both groups out of meetings. When Kissinger flew to China to open negotiations the Secretary of State did not find out until Kissinger was already on the flight.

(Book – The White House Years – Henry Kissinger)

Just a small discovery on the way to India

When Vasco Da Gama made his first voyage to India from Portugal around Africa, instead of sailing close to the African coast the entire way he sailed a little west into the Atlantic to catch a current which assisted his voyage south. When the second Portuguese trip made the same journey Captain Cabral went a little too far west and ended up reporting that he discovered ‘an island’ on his way south. That ‘island’ turned out to be Brazil.

(Book – The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama – Nigel Cliff)

What year is it?

A large element of the French revolution was the secularization of society. Religion was seen as irrational superstition. One of the innovations after the revolution was the creation of a new calendar with DAY 1 being September 22, 1792. Since the old calendar revolved around religion on Sundays the new calendar changed the weeks to have 10 day weeks which were called decades. The calendar also eliminated all religious holidays like Christmas, Easter and Lent. The new holidays were in commemoration of the Revolution. The calendar actually was in use all the way up until 1805.

(The Great Courses – Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon)

Where are we today?

While Columbus was sailing west the Portuguese were sailing south around Africa. They were the first westerners to cross the equator which provided a special problem. As they crossed into the Southern Hemisphere they could no longer see the North Star to tell the latitude of where they were. Since they were the first to have this problem they had to create a new way to tell their latitude. They used the sun by measuring the suns height at noon. Unfortunately clocks were not yet perfected for telling time at sea (which meant the longitude still could not be determined with accuracy). So they had to take measurements throughout the day to determine at which point the sun was the highest. They also had to create tables to take into account the fact the the sun did not make a perfect path in the sky throughout the year.

(Book – The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama – Nigel Cliff)

They believed what they wanted to be true

Starting around he 12th century the fable of Prestor John was invented. He was supposed to be the leader of a wealthy Christian kingdom in the far east. This fable continued into the 15th century with Popes and Kings writing to him to help them in their quest to defeat Islam. Despite the centuries of time these leaders had no problem believing that Prestor John still existed and that he would eventually be found.

(Book – The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama – Nigel Cliff)

Could this have been community living without a leader?

In the area now known as southern Turkey is the site of the largest know Neolithic settlement. It is called Catalhoyuk and it was populated between 7500 BCE and 6000 BCE. It appears that there were about 5000-8000 people living there. They lived in densely packed households whose only entrance was from the roof. They were mainly an agricultural group with domesticated goats. However, the cattle remains appear to be from wild cattle so it appears that cattle domestication had not occurred yet. Most of the activity appears to have been household oriented and there is little evidence of community organization which means this was not a ‘state’ as we know it. Each house was constantly re-plastered during the 75-100 years lifespan of each house. Dead family members were buried beneath the floors of a house and then dug up for ceremonial purposes.

(The Great Courses – The Origin of Civilization)

Religion and economics are intertwined

When Christopher Columbus sailed west and Vasco Da Gama sailed around Africa to look for new routes to India and China they were not just looking to find a more profitable route. They were looking for ANY route. With the rise of Islam around 610 AD and the Crusades starting around 1000 AD which cemented animosity between Christianity and Islam the eastern land route was closed off to the west.

(Book – The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama  – Nigel Cliff)

French was not the official language…yet

During the beginning of the French Revolution most of the peasants got their news orally as most were illiterate. Even if they knew how to read the newspapers from Paris would not have helped as only about 20% of them spoke French. Flemish, German and other languages were spoken as well as some French.

(The Great Courses – Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon)