Quotulatiousness

December 26, 2017

The Hush Hush Army – The Adventures of Dunsterforce Part 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Britain, History, Middle East, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 25 Dec 2017

Dunsterforce Book: http://amzn.to/2BA5IRM
The Dunsterforce was a small British military mission under Colonel Dunsterville. Its goal was to prevent the spread of German influence in the South Caucasus and Caspian Sea. The soldiers soon find themselves in the complicated and violent post-revolutionary Caucasus where no one can really be trusted.

Khosrau Anushirawan: The Immortal Soul – Extra History – #3

Filed under: History, Middle East — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 23 Dec 2017

Once the chaos settled, Khosrau enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace. He brought reform to the army and the economy, invested in a great center of learning, imported knowledge from around the world, and earned his new title of “The Immortal Soul.”

Midwinter celebrations, historically speaking

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the most recent Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith tries to track down where our traditional Christmas celebrations originated:

Each and every one of those cultures has had a different way, of course, of dignifying what is essentially a middle finger in the face of nature. The earliest such I could find was Zagmuk, the ancient Mesopotamian celebration of the triumph of Marduk over the forces of Chaos.

Or whatever. I suspect the Mesopotamians would have decreed a celebration if it had been Chaos that had won in the second, by a knock-out. Nearby cultures picked the idea up and celebrated their own versions.

All this happened about 4000 years ago.

The Romans had a midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, which involved feasting and giving gifts. Later on, the word became a synonym for abandon and debauchery, but the Romans, by and large, were a pretty puritanical bunch, given to grim tales such as that of Lucius Junius Brutus who had his own sons executed because they sold out to the Etruscans, and Mucius Scaevola who burned his own hand off to prove that Romans… well, would burn their own hands off given half a chance. Nobody ever needed a festive midwinter holiday worse than they did.

Saturnalia started around the eighth century, B.C.

Hanukkah is interesting. I learned about it when I wrote The Mitzvah with Aaron Zelman. These days a lot is made of the “Festival of Lights” and the miracle that occurred when the Jews retook their Temple from a pack of Hellenized Syrians who had left only enough lamp oil behind for a single day. The oil miraculously burned eight days, instead, and that’s what all that ceremony with the Menorah is all about.

There’s another Hanukkah story, of a victory of the Maccabees (a nickname, meaning “hammer” — see Charles Martel) over those same Hellenized Syrians, which is how the Jews got their Temple back. Jews argue over which story is more significant, but it’s pretty obvious to me. It’s equally obvious that they’d find something else to celebrate in the middle of the winter, even if they’d never gotten their Temple back.

Which happened in 165 B.C.

Christmas probably wasn’t celebrated, as such, for a couple of hundred years after the presumed birth of Christ. I say “presumed”, because the whole story — no room in the inn, born in a manger with animals on the watch, shepherds coming to worship, a star shining overhead — was shoplifted, directly from another religion popular in Rome at the time of the early Christians, worship of the warrior-god Mithras.

Speaking of sticky fingers, holidaywise, the Yule log and the Christmas tree were “borrowed” from the norsemen, who were accustomed to hanging dead male animals and male slaves from a tree to decorate it.

Yuck.

There is a midwinter holiday that has come along more recently than Christmas. I have to confess that, to me, Kwanzaa (Est. 1966) represents one of the lamest, most transparent inventions a con-man ever foisted on any segment of the public. It’s basically a holiday for black people who don’t want to celebrate the white peoples’ holiday. On the other hand it’s no lamer than any other excuse for a holiday.

What makes a diamond priceless? – James May’s Q&A (Ep 7) – Head Squeeze

Filed under: Business, Economics, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

BBC Earth Lab
Published on 14 Feb 2013

James May imparts his knowledge to let us know that diamonds aren’t that rare after all.

James May’s Q&A:
With his own unique spin, James May asks and answers the oddball questions we’ve all wondered about from ‘What Exactly Is One Second?’ to ‘Is Invisibility Possible?’

QotD: Most consumers say they want local-grown food, but won’t pay the costs to get it

Filed under: Business, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Food grown locally, on small-lot farms without modern chemical assistance, is really expensive. The complex modern food-supply chain that ensures restaurants and food processors can get the same consistent mix of staple ingredients year-round also relentlessly beats down the price of food, sourcing wherever supply is cheapest, redistributing temporary local abundance to a steady global diet of everyday low prices. This is also not such a terrible way to eat; it is the foundation of much of our modern prosperity. But it is not local, artisanal, organic. It is global, industrial, indifferent. It has to be, both because organic inputs are much more expensive, and because trying to separate and track all the food so that restaurateurs can be sure of provenance and process would mean abandoning many of the efficiencies that make the stuff so cheap.

And Americans expect cheap. Cheap, after all, is what makes it possible for us to spend so much money at restaurants; if we had to pay all the workers $20 an hour and ensure that all our meat and produce had been farmed in the latest and most approved 19th-century methods, few of us could afford to have weekly dining out in our budget. Restaurants might be more authentic, delicious, moral places. They would also be much emptier ones.

Reading the Tampa Bay Times article, you get the sense that many of these restaurateurs tried to provide an authentic farm-to-table experience and found that customers were not willing to pay what it would cost — in money or variety — to have one. People are probably willing to pay some premium for that kind of food, but the premium is probably closer to 10 to 15 percent than it is to the sky-high sums that it would actually cost to rely on those sorts of farms, those sorts of methods. So the restaurateurs inevitably sold them what they were happily willing to pay for: food from an industrial supply chain, with a side of moral satisfaction.

It’s hard to be too angry at consumers. To be sure, they probably should have known that you couldn’t really buy organic, locally sourced food year-round at just a smidge more than you’d pay for a regular meal. After all, the average American spent half their income on food in 1900, while the modern American now spends a paltry 12 percent, even including a lavish helping of restaurant meals. That should give us some sign that local, artisanal food is not going to be cheap. But most Americans are not economic historians.

But it’s not even that easy to be mad at the restaurants. They’re in a viciously competitive business where most places don’t survive. In a competitive equilibrium where so many people want to be told they’re eating farm-fresh food — and so few people seem willing to pay for it — many of them probably feel that their choice is “lie or die.”

Megan McArdle, “Dining Out on Empty Virtue”, Bloomberg View, 2016-04-15.

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