Friday, September 26, 2008

No Comment

Normally, I like to post some comments on Friday regarding the previous Monday's rhyme.

In this case, I don't think that's necessary.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Bush Doctrine




Play Audio

BUSH:
I said we must conquer Iraq
Before they could launch an attack.
It wasn’t an error
To link them to terror,
It justified hitting them back.
In a war you can’t stop and think twice,
Or your countrymen will pay the price.
To avoid any gaffe
I consulted my staff:
Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rummy and Rice.
Of course, Colin’s also my man,
Which is why we sent him to Iran.
But I haven’t the patience
For negotiations
With all of these wars we must plan.
We know the American dream
That this country’s the number one team.
We’ll smash any bully
Before they can fully
Come up with some gross evil scheme.
Our military is first class,
With intelligence none can surpass.
If there’s any upheaval
The axis of evil
Should know that we’ll come kick their … uh, backsides.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Harvest Thing

The advent of agriculture was arguably the most significant development in the history of humankind. Isaac Asimov's Chronology of the World and Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's Ideas That Changed the World both outline the impact, and many other things.

A few of the ramifications include:

  1. The change from nomadic to settled lifestyles -- If you build it, you will stay.
  2. The beginning of private property -- A rolling stone gathers no moss, but a stationary one?
  3. The beginning of war -- Settled people had to defend their property, and not simply retreat.
  4. The establishment of cities -- People lived together for common defense and support.
  5. The dominance of work -- No more wandering around, eating whatever comes your way. Work was an every day thing, at least until the weekend was invented.
  6. The beginning of career diversity -- A few farmers could raise enough to feed a city.
  7. The switch to a more fiber and carbohydrate based diet -- Eat the cereal on hand, or go catch a burger?
  8. Acceleration of population growth -- With a steady diet and no need to carry the kids around, why not?
  9. The invention of calendars -- Harvest time again already?

As Asimov points out, civilis, Latin for "city dweller," is really the basis for civilization. So that's when it started ... about 8,000 BC.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Agriculture


Audio


There was a time when no one knew
How trees and plants and bushes grew.
About ten thousand years ago
Folks figured out that they could sow
These inedible things called seeds
And grow the food to meet their needs.
And for some reason, they chose rather
Break their backs than hunt and gather.
Now they had to work much harder
To fill up the empty larder.
Wanting food as the result,
They formed a sort of agri-cult,
Bowing, scraping, cultivating,
Watching weather, always waiting.
This was quite a drastic change
For folks who used to hunt the range
And eat whatever they could find.
But now they left that life behind
To start up farms and settle down
In what was to become a town.
These farms could help avert starvation
For a growing population.
(For with a stable food supply
Folks could fruitfully multiply.)
But settled life had its rewards,
And looked so good to passing hordes
That all the folks who lived on farms
Were sometimes forced to take up arms
And had to fight to keep their lands
From falling to invaders’ hands.

The hunting life had been quite nice,
But now, expelled from paradise
When ice age glaciers all withdrew
Taking with them the prey we knew,
We had a choice: we could migrate,
Or else just learn to cultivate.
We learned to use the sun and rain
And soil to grow a stock of grain.
Thus started, with this realization
What we call civilization.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where Have We Been?

I suppose I owe my readers (both of you) an apology. The world is still full of ideas, great and dumb, but no new posts have been forthcoming. I guess I put things off, thinking that if the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN was going to destroy the earth anyway, there wasn't much point in writing more silly rhymes about ideas.

Well, the LHC went online this week, and the earth appears not to have been sucked into a black hole, so I'll get back to work. Starting Monday, we'll return to our regular schedule, whatever that is.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Once Upon a Time ...

Stories are certainly one of humankind's earliest inventions. It's likely that stories were told in sound and pantomime even before a rich verbal language was developed. The cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira may be a form of storytelling, depicting events around hunting. Storytelling is mixed up with ritual and mythology at the formation of the very first religions. Certainly storytelling is fundamental to religions even today.

Less obvious is that storytelling also underlies science and discovery. Realistically, everything we know is reconstructed from the scant evidence our senses perceive. We look for causes and relationships, and reject or accept possibilities based on how they fit our understanding of how the world works.

Cognitive therapy, pioneered by Aaron Beck, is based on the view that our feelings and motivations are derived from what we perceive and believe about the world. In a sense, what we tell ourselves is real determines how we feel. So, again, our internal stories about the world shape how we experience it.

During the late 20th century, stories in the form of TV, radio and movies, from the U.S. and other Western European nations gained worldwide distribution. Also during this time, the Cold War ended, and some historians speculated that the "end of history" was at hand. Since then, technology has allowed media to again become fragmented into narrow-casts aimed at small demographic groups. Not surprisingly, the sense of globalization of ideas that seemed imminent in the late 20th century is now challenged by extremism from various non-Western European groups.

We are who we tell ourselves we are.