Sunday, November 30, 2014

History: The Year is 1481

I've uploaded year 1481 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Buying a New Sultan -- Two brothers fight over the throne of the Ottoman Empire so one brother tries to buy the other off. After the other brother is captured by the Christians, the new Sultan pays the Pope to keep his brother prisoner. It was a lot of money. A whole lot. I also talk about how things get more expensive for those with less money.

Columbus: A Fortunate Mistake -- Christopher Columbus receives a letter including a map of the world that is WRONG but it spurs him on to organize a voyage west to Asia. I also talk about the Moon launch in the 1960s and the reasons why we try things and not just think about doing things.

Buying a New Sultan

Before Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror of the Ottoman Empire dies, he tells his Grand Vizir that he wants his younger son, Cem, to rule instead of his older son, Bayezid. When the Sultan dies, the Grand Vizir moves the Sultan's body to Constantinople to give the younger son the opportunity to get there first to claim the throne but Bayezid shows up and is crowned king. The fighting begins. Bayezid offers to buy the throne from his half-brother to the tune of $436,000 in modern currency. Cem turns the deal down. After a fierce battle, Cem is captured by Christians and turned over to the Pope who threatens to release Cem if the Ottomans should attack the Christians. Bayezid pays the Pope 120,000 crowns (equivalent to the Pope's entire revenues in a year), the Spear of Longinus (that was used to pierce the side of Jesus as he hung from the cross) 100 slaves and an annual payment of 45,000 ducats which is around $6 million dollars (as of November 2014). Problem solved. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
It is obvious that the Ottoman Turks have a lot of money on hand. A lack of good financing was the chronic problem of the Eastern Roman Empire. The old Greek Emperor began under-capitalized and could never pay his bills. He would debase his currency which spurred the creation of the Venetian Ducat and the Florin as a standard of payment. (It's like demanding that international transactions be paid in dollars which can be difficult to come by if your local currency is being debased on a weekly basis.) When the word gets out that you don't pay your bills, things get MORE expensive... not less. That is because there is a real possibility that one might not get paid, so the risk gets built into the price. Even though the Ottoman Turks are covering the same basic region that the Eastern Roman Empire once did, their costs are a lot less and they are on the upswing. People are willing to back a winner and they will offer a discount to reap those rewards.

Columbus: A Fortunate Mistake

There is no "flat earth society" amongst the educated at this time. Most people believe that the Earth is a sphere but they disagree as to how big a sphere it is. Christopher Columbus believes that the Earth is 18,000 miles in circumference. (It is actually, around 24,900 miles measured along the equator.) The scientist and mapmaker, Paolo Toscanelli, is firmly in the camp that believes that Asia is just a hop, skip and a jump away, so he writes a letter to the Portuguese who have been looking for a route around Africa and a second letter to Christopher Columbus including a map that shows Cathay (that is, China) just 3,000 miles west of Europe. Columbus is convinced that the voyage is worth trying. The Portuguese will disagree and turn down Columbus's proposal but they will pass him on to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. [7] [8] [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
This is where science gets it really, really WRONG but it turns out better than one could expect. It's sort of like going to the Moon in a redesigned ICBM missile guided by a computer that is less powerful than a kid's pocket calculator. What kind of knucklehead would do that? Well... the United States did that in the 1960s because it was competing with the Soviet Union over which political system was best for mankind. The science of the the 60s was not advanced, but the attempt to reach the Moon spurred research that has changed our lives today. In 2014, going to the Moon should be a cake walk. President Obama has set a goal for Mars, but so far, the USA can't even send people into near orbit any more. Despite all we can do as a survival community one thing is certain... this ball of dirt has an expiration date. Setting aside a belief in man-made global warming or a religious end-of-days scenario, the end is not near. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not in our lifetimes. Not even in our great, great grandchildren's lifetimes but SOME time. We explore the unknown because ultimately, TRYING TO DO SOMETHING is substantially different from THINKING about doing something. [10] [11] [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1481, Wikipedia.

History: The Year is 1480

I've uploaded year 1480 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Fortifications of Rhodes and the Martyrs of Otranto -- The Ottomans shoot a guy in the head and he comes back the next week for more. And... the Ottomans behead 813 Christians in Naples. They are sainted by Pope Francis in 2013.

The Great Stand on the Ugra River -- The Russians make the final break from the Mongols and begin their expansion out of the Volga river region.

Faust is Born but Will He Die? -- Faust is best known as a fictional character who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and worldly pleasures, but he actually existed in real life.

The Fortifications of Rhodes and the Martyrs of Otranto

The island of Rhodes is the site of many a famous battle. Currently it is being defended by the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian order established to minister to the poor and sick. Now they fight to defend Christian lands from the Ottoman Turks. Gabriele de Martinengo is one such Knight. He has a talent for designing fortifications and while he is fighting against the Turks, he take a bullet to the head... right in the eye. The bullet passes through and by next week he is ready to fight the Ottomans again. A few months later, the Ottomans move on Naples where 813 Christians are beheaded after the city of Otranto falls and the Christians there refuse to convert to Islam. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Ottoman attack on Naples is sometimes called the Invasion of Italy. I included it here because it was a significant historical event with some relevance today. Those 813 Christians were made into saints by Pope Francis in 2013. I included the story of the fortifications of Rhodes because of the cool story about a guy getting a bullet in the head and he keeps on going. I suspect his eye got hit at an angle so that it exited out the side of his head rather than through the brain although I have no details proving it one way or the other. [4]

The Great Stand on the Ugra River

Ivan the Young has been named Grand Prince of Moscow by his father, Ivan the 3rd, the Grand Prince of Rus. His father believes in giving his son real responsibilities so that the people can get comfortable with him as a ruler. As the Mongol Golden Horde comes looking for tribute from Moscow, Ivan the Young goes out to meet them with several regiments. The Mongols refuse to engage so it becomes a standoff at the Ulgra River. Meanwhile, Ivan the 3rd pressures the other princes to send reinforcements. As the army builds, the Mongols back off. This marks the final break from Mongol domination and begins Russia's expansion from the Volga / Oka River region westward. By next year the Mongol Golden Horde will break apart after the death of their leader, Ahmed Khan. [5] [6] [7]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Ivan the Young will die young. His father, Ivan the 3rd, will become one of the longest living of the Russian rulers. He was aggressive, dominating his brothers and eventually gathering all their lands under the rule of "the Tzar" as he styled himself. The break-up of the Golden Horde will free Russia eventually to dominate Crimea and take land away from Lithuania which, at this time, covers a very large region.

Faust is Born but Will He Die?

Nothing is signed in blood but the birth of Johann Faust [FAUWST] occurs around this time. There are a few facts about his life that can be separated from the fictional character of Faust who sells his soul to the devil. He will grow up to be a magician who eventually turns to alchemy, astrology and the medical arts. He will be dismissed from a teaching position because he is sodomizing his students. He will also be listed as a resident of Münster during the Anabaptist Rebellion. It is not clear if he was pro-Calvinist or Anti-Calvinist. He is definitely weird which is why historians initially did not believe he was a real person, but he is real enough. His life will become the subject of two major plays and his character comes up again and again as part of various stories into the modern day. [8] [9] [10]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The fictional character, Faust, sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and worldly pleasure, but apparently not wisdom. He will be saved due to a technicality. Several elements in the plays will be familiar to everyone such as the signing a contract with the devil in blood, the hubris of a man who thinks he can trick the devil, a good angel and a bad angel each encouraging Faust in their own way. The ending of one play had a very dark ending, but the audience disliked it so much that the author changed it to a happier ending. Too much tragedy is bad for business. [11] [12]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1480, Wikipedia.

History: The Year is 1479

I've uploaded year 1479 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Isabella and Ferdinand Rule Spain -- I mostly talk about the war of succession over the throne of Castile. Then I talk about Mexican nationals demanding that the old Castile lands of California, Texas, etc be returned... to who? Not Mexico, certainly. Mexico stole it from Spain... and France... and the Aztecs!

Isabella and Ferdinand Rule Spain

The War of Castillian Succession comes to an end when Princess Joanna's supporters finally submit to Isabella's rule of Castile. How did the war start? Princess Joanna's father, the King of Castile, named her as the heir apparent in 1462. However, it was rumored that she was the child of her mother's adulterous affair. The nobility forced the king to name a new heir. He finally names his half-sister, Isabella, but when the king dies, there is a fight for the throne. Isabella has lots of support so Princess Joanna marries the King of Portugal who happens to be her uncle... yuk! He also has an army. After 4 years of fighting, Queen Isabella has won the throne. And she has done this while giving birth to a child this year. This child will eventually succeed her to the Castillian throne. She will be known as: Joanna the Mad. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Crown of Castile will eventually include large portions of modern day Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and Mexico. When Mexican nationals make a claim to the lands of the USA once owned by Mexico, they are suggesting, in the case of Texas, that a war of independence is not a legitimate way for a nation to possess land. Thus the old Republic of Texas should return its lands to Mexico. But if that is true, Mexico should return its lands to the King of Spain since Mexico won their independence from Spain. Mexico also won their independence from France on Cinco de Mayo in 1862. Perhaps they should return their lands to France... or the Aztecs for that matter. Of course, if Mexico wants Texas back, perhaps they should "Come and Take It!" [6] [7] [8] Lest anyone think there is some racism involved here, I am an Hispanic (Alex Shrugged is)... a real one from the barrios of East LA. My aunt once told me we have a lot of Indian blood in us, but I'd say we are mostly Castillian.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1479, Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

History: The Year is 1478

I've uploaded year 1478 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition! -- The infamous Spanish Inquisition is established this year against the wishes of the Pope (but he caves anyway). I then talk about the forced conversion of Spanish Jews and the descendents of those same Jews living in Texas today.

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition is established this year in Spain. At this time the modern day "Spain" does not exist, but the monarchies of Castile and Aragon have joined in the secret marriage of Queen Isabelle the 1st and King Ferdinand the 2nd. (It is not clear how secret the marriage is since they had to get the permission of the Pope first.) The Spanish Inquisition is created after Queen Isabella receives three reports of crypto-Jews who have pretended to convert to Christianity but continue to practice Judaism in secret. One of the reports comes from Tomás de Torquemada, who will become the infamous Inquisitor. While it is clear that Pope Sixtus the 4th doesn't like the idea of a special Inquisition, Queen Isabella threatens to remove military support for the Pope so he finally allows it. By 1492, the Jews will be expelled from Spain. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I'm going to ignore the running joke of Monty Python's Flying Circus and ask the serious question: Were there really secret Jews amongst the Christians in the 15th century? The answer is "Yes". The 15th century began forced conversions of Jews and while many of these conversions were sincere, a substantial number were not. When one's life is on the line, some folks are willing to swear to anything. In secret these Jews would light candles on Friday night with the shades down. Such crypto-Jews exist in the modern day... especially in Texas. They are not Jews in the literal sense but they retain some Jewish practices and marry amongst themselves. I've met one couple in Austin who were crypto-Jews that converted to Judaism. They are fine folks and not at all unusual in Texas.[3]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1478, Wikipedia.

History: The Year is 1477

I've uploaded year 1477 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The "Mount Pinatubo" of Iceland, Then and RIGHT NOW! --A volcano in Iceland blows it's top like Mount Pinatubo. That same volcano is active today and a warning is out.

The "Mount Pinatubo" of Iceland, Then and RIGHT NOW!

Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland goes up like Mount Pinatubo. This eruption is rated a 6 out of 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. In other words, it's not the Apocalypse, but if you were anywhere near it you certainly thought the end was near, right before the end came... for you. It is putting out an amazing amount of ash and lava. Pyroclastic flows are a wave front of superheated gas and rock, traveling for miles at super-speed, destroying everything in it's path. Although lava in Iceland is more-or-less like lava in Hawaii, the Bardarbunga volcano has been VERY explosive in the past and over it's life, it has put out more lava than any other volcano. [1] [2] [3] [4]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Just so you know, the Bardarbunga volcano became active again in AUGUST 2014! This current eruption has put out the second most amount of lava in Iceland since the 18th century. Could it explode? Yes, it could. Will it explode? Iceland is under an alert but even volcano experts cannot predict such things very far in advance... and in some cases... they cannot predict the time of a volcanic explosion at all. [5] [6] [7]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1477, Wikipedia.

History: The Year is 1476

I've uploaded year 1476 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Dracula is Dead... for Now -- Vlad the 3rd the Impaler dies in battle. He is buried at the cemetery of a local abbey but years later his grave will be unearthed and they will find nothing but a few animal bones. I also talk about a novel "Out of the Dark" that combines vampires, alien invasion and a survivalist theme.

The Plague Kills the Calendar Fix -- A German astronomer named Muller, is called to Rome to fix the Julian calendar but he dies of the Plague. I then talk about last names and how they are formed from the names of towns, occupations and even after one's own father.

Dracula is Dead... for Now

Vlad the 3rd the Impaler is more commonly known as Dracula... that is... Son of the Dragon. The King of Hungary had established a special Christian Order of the Dragon, pledged to fight the Ottoman Turks. Vlad the 2nd was a member of the Order and was given the name Dracul. Vlad the 3rd, being his son, was called Dracula. Dracula was a very good Ottoman killer. He would drain the blood from the bodies of his enemies and leave them impaled on wooden stakes. In this year he has organized several armies to hit the Ottomans once again but his fortunes take a turn for the worst. He dies in battle near Bucharest. It is not clear how he dies, but the Ottomans find his body and send Dracula's head to the Sultan. The Sultan has the head raised on a pike. While he remains an infamous figure to most of the world, Romania has embraced him as a hero. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
By tradition Dracula's body is buried at Snagov Monastery in present day Romania, but when explorers attempted to exhume the body, the grave was empty. Only a few animal bones were found. (shudder!) If you enjoy a good story that involves Romania, Dracula and a survivalist theme, you can't do better than David Weber's novel "Out of the Dark". The book begins with a family in the USA who have set up a bug out location that is also a country retreat. Everyone thinks that "Dad" is a little nutty, but he's been stocking the place up and thinking about possible disasters. Then the craziest disaster occurs. Earth is invaded by aliens. I won't give away the ending, but the story follows several characters around the world as they attempt to avoid capture. One character is a military man who gets dropped in Romania and who meets some mountain people who seem to have no fear of being killed. (wink, wink) The story is a little silly but the author approaches the problem of survival seriously. [4]

The Plague Kills the Calendar Fix

Johann Müller is a German astronomer and the son of a miller... which is probably why his last name is "Müller." However, he is best known as Regiomontanus [ree-gee-oh-mon-TAY-nus] which means "king's mountain." It is the place of his birth. It's like being born in Laredo and thereafter being known as "The Man from Laredo." He has learned Greek so that he can study the ancient astronomy books in the original. He has also studied what is now known as Halley's comet. It is the first time such objects are studied in a formal manner instead of being seen as an omen. He has become so famous that he has been summoned by the Pope to help fix the Julian calendar. Unfortunately, the Black Death will take him this year in Rome. A fix for the calendar is DENIED! [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Last names are becoming the norm during this time. They are shortening up their names, so "Richard of York" is shortened to "Richard York". Last names can be tied to an occupation like Baker, Miller, Smith (meaning blacksmith) or Smithson (the blacksmith's son). The name "Wasserman" probably refers to an ancestor who carried water for the town, or lived near the water. There is also the patronymic [pat-trow-NIM-ick] method of naming... being named after your father. If you watch the credits for the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (2013), which was filmed in Iceland, you will notice an inordinate number of people with nearly the same last name. It is a patronymic formula: Ólafsson means son of Ólaf and Haraldsdóttir means daughter of Harald. My own name would be Alex Alexson since my father's name was Alex.[7]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1476, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

History: The Year is 1475

I've uploaded year 1475 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Hebrew in Print -- Abraham Garton will set Hebrew in print. The first will be a book of biblical commentary by a rabbi best known as Rashi. Garton will use a special typeface that is so distinctive that it will forever thereafter be known as Rashi script even though Rashi has been dead for over 350 years.

Balboa is Born... not Rocky... the OTHER Balboa -- This fellow will grow up to discover the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately for him, there is no money in discovering large bodies of water.

Michelangelo is Born... not the Turtle... the Artist -- Apparently Michelangelo was born with a chisel in his hand, but he will grow up to become one of the greatest of the Renaissance artists.

Hebrew in Print

Any study of the first five books of the Bible should include the commentary of Rabbi Sholmo Yitzchaki [shih-LOW-moe yitz-HAH-key (close enough)], more popularly known as Rashi [RAH-shee]. His commentary is concise, and enlightening. He died in 1105 but his commentary lives on, at first copied by hand. Now it will appear in print, the first book to be printed in Hebrew using the new printing press. Abraham Garton will use a new typeface for Rashi's commentary to distinguish it from the biblical text. The new typeface will be known thereafter as Rashi Script even though Rashi had nothing to do with it. It remains in print to this day.[1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
A large part of the Jewish world thinks that Rashi is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm not one of them. Thus I was never that interested in learning how to read Rashi script. I'm a fan of Ramban [rahm-bahn] (also known as Nahmanides [nahk-MAHN-ih-deez]). His five volume set of commentary sits on the bookshelf behind me. It was written some time in the 1200s. From my point of view Ramban takes a more logical approach to the biblical texts. (I could say more but then it gets into issues too technical to handle in a sentence or two, so I'll leave it there.)[4]

Balboa is Born... not Rocky... the OTHER Balboa

The man who will discover the Pacific Ocean is born this year in Spain near the border of Portugal. His name is Vasco Núñez de Balboa. In the modern day he will become so popular it seems that his name is placed on just about everything from high schools, parks, cities and a really, really expensive island in Newport Beach, California. He is no relation to Rocky Balboa, though. [5] [6] [7]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Balboa was the biggest loser of the New World. It seemed that no matter what he did, he was always one step ahead of his creditors. Eventually, they will catch up with him... resulting in his beheading in 1517. Apparently there was no money in discovering large bodies of water.

Michelangelo is Born... not the Turtle... the Artist

Michelangelo is born in the town of Caprese. Shortly thereafter his father, a judicial administrator, will move the family to Florence. When Michelangelo's mother becomes ill, he will live with a stone-cutter's family. Michelangelo is quoted as saying: "Giorgio, if I have anything of genius, it came to me from being born in the subtle air of your country of Arezzo, while from my nurse I got the chisel and hammer with which I make my figures." He will show an early talent and by the age of 14, Michelangelo will amaze people with his drawings. Along with Leonardo Da Vinci, he will be considered one the the greatest of the Renaissance artists. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Michelangelo is best known for his statue of David, and the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Oddly enough he wasn't supposed to paint the ceiling. He was actually commissioned to produce a statue in the likeness of the Pope but that deal fell through so he was given the job of painting the ceiling.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1475, Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

History: The Year is 1474

I've uploaded year 1474 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The First Modern Patent -- Venice authorizes the first modern patent. I also talk about the important of patents, and the problem with software patents.

Plato and the Ethics of Translation -- The works of Plato are translated into Latin. I then talk about the problems with translating anything. It is always an interpretation. Just so you know. You are being led... or misled depending on your perspective.

Commerce Wars and the Sinking of the Lusitania -- England and the German Hansards wrap up their war over attacks on shipping. England lost. I also talk about the German sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 which contributed to drawing the USA into World War 1.

The First Modern Patent

The Patent Act of Venice was the first attempt to register and protect their inventions. This is more significant that it may seem at first. The Republic of Venice covers a much larger region than the city located in modern day Italy. It includes the coast of Dalmatia which is part of Croatia. [1] They also rule over Korfu, Cyprus, parts of Ukraine and Russia. That doesn't include all the countries with which they have trading agreements. They also have a powerful (if diminishing) navy to enforce their regulations. At this time Venice sets the standard for the gold ducat (meaning "duke's coin") to the point where the single word "ducat" now means the coin from Venice. [2] [3] [4] [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Enforceable patents are an important advance. It draws investment money to your country, and gets your smartest citizens thinking of more efficient, and economic ways to do things. Most importantly it allows those products to get to market before they are copied. Eventually a government wants the product copied, thus allowing a good product to propagate. (A good example are generic drugs.) That is why the patent time is shorter than copyright, but a business must make their fortune. The problem with patents occurred in 1962 in the UK and 1972 in the USA when the patent office allowed software patents. As a part owner of a software patent myself, I see the value of such patents but the patent office cannot discern between a unique software method and a vague idea like "podcasting." This has caused the phenomenon of "patent trolls" who wait for people like Adam Carolla to make enough money to be worth suing. The major pitfall of software patents is the patent office itself. I see no way to fix the patent office so I am convinced that software patents should be disallowed. [6] [7]

Plato and the Ethics of Translation

Latin is the language of scholars. The works of Plato are written in an ancient Greek no longer used except in Constantinople. With the fall of Constantinople those people have moved west and have fueled an interest in ancient Greek works once more. Marsilio Ficino [mar-SEE-lee-o Feh-CHEE-no] is an Italian priest who has been laboring long and hard to translate the works of Plato into Latin so that western scholars can study Plato once more. Although he has released partial translations before this time, this year he has finished his work and has unleashed it all on the world. [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
A modern reader of an ancient text can be baffled or misled by things unsaid. Remember that ANY translation is ALWAYS an interpretation. Even a so-called "literal translation" can be misleading because there are assumptions made by the author about what the reader knows or doesn't know that a literal translation does not capture. Example: Would a story about a journey by car across the United States in the 1950s make sense to a reader of the 31st century with anti-grav flying cars? Will he understand that "stopping for gas" means more than just refueling? There is always something unsaid in any communication. It is assumed the reader will understand through context, but context is difficult to translate into another language. Your translator is leaving stuff out or adding things in order to provide that context, so that you'll not be misled too much. Just remember that unless you are reading in the original yourself, the translator is leading you like a tour guide. He's hitting what HE THINKS is the most important stuff, but you might not agree if you knew what he was leaving out. [9]

Commerce Wars and the Sinking of the Lusitania

How the war started: The King of Denmark and Iceland prohibited trade between Iceland and any other nation. This created a lucrative smuggling business. Englishmen from the town of Lynn ran ships into Iceland and ports in Germany making good money against the law and incidentally murdering a governor and his family in Iceland. A fellow named Christian was upset by this illegal activity and attacked Lynn's shipping. (This was considered a perfectly reasonable thing to do at the time.) Christian gave fair warning to every town in England (except Lynn). The Hanseatic League (or Hansards) tipped off Christian to Lynn's activities and that snitching (not the murder nor smuggling, nor attacks on shipping) enraged King Edward the 4th and had the Hansards in England arrested. Thus began a war between the Hansards and the English. After four years of the Hansards kicking the backside of King Edward at sea, he finally signs a peace treaty, offering them ownership of the London Steelyard. A Hansard warehouse will be constructed in Lynn next year where the building will remain until the modern day. [10] [11] [12]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Lusitania was an English passenger ship sunk by the Germans in 1915 during World War 1 before the USA had joined the war. It was classified as a passenger cruiser but it was carrying war munitions and thus was a legitimate target of war. Nevertheless, Germany took out ads in US newspapers warning Americans about the Lusitania because Germany didn't want to give the USA an excuse to get in the war. A German U-boat finally put a torpedo into the ship. It went to the bottom in 18 minutes. When the Americans learned that 128 US citizens had drowned, they were outraged. This incident contributed to the declaration of war by Congress and President Woodrow Wilson in 1917. Wilson had run for President a year earlier under the slogan "he kept us out of war". [13] [14]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1474, Wikipedia.

Monday, November 24, 2014

History: The Year is 1473

I've uploaded year 1473 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Before There was Gresham's Law... -- It was called Copernicus' Law. Nicolaus Copernicus is born this year. He will is not only an astronomer but an economist. I also talk about the debasing of the currency in Massachusetts in 1690.

The Canon of Medicine in Print -- An book of medicine from the 11th century goes to print. It is in Latin but it was originally in Arabic. I also talk about broken civilizations and the need to write things down.

Before There was Gresham's Law...

Gresham's Law says that bad money pushes out the good but before it was known as Gresham's Law, it was called Copernicus' Law. Nicolaus Copernicus is born this year. Most people will know him as an astronomer and theorist who proved that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around, but he will offer that theory near the end of his life. Long before that time he will become an expert in religious law, speak fluently in several languages, work as a physician, and as an economist. He will formalize several economic theories that will be improved upon over the centuries. Aside from Gersham's Law, he will derive the "Quantity Theory of Money" that most economists agree is true in the long run that the quantity of currency and the average velocity of currency will influence the price of goods though it won't entirely determine the price. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I understand the basics of economics, but I am no expert. So... in my non-expert opinion.... there is always a temptation for government to debase the currency, adding lesser valued metals into their coins. This creates the feeling one gets when one holds a US dollar coin. The coin is barely larger than a quarter; weighs nearly the same; it looks the same and it is difficult to believe that it represents 4 times the value. Thus the dollar coin has never been a popular a coin. In 1690 when Massachusetts began printing it's own paper money, it was wasn't intended to become money. They simply had a shortage of English pounds and printed these... IOUs. People traded them between each other (at a discount) and then the government had a "bright" idea of printing more of these IOUs. It was free money... for a while but people caught on and the whole system collapsed. Massachusetts was forced to go back to using coins until they could try it again. It becomes a cycle that has yet to stop.[4]

The Canon of Medicine in Print

As the Gutenberg printing press spreads across Europe there will be many "firsts" in printing. This year, the Canon of Medicine will be set in print. It was originally written in Arabic by Avicenna, a Persian philosopher of the 11th century. His book was translated into Latin and this is the version printed this year. It will remain in use well into the 17th century. [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
One of the reasons why Arab civilization is seen as so advanced is because of books like this one. Also Arabic numerals and the number "zero" come from the ancient Arabs but those Arabs were long gone by the 15th century. They were generally wiped out by the Mongols as they came riding through swinging their swords from horseback. That broke the cycle of civilization for the Arab culture. How can one pass on the learning of hundreds of years when all the teachers are dead? This same problem was faced by the Jews around the year 200 when the Romans had wiped out so many Jewish scholars that there was a real possibility that all Jewish learning would be lost. Judah the Prince took on the task of writing everything down in a book that would grow over the centuries to become the Talmud. [6]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1473, Wikipedia.

History: The Year is 1472

I've uploaded year 1472 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Banking on Italy -- The Bank of the "Mountain of Pity" in Siena is the oldest bank still in business today. It may not be in business much longer, but it is today.

Leonardo Joins an Artists Guild -- If you want to work as an independent artist you must join a guild.That doesn't mean you'll actually get work but if you aren't a member of the guild you may very well be locked OUT of work.

1st Printed Book on Astronomy -- The author figured out how to fix the Julian calendar but no one noticed. They will notice this book though.

Banking on Italy

The third largest bank of modern day Italy is established this year and will remain in continuous operation. The name of the bank is "Monte dei Pietà" which means "Mountain of Pity" or Lamentation. The bank has since changed its name to "Monte dei Paschi di Siena" [mon-tay day pas-kee dee see-EN-ah] (MPS). It is located in Siena which is under the influence of Florence. In another 5 years or so, the political situation in Siena will become so chaotic, the city will opt for a dictatorship. Florence will come under a single ruler shortly thereafter. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
"Mountain of Pity" is not the best name for a bank, but it is probably a religious reference to the death of Jesus. It would make sense to the people of the time and reassure the locals of the piety of the management. These days (October 2014) the bank is under a cloud. According to the "stress test" required by the European Central Bank (ECB), the bank is overextended in loans. Too many loans means they are vulnerable to a wide-spread downturn in the economy. When people are out of work or go out of business, they cannot pay what they owe you. This is a normal part of business but if one is too far out on the limb when that happens, the branch breaks and you go down with your customers. The bank's shares fell 20% on the recent news. [4] [5]

Leonardo Joins an Artists Guild

Leonardo da Vinci joins the Guild of Artists of Florence. This is quite a feat since he is only 22 years old. This is also the time when he will begin such works as "The Baptism of Christ" with his teacher, Andrea del Verrocchio. Many paintings of the day were collaborative works with pupils painting backgrounds and minor characters in a scene or taking on extra work that the master didn't have time for. At this point Leonardo is definitely doing the grunt work. If he wants to strike out on his own he must be a member of the guild. Of course it costs money to join and it's not so much that the guild gets you work, but that NOT being in the guild definitely locks you out of work. [6] [7] [8] [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Renaissance artists are praised for their marvelous work, and their work is marvelous. It's also work. There are no photographs so people commission artists to produce sculptures and especially portraits. It's considered a job like a wedding photographer is today! It you want a mail-order bride from a baron hundreds of miles away, and you don't want to travel, you commission an artist to travel the distance and paint the portrait of your potential bride. He brings it back so that you can make sure you aren't being slipped her ugly step-sister. And you make sure it's YOUR MONEY paying for the artist. Otherwise, like a dating site, the picture may bear no resemblance to the actual person. For those worried about equality of the sexes... yes... women sent artists to paint the portrait of potential husbands.

1st Printed Book on Astronomy

Johannes de Sacrobosco [sack row BOSS koh] figured out how to fix the Julian calendar, but no one noticed. Nevertheless, his books will be required reading for a basic introduction to astronomy for the next 200 years. [10] [11]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
It's not clear to me why no one paid attention to his ideas for fixing the Julian calendar. It probably derives from the fact that he didn't come to the attention of the people who needed to know.... like the Pope who set the calendar.

 This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1472, Wikipedia.

History: The Year is 1471

I've uploaded year 1471 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Comparisons Are Odious: Ferguson and Middle Ages Justice -- John Fortescue is the judge who wrote "Commendation of the Laws of England" which is remembered for two popular quotes. I also talk about the importance of judicial procedure in Ferguson, Missouri.

In a Word: Tangerine... Mocha... and the Beatles -- The Portuguese take the port city of Tangier and inadvertently the name of the citrus fruit takes on the name of the port of Tangier... Tangerines. Mocha is the port were coffee beans come from and I make an interesting connection between coffee, the invasion of Tangier and the Beatles.

Comparisons Are Odious: Ferguson and Middle Ages Justice

John Fortescue is a judge of the King's bench and unswervingly loyal to King Henry the 6th. After King Henry was deposed, John fled with the family and began the education of the young Prince of Wales. He wrote a book to help with that education. It is entitled "Commendation of the Laws of England." Obviously the judge is unhappy with the English justice system as it is. The book won't be published for another 70 years, but it will be remembered in the modern day for two quotes:
  • "Comparisons Are Odious"
  • "One would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally."
My Take by Alex Shrugged
People who oppose capital punishment generally use the above quote to justify NEVER putting someone to death for a capital crime, but the quote is actually advocating using strict judicial procedure and rules of evidence. It is human nature to want to win, to get vengeance, to bring justice to the guilty, to blame someone... anyone... when one feels wronged. In Ferguson, Missouri, Mr. Brown lays dead. The mob demands that someone be blamed. The Grand Jury must consider the evidence carefully, using strict procedure. Lives hang in the balance. However it turns out, whoever lives or dies, when we use the rule of law and strict procedure, we have done the best we can and leave the rest to God. [1] [2] Just to be clear, it seems to me that the police officer did the best he could. However, all I know is what has come from the media and the media is notorious for getting things wrong... so ... however it turns out, if we follow procedure, we know we have done our best even if we get it wrong. People get the most angry when the procedures are circumvented for the sake of (fill-in-the-blank).

In a Word: Tangerine... Mocha... and the Beatles

The Portuguese invade what is known today as Tangier, Morocco in north Africa. They want to establish a colony there since it was once a Christian stronghold. They had tried an invasion years before but this time it's going to work. Tangier will become a base of operations and a major shipping port for centuries to come. Like the port of Mocha in Yemen which shipped coffee beans, a special product will take on the name of the port of Tangier from which it is shipped... Tangerines. [3] [4] [5] [6]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
I was surprised to find that another word is associated with the invasion of Tangier. A few years ago the map the Portuguese used to invade Tangier was found. It included the plans for the kasbah. A kasbah [kahz-bah] is an Old English word describing a small defensive fort that a leader will retreat to when the city is under attack. I am old enough to remember the phrase "Meet me at the Casbah". The Casbah Coffee Club was a popular coffee house started in a family basement in Liverpool, England in the 1950s. It was a place where young people would go to listen to that newfangled rock and roll. It is also the place where the Beatles got their first booking but the family made them paint the basement before they could play. [7] [8]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1471, Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

History: The Year is 1470

I've uploaded year 1470 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

The Return of the King and Sanctuary Cities -- King Edward the 4th of England is forced to flee leaving a pregnant Queen Elizabeth to claim sanctuary from the Church. This is an ancient claim from biblical times. I also talk about sanctuary cities which are neither ancient nor legal.

Game of Thrones: The Last Feudal Battle -- Feudal lords used to do battle with the armies they could muster from the local peasantry. This will be the last time they do that, but it relates to trial by combat and the Boston Tea Party. Trial by combat may be dumb but it's STILL LEGAL!

The Return of the King and Sanctuary Cities

The former Queen of England, Margaret of Anjou, must spearhead the rebellion against the Yorkists. She and "Warwick the Kingmaker" attack King Edward the 4th of England forcing him and his eldest son to flee to Flanders in a small boat. Left behind are his princess-daughters and his pregnant wife, Queen Elizabeth. She makes a claim of sanctuary at Westminster Abby. (Sanctuary allows one to avoid the king's wrath by asking for the protection of the Church.) In the crypt of a church, the Queen gives birth to a baby boy, Edward. King Henry the 6th is returned to the throne. He will die of "grief" next year... a short 6 months away... after King Edward retakes the throne and King Henry's son, the Prince of Wales, is killed in battle. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
When Queen Elizabeth sought refuge in a church, she was making an ancient claim of asylum. In the days of the Bible, if you accidentally killed a man, the family could take your life unless you could reach a "city of refuge." In the Middle Ages, the idea of asylum was extended to the sanctuary of a church, if you could walk through the church doors. In the modern day, if you can step through the doors of the embassy of your native country you are protected from the retribution of the host country. These are all well accepted legal ideas, but "sanctuary cities" for illegal aliens has no meaning under the law. City law enforcement and bureaucrats look the other way by claiming that they are not obligated to enforce federal law. If that is true then why will the city police hand me a ticket if I violate the law on a state or federal highway? I smell BS. [6] [7] [8]

Game of Thrones: The Last Feudal Battle

Trial by combat is not exactly illegal but it is no longer an option in court for settling one's differences. Yet it still happens. Thomas Talbot is the 2nd Baron Lisle. His grandmother has died. This means he inherits her holdings which include a disputed claim to the lands of William of Berkley, the 1st Marquee. Naturally, Marquee Berkley disputes the claim, so Baron Lisle challenges Berkeley to a trail by combat to settle the dispute. By "combat" they mean a battle between feudal armies. The barons don't maintain large standing armies but they can muster the local peasants to fight on their behalf. The Battle of Nibley Green will be the last of such ancient traditions. This is not a duel or anything like it. This is a settlement of a dispute over money. Baron Lisle will be killed during the fighting, thus settling the dispute.[9] [10]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
After the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the English Parliament attempted to ban trial by combat. They were unsuccessful. I could not find the reason why they even tried except that Governor Hutchinson was the tea merchant who was out the money for the tea. Perhaps he was afraid someone would claim trial by combat over the disputed payment. Trial by combat was finally removed from English Law in 1819. Since the United States inherited the English common law system before that time, it begs the question of whether it remains a right of the American people. We are not talking about dueling. We are talking about allowing combat to be the decisive factor in a dispute... saying that I won because God, Love and The Great Pumpkin were on my side. In a sense, this is exactly what people think when they win almost anything. BUT as Lincoln once said, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."[11] [12] [13] [14]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1470, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

History: The Year is 1469

I've uploaded year 1469 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Machiavellian Beginnings: It is Better to be Feared than Loved -- Machiavelli is born. He is famous or infamous for his book "The Prince" where he gives realistic and some would say cynical advice in statecraft. "It is bettered to be feared than loved" is a misunderstood idea so I explain it briefly.

The Aztec Calendar Stone -- The Sun Stone is the circular Aztec calendar with a face in the center. It was commissioned by the Aztec Emperor who takes the throne this year. A also talk about the Julian vs Gregorian calendar.

Born to Find the Ocean Route to India -- (Short) Vasco da Gama is born.

Born to be the First of the Sikh Gurus  -- (Short) Guru Nanak is born.

Machiavellian Beginnings: It is Better to be Feared than Loved

Nicolo Machiavelli is born in Florence this year. He will rise quickly to prominence since he is a member of one of the major noble families. Florence is on the upswing, but Italy has been in conflict for decades. Factionalism within the city-states has caused such chaos that the people want a dictator to fix everything. When the Medici family falls from power, Machiavelli will flourish but when the Medici family returns, he will be considered "on the wrong side". He will ingratiate himself to the new ruler by writing a book of political advice entitled "The Prince." It will remain in print into the modern day. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Although history paints Machiavelli as a bad guy, what he promotes is a realistic approach to leadership. He suggests that it is better to be FEARED than to be loved but if that is all you get out of his writing, you have sold him short. It is bettered to be LOVED than feared, but if you can only have one or the other, choose FEAR because that is how to lead your troops. What is important is that they SHOULD NOT HATE you and that is the crux of the misunderstanding. It may be a problem with translation because there are no good English words for certain types of fear... like... what do you call it when you love and respect your father so much that you are afraid to disappoint him? Certainly that could be called fear, but it is not the fear of the whip. It is good to be afraid of some things. It is the beginning of wisdom. [4]

The Aztec Calendar Stone

Few images are more iconic of the Aztec civilization than the Sun Stone, the circular Aztec calendar with a face in the center. The exact date of its composition is unknown but it was commissioned some time during reign of the sixth Aztec Emperor. That Emperor takes the throne this year. (His name is a mouthful so let's skip over that part.) The Sun Stone weighs over 24 short-tons. (FYI... a short-ton is 2,000 pounds, U.S. measure.) The calendar was unknown to the Conquistadors because the Aztecs buried it, but it will be uncovered 300 years later while a plaza is under construction in Mexico City in 1790. [5] [6] [7] [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Aztec calendar was more of a religious device to know what ritual was to be performed on a particular day. Since ancient times tracking the sun as it moved across the horizon would mark when crops were to be planted. In Europe in the late 1400s, it was obvious that the Julian calendar had inaccuracies that would cause the months to drift relative to the seasons. If you ever wondered why December (which means "the 10th month") is the 12th month... now you know. The modern Gregorian calendar (with the leap year) was introduced in 1582 but it wasn't fully accepted until 1923 when the final European country approved the modern calendar. [9] [10]

Born to Find the Ocean Route to India

His name is Vasco da Gama. He is born this year in the Kingdom of Portugal. He will find the sea route around Africa to India. [11]

Born to be the First of the Sikh Gurus

Guru Nanak is the first of the Sikh Gurus and founder of Sikhism. He is born this year in Punjab, Pakistan. [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1469, Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

History: The Year is 1468

I've uploaded year 1468 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

A Little Short on Good Taste... the Washington Redskins -- During the Middle Ages dwarfs were mocked. I talk about labels such as "cretin", "colored" and "redskin".

Our Debt to Gutenberg and Gutenberg's Debt -- Gutenberg dies this year. I review the torment he went through as his partner sued him and put him out of business.

Making the Lawmakers Obey the Law -- Bottom line... you can't force restraint on lawmakers by simply passing a law.

A Little Short on Good Taste... the Washington Redskins

As the curtain closes on the Middle Ages, one can see two forces at work: overwhelming compassion and unspeakable cruelty. Here is a quote from an early 20th century historian...
At the wedding-feasts of Charles the Bold, in 1468, Madame de Beaugrant, the female dwarf of Mademoiselle of Burgundy, enters dressed like a shepherdess, mounted on a golden lion, larger than a horse; she is presented to the young duchess and placed on the table. As to the fate of these small creatures, the account-books [...] tell us of a dwarf-girl whom a duchess caused to be fetched from her home, and how her parents came to visit her from time to time and receive a gratuity. [2 dollars and change] The poor fellow perhaps went home well pleased and much elated about the court function of his daughter. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Parading people of unusual size in public was the "Reality TV" of the time. However, people realized that using certain words was cruel, so they changed the label of dwarfs to "Christian"... to remind themselves that everyone is God's creation. (My wife reminds me that they are now called "Little People"). Over time the word "Christian" became corrupted, so it comes down to us as "cretin". The label "colored people" has become an offensive phrase, yet, the NAACP is an acronym for the "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People". The label "Redskin" was not considered offensive at the time it was applied to a professional football team. If the label has become offensive now, changing the label will change nothing.[3] [4] FYI: I don't care what they call a football team. Just pick a name and stick with it. If "Redskins" isn't good enough, I vote for "Baby Seal Killers" for one season. People will go back to the Redskins fairly quickly.

Our Debt to Gutenberg and Gutenberg's Debt

Johann Gutenberg has died at 70 years old. He changed the world with his movable-type printing press, but the question is... did the people at the time realize this? Yes and no. The printing press became popular very quickly but the printing of the Gutenberg Bible required a large upfront investment: 3 years and 20,000 guilders [about 5.3 million dollars as of Nov. 2014]. Gutenberg's partner sued and seized the printing press and half of the Bibles. Gutenberg opened a small printing shop in Mainz but the town is sacked a few years later. He was finally recognized in 1465 for his achievements and was granted a small stipend and 2,000 liters of tax-free wine. Three years later he was dead. Did the wine kill him? Who knows? [5] [6] [7] [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The problem with invention and innovation is that the innovator rarely makes the big bucks. It's the people who improve on the idea who make the money. Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile. He streamlined the manufacturing process to save money and make the automobile affordable for average people. Why? So that he could sell more cars. There are more average people than rich people. Nikolas Tesla licensed his patent for AC current generators FOR FREE to Westinghouse to make AC current the standard and beat Thomas Edison's DC current. Tesla succeeded and it is ironic that the man who promoted AC current has a DC-current automobile company (Tesla Motors) named after him. Apple Computers has made their name NOT on innovation but on building on technology that already exists and making it work better.[9]

Making the Lawmakers Obey the Law

The Council of Ten are the power behind the government of Venice. They pass laws in secret and although they will notify the Great Council, they are not doing so for their approval. This year the legislative body of the Great Council has passed a law restricting the Council of Ten. The Council of Ten will fail to notice until 1582 when their wings will finally be clipped. [10] [11] [12]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
It's an age-old problem. If passing a law could restrain those who lack restraint, we could pass a law against stealing and stop all stealing. Laws don't stop the stealing. People stop themselves with a little help from their God, their community, and the law.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1468, Wikipedia.