May 25, 2006
yes, i’m still reading gibbon’s decline and fall. (will it never end?)
current curiosity = greek fire.
i love the name, it should surely be in common use as a phrase that denotes something mysterious and effective.
over several hundred years (7th century to 13th century and counting, i’m not finished yet, remember) the good citizens of constantinople used it to defeat everybody that deigned to attack the capital of the east. used normally in sea battles it was spread by water and couldn’t be put out.
and to this day it remains a mystery . . .
speculation is that it could be petroleum, or calcium phosphide, but no one knows for sure.
wikipedia is good on the subject.
May 21, 2006
Abdalrahman founded the throne of Cordova in 756, a dynasty that ruled 250 years from the atlantic to the pyrenees. nowadays historians call him governor of spain. he lived in complete luxury and retained absolute authority. he had hundreds of wives and concubines. his palace was decked out by the finest artists, was encrusted with gold, held exotic birds and animals, and a fountain that gushed with mercury.
on his deathbed he wrote the following:
I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to FOURTEEN: — O man! place not thy confidence in this present world!
yes, still reading gibbon. on vol.6 of 7.
May 16, 2006
when i was a kid my dentist once told me i had a monkey-bite. when i asked him what he meant, he told me to go home and look up hottentot in the dictionary. i did. i guess dictionaries were a little less politically correct then, right now the compact oxford reads:
• noun & adjective used to refer to the Khoikhoi peoples of South Africa and Namibia.
— USAGE The word Hottentot is now regarded as offensive with reference to people (where Khoikhoi or, specifically, Nama, are the standard terms) but is still standard when used in the names of some animals and plants.
— ORIGIN Dutch, perhaps a repetitive formula in a Khoikhoi dancing song, transferred by Dutch sailors to the people themselves, or from German hotteren-totteren ‘stutter’ (with reference to their click language).
many times since i’ve been asked all sorts of ethnic background questions, whether i’m jewish, polish, spanish, italian, but most of all black. i guess it’s the thick lips and curly hair.
for christmas ita bought me a dna ancestry test. and i finally have the results.
That’s 80% european, 16% native american, 4% sub-saharan africa, & zilch east asian.
one would typically expect up to %4 non-indigenous, but the 16% native-american means, in all likelihood, that i have an inca great-great grandparent. or something.
rob always said i loved america.
god bless it.
May 12, 2006
many moons ago i wrote a story involving a guy who couldn’t go out because he couldn’t afford the increased insurance premium. if there’s a way to bill by the unoccupied day or hour, then at some point someone will do it.
i was talking to someone in motor insurance yesterday. he told me about this. A black box fitted to a car which allows the insurance company full access to gps (10 meter accuracy). They know where, when, and how fast. This is now running as a pilot and is popular with young drivers who would otherwise not be able to afford the premium on a high bracket car. this way you get to pay per mile. the per mile cost rises with risk, depending on the age and profile of the insured.
interesting also was that they could tell that an older guy was doing 156 in his imprezza, but it was late at night, little traffic, and on a motorway. it’s outside the law, but pretty safe, statistically, so he’s charged accordingly.
what is yet to come is the analysis of insruance incidents that this tech enables. it doesn’t matter what you, or anyone else, says, if they know you were doing 90 and had taken the racing line at the bend. according to “Identify® Software“:
AppSight allows IT professionals to simply replay, rather than recreate the problem, it eliminates up to 70 percent of the cycle time traditionally consumed by root cause analysis.
And “using mainly Microsoft technologies” to boot.