Around 2,500 years ago, in India and China, two remarkably similar yet completely different men wandered around, teaching new concepts. In India, Siddhartha Gautama, known as “the Buddha” or “teacher,” taught that life was miserable and that as a human, one’s goal was to be free from the wheel of life. This was only possible through perfect understanding and wisdom. A few thousand miles away, a prudent man named Confucius wandered around China, teaching those that would listen to respect each other as well as those above and below them in rank. Though seemingly unrelated, Confucianism and Buddhism share many similarities, such as a general nonchalance towards the gods, as well as a common desire to acquire wisdom. They do, though, differ on a fundamental point; Buddhists are spiritual, while Confucians are entirely secular.

            Buddhists and Confucians are parallel in several ways. First, as mentioned before, they both share indifference for the gods. Buddha taught his followers that it was futile to worship the gods, as they only kept you on the wheel of life. Rather, as a Buddhist, one should focus on reaching Nirvana, or off the wheel of life. Confucius, too, thought that the gods were irrelevant. Confucianism, as he taught it, was simply a philosophy, a way of life. A religion could complement Confucianism. Confucius rejected spiritual mysteries, though he never outright discredited the gods. Secondly, Buddhism and Confucianism consider wisdom a fundamental part of life. To Buddhists, wisdom characterizes itself in many ways, including perfect understanding and enlightenment. Buddhists devote much of their lives to find enlightenment and understanding, using aids such as meditation and reflection. Similarly, Confucians greatly value the elderly, as they are considered to be the wisest. It is the elderly that receive the most respect and have the most authority. Confucius himself dedicated much of his time teaching his followers the way to acquire wisdom; through hearing and studying, but most of all, through experience.

            While they may be similar on several levels, Confucianism and Buddhism can certainly be worlds apart in some aspects. One of them, and most important of all the differences, is the distinction between the secular and the spiritual. Buddhism, for one, is very spiritual, as it believes in the afterworld, the spirit that unites everything (known as “Brahman”), as well as believing in reincarnation. Even though Buddhists believe in reincarnation, they desperately try to avoid it, as they want to achieve Nirvana, which stops the wheel of life. Confucianism, on the other hand, is entirely secular. Its followers devote their time solely to worldly business, not usually considering life after death and spiritual mysteries.

In conclusion, many of the several facets of Buddhism adhere to many of the principles of Confucianism, respectively in their views of God, or gods in general (a wide-ranging lack of concern when it comes to divinity), as well as a common zest for attaining wisdom. They do, though, diverge when it comes to fundamental beliefs. Buddhism is spiritual, as its followers focus much of their energies to stepping out of the wheel of life. Confucians, on the other hand, devote their time to secular, or Earthly, matters. While not being identical, Buddhism and Confucianism are similar in many aspects.

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In the broad spectrum of history, Greece has been but a speck, but a prominent and colourful speck at that. Greece has been, alongside Rome, the basis on which the modern West is founded upon. Its philosophy and the legacy imparted by its rulers, as well as their ideals of honour have carried through the ages. From the days of Homer to those of Aristotle, there always was a distinct militaristic touch to the requirements of an honourable leader, as well as an emphasis on education. Yet radical changes altered the face of honour and leadership over the ages, notably, the transformation of self-centered glory-seeking to an altruistic placing of state before self.

Several aspects have remained throughout the Greek Dark Ages to the rebirth of Greece in the Classical Period, most important among them, the importance of military aspects in both leadership and honor. In around 1000 B.C., Homer formed his Iliad, which can be used in this case to illustrate the form of honour and leadership at the time. One of the most important characters in the Iliad, Hector, Prince of Troy, has a dramatic conversation with his wife on fighting Achilles. Both knew the inevitable result, leaving a rather depressing picture to Hector and his family. In this conversation, Hector decides that he must fight, if only to keep his name, and to avoid the shame on his family that his resulting cowardice would bring. From this excerpt, it can be inferred that, in the days of Homer, honour was closely related to personal glory, and leadership was intertwined with honour. A millennium later, in approximately 100 A.D., Plutarch reported on Spartan education in ancient times in his The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, in which an overpowering stench of militarism can be detected. Bravery is rewarded, obedience and discipline lauded, for after all, a good leader must first be a good follower. Even in the days of Pericles, the renowned Athenian democrat, there was subtle hint of militarism as a way of attaining honour and leadership. This is evident in Thucydides’ The First Athenian Citizen (a book entirely about Pericles), where he writes that “The reason for Pericles’ superior leadership was that he, by virtue of high rank, integrity, and incorruptibility … controlled the masses…and was not led by them, but, rather, led them.” Rank is a basic principle of militarism, and therefore, that solitary word says it all. This document, clearly praising Pericles, and not including much, or any criticism, for that matter, means that, through his military exploits and rank as well as other factors, of course, he is the model of honour and leadership. These three examples, encompassing Homer, Plutarch, and Thucydides, clearly demonstrate how militarism has been a way of obtaining, or expressing honour and leadership. Of course, the military was not the only vehicle to social preeminence and power, which leads us to education and its continuity throughout Grecian times.

 

Education, though varied in form, has continued to be a way to gaining, or demonstrating honour and leadership. An unknown Athenian, living in around 500-400 B.C., writes that “my father was anxious to see me develop into a good man…and as a means to this end he compelled me to memorize all of Homer.” This excerpt, apart from explicitly showing that education provides a means to achieve honour and leadership, shows that education in those dark days was not limited to arms and steel. A few years earlier, though still in the same time frame (circa 500-600 B.C.), Plutarch, as mentioned in the last paragraph, reported on the Spartan military training in his The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. This is an education, though different to the modern perception of such. Some hundred years later, 360 B.C., in the days of Plato, education takes a rather different form, but still retains the basic elements of an education, which is, after all, the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning. According to Plato’s The Republic, wisdom is something acquired and laboriously earned. Even in 310 B.C., in the days of Aristotle, education, and a keen mind, are things that make great leaders greater and more honourable. On the other hand, Grecian culture has changed radically from Ancient to Classical times.

 

Leaders in ancient Greece were essentially despots, but this changed greatly in the transition to the Classical period, as democracy worked to separate military and civic realms. Homer, as quoted before, proves to be an important source in this section, too. Hector, prince of Troy, did not go out to fight because of his people, but because he wanted to avoid being branded a coward. This shows a rather self-centered form of a leader. This changes, though, with the introduction of democracy. Pericles, in a eulogy to a dead man in 400 B.C., later written down and passed through the generations as Funeral Oration, praises the system which allows even a commoner to become a leader (as long as that person wasn’t a slave or a female). He talks of the utter justice that this system allows. Throughout his eulogy, he makes it clear that honour comes through equality, interest in state affairs, and public responsibility. The military, as a vehicle to honour and leadership, had declined in effect, while, on the contrary, education’s prominence grew.

 

Education has changed significantly in its role of bringing its student higher in the ranks or status, and earning them the honor that was so prized at the time. In what is known as the “Dark Ages” of Greece, Spartan boys who aspired to be soldiers drilled, exercised, obeyed, and demonstrated courage. They did this to become leaders. As mentioned before, boot camp is education, as they learn to fight. We know all of this from Plutarch, who informed us of this via his The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, written in about 100 A.D. Later on, the unknown Athenian mentioned before tells us of his father’s wish to have his son grow in prominence, and therefore memorize Homer. Approximately 200 years after the Athenian did his bit, Plato, in the midst of Classical Greece, and in his The Republic, urges kings to become philosophers, or that philosophers should become kings, so that all strife should end. Philosophy, is, after all, the seeking of wisdom, and with sufficient wisdom, which comes through mental exercise and thought (education), a leader can reign successfully and honourably. Another example, which emanates from Plato’s student Aristotle, informs us that “the activity of the mind is not only the highest…but also the most continuous: we are able to study continuously more easily than to perform any kind of action.” Here, study is mentioned, which is clearly synonymous with education. Unlike the other examples of education, however, this excerpt stresses that the mind (and therefore the developed mind) is of the highest degree. What this shows is a change from almost entirely war-orientated education, to intellectual and highly brain-directed education. In the process of this transition, though, it passes through simple memorizing (the unknown Athenian and Homer) and less intellectual forms of education, until mind-orientated education reaches its peak at the time of Aristotle.

Not minding the type of education, or the actual intensity of military involvement, education and the military there has always been a factor of both as a means of becoming a leader, or obtaining honour throughout Ancient and Classical Grecian politics and society.  

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To stereotype or judge someone before having really met them is undeniably wrong, but disgracefully, a rather common occurrence. In a world where globalization has connected the most distant peaks and most obscure valleys on Earth, in a world where people from then most diverse of races religions, skin colours and nationalities combine in cities of economic importance, one would expect quarrels and discrimination to be a rather rare thing, because if familiarity and conviviality. Unfortunately, history has thwarted that concept, and has made just the opposite the truth. History, coupled with modern technologies, such as the internet, email, cell phones, and the pager, aggravate the matter.

Prejudice’s foundations are based on false assumptions and past experiences, and are a natural part of human existence. For example, when the Europeans found the African natives dressed in banana leaves, spearing each other, they immediately underestimated them, thinking of them as inferior beings, only fit for service under the white man. This notion has somewhat changed, as one of these beings has risen to be one of the most powerful country’s president (hurrah for Obama!). Of course, once the blacks were freed, and then given the right to vote, the white man’s contempt wouldn’t simply vanish. Some events might even inflame the white man’s hatred. The issue of blacks is just one of many (a practically infinite list) in today’s world. A few other instances might include the ever-going strife between the Israelites and the Palestinians, where things won’t simmer down for years to come. Another example that represents this is the distaste the World seems to have for immigrants that come, seeking better wages and a better life. In Austria, for example, Turkish immigrants flock in by the thousands in hopes of a better life. The Austrians, having passed on their hatred for Turks since the Ottoman invasions where the Turks came dangerously close to conquering Vienna, are inflamed even more by the fact that these people are “stealing” their jobs. Naturally, they vent out their anger on the less fortunate Turks. Another situation of this type embodies itself in the peaceful country of Costa Rica.

 Costa Rica, known for its stable democracy and wealth (therefore nicknamed the “Switzerland of Central America), is a lucrative destination for poor Nicaraguans who have had enough of President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Party’s antics. They stream over the border, bribing the Costa Rican authorities, causing a bureaucratic nightmare. Because of this, Costa Ricans gradually developed a strong distaste towards the “Nicas” (a rather degrading Costa Rican term for the Nicaraguans). Eventually, they find a way to blame pretty much everything on the immigrants.

It is clear, from these many examples, that prejudice and stereotyping of specific people is no isolated case. It plagues the world, like the McDonald’s that can be found in every country of the world. Since it is in human nature to assume things, therefore, it is entirely natural, but not correct, to judge and stereotype people of a specific type. It will not desert humankind until problematic ideas, such as religion, diversity, and immorality. Concrete problems, such as poverty, must also be solved in order to annihilate prejudice and the stereotyping of people. It seems that the only way, and a rather unpopular way, to solve all these problems, is complete uniformity. How depressing.

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A loud piercing noise startles you to consciousness. You open your eyes, and realize that you are in bed, and that you have absolutely no desire to get out of it. You feel absolutely terrible, miserable to the last brain cell. This is what some people might think of as a hangover. It is even more common though (in most cases). It is known as the lack-of-sleep syndrome.

           

There is nothing worse, and more catastrophic to your health and happiness than lack of sleep. There have been many studies involved, and all have proven that a lack of sleep affects many different facets of health, including mental illnesses, physical illnesses, mood, efficiency, and happiness.

           

According to Scientific American, a very respectable science magazine, “after sleep-deprivation, people are more prone to act over-emotionally and irrationally, a finding that suggests that sleep may play a role in many psychiatric disorders.” The article can be found here. Another study has  proven that lack of sleep is tied to shifts in hunger hormones. It is more difficult, and in some cases, near impossible, to lose weight, if you avoid having your ”beauty sleep.” On the other hand, sleeping a bit extra every night helps you considerably to beat those extra calories, as you find yourself not as needy of those greasy sweets for energy. 

 

 

Getting a lot of colds lately? Not getting your “zzzz’s?” There’s a connection in between not sleeping enough, and getting sick. Your immunological system is more active when you are well rested, but if you aren’t you are more prone to catching a cold. The solution seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?

 

If you think it to be impossible to fit an adequate amount of sleep into your schedule, make it possible. Prepare beforehand, and make yourself a regular bedtime. WikiHow provides a great guide on how to fall asleep, if you find it difficult to do so. Go to sleep early tonight, and reap the benefits tomorrow morning, as you jump out of bed, and embrace the day in a joyful mood, ready for anything and everything!

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 “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” – Frank Zappa  

The political end of communismToo true. This, along with several other factors prove Communism’s incompetence. Old Karl probably didn’t think of this. On paper, Communism is brilliant, a worthwhile plan to solve the world. But in reality, it is, quite unfortunately quite different. Below I have listed some of the reasons for which communism has been a faraway, and an altogether impossible dream: 

 

  • Everyone must be altruistic: For communism to really work, the people and the government must be purely altruistic, because theoretically, in Communism, everyone is the same, yet for some reason, the government is always rich, and the people are always poor. For all the people to be truly altruistic is impossible, for most people are self-serving. After all, we are humans.
  • Everyone is perfectly equal: This is one factor in which the government excels in: everyone is equal, poor, (excluding the government officials). The people have the same things, they talk the same language, and they all work. There is no space to be different. The people might all be the same, but what about the government? Strangely, the government officials tend to be corrupt, arrogant aristocrats, who go around smoking Havana Pures, and to busy eating Fois Gras to be preoccupied about the people living in deplorable conditions naught but a mile away.
  • No incentives: As a citizen in a communist country, you are expected to work. You might have been working as a farmer for the last 40 years, yet nothing has changed. You don’t want to be a farmer, and you don’t even own the farm. You are demoralized by the fact that you are treated the same as the lazy next-door farmer, who barely works a drop, by the government. In communism, there aren’t any incentives, such as raises or promotions to make an effort in doing something. The government does have a method to make you work, though. Funnily enough, it’s coercion. This method might work, but it surely knocks the will to do a good job out of you. You barely do what is required of you. What’s the point of doing more if you know that you will still receive the same rations, and that you will still be doing the same job until death pays a visit? As Xenophon once said: “Willing obedience always beats forced obedience.”
  • Economic miscalculations: In communism, the government is in control of the country’s economy, and must therefore take care of all the people’s needs. Not only is such a nationalized system very inefficient, it is also faulty. It is almost impossible for a government to take care of all the needs of the people (think of all the things: toothpaste, vegetables, shoes, shirts, meat, diary products, medicines, etc.) as well as the needs of their industry. They must prioritize their production, and usually have an excess of certain products, and an extreme deficit of other products. Capitalism isn’t prone to this because of the Supply and Demand system (if a product isn’t on the market, a company starts off, realizing that there is money to be made, and if there is an excess of products, price goes down). The USSR, for example, during the space race, prioritized its resources on building rockets, and because of it, the Russian people went hungry.
  • Culture is forbidden: In communist Russia, as well as China, among other communist nations, the past culture and history must be edited and deleted to show only pro-Communist information. This obliteration of literature, history, and of religion (in the USSR, religion was forbidden, as the communist believed that religion was to be replaced with human goodness, communism) may cause a momentary “red movement” but reduces patriotism. After all, a country without history doesn’t have a future. The past is what teaches the people about the future, as well as inspires some, and deters others.

 Had communism worked, it would have been the utopia that all humans have searched for since the beginning of times. Shamefully, it has worked out to be an utter waste of time. It’s just another man-made idea. After all, we are humans, and the way of humans is to err.

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Have you ever felt that on a given day, everything is against you? That luck has simply dumped you? Well, that is what I felt today (Saturday, May 10th, 2008).

The morning started off on a positive note. I slept in until around 7:00, read a bit in bed, stood up, had a tasty breakfast consisting of a spongy croissant (reason being that I was silly enough and microwaved it: absolute madness) with a touch of fine Danish butter and then blessed with a dab of dark-golden honey (of the finest: Austrian honey, the type I ate, is of the most varied and rich, its creamy excellence sets even the most controlled of people drooling. It comes in many different sorts and natures, from Waldhonig, the translation being “Forest honey,” to Blumen honig, flower honey, which in itself is divided into hundreds of subdivisions; tulip, rose, daisy, blue pillow, edelweiss, among others, and many mixes and general samplings of honey. Before I get completely carried away into the mouth-watering subject of Austrian honey, I should probably mention that I was eating the forest honey, and that it is, most unfortunately, time to continue my original topic, luck, and how lousy it can be). Anyway, after finishing my soft honey-croissant, I followed through my typical morning routine (teeth, hair, the usual), and finished packing for the trip (a tad bit late to mention this, but we , being my mother, father, and I, were going to Turrialba, a town in Costa Rica, for a bike race, which I was press-ganged to join–32-50km of biking).

After packing, we quickly loaded the baggage in the car and set off in two different cars (my father was to take a different route). Barely five minutes out of the house, and the trip took a turn for the worse. My mother had forgotten her camera, and we, as might be expected, returned home to fetch it. Rather insignificant an event, it might seem, but it took 20 minutes away from our day.

We continued on, and came onto the highway. Around this time, I was reading a book, called Civilization (it was the first book I picked out of the bookshelf), on world history, and was currently reading about the Byzantine Empire. It was then that disaster gave us a visit. I suddenly heard a loud crunch, and felt my body lurch forward, and the next thing I noticed was my nose hitting the metal bars holding up the little cushion for the head from the driver’s seat. It was then where I realized that I, for the first time, had first-handedly witnessed a car crash. In fact, I was in the car crash.

My mother immediately let out a desperate groan, and stepped out of the car. “Grandiose! Muss dass jetzt passieren? Einfach genial!” She surveyed the damage, and let out another groan. I knew that ahead of us were hours and hours of dealing with insurance and traffic police.

In those hours, I watched the cars go by, read a bit about the Byzantines, and watched the insurance fellow, serious as could be, walking up and down, writing pages upon pages into a little notebook. Luckily, the policeman and the victimized driver were quite friendly, and after all the formalities had been fulfilled, we continued.            

 As you might imagine, after sitting for two hours in a stationary car, drinking water and thirst quenchers simply to alleviate the boredom, my bladder had filled considerably. I held it, as any good citizen should, and requested permission from my mother to stop at a restaurant to relieve myself.

Just then, a torrent of rain descends upon us. Not only am I even more unsettled, knowing that I would have to get drenched, but my urge was increased tenfold because of the flowing water. I had to go. We found a McDonald’s, and decided to fetch some lunch in the process.

I returned, relieved, and very hungry, with a bag of McDonald’s junk food. We ate, didn’t enjoy it, and suffered from a horrible aftertaste of chemicals. I drank so much coke that I had to stop for the bathroom again. The rest of the trip went by smoothly. We went to Casa Turire, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and must recommend.            

Luck is all about positive thinking. Or so states an article written by a Cambridge scientist who researched for twenty years on the subject. Had I thought positively about the trip’s delays (which I did), I would have actually appreciated them. For example, the car crash helped make me more patient, as well as gain an understanding of the procedure to be followed in such circumstances, plus I acquired a bit of knowledge on the Byzantines. The crash will show my mother, I hope, to drive more carefully, as well as patience, such as with me.            

According to the research, luck is what you make of things. People that appear to be lucky tend to make the best out of situations, spotting things that others don’t and using them properly. So, think positively. 

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          As part of my school curriculum, I have read the acclaimed book Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I had already read the book two years prior to this, and thought that I had little to learn from reading it a second time. Well, I was, as usual, completely wrong. Lord of the Flies has uncovered itself for me. What it has revealed is a detail about society that happens to be quite shocking, for several reasons.                      

If you haven’t read the book (which is rather unlikely), you must have at least heard of it. It tells the story of a group of children that were stranded on an island in the Pacific. As they find each other, they resolve to live by rules and order. A leader is elected, and they decide upon their rules. The order in their little society quickly disintegrates as they become highly superstitious, and are afraid of the Beast, a terrible creature. The leader tries to bring order back into the wild boys. His attempts fail, and the boys are absorbed into savagery, violence, and decadence. Only the leader, a pair of twins, a fat asthmatic short-sighted reject (but very wise, and intelligent), and a shy outcast that was never really accepted into society realize the peril of savagery, as well as the decay of good among the boys. The savages, with painted faces and spears kill the shy outcast as well as the fattish boy. They all but forget their past as civilized British children, and lead a life of barbarism. The sensible and wise must hide from them, for they know that death awaits them if they show themselves to their former comrades.                      

Golding’s message that is clearly displayed throughout this novel is that within everyone resides evil—the Beast. He believes that humans are inherently evil. I chose to mention this in my blog because of my previous post on “Are Humans Inherently Violent?” I believe that there is a clear connection in between violence and evil. The savage ‘hunters’ were overcome by this evil.

All the main characters in this book represent people in modern society. Ralph represents order, civilization, and leadership, Piggy represents the scientific and logical facet of society, Simon represents the good nature in humans, Jack represents uncontrolled savagery, as well as thirst for power, and finally, Roger represents brutal and cruel bloodlust at its extreme. Golding believes that even the greatest civilization can fall because of the “Beast” within you (evil). This is stated in chapter two of the book: “‘We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything’” (30 Golding).                      

Reading Lord of the Flies a second time was infinitely rewarding, as I learnt of human interaction. The shocking bit is that I, as a middle-schooler, see the truth in this book, and can definitely see this scenario come into play. What an enlightening experience! What a terrible thought.

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I have decided to dedicate another post entirely to humorous quotes, videos, and jokes by the brilliant comedian Tommy Cooper. Enjoy!

TOMMY COOPER-

(19 March 1921 – 15 April 1984) was an Anglo-Welsh prop comedian and magician. He was known for making an art of getting magic tricks wrong, although he was actually an accomplished magician. He has been the subject of efforts by people in Caerphilly to publicize the town as his birthplace.

Despite his purported inability to perform conjuring tricks, Cooper was a member of The Magic Circle. Famed for his red fez, his appearance was large and lumbering at 6ft 3in (1.91m) and more than 15 stone in weight. He had a range of facial expressions and would also say things like, “I must say you’ve been a wonderful audience” or “Have we got time for more?” immediately after he walked on stage that would convulse audiences with laughter. He had a host of catchphrases such as “Spoon, jar, jar, spoon!!” and “Whisky, sample, sample, whisky, sample…” His most quoted catchphrase “Just like that” has never been on film. He once stood for minutes behind the curtain at the start of a televised show, and the audience, knowing he was there, was laughing hard before he even appeared. “People were laughing, just standing in line, for the tickets to see him” has often been quoted. (Wikipedia)

 Some Jokes Of His

 

Went to the paper shop – it had blown away.

 

I’m on a whiskey diet. I’ve lost three days already.

 

I was in the attic the other day with the wife. Damp and dusty………but she’s great with the kids!

 

Two fat blokes in a pub, one says to the other ‘Your round.’ The other one says ‘so are you, you

fat slob’

 

 

Two cannibals eating a clown. One says to the other “Does this taste funny to you?”

 

 

Man goes to the doc, with a strawberry growing out of his head. Doc says “I’ll give you some cream to put on it.”

 

 

A guy walks into the psychiatrist wearing only clingfilm for shorts. The shrink says, “Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts.”

 

 

So I said to this Chinese waiter, “Are there any Chinese Jews”, so he went away and when he came back he said, “No, there’s only apple juice, pineapple juice…

 

 

I slept like a log last night. I woke up in a fireplace…

 

 

A blind bloke walks into a shop with a guide dog. He picks the dog up and starts swinging it around his head. Alarmed, a shop assistant calls out: ‘Can I help, sir?’ ‘No thanks,’ says the blind bloke. ‘Just looking.’

 

 

My wife had a go at me last night She said “You’ll drive me to my grave”. “I had the car out in thirty seconds”

 

 

I went to the doctor. He said “you’ve got a very serious illness” I said “I want a second opinion” He said “all right, you’re ugly as well”

 

 

I hurt my back the day. I was playing piggy back with my 6 year old nephew, and I fell off.

 

 

I had a dream last night, I was eating a ten pound marshmallow. I woke up this morning and the pillow was gone.

 

 

This man says to me “my dog’s got no nose” So I said to him “How does he smell?” “Terrible”

 

 

And he said “My dog doesn’t eat meat.” I said “Why not?” He said “We don’t give him any”

 

 

A man walked into the doctor’s, he said “I’ve hurt my arm in several places.” The doctor said “Well don’t go there any more.”

 

 

 

Do watch the attached movie:

Tommy Cooper \”Magic Cloak\” 

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Recently, I finished the book What If?, which is made up of a series of essays on what could of happened in certain military campaigns. It describes how a single death, a split-second decision, or an action can affect the outcome of history. It is written by some of the most famous military historians, such as Stephen E. Ambrose, John Keegan, David McCullough, and James M. McPherson, among others. It mentions very interesting points, such as what the outcome would have been if the Romans had successfully repelled the ambush at Teutonberg Forest, where the Romans lost 18,000 men to the barbarian Germanic tribes, as well as questioning what would have happened if D-Day had failed.

 In the matter of Teutonberg Forest, it goes on to describe how one battle could change the history of the English and German-speaking world. It states that had the battle been favorable to the Romans, they would have continued to advance into Germany, bringing with them culture, amphitheatres, public baths, and libraries. The author of this essay believes that had Germany (the tribes at the time called the Furor Teutonics) not defeated the Romans, conflicts such as WWI and WWII, would most likely not have occurred. The explanation is complicated but logical. The Romans would have had all of Europe under their command, and when/ or if the empire collapsed, all the lands would have a relatively constant culture, that of the Romans. This would leave fewer things to argue and quarrel about.  

What If? is a brilliant and scholarly book, yet fit for general reading. It is extremely interesting (otherwise, I, as a 14-year-old, I wouldn’t have read it). It answers many (20) questions, all related to diplomatic and military “what ifs.” A must-read for any avid history reader.

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As you go to the nearest petrol station to refuel your oil-thirsty car, you look at the price table, and you quickly look away, in utter shock. Petrol has reached a record $4/ gallon. Just a year back, it was $2.82 (November 2007). The current oil crisis, plus the credit crisis, has put a heavy strain on the average American, as well as global, consumer. As purchasing power (spendable $) wanes because of the credit crisis, the rising oil prices make things even worse, especially for the average family, as more money from the family budget is diverted to necessities, such as food (another crisis, as well, according to the UN), clothes, oil for the car, the thermostat in winter, and house maintenance.

This leaves less money for pleasure spending, which means less money for companies, forcing some into bankruptcy, and others to cut costs, therefore leaving some people without jobs, furthermore reducing spending power, leading the country into vicious economic decay.

Yet there is a solution to the rising oil prices. This consists of switching over to alternative sources of energy, such as biofuels, using hybrid cars, and boycotting the largest petrol places (Texaco). The latter theoretically should work, because by losing customers, Texaco is forced to reduce its prices to attract clients back. As Texaco is the largest petrol supplier, it would force other smaller petrol suppliers to reduce their prices, to make them more competitive. Of course, it all depends on the rich oil countries to be less greedy and power thirsty, and more lenient. 

It is, though, of utmost importance that we move away from fossil fuels, as they are dwindling. If we don’t start to adapt to other sources of energy, when will we? It would be less of a shock to the economy if we started to slowly change to alternative, as well as greener sources of energy. If we wait until fossil fuels actually run out, then companies will have to change radically to cope with the loss, and adopt alternatives at a much higher cost. So, hurray for alternative fuels, and boo to oil!

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