(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Rome

“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog”*…


Savior Barbie stands in front of a chalkboard in a run-down classroom somewhere in Africa. “It’s so sad that they don’t have enough trained teachers here. I’m not trained either, but I’m from the West,” the caption on the photo reads. In another, the plastic figurine poses in front shacks made from scrap metal and sticks: “Just taking a slumfie… Feeling so blessed.”

In the satirical Instagram account for Savior Barbie, Barbie is in Africa running an NGO that provides drinking water to locals. “Harnessing broken white hearts to provide water to those in Africa, one tear at a time,” the tagline for her organization reads. The account, started a month ago by two 20-something white women who have worked in East Africa, now has over 18,000 followers…

Savior Barbie also highlights the point that advocates and experts working on the continent have been observing for years—well-intentioned but naive volunteerism—or “voluntourism“—is at best ineffectual and at worst harmful to the developing countries it’s meant to serve. It drives an industry that sees 1.6 million people do volunteer work while on vacation every year, spending as much as $2 billion in the process. Nigerian-American author Teju Cole once dubbed this impulse the White Savior Industrial Complex

More at “Instagram’s White Savior Barbie neatly captures what’s wrong with “voluntourism” in Africa.” Pair with “The Smug Style in American Liberalism“– bracing stuff.

[TotH to EWW]

* Jack London


As we rethink relief, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121.  The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.


Written by LW

April 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The map is not the territory”*…


As regular readers will know, (Roughly) Daily is extremely enthusiastic about maps.  So your correspondent is especially grateful to Andrew Wiseman for his very helpful “readers’ guide”: “When Maps Lie- Tips from a geographer on how to avoid being fooled.”

* Alfred Korzybski


As we uninstall Apple Maps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that Victor Emmanuel II set up the capital of the newly-unified Italy in Rome (recently “acquired” from the Papal States).  The first king of a united Italy since the 6th century, he had been king of Sardinia before– the second “Victor Emmanuel” in that role.  On claiming the Italian crown, he decided to keep “II,” a missed PR opportunity, as he could have proclaimed himself “I” (of Italy), signaling a fresh start.



Written by LW

July 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”*…


People sometimes say “If I had all the money in the world …” in order to discuss what they would do if they had no financial constraints. I’m curious, though, what would happen if one person had all of the world’s money?

– Daniel Pino

So you’ve somehow found a way to gather all the world’s money. We won’t worry about how you did it—let’s just assume you invented some kind of money-summoning magic spell.

Physical currency—coins and bills—represents just a small percentage of the world’s wealth. In theory, you could edit all the property records on Earth to say that you own all the land and edit all the banking records to say you own all the money. But everyone else would disagree with those records, and they would edit them back or ignore them. Money is an idea, and you can’t make the entire world respect your idea.

Getting all the world’s cash, on the other hand, is much more straightforward. There’s a certain amount of cash in the world—it’s about $4 trillion—and you want it all…

Find out what you’d have to do with all that scratch on Randall Monroe’s What If? at “All the Money.”

* Sociologist William Bruce Cameron (though often attributed to Albert Einstein)


As we go all Scrooge McDuck, we might send imperial birthday greetings to Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus (better known as Vespasian); he was born on this date in 9 CE.  Vespasian was crowned Emperor of Rome in 69 after a year of civil strife following the death of Nero; he served for six years and founded the Flavian Dynasty that ruled the Empire for another 20 years.  Vespasian was judged (by Suetonius and others) to have been a witty and effective ruler, even as he had to govern through severe financial turmoil.  Indeed, to this day urinals are known in Italian as vespasiano, a vestige of Vespasian’s tax on urine (which was valuable in his day for its ammoniac content).

Roman aureus depicting Vespasian as Emperor; the reverse shows the goddess Fortuna.



Written by LW

November 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up”*…


Seinfeld caps + Kanye West lyrics: SeinYeWest

* Hans Christian Andersen (in translation)


As we do the mash, we might recall that it was on this date in 410 that Rome was sacked by the Barbarian Visigoths, led by Alaric.  Rome was no longer the capital of the Western Roman Empire (it had moved to Mediolanum and then to Ravenna); but it remained the Empire’s spiritual and cultural center.  And it had not fallen to an enemy in almost 800 years (the Gauls sacked Rome in 387 BCE).  As St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote: “The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken.”

A 15th-century depiction of the Sack of Rome (with anachronistic details)



Written by LW

August 24, 2014 at 1:01 am



From The New Yorker, The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.


As we rankle at the rankings, we might note that this was the Feast Day of the Ass in ancient Rome.  The festival honored Vesta, the daughter of Chronos (Time) and Rhea (Earth), and legendary founder of the Vestal Virgins, a cult of six virginal women priestesses who were charged with keeping alive the flame burning in their temple at the center of Rome.  The celebration was named as it was in honor of the donkey that saved Vesta’s honor:  As told by Propertius, the young Vesta was being sought by the “horned” Priapus, who approached one night as she lay sleeping.  Her ass’s loud braying awakened her in time to defend herself from his advances.



Written by LW

January 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

Odds are that your bank balance is…

From Technology Review:

A computer chip that performs calculations using probabilities, instead of binary logic, could accelerate everything from online banking systems to the flash memory in smart phones and other gadgets.

Rewriting some fundamental features of computer chips, Lyric Semiconductor has unveiled its first “probability processor,” a silicon chip that computes with electrical signals that represent chances, not digital 1s and 0s.

“We’ve essentially started from scratch,” says Ben Vigoda, CEO and founder of the Boston-based startup. Vigoda’s PhD thesis underpins the company’s technology. Starting from scratch makes it possible to implement statistical calculations in a simpler, more power efficient way, he says…

Read the full story here.

As we remind ourselves that dealing with our banks was already a crap-shoot, we might recall that it was on this date in 79 CE, the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, that Mount Vesuvius began to stir– in preparation for the eruption that, two days later, destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Fresco of Bacchus and Agathodaemon with Mount Vesuvius, as seen in Pompeii’s House of the Centenary (source)

The Department of Things Coming in Threes: Iceland, BP…

Captured by high-resolution cameras aboard a robotic submersible, mineral-rich water spews from hydrothermal vents in this June 30 picture of Kawio Barat, a massive undersea volcano  off Indonesia.

During the past few weeks, the submerged volcano– one of the world’s largest– was mapped and explored in detail for the first time by a joint Indonesian-U.S. expedition north of the island of Sulawesi (map).

Read the whole story, and see fascinating video, at National Geographic.

As we batten down the hatches, we might recall that it was on this date in 64 CE that the Great Fire of Rome began, ultimately destroying much of the Imperial City. The fire began in the slums of a district south of the Palatine Hill. The area’s homes burned very quickly and the fire spread north, fueled by high winds; it raged out of control for three days.  Three of Rome’s 14 districts were completely razed; only four were untouched by the conflagration.  Hundreds of people died in the fire and many thousands were left homeless.

Legend has it that the Emperor Nero fiddled while the city burned.  Aside from the facts that the fiddle did not even exist at the time (Nero was an adept of the lyre) and that he was actually 35 miles away in Antium when the fire broke out, there could be something to it.


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