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Posts Tagged ‘Greece

“What mysterious time and place don’t we know?”*…

 

Several years ago we considered the “Antikythera mechanism” (“A Connecticut Yankee in King Agamemnon’s Court?…” and again in “Leggo My Lego…”), an ancient Greek device considered then to be 1,500 years ahead of its time.

In June of 2016, an international team of experts revealed new information derived from tiny inscriptions on the devices parts in ancient Greek that had been too tiny to read—some of its characters are just 1/20th of an inch wide—until cutting-edge imaging technology allowed it to be more clearly seen. They’ve now read about 35,00 characters explaining the device…

The full story at “An Ancient Device Too Advanced to Be Real Gives Up Its Secrets at Last.”

* Ken Kesey

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As we re-gauge our sense of history, we might spare a thought for Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily; he died on this date in 1250.  Frederick considered himself a direct successor to the Roman Emperors; he battled with the papacy, but otherwise practiced religious tolerance, and interacted with learned Jews, Muslims, and Christians.)

A multilingual man of learning, he corresponded with and patronized scholars.  His interests spanned the sciences, but were especially acute in natural history. He kept a menagerie which at various times had not only monkeys and camels, but also a giraffe and an elephant.  His notable contribution to scientific ornithology was with a six-volume work, De arte venandi cum avibus (c.1244-48).  In addition to some treatment of falconry, he presented his own observations (rather than perpetuating accepted hearsay knowledge) with remarks on hundreds of kinds of birds, with generalizations on their behavior, anatomy and physiology.

Frederick II and his falcon. From his book De arte venandi cum avibus

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Written by LW

December 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

Pity the poor photographers…

 

In this photo illustration a Lego shark chomps down on a Lego figure holding a Greek flag as other figures holding an Italian (L), Portuguese (C) and Spanish flag look on over a sea of Euro coins on September 27, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. Europe is continuing to wrestle with the ominous prospect of a Greek debt default that many fear could spread panic and push the already fragile economies of Italy, Portugal and Spain into a Eurozone crisis with global repercussions. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Greeks aren’t the only ones sick of the euro crisis. Photographers are reaching the end of their tether too, struggling to shoot images of euro coins in various states of distress to illustrate the story. Though some of the photos are absurd, they still get published — because news outlets are equally desperate…

Read the whole sad story in “Photographer Fatigue: The Absurd Quest for Euro Crisis Images” in Spiegel Online.

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As we reach for our hankies, we might recall that it was during this month in 1930 that over 6,000 unemployed New Yorkers took to street corners selling apples at five cents apiece.  As Herbert Hoover unhelpfully observed, “Many persons left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples.”

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Written by LW

November 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

“Gold is the corpse of value…”*

 

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In the wake of World War I, with metals scarce, Germans faced a shortage of pocket change.  So cities, corporations, and sometimes individuals printed and used Serienschein (series notes), a form of Notgeld (emergency money).  Circulating from 1917 to 1923, in the run up to the great inflation that presaged the rise of National Socialism, the Serienschein were denominated in small amounts– one Pfennig up to one or two Marks– unlike the Notgeld issued during the great inflation, which were issued in giant denominations, up to $100 million Marks…

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And even then, required wheelbarrows for transactions…

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But the Serienschein were unlike the huge inflation bills in another way, too:  while the Weimar bills were as uniformly drab as the circumstances that spawned them, Serienschein— sourced from many different places, as they were–  were hugely various and often strikingly designed…

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These fascinating notes began to give way to their drab– but astronomically denominated– successors in 1922, when the European victors in WWI, led by England, demanded their reparations payments in full (and in gold).  Reeling still from their loss, and unable to rev their economy sufficiently quickly to cover the vig, the Germans were effectively bankrupted… and reduced to printing money.  Printing it as fast as they could.  The social toll was huge, and had a profound political effect, paving the way for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

One notes that once again a group of European countries, this time ironically led by Germany, is looking to a beleaguered neighbor, this time Greece, for repayment at a time when the Greeks do not have the capacity to earn their way to solvency. (One notes, too, that Spain, Portugal, Italy, and others are trailing perilously closely behind Greece…).  So as one watches right-wing nationalist movements gather strength in these debtor nations, one can only hope that the folks with hands on the tillers in Germany (and at the EMU) recall George Santayana’s admonition (in The Life of Reason): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

See more examples of Serienschein here.

*Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

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As we think again about stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that panicked sellers traded nearly 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange (four times the normal volume at the time), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12%.  Remembered as “Black Tuesday,” this was the conclusive event in the Crash of 1929, and is often cited as the start of the Great Depression.

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Written by LW

October 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

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