Friday, April 30, 2010

The Ice Age, 110,000 - 20,000 BC

It’s difficult to imagine living on a planet where the weather was so cold, that ice sheets covered much of North America, Europe, and Asia. Thankfully, the configuration of the continents did not permit the extension of the southern ice sheets too far north. In the higher elevations of the continents, great glaciers grew independent of the polar ice. So much of the planet's water was in the great sheets of ice that sea levels dropped. Thankfully, humans knew how to make fire.

Here’s a link to a Wikipedia map of the Ice. (There's no use trying to pop up these maps here. The blogs pages are too small to see the details.)

And here’s a map of the planet’s vegetation. While it is hard to read, here’s a few noticeable items:

  • There is no Black Sea
  • the Mediterranean is now two lakes; the Italian Peninsula is now an isthmus going all the way down to Africa
  • the Red Sea is now a small lake
  • land connects Siberia to Alaska
  • Australia includes Guinea and the Solomon Islands; and if it doesn’t connect to SE Asia, is sure comes close.
The descriptions of the kind of land are mostly bad; the few good colors can hardly be seen; the only one that seems decent is “Savannah”. Was this where most of the humans lived during this time?

During this age there were 3 species of humans:
  1. Homo Erectus had been around for 1.8 million years but died out around 70,000. They had survived previous ice ages; they didn’t survive this one.

  2. Neanderthals had been around for 350,000 years but when the great ice sheets disappeared, so did they.

  3. Modern Man started around 200,000 years ago. This ought to not be confused with Cro-Magnon Man which appeared 40,000 and died around 10,000. The Cro-Magnons were a subgroup of Modern Man.
This map shows where the three groups lived during the Ice Age. The most interesting feature in this is that the only one of the three groups that migrated was Modern Man.

About 50,000 Modern Man commenced an unprecedented level of cultural and technical achievement in a short period of time. They developed sophisticated hunting techniques (such as using trapping pits or driving animals off cliffs), made clothing out of hides, carefully buried their dead, and even painted their caves.

Neanderthals also had tools and fire but they did not innovate. As the Ice Age ended, the last communities of the Neanderthals died out in Gibralter. The future belonged to Modern Man.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Canals Divide Egypt's Land

Previously in Herodotus

108. Then Sesostris, having returned to Egypt and having taken vengeance on his brother, employed the multitude which he had brought in of those whose lands he had subdued, as follows:--these were they who drew the stones which in the reign of this king were brought to the temple of Hephaistos*, being of very great size; and also these were compelled to dig all the channels which now are in Egypt; and thus (having no such purpose) they caused Egypt, which before was all fit for riding and driving, to be no longer fit for this from thenceforth: for from that time forward Egypt, though it is plain land, has become all unfit for riding and driving, and the cause has been these channels, which are many and run in all directions. But the reason why the king cut up the land was this, namely because those of the Egyptians who had their cities not on the river but in the middle of the country, being in want of water when the river went down from them, found their drink brackish because they had it from wells.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

* The location of this is unknown. How did H not notice that this was a Greek god and not an Egyptian one? - JL.

Monday, April 26, 2010

This Makes the Bottom Fall Out of Your Game

The minute you get away from fundamentals - whether it's proper technique, work ethic, or mental preparation - the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, whatever you're doing.

- Michael Jordan

Photo cc Steve Lipofsky.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The First Duke of Marlborough

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

3rd. Generation
His son John was presented at court and granted a commission in the army. Over the next two decades John’s abilities at court and in the field propelled him to higher and higher levels of command. By 1674 he was Colonel. By 1682 he was a Lord; by 1685 a Baron, and Major General in the army.

In the Revolution of 1688 he supported William (the winner). In 1689 he was made a privy councilor and Earl of Marlborough.

Then came the fall.

John’s wife Sarah (the one quoted above) was Lady in Waiting to the Queen’s sister, Princess Anne. Throughout these years, John, Sarah, and Anne were close friends.

The King and Queen quarreled with the Princess and blamed the Churchills. All three were banned from the Court and from public life.

In 1702 everything changed. The King died. He left no children. The throne was vacant. Princess Anne succeeded to it. Also in 1702 the French launched their greatest bid for world domination until Napoleon a century later. When the Spanish Empire joined the French, it looked like nothing could stop them.

Marlborough was promoted from Earl to Duke and from Major-General to the head of the army and sent to the continent. Back in London, Sarah and Queen Anne, together with the Churchills’ close associate, Sidney Godolphin, ran the government.

Britain, The Netherlands, The Hapsburg Empire and lesser powers composed Marlborough’s Grand Alliance. Marlborough marched his army in daring thrusts and parries. He won every battle he fought; he captured every fort he besieged. Still, the French side was so strong that the war raged for 11 years.

At war’s end, grateful rulers throughout Europe showered gifts upon him for his deeds. He built the magnificent Blenheim Place in Woodstock.

John died in 1722 and Sarah in 1744.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tombstone in Hollis, NH

1742 – 1776

Here lies Cynthia, Steven’s wife,
She lived six years in calm and strife,
Death came at last and set her free,
I was glad and so was she.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Age of Early Man, 200,000 - 110,000 BC

It’s 200,000 years ago and another ice age has just started. Two species of humans continue as before. Neanderthals had been around for 150,000 years; while the older group, Homo Erectus has been around for a couple of million years. But now a new group of humans appears: Modern Man – us.

Humanity has fire, which is a necessity to survive an ice age. They have simple stone tools and weapons.

They face fierce predators. This is the golden age for very large mammals: mammoths, sabertooth tigers, mastodons, and many others. The large size may have protected them from the cold.

Fast forward 70,000 years. Between 130,000 and 110,000 there is an inter-glacial period. The ice sheets recede. The climate approaches what it is like in historic times.
20,000 years may not seem like such a long time compared to the time scales we discuss here but consider that our own civilization goes back only 5,000 years. For 20,000 years, those early humans had plenty of time to develop the same kind of civilization that we experience now. So why didn’t they?

Pictured is a Homo Erectus, the most primitive of the 3 groups of humans. Source: Wikipedia.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sesostris Escapes the Fire Trap

Previously in Herodotus

107. As this Egyptian Sesostris was returning and bringing back many men of the nations whose lands he had subdued, when he came (said the priests) to Daphnai in the district of Pelusion on his journey home, his brother to whom Sesostris had entrusted the charge of Egypt invited him and with him his sons to a feast; and then he piled the house round with brushwood and set it on fire: and Sesostris when he discovered this forthwith took counsel with his wife, for he was bringing with him (they said) his wife also; and she counseled him to lay out upon the pyre two of his sons, which were six in number, and so to make a bridge over the burning mass, and that they passing over their bodies should thus escape. This, they said, Sesostris did, and two of his sons were burnt to death in this manner, but the rest got away safe with their father.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Need for a Definite Plan

A career, like a business, must be budgeted. When it is necessary, the budget can be adjusted to meet changing conditions. A life that hasn't a definite plan is likely to become driftwood.

- David Sarnoff

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The First Churchills

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

When the first Duchess of Marlborough read the first history of the Churchill family just before her death in 1744, she wrote,

This History takes a great deal of Pains to make the Duke of Marlborough’s Extraction very ancient. That may be true for aught I know; But it is no matter whether it be true or not in my opinion. For I value nobody for another’s merit.
That last sentence made her point. But the sentence immediately preceding it unintentionally revealed another. In just three generations the Churchills had come from nowhere to the top of society.

1st. Generation
When the first Churchill to enter our story was born sometime around 1600 the family was blacksmiths or something similar. John Churchill went to London and became a successful lawyer.

2nd. Generation
This enabled his son, Winston Churchill (the first one) to make an advantageous marriage with Elizabeth Drake. The Drake family had connections with the higher reaches of society. A century earlier, the family had included Sir Francis Drake, the buccaneer.

The Civil War broke out in 1642. The 21 year old Winston Churchill joined the king’s army. He fought for the king throughout the war. The cause was lost. Others deserted. Not Churchill. He fought on. As the king’s followers dwindled, he raised Churchill to the rank of Colonel.

By 1646 it is was all over. Defeat was total. In 1649 the king was beheaded. Oliver Cromwell ruled.

The discredited Royalist retired to the home of his mother-in-law, Lady Drake. The bad news for him was that he had to spend the next ten years living in his mother-in-law’s home. The good news was that she had supported Parliament and Cromwell in the war. Thus Winston got by and here a new generation of Churchills was born. John was born in 1650.

In 1660 came The Restoration. Charles II took back the throne and he remembered Winston Churchill, who had stayed with his father to the bitter end.

Other Installments of this series (in progress).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Frontier Advertisement

One good deer rifle for a woman.

- Ad in Cloverland (MI) newspaper.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Age of Mammals, 65 MYA - 200,000 BC

In the aftermath of the great comet, the small survived. Hot blooded creatures, the mammals dominated. As time went by, the evolved larger and larger. Some animals returned to the sea and evolved into giants. The whales and dolphins started out as amphibians.

Climate slowly grew cooler as the millions of years passed by. Part of this was caused by the drift of the continents.

Antarctica drifted south, all the way to the South Pole. Australia, having split from it during the Age of the Dinosaurs, drifted north. India had also split from Antarctica and moved north, colliding with Asia 55 - 45 MYA. Arabia collided with Asia, too, 35 MYA. All this activity affected Europe, too. It went from being groups of disparate islands to a continent. The collisions caused the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Carpathian Mountains. The North and South American continents closed enough that a land bridge connected them.

2.5 million years ago, the poles began to ice over. This marked the appearance of the first homos erectus – precursors of humans.

Above is a map of Earth 50 million years ago. Source: Wikipedia.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sesostris' Markers

Previously in Herodotus

106. The pillars which Sesostris of Egypt set up in the various countries are for the most part no longer to be seen extant; but in Syria Palestine I myself saw them existing with the inscription upon them which I have mentioned and the emblem. Moreover in Ionia there are two figures of this man carved upon rocks, one on the road by which one goes from the land of Ephesos to Phocaia, and the other on the road from Sardis to Smyrna. In each place there is a figure of a man cut in the rock, of four cubits and a span in height, holding in his right hand a spear and in his left a bow and arrows, and the other equipment which he has is similar to this, for it is both Egyptian and Ethiopian: and from the one shoulder to the other across the breast runs an inscription carved in sacred Egyptian characters, saying thus, "This land with my shoulders I won for myself." But who he is and from whence, he does not declare in these places, though in other places he has declared this. Some of those who have seen these carvings conjecture that the figure is that of Memnon, but herein they are very far from the truth.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Steinbeck on Responsibility

People need responsibility. They resist assuming it, but they cannot get along without it.

- John Steinbeck

More on Steinbeck

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Winston Is Born

- Another installment in my series

Stories of the world during the time Winston Churchill lived in it: 1873 to 1965.

Guns fired, bullets whizzed through the air, and Jennie fell. What kind of woman would go running around the countryside with a shooting party while in the last stage of pregnancy? The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough had to wonder.

That was not all. Even Lord Randolf wrote, “A rather imprudent and rough drive in a pony carriage brought on the pains on Saturday night.”

Imprudent, indeed! That wild, dark skinned American!

There’s more. Saturday was the St. Andrew’s Ball at the Duke’s Palace. She was not expected, to say the least. When she came down the stairs from her room holding a dance card, what could the Marlboroughs do? William Manchester in his biography of Winston Churchill writes, “She was actually on the floor, pirouetting, when the pains started.”

The servants took her out. They stumbled through the vast palace, down corridors, past drawing-rooms, then through the library “the longest room in England”. The quarter mile of red carpet was too much. She fainted.

They carried her to a room just off the Great Hall.

The pains continued that night and all Sunday. The lack of trains on a Sunday prevented the family doctor in London from coming. A local, country doctor came instead.

Lord Randolf wrote to Jennie’s mother (in the same letter),
“The country Dr is however a clever man, & the baby was safely born at 1:30 this morning after about 8 hrs labour. She suffered a good deal poor darling, but was vy plucky & had no chloroform. The boy is wonderfully pretty so everybody says dark eyes and hair & vy healthy considering its prematureness.”

Premature? The parents had been married that April. It was now November 30. So it must have been born prematurely! Though the baby didn’t look it. It was a fully developed baby!

Winston Churchill always enjoyed the controversy. “Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it.” The Marlboroughs were not amused. That wild woman! The Churchill family had not had such adventures since . . . . .
Excerpt from a book in progress. Churchill Stories. (from Chapter 1.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lord George Counts His Audience

- Another chestnut from the continuing sage of our noted playwright, Lord George Bernard Noel Shakespeare Coward –

Producer (peaking through the curtain): We’ve got some people taking their seats.
LC: How many?
Producer: Well, Lord George, just between you and me, we outnumber them.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Age of Dinosaurs, 250 MYA - 65 MYA

Ah, yes! The dinosaurs. Animals were big; the weather was hot; their blood ran cold. Little warm blooded mammals eeked out their living on the fringes of the biomass.

The dinosaurs marked the high point of life on Earth before Man. As predatory as lions, tigers, and bears became in the later age, it is difficult to see how any one of them could have fared against the giant T-Rex or the flying Raptor. The movie, “Jurassic Park” probably gives us more the flavor of the age than any monograph can.

The Earth looked vastly different during these times. Here is a map of the planet as it was around 100 million years ago.

The great southern continent of Godwanna had just broken up. India is drifting north; the eastern part of Godwanna drifts north north east and will split up into Australia, Guinea, New Zealand, and other islands. On the other side of the world, North and South America are drifting together.

65 million years ago a comet crashes. A cataclysmic ending to a dramatic age.

Source of map: Wikipedia.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

H's Version of Georgia and Circumcision

Previously in Herodotus

104. For the people of Colchis are evidently Egyptian, and this I perceived for myself before I heard it from others. So when I had come to consider the matter I asked them both; and the Colchians had remembrance of the Egyptians more than the Egyptians of the Colchians; but the Egyptians said they believed that the Colchians were a portion of the army of Sesostris. That this was so I conjectured myself not only because they are dark-skinned and have curly hair (this of itself amounts to nothing, for there are other races which are so), but also still more because the Colchians, Egyptians, and Ethiopians alone of all the races of men have practised circumcision from the first. The Phenicians and the Syrians who dwell in Palestine confess themselves that they have learnt it from the Egyptians, and the Syrians about the river Thermodon and the river Parthenios, and the Macronians, who are their neighbours, say that they have learnt it lately from the Colchians. These are the only races of men who practise circumcision, and these evidently practise it in the same manner as the Egyptians. Of the Egyptians themselves however and the Ethiopians, I am not able to say which learnt from the other, for undoubtedly it is a most ancient custom; but that the other nations learnt it by intercourse with the Egyptians, this among others is to me a strong proof, namely that those of the Phoenicians who have intercourse with Hellas cease to follow the example of the Egyptians in this matter, and do not circumcise their children.

- Herodotus, Book II

More Information: Egypt, Herodotus's Book.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quality of a Life

The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his committment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor.

- Vince Lombardi

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tombstone at Westminster Abbey

Life is a jest, and all things show it;
I thought so once and now I know it.

- on John Gay’s tombstone, said to be written by himself.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Age of Animals, 400 MYA - 250 MYA

Before the dinosaurs, (if the logic of evolution is to be believed), the animals were less evolved. Scientists posit that the first aquadic life to come to land were those that had developed legs like spiders, scorpions, and primitive insects. What a golden age these first pioneers must have experienced! Continent after continent filled with plants that had millions of years to establish themselves, lay before them. The atmosphere was far more oxygen rich than later. Good times! But then came others from the sea, looking for meat.

The superior species seemed to be the reptile, with mammals living on the edges of life. In fact, the reptile's greatest age was next.

MYA = Million Years Ago
BYA = Billion Years Ago

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