Monthly Archives: May 2014

I do

The wedding vow to Love, Honor and Obey is really saying the same thing in three separate languages. Love is the English word, Honor is from Latin, and Cherish is from the French. This was a way to make sure that everyone at a wedding ceremony in Medieval England knew what was being pledged.

(The Great Courses – Turning Points in Medieval History)

A BIG mistake in understanding a religion

When the Portuguese finally rounded Africa and made it to India they were convinced they had met up with Christians in India. To them everyone was either a Christian or a Muslim and they completely misinterpreted what the Indians were saying about their religion. Therefor they were convinced that they could get the Indians to side with them in a war against the Muslims. It took many years before the realized that the Indians were not Christians.

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

Can’t decide which one? Keep them all.

The current English language has a huge vocabulary and has synonyms that other languages do not have. That is because when the Latin (due to the church), Germanic (due to the original Germanic settlers) and French languages (due to the Norman invasion) were all being used in Medieval England instead of keeping one word for something the people just kept all the words. Things like Deer/Venison, Pigs/Pork, Hen/Chicken, Teeth/Dental and Mouth/Oral  are examples were different words for the same thing were kept. Live animals are usually the old English words and after they are cooked they are the Norman French words.

(The Great Courses – Turning Points in Medieval History)

Why did it take over 900 years to end this spat?

When the Roman Empire got big it was split into two halves with two emperors. One ruled the west in Rome and the other ruled the East from Constantinople. While the Christian Church was one entity they were starting to split along the same lines with the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch in Constantinople. A real schism occurred in 1054 AD over some doctrinal issues that caused the west to excommunicate the Patriarch in Constantinople who in turn excommunicated the Pope. This led to the current Catholic Church in Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy in Constantinople. They both finally withdrew the mutual excommunications in 1965 even though there is currently no movement towards a reunion of the churches.

To Merge or not to Merge that is the question

When the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tries to decide whether to allow of merger of two companies they use the HHI which is the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index. This is calculated by taking all the companies in a particular industry and adding the square of the market share of each company. If a company has a complete monopoly the index is 100*100 = 10,000 (one company with 100% market share). If there are 3 companies with market shares of  50%, 30% and 20% the index is (50*50) + (30*30) + (20*20) = 3800. The FTC looks at what the index would be after a merger. The general rule of thumb is that if the index will be less than 1000 then the merger is approved. If the index will be greater than 1800 then the merger would be blocked or approved only with some changes. If the index is between 1000 and 1800 then the merger will be reviewed and decided on a case by case basis. While this seems pretty straightforward there are sometimes questions about what constitutes an industry. Microsoft tried to argue that they did not have a near monopoly in desktop operating systems because of all the different gaming consoles which considerably diluted their market share…they were overruled.

(The Great Courses – Economics 3rd Edition)


More twists and turns than a good novel

After Napoleon was FINALLY defeated at Waterloo in 1815 he abdicated for the second and last time. European nations then convened the Congress of Vienna and reestablished the monarchy in France with Louis XVI’s brother who became Louis XVIII. (Louis the XVII was left open as the infant son of Louis XVI who died in prison). So the Cliff notes version is: In 1798 France started as a monarchy which was followed by the Revolution and the First Republic which was followed by the Empire under Napoleon until his first defeat and then a monarchy again. Then Napoleon returned from his exile at Elba for 100 days which ended at Waterloo and then the monarchy ruled again starting in 1815. In 1848 the French revolted yet again and established  the Second Republic. They elected as their president the nephew of Napoleon (!) who decided a few years later to overthrow the Republic and reestablish the empire with him as Napoleon III. This lasted 18 years before he was finally deposed and the Third Republic was formed and this one lasted until the invasion by Germany in the Second World War.

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

Any town would make a good capitol

When Germany was split up in Allied zones after WWII the west made Bonn the capitol. There had never been any tradition of government in Bonn, it just happened to be convenient because it was close to the small town where the first post war chancellor lived.

(Book – White House Years – Henry Kissinger)

A couple helping hands to try and rule the world

In 1799 the abbe Sieyes was a member of the ruling Directory of France. He wanted to overthrow the Directory and establish a more stable authoritarian regime. When a general who was successful in the Italian campaign returned from another campaign in Egypt he decided to enlist his aid…the generals name was Napoleon. The coup started off well but started to run into opposition when it was saved by a speech from the President of the Council of 500. The President named Lucian convinced the soldiers that Napoleon was no threat to liberty and it just so happened that Lucian was Napoleon’s brother.

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

Let’s try it again with interpreters

This first voyage of Columbus was considered a disaster since he brought back only 12 natives and no spices. The second voyage consisted of 17 ships and 1500 men and included Arabic and Hebrew interpreters since it was expected that everyone knew one of those languages.

(The Great Courses – The Other 1492)